In January 1914, British Colonial Governor Fredrick Lugard signed the amalgamation of north and south protectorates that produced what we have today as Nigeria.
That single, simple, and perhaps a 5-minute act of the Governor was done by fiat without due consideration and consultation with the people living in the two British Protectorates. Then, they considered the people a booty of the British conquered part of Africa; they were seen and treated as backward, incapable of thinking for themselves.
Thus, they were coerced and bonded together as one nation, called “Nigeria”. Oblivious to the implication of amalgamation, the locals accepted their fate and moved on with their lives despite apparent differences.
Each of the protectorates was an integration of multiple mini-nations culturally and socially. The leadership of the southern protectorate was quick to realize the importance of education. It was and still an inevitable gizmo for knowledge acquisition that oils the kinetic of the society to progress and greatness.
At the time of national independence in 1960, expatriates and people from the south constituted about 80% of the workforce in trade, industries, civil and public services in the North.
The Northernisation policy of the first republic leadership in the North tried to correct the anomaly. However, that purposeful and development-driven leadership of the North under Sir Ahmadu Bello was short-lived with the bloody coup of 1966. The rest is history. Where is the North and indeed the whole nation heading to?
Today, Nigeria is in the abyss of poverty, hopelessness, and dejection. Sadly, the 2020 Global Terrorism Index released recently placed Nigeria among the top ten countries with the highest impact from terrorism. Nigeria occupies the same terrorism class as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, India, DR Congo, and the Philippines.
Gloomily, the North is worst affected and fast becoming the most dreaded area to live in Nigeria. The ugly picture of the North is aptly captured by Barrister Bulama Bukarti in his opinion column, which was published by Daily Trust on 19th November 2020.
He said “It is indisputable that northern Nigeria is today one of the most dangerous places on earth. While Boko Haram continues its rampage, launching deadly attacks in the northeast every day, criminal gangs in the northwest are operating with impunity.
Attacks have become so frequent that the massacre of dozens no longer makes the headlines, much less capture the attention of those in authority. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, another incident proves you wrong.
The slide into anarchy now seems inevitable. And very few of those who claim to speak for the North seem to care”.
So, how did the North degenerate to this calamitous position? Answering this question may not be as helpful as to how the North and indeed, the whole of Nigeria should stop the slide and move towards progress and greatness.
It is not impossible to reverse the trend for a better and progressive Nigeria. First, we must admit that successful leadership after the first republic has woefully failed the nation. We allowed favouritism and nepotism to form part of the leadership selection criteria at different levels of governance which was our greatest undoing as a nation.
It makes the leadership position an opportunity for personal aggrandizement and primitive wealth accumulation. This behaviour of our leaders is creating a monster, which may eventually consume both the leaders and the nation.
Banditry, insurgency, corruption, human trafficking, etc., are all integral parts of the beast ravaging the land. There is no hiding place for the citizens, and nobody can freely move around for fear of losing properties or even lives.
The responsibility of reversing the trend is ours, both the leaders and the followers. How do we carry out this responsibility?
As citizens, we must use our democratic right to vote for people with a high sense of responsibility to leadership and sensitivity to the progress of the nation. We need people who are above board and patriotic as leaders.
We must resist the temptation to trade our votes for money, which merely is mortgaging our future for an indefinite period. We have to ask ourselves if a contestant is willing to sacrifice his time to serve us as our leader, why is he/she paying cash to be elected?
Cash payment for election is simply an investment. People with high integrity, honesty, transparency accountability, and ready to provide the needed leadership in this country are in every nooks and cranny across the nation. As we move towards 2023, it is our civic responsibility to search for the right crop of leadership.
As leaders, we must accept the fact that leadership is a privileged position to serve our nation. Leaders must ask themselves, what kind of legacy are we leaving after our administration?
Yes, leadership position is transient, no matter how long we will serve in the different functions of responsibility. One day, we shall be out. Aggrandizement does not guarantee prosperity, wealth does not guarantee contentment, and there is no social security amid massive poverty.
The current leadership has a golden opportunity to stop the rot in our society today before the monster consumes the nation. The administration can restore hope and navigate the country to glory.
May God show them the right path and the right thing to do. Yes, our nation, Nigeria, is in dire need of a saviour who will lead it to a glorious future for us, our children, and the unborn.
Prof Othman writes from NAERLS, ABU Zaria and can be reached via email: email@example.com.