With pain and anguish, I decided to make this communication with your soul, which I believe is resting well. I must confess that I do not know you personally, as I was not born when you held sway as the Premier of the defunct Northern Region. However, I have heard so much about you from my late father. He narrated stories about how you conducted your political activities geared towards our region’s progress.
Today, things are no longer at ease in Arewa. The land of our great ancestors is in chaos and anarchy while life has become nasty, brutish and short. Arewa has been turned to a killing field by terrorists with the blood of innocent people crying for vengeance. The elites that took over the mantle of leadership from you have destroyed all that you laboured to build. They live in luxury and great comfort while most people are dying in poverty and hunger. Their children study in Ivy League schools in the West with public funds and return home to take the best jobs while the children of the poor are roaming the streets and eating from the dust bin. Many families can no longer eat three meals per day, as good food has become a luxury. The cost of living has continued to rise with stagnant wages.
Sardauna, you are known as a warrior who strived hard during your era to emancipate the poor by ensuring that parents sent their children to school, which was free those days. Your late daughter Hajiya Aishatu, whom I interviewed at her residence in Sokoto in 2013 during my stint with THISDAY Newspaper, spoke extensively on how you carried all along and worked tirelessly to ensure unity in the north irrespective of tribe or religious affiliation.
It is no longer at ease at the moment. The children of the poor that you trained free with the resources of the Northern region before Nigeria’s independence, and those who came after them, have ruined your efforts. They have become feudal lords and turned out to enslave us. They have sold all the assets that you and other great northerners toiled to build over 60 years ago, while organisations you set up like the New Nigerian and textile industries in Kaduna, among others, have all collapsed. They not only mismanaged these organisations but also destroyed your legacies. Many people in northern Nigeria have been homeless and are currently in IDP camps, frustrated and dehumanised. They have been sacked away from their villages by terrorists while vast agricultural lands have been left fallow without any farming activities.
Today our region is littered with many orphans and widows whose husbands have been hacked to death by bandits. We have so many children (Almajiris) roaming the streets without any future while the elites do not care. Some of the Almajiris, neglected by the society, lack basic education and opportunities, unleash terror on the society that neither cared for them. Your grandchildren no longer have access to what the people you earlier trained free in some foreign institutions enjoyed a few decades ago. Today the children of the poor no longer have access to quality education, as they study in dilapidated primary and secondary schools. At the same time, the political elites send their children to study in private schools both locally and overseas.
The painful aspect of this is that they now packaged a man without empathy and presented him to us as a messiah in 2015. Our people heeded the call and voted him into power, believing that he would usher us into prosperity. Since then, our region has never known any peace. Bandits have taken over our major roads in the north, especially Abuja-Kaduna road, kidnapping people for ransom. Families have been compelled to sell their properties to raise money for ransom. These hoodlums kill their victims, especially those whose families cannot pay the ransom, while their remains are thrown away in the forest.
Similarly, our farmers in rural areas can no longer go to their farms in peace for fear of being killed. Those who managed to plant their crops could not harvest them, as the crops were set ablaze by these urchins. The agricultural foundation of the region is being destroyed while those at the helm of affairs do not care.
Inequality is at its peak in Arewa. The political leaders are using politics and religion to balkanise our society. In fact, as a journalist who worked in the region for over a decade, I had it on good authority from a reliable source that some politicians are behind the killings in Arewa. I am, indeed, aware that you did not amass any wealth before your death. But the people that came after you have stolen our commonwealth and used the funds to purchase mansions and exotic houses in London, New York, Paris, Switzerland, Malaysia, Dubai and other top cities in the world. They do not care if our region goes up in flames because they believe they have a place to hide in case of an outbreak of war.
Today our people are being killed daily by primitive herdsmen while our women are raped indiscriminately in remote communities. The political elite in cahoots with the traditional rulers have neglected a large segment of the society. The clerics who are supposed to serve as a beacon of hope for the masses have been compromised. They have become silent and afraid to speak out for fear of the unknown. Those Islamic scholars, who had the courage to speak, admonished our youth not to protest but engage in fervent prayers. Allah will come down to fight our battle if our youth refuse to take action.
The painful aspect of this is that even the activists who protested a few days ago to create awareness about the ongoing genocide by Fulani bandits in rural areas of Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Nigeria and other northern states have been threatened by the officials of the Department for State Security Services (DSS). So, who will fight for the poor and downtrodden and fight for the orphans and widows?
Our people have become hopeless. The issue that has been bothering me is what the Arewa dream is? Of course, it won’t be easy to answer at the moment. An average Arewa youth is just focused on marriage. That is the dream for many of our youth. Illiteracy, drug abuse, unemployment has become recurring decimal. Is our society on the brink? Are we heading towards a state failure? Who will rescue our people and wipe away our tears? Should we take the law into our hands or hearken to the voice of reason? What is the way out of this misery?
History will always be kind to you, Sardauna, as all and sundry adore you due to the sacrifice you made for the development of Arewa. However, history will not be kind to the present crop of leadership in Arewa, as they have mismanaged your legacies and our patrimony, thereby plunging millions of our people into misery. May you continue to rest in peace, and I pray Almighty Allah to forgive your mistakes and grant you Aljannah Firdaus.
The writer is at the school of Sustainability, Christian-Albrechts Universität zu Kiel Schleswig Holstein, Germany. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.