By Abdul-Azeez Suleiman
Whereas since 2015, northerners have occupied positions with the potential to make decisive differences in the economy, security or political fortunes of the region, the hopes that such leaders will reverse the abuse and neglect of the region in the previous decade have been betrayed.
Weak governance, gross insensitivity and unacceptable levels of incompetence have been compounded by battles of attrition in which northerners have sapped each others’ strength.
Northern Nigeria has rarely been so exposed to such multiple and varied threats as in the last few years.
The historic gains in the region’s political unity secured by northern votes in the 2015 elections have therefore been wasted by the poor management of conflicts between and among northern communities.
Today northern communities are erecting barricades against members of other communities forced to forget that the roots of co-existence and inter-dependence are much deeper than the barricades being erected.
In spite of notable successes by the administration against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, many communities still live under its threat.
In many other parts of the North, communities are routinely exposed to attacks from shadowy killers, and suspicion and anger at known and suspected killers are pitching northerners against each other.
Armed bandits terrorize rural communities almost at will, while kidnappings and abductions have assumed alarming notoriety as crimes.
Too many communities are at the mercy of attacks from sundry groups of criminals who appear to have unchallenged access to space and weapons.
The nation’s security and law and order assets are stretched beyond points where they can’t provide even the most elementary confidence in their capacity to protect citizens.
The economy of the North continues to deteriorate in spite of the evident willingness of northerners to work hard and earn legitimate incomes.
Its basic infrastructure suffers massive deficits in funding while its growing population starves from lack of critical investment in human capital.
Federal government spending has in the last five years been severely tilted against the North, while most state governments only pay lip service to real development in their states.
Agriculture shows limited glimpses of recovery, but almost entirely through efforts of peasants and antiquated processes.
While the rest of the nation moves towards sustainable growth and development, the North is completely de-industrialized and there is no evidence of bold thinking, strong political will or serious concern by any leadership at any level to reverse the alarming decline of the northern economy.
Prior to the rise of such formations as the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), weak and incoherent responses to provocations from other parts of the country around the imperatives of re-visiting the foundations and structures of the Nigerian state have created the false image of a North without its own positions beyond survival as the parasite of Nigeria.
Self-professed political leaders who have failed to lead and make impacts in lives of the poor and the vulnerable are daily feeding the people with hate and resentment instead of searching for genuine and lasting solutions.
In a region with enough resources and space for every community or trade, our people are now fighting for morsels, while leaders think of new ways to turn our misery into electoral capital.
Leaders and elders show little concern for seeking peaceful resolutions of conflicts between and among communities, and lives lost, injuries suffered and losses incurred are not redressed firmly and fairly.
In this regard, most political office holders from the North have failed the test to lead the region towards economic recovery and growth, and all northerners must resolve to re-examine all options in political choices they will make in the future. Persons who are involved in killings and crimes against communities are not brought to book and decisive steps are not taken to improve the security of lives and economic assets in the North by the federal and state governments.
Northern Governors and other categories of leaders have failed to set in motion serious initiatives towards achieving higher levels of trust among northern communities which is vital for the imperatives of peace and justice.
And unless the leadership selection process is critically interrogated to present the best leaders for the North as well as from the North to Nigeria as a whole, the vision of our founding fathers who have toiled and paid with their lives for a strong, united and prosperous northern region would remain illusive
Northerners must insist that the routine denial of the rights of the North to its fair share of budgetary allocations by the federal government must cease with subsequent budgets, and representatives in the National Assembly must live up to their oaths to protect the rights of their constituencies to equity in the allocation of national resources.
We must resolve that no northern politician should expect to be voted for in the any general election unless they demonstrate a willingness to champion a massive assault on poverty and underdevelopment in the region.
To this end, northerners must support CNG in putting pressure on government to ensure that no abductions or indiscriminate attacks and killings occur again, and all communities are sufficiently protected and young northerners are given opportunities to acquire education and jobs anywhere without undue discrimination.
The entire North must commit to sustaining the strong interests behind CNG’s activities and actions that seek to strengthen its unity and prepare it to extract the maximum benefits from the Nigerian union.
We must however be willing and eager to put our union as a nation on the table and discuss with other Nigerians the relative values of all options and negotiate them with responsibility and respect.
This is the only way to invite the attention of the rest of Nigeria that the North knows its interests and place and will defend them in the context of Nigeria.
Suleiman, the spokesperson of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), wrote from Kaduna.