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Published On: Tue, Dec 16th, 2014

Northern leaders and our region’s fate

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nigeria-north-southBy Ahmed Garba

For the north to reel out of its squalour, there is definitely a need for major re-thinking, an inside-out revolution of mindset, a paradigm shift of sort.  A region and its people cannot develop when a handful of its population can ‘live high on the hog’ almost for eternity.  Witness how many traditional rulers, ‘first class’ Emirs and Chiefs especially, sit on their thrones for decades with nothing to show for it, while at the same time, they and their relatives live in luxury.  Some of them (especially the so-called first class Chiefs and Emirs) are so egocentric that they don’t even respond when spoken to by ‘lay persons’.  This is supposed to be chucked to some ridiculous tradition.  Never mind that Allah himself spoke directly to Musa (Moses).  What was he thinking, with his whole benevolent and merciful self?  I bet if these same ‘lords’ want to ‘pin down’ a ‘Kuyanga’ in a dark corridor, they do wag their tongues. These rulers expend so much energy to ensure that only those who will protect their own self-interest get to be presented as ‘Northern Leaders’, and the symbiotic relationship is also reflected in how some traditional rulers serve the interests of governors.  Recall how the Emirs of Lafia and Nassarawa vamoosed–with their tails tucked between their legs–from their respective palaces, on the orders of Governor Aliyu Doma, when General Buhari came calling during the 2011 presidential campaign.  And these Emirs were supposed to be serving ‘their people’?

I am yet to see sufficient evidence of the public good that had been done by these traditional rulers, especially, the long serving ones among them.  It used to be the case that they employed the services of the so-called ‘native authority’–a bunch of pathetic characters dressed in clownish outfits, running around hounding and harassing the populace, especially under the guise of tax collection.  The saving grace for the ‘masses’ was probably the emergence of military governments, who put an end to the terror conducts of these minions often unleashed by the Chiefs and Emirs.   In fact, one can now argue that the conduct of BokoHaram, and the inability of the traditional rulers to respond clearly demonstrates their illegitimacy as rulers.  Don’t they constitute the ‘local’ in local government?  Or are they only effective as ‘government’ through the use of uncultured ‘Dogarai’?

The manner in which Boko Haram has emasculated the Emirs and Chiefs is too revealing to ignore.  These were the same rulers who were able to whisper into the ears of the likes of Ibrahim Babangida to get him to overthrow Buhari’s regime, partly due to Buhari’s willingness to put them in check, and now they failed woefully to rise to the challenge posed by a bunch of marauding bandits in their very own localities.  Whatever happened to their supposed ‘influence’?  Should anyone venture to retort that they possess no armed forces or security capability, then the question ought to be asked, of what good are they?  and more importantly, why is their existence so heavily subsidized, often times, at the expense of the future generation?  After all, it is not that they ever served the interest of the ordinary citizen anyway.  Right before our very own eyes, these rulers, their ‘Dogarai’  and their other sycophants have devolved into nothingness.  They have always legitimized value on the basis of influence pedaling, but now that they have been unable to ‘influence’ Boko Haram, state government, or federal government, even to save their own lives, then the ‘jig is up’. The ruse has been uncovered; ‘Game over’.

So, while the constitution review committee is still siting, perhaps, it should be proposed that non-performing traditional rulers stand to be replaced by their respective ‘performing’ local government council.  Alternatively, the entire institution of traditional government can be eliminated, and any loud-mouthed uncooperative members can be embalmed and hanged for display in the department of antiquities for posterity.  After all, with the existence of local government council, isn’t the whole idea of traditional rulers a form of ‘parallel government’, albeit a non-performing one at that?  1976 economics nobel laureate, Milton Freidman once said something to the effect that, if you want to know the value of an employee, fire him and see what happens to his job.  If the job suffers then that employee was important, else he was not. With the seeming free reign of Boko Haram, we may have already, inadvertently conducted  the ‘Freidman experiment’ and the result is out in the open.  If the elimination idea is too harsh or unwise, how about making these roles wide open for public elections with term limit?  After all, nowhere was it ever ‘written by the fingers of God, on the hearts of men’ that certain individuals, just by virtue of, or by accident of birth should ‘lord it’ over the rest, forever.  In fact, I will submit that the concept of rulership/leadership by inheritance should be alien to sunnimuslim north in particular.  After all, the Exemplar of muslim conducts and traditions (Prophet Muhammad) never practiced leadership/rulership by inheritance.

The northern re-engineering and re-orientation campaign should also emphasize the need to seek out, identify, and present educated, enlightened, committed individuals, regardless of family background.  In some sense, this is actually a clarion call for a return to late Aminu Kano’s philosophy/principle, whereby, the children of ‘talakawas’ share in the opportunity for development and leadership.  Though it must be noted that some of the current crop of ‘Northern Elites’ were once ‘talakawas’ themselves or are children of ‘talakawas’ whose loyalty to self and kin has now gone awry.  After Amimu Kano rescued them and their parents/children from the shackles of parasitic ‘Sarakunas’, they have now become the predators (Witness the LabaranMaku(s) of our time).  Furthermore, it is arguable that Buhari actually represents the Aminu Kano of this generation, and like the Aminu Kano of the past, his beliefs, philosophy, agenda, and popularity among the dispossessed has remained a disturbing threat to the bourgeois/ruling class.  Hence, their unrelenting determination to scuttle his chances as they did Aminu Kano before him.

However, in this second time around, the population of the north needs to remain vigilant, so as not to be hoodwinked by the hypocrites within.  Yes, it is not always easy to tell the hypocrites from the sincere, but, it is worth the effort, for what is at stake now is the survival of an entire region!  Whenever anyone starts babbling about their intention to lead any community, let’s subject them to scrutiny, publicly!  The questions should be asked: What is your antecedent, either in privately or publicly held position(s)?  Will you declare your asset now?  What do you intend to do for the community?  How do you intend to fund these agenda items?  How should your performance be tracked and verified?  Compare and contrast yourself with your opponent, how do you differ?

What similarities do you share?  I mean, seek out  think-on-your-feet, speak-intelligently, sharp-sharp kind of people.  None of that letting a village vagabond become a senator overnight, only to see him multiply his number of wives, houses, cars in jiffy, while doing nothing for his constituency.  Stop electing people who go around in their warped mind saying, “this, here politics is my life, my day job”. (Kunga, mu fasiyasarnanitaakasa a gaba)”.    Politics is never anyone’s whole life or profession, it is a temporal public service.  Play your part and vacate the stage.  Let’s use thorough investigative accounting to promote spirited competition among candidates.   One thing about human nature is that, liars in particular, resent scrutiny, that is, determined, sustained scrutiny.  They will soon wither and die.  Let’s put an end to the practice of hanging ourselves and auctioning the future of younger generation, by the shackles of our own present state of poverty.  In other words, choosing candidates based on one’s own pressing economic existentialism is bad for your kids’ future.

Hopefully, by the time this sort of scrutiny becomes routine, we would have mastered the art of weeding out the unqualified, the illiterate, the unlettered, the uncultured, the uncommitted, the undeserving–bourgeoisie or not.  May be then we can put an end to filial cannibalism.

Ahmed Garba via

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