John Shiklam in Kaduna and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, yesterday expressed concern about the rising waves of poverty, insecurity and illiteracy in the North.
The emir, at the 60th birthday celebration of the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, in Kaduna, said no Northern leaders could afford to be happy in the midst of the socio-economic problems facing the region.
He spoke just as the humanitarian crisis occasioned by the insurgency in the North-east has forced some 1,000 residents of Kayamla in Borno State out of their homes to be sleeping on Maiduguri streets for fear of being attacked by Boko Haram.
Moved by their plight, the Borno State Government yesterday resettled the internally displaced people, who were rejected at IDP camps, to temporary accommodation.
Sanusi warned that the region cannot continue to rely on quota system and federal character to get jobs for its children at the expense of the other parts of the country, which are busy turning out graduates.
He said the region would destroy itself if it did not change its current status and address the challenges of poverty, millions of out-of-school children, malnutrition, drug problem and Boko Haram insurgency.
“When we talk about birthday, we talk about happiness. Just last week, someone asked me, ‘are you happy?’
“And I said, ‘I am not’. And the person was surprised. Nobody who is a leader in Northern Nigeria today can afford to be happy. You cannot be happy about 87 per cent of poverty in Nigeria being in the north.
“You can’t be happy with millions of Northern children out of school. You can’t be happy with nine states in the North contributing almost 50 per cent of the entire malnutrition burden in the country.
“You can’t be happy with the drug problem, you can’t be happy with the Boko Haram problem. You can’t be happy with political thuggery. You can’t be happy with all the issues; the Almajiri problem that we have.
“So, we wish Nasir a happy birthday, but we do not want him to be happy as a leader because you are happy when you think you have reached a state of delivering and taking your people to where you want them to be.”
The emir said because of the condition of the North, “it is almost correct now to say that if you are seen as normal; if you are a governor in the North or a leader in the North, and you are seen as normal in the sense that you continue to do what your predecessors have been doing; doing the same thing, which has been normalised, then, there is something wrong with you. You are part of the problem.”
According to him, “the real change in the North will come from those who are considered mad people because you look around and say if this is the way we have been doing things, and this is where we have ended up, maybe we need to do things differently.”
He said if the government had been populated with middle-aged men, there was need to try younger people and try women.
“If we have spent our money and time on physical structures, may be we need to invest more in education of our children.
“May be we need to invest more in nutrition. May be we need to invest more in primary healthcare” he stated.
He commended el-Rufai’s reforms in the education sector, noting that what the governor is doing in the sector is what will save the North.
“If you look at what Nasir is doing in Kaduna, with 40 per cent of his budget in education, that is the only thing that is going to save the North. I know that when we say these things, they don’t go down well.
“We have been saying this for 20 to 30 years.
“If the North does not change, the North will destroy itself. The country is moving on. quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause.
“The reason that people like Nasir stand up and they are nationalists is that they don’t have any sense of inadequacy.
“You don’t need to rise on being from Kaduna State or being from the North or being a Muslim to get a job; you come with your credentials; you go with your competence; you can compete with any Nigerian from anywhere.
“And believe me, if we don’t listen, there would be a day when there would be a constitutional amendment that addresses these issues of quota system and federal character.
“The rest of the country cannot be investing, educating its children, producing graduates and then they watch us, they can’t get jobs because they come from the wrong states when we have not invested in the future of our own children.
“So, as we celebrate Nasir at 60, we need to celebrate him as a public officer who is addressing the core problems of his constituency.
“Is it education? Is it girl child education? Is it women’s right? Is it child begging? Is it parental irresponsibility, demographic growth? Is it managing a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society and bringing them into one community where they are all citizens? He has done a lot that we can learn from,” he said.
He commended the governor for developing himself
over the years as a surveyor, a lawyer, noting that the governor has Masters degrees with over 80 certificates from Harvard university.
He said: “So, I am proud to count Nasir as one of my friends. I usually say I have to keep him as a friend because he is the only person in Nigeria beside whom I am considered a moderate.
“People usually go to him and say talk to your friend, the emir, or your friend Sanusi; same way people tell me, talk to your friend Nasir.
“Even two days ago, someone sent me to him with two messages. I delivered the first one, which I thought was nice and friendly, but when I saw his reaction, you did not deliver the second one. I am waiting for the right time to deliver it.
“It is important to realise that the positions we hold are transient and they do not define us.
“Anybody can be called a governor; anybody can be called an emir, a commissioner or a minister, but at the end of the day, you should know that God had given you a chance to do something, to leave a mark and impact people’s lives.
“When he had issues with teachers in Kaduna State, some of his friends came to me to advise him because he was in his first term. That he should not take such risks, he can lose election. I said, okay I will advise him, but I knew he was not going to listen to that advice. So, I told him what people were thinking. He said your highness, if the people of Kaduna want to vote me out because I want good education for their children, let them do it. “And I agreed with him. After winning an election, you should be governing, you should not be in a campaign mode for four years.
“You were elected to serve. If people appreciate it and vote for you, fine; if they don’t, you have done your bit.”
1,000 Displaced Women, Children Sleep on Maiduguri Streets
Meanwhile, residents of Kayamla in Borno State have taken to sleeping on Maiduguri streets for fear of being attacked by Boko Haram.
The people, numbering about 1,000 from about 300 households, have been sleeping on the streets because they were turned back at the internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps on arrival about two weeks ago.
Kayamla is in Konduga Local Government Area (LGA) of troubled Borno State and about 20 kilometres from the state capital, Maiduguri.
The people who were beside the NYSC IDPs camp in the centre of Maiduguri, said they had to flee to Maiduguri when villages around them were attacked and they felt they might be raided by Boko Haram.
They said they tried to get admitted into some IDPs camps in Maiduguri but they were turned back and they subsequently decided to sleep on the streets.
Speaking to THISDAY, the women said their husbands sent them into Maiduguri to seek refuge while they stayed back in Kayamla.
One of the women, Maimunat Abba, said: “We have been staying here for about two weeks now; we have no choice but to sleep on the streets since we were turned back from the camps.
“Even this camp (NYSC IDPs camp) told us that they do not have room for us and we decided to stay on the road. We have been sleeping in the cold since then.”
She added that they decided to flee into Maiduguri when it was becoming apparent that their village might be attacked like others around them, which have been attacked and deserted.
They were subsequently taken off the streets to the Stadium IDPs camp by the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (BOSEMA) yesterday afternoon.
They were equally given supply of relief materials by the North East Development Commission.
Speaking to journalists, the Chairperson of BOSEMA, Hajiya Yabawa Kolo, said the state government got to know of their predicaments yesterday and immediately arranged accommodation for them at the Stadium IDPs camp.
She stated that they were about 300 households and numbered over 1,000.