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One North!

Source: Jerome-Mario Utomi.    
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It is on public domain that the Northern States Governors’ Forum, in a meeting recently conducted via teleconference and chaired by the forum’s Chairman, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, discussed the impact of coronavirus in the region as well as measures adopted by individual states to deal with the disease.

The governors according to the release by Lalong’s Director of Press and Public Affairs, Macham Makut, among other decisions resolved to strengthen preventive measures against the pandemic through enhanced boundary controls and surveillance, as well as greater collaboration to ensure that there was a synergy among them in restriction of movement. “They (northern governors) agreed that at the moment, each state would adopt the measure suitable to its setting because total lockdown of the region will come at a very high cost since most of its citizens are farmers who need to go to farms since the rains have started,” the statement read.

At a glance, such resolutions by the northern governors not to lock down the region based on the consideration that total lock down of the region will come at a very high cost since most of its citizens are farmers who need to go to farms since the rains have started, naturally elicits the following. First, it postures the governors as a bunch that places the economic interest of the governed at heart. Their action also support the experts believe that long term strategies of successful and foresighted leaders can almost always be characterized precisely in a very simple and natural way. And most importantly, the northern governors demonstration of unity even at this precarious moment of global existence shows that strategy is really no more than a plan of action for maximizing one’s strenght against the forces at work in any given environment,

This development, however, should not come as a surprise to any student of history. As the concept of one united Northern Nigeria where the leaders speak with one voice predates the nation’s independence.

As noted in a recent report, not even the creation of 19 states out of the former Northern region has shaken this believe that the north is one entity where tribe and tongue may differ but they are united in fighting a common course to protect the interest of all from northern Nigeria. The north is united in fighting for the political, economic, socio-cultural and religious interests of its people within the large enclave called Nigeria. The people have common economic and financial institutions that promote the development of their region. This unique position of the north is very different from that of its southern counterpart which was never administered by one administrator right from the colonial days. The position of the north on issues is very different from those of its southern counterparts.

Historically also, the Northern Region under the Premiership of the late Ahmadu Bello never hid its desire for separate identity. Just before independence, the Region threatened to pull out of Nigeria if it was not allocated more parliamentary seats than the south. The departing British colonial masters, desirous of one big entity, quickly succumbed to the threat. In fact, the North at that time did pretend it never wanted to have anything to do with Nigeria. For example, the motto of the ruling party in that region at that time was ‘One North, One People, and One Destiny’. And name of the party itself ‘Northern People’s Congress, NPC, was suggestive of separatist fervor, distinct identity.

All of these things are admirable and deserve our highest praise but we must admit that this courageous stands from the Northern Governors are still far too few. The sublime decision of these leaders on the present situation moves all too slowly in actual practice.

In my views, the northern governor’s demonstration of unity and consideration of the people when formulating policies are very narrow and too restricted. They must turn more of their energies and focus their creativity on the useful things that will translate to empowerment of the people. At this critical point of our nationhood, the northern governors must do the work-and in doing the work, stimulate their people particularly the youths to learn and acquire higher levels of skills and techniques for economic independence.

Presently, what the region needs is a restless determination to make the idle of governance a reality in the region and the nation at large.

There are certain technical steps that must be taken.

First, it is time for the governors to recognize that any region desirous of securing the future of its people must invest in education. This is more urgent in ‘the north where historical underdevelopment in Western education is responsible, more than the diversity in religious loyalties, for the social imbalance between the region and the south. State governments in the north are enjoined to embark on aggressive education of their people, ensuring its compulsion to a certain level. The bulk of money to this state needs to be devoted to this objective’.

Similarly, the hour has come for the governors from the region to adopt and support the 2030 sustainable agenda- a United Nation initiative and successor programme to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty. And has at its centre; partnership and collaboration, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.

The reason for this assertion is barefaced.

It was in the news sometimes last year that Mathew Hassan Kukah- a well-informed, self-contained and quietly influential Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto had during a four day workshop tagged ‘’Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement’’ for Christians and Muslims in Minna, Niger state that the Kukah Centre (TKC), promised to introduce skill acquisition centers in the Northern part of the country where about 10 million Almajiri children will acquire vocations of their choice.

Certainly, with the slow economic but high population growth in Nigeria, such programme qualifies as an effective tool for fighting unemployment and consolidating economic growth. But for yet to be identified reason(s), no governor from the north bought into that opening provided or encouraged their youth to access such opportunity.

I hold an opinion that that it is in the interest of the government to create jobs for the youths as a formidable way of curbing crime and reducing threatening insecurity in the country. It should be done not merely for political consideration but from the views of national development and sustenance of our democracy.

What of the future? Will it be marked by the same types of action as the past period?

The region needs development and growth of industries. When this is achieved, it will in turn increase the purchasing power of the people, and this purchasing power will result in improved medical care, greater educational opportunities, and more adequate housing.

To catalyze this process, a shift in action is important as ‘we cannot solve our socio-economic challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it’. And this time is auspicious for northern governors to bring a change in leadership paradigm by switching over to a leadership style that is capable of making successful decision built on a higher quality of information and sees one north as a region that is development focussed.

Jerome-Mario Utomi([email protected]) , Writes from Lagos Nigeria.

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