In Kano lies North’s salvation

Adventures of Dan Fulani

Email: Twitter: @dan_pullo

Dan FulaniSomething small but significant is taking place in Kano, which, if well nurtured, could be the foundation upon which the entirety of Northern Nigeria could benefit from to bail itself out of the myriad of problems bedeviling it.

Let me make it clear that even though I am not apolitical, I am no political apologist of Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. But I must concede here that there is a gaunt line between separating the man from his politics. As such, selling my idea of not being his fan but being an admirer of his governance style will take some pleadings.

While my focus is on finding solutions to the intractable problems impeding the progress of North, I am impressed by the internal political revolution that has emerged in Kano. This movement is now addressing the challenges of development and modernisation of North’s biggest and most important part.

The North has had many false dawns in the past. While I must admit that it has had governments that achieved some measure of positive development, notably Bauchi under Adamu Muazu, what it always lacked was an all-encompassing development strategy that co-opts the region’s historical experiences and mould it into aspirations for tomorrow.

One of the biggest problems facing the country today is poverty and income inequality. And in the North, the number of those who cannot afford necessities of life is more than other parts of the country. In all human development indices in the country, the North seems to be at the lowest rung; with its people disadvantaged by circumstances ostensibly beyond their capacity to manage.

On all accounts, the average Northerner was better off in the 60s than now. According to Professor Charles Soludo, per capita income in 1966 was about $1,000 and about $1,400 in 1973 and is currently about $1,200. As such, in REAL terms, the average northerner today (despite Nigeria earning over $600 billion from oil since 1973) has less than half of the income in 1966; is poorer; has a shorter life span; with poorer educational system and infrastructure.

The North has suffered from years of misrule visited on the people by those in authority and their elite collaborators. They employ divisive tendencies like manipulation of religion and ethnicity to achieve nefarious intentions. These are compounded by the failure of the states to ensure public order, to contribute to dispute settlement and to implement post-conflict peace building measures. These failures play a significant role in escalating conflicts in the region.

However, it is a fact that that a society can prosper under conditions of good leadership as well as a good system that supports competition and wealth creation. Aforementioned is where Kwankwaso’s policy direction comes in and which I think can be adopted to be a model for the entire North. What we have seen in Kano is an all-encompassing strategy that combines the pursuit of education (including vocational/technical) and the desire to build new crop of entrepreneurs that will drive job-creation opportunities in the state in the long term.

I have always maintained that the region must exploit its area of competitive advantage if it hopes to compete favourably with other regions. Two of those advantages are agriculture and human capital. Kwankwaso is exploring these two areas in a manner not seen previously. For our collective good, our foreign development partners have now started acknowledging this feat.

Speaking at the graduation and presentation of empowerment grants/facilities to youths and women trained on horticultural skills and home-based trades in Kano last week, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Andrew Pocock said Britain appreciates the new thinking and wants it sustained for the benefit of the North as a whole.

“We work very closely in particular with Kano state because we believe that the institutions of the state under the leadership of the state governor give results, and the results are what we are interested in. The example this state gives today is unanimously important – gathering of graduates who have been empowered on vocational training particularly in the agricultural area. It is good to see men given professions, and I have to say it is particularly good to see women being empowered in this way,” Mr. Pocock said.

The more we pay attention to the needs of the people, the better it is for us to secure the future of the country. With calls for real federalism increasing by the day, the North cannot continue on the present mode. The Boko Haram conundrum is a direct result of years of irresponsible governance visited on the region by rapacious and short-sighted leaders. So all our efforts in the search for solutions to this tragedy must, therefore, be anchored on how to redress the repercussions of bad leadership first by the Northern elite in their states and then by the Federal Government.

The challenge ahead of Kwankwaso now is to ensure the sustenance of his projects once his tenure ends next year. It will be part of his political shrewdness if he can, using acceptable democratic norms, ensure the emergence of a successor with a similar vision, and temperament, to push his thought into reality. Kano and the North cannot afford to reverse the trend.

It now behoves on the people of Kano to defend their new found enthusiasm for progress. They can do so by getting serious with governance otherwise their state will return to the era of swimming in a sea of bad governance, misrule and impunity.