I am partially from the North; the North Central.
My mother was a Berom woman from Plateau State. If you have followed my column for a while, you know this little background.
I schooled in the north. My primary and secondary education was in Plateau State and I got my first degree from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi. I worked in Abuja for some years after serving before I got married and moved down to Lagos.
For about 27 years or so, I was solely in the North except for brief vacations.
Why am I telling you guys this?
I speak about the North not as a stranger. Not as a well-read Yoruba woman repeating things she has heard or assumed about the North. I speak from my personal experience.
The pathetic situation of the northern part of this country should be a matter of concern to all of us.
But before we join in the concern, the North has to be concerned about their worsening situation.
Initially, it was mostly about being educationally disadvantaged. It was odd in my university that the number of northerners attending were not in the majority. I mean, we could count the number of Hausa/Fulani females in the whole school.
The number of out-of-school children in the North has always been appalling. The teeming population of children begging on the streets for alms was always something I found scary. There are out-of-school children everywhere in Nigeria. But in the North, it is in levels unimagined.
On the 10th of October 2018, the UNICEF said that about 69% of Nigeria’s out-of-school children were located in the northern part of the country. They claimed that Bauchi State had the highest number with 1.1million children out of school.
In fact, it was indicated that the numbers as reported from other sources were possibly higher than estimates.
Almost 70% of out-of-school children are in the North!
It should. This is the beginning of the explanation why the northern part of Nigeria remains backwards in almost all imaginable indices. For example, statistics analysing immunization in Nigeria showed that the highest number of children fully immunised were South West (47.9%), South South (38%), South East (36.5%), North Central (26.2%), North East (17.5%) and the lowest was North West (7.9%).
The less educated a region, the bigger the problems they face. Do we examine mortality rates of infants and mothers? A little research I did showed that the maternal, neo-natal and child mortality rates were highest in the North Eastern and North Western parts of our country. The rates were lowest in the South West and South East.
There are so many things to examine that tells us that the North suffers primarily because of a lack of education.
This is not a new problem. And this is exactly what created a fertile ground for Boko Haram. It is easy to gather uneducated people who are desperate and destitute and feed them and then sell a toxic form of religion to them. This is not impossible with the educated but the educated will not be felled with one huge swoop.
People that are not hungry and think independently will examine the merits and demerits of any proposed brand of religion.
So the irony was that, the part of Nigeria that needed education the most was brought to its knees by people claiming that western education was not the answer.
In the last seven or eight years, the North has seen hunger, poverty, disease, war and death like never before. Certain routes are no longer safe. We hear of mass kidnappings and killings all over. Zamfara has been under siege for a long time. The figures that keep coming out daily are scary.
There is a problem with girl/child education. There is under-age marriage. There are many cases of VVF. There is also a prevalent drug problem in the northern part of Nigeria.
The North is the worst part of this country, no matter what anyone says.
This is ironic.
They may not go to school like they should. They may have many street urchins and suffer high rates infant and maternal mortality. But one thing you can never accuse a northerner in this country of is being politically illiterate.
The northern voters are a huge formidable block that is difficult to dislodge. They understand the power of the electorate and you can accuse them of many things but NEVER voter apathy.
This is also a huge irony for me.
I think that they are the most disrespected block of voters in all of Nigeria. They are the most used.
Their politicians do nothing substantial for them. They prefer them illiterate. They like the fact that religion will also be an important thing in the North…this makes manipulating them easier.
A lot of their politicians mostly live in Abuja. Their kids are living luxurious lives unfettered by the heavy chains of moral dictates and poverty. Their kids go to the best schools. Their kids get the lucrative quotas in various government establishments. But they do all this on the back of the common uneducated northern voter.
You would think that voting in a Fulani man in 2015 would mean that matters affecting the North will be addressed with urgency. But this has not been the case. Their votes are collected as though the politicians are entitled to them and then the politicians move on with their lives.
The situation in Zamfara may be the wake-up call the North needs. Rather than excuse the politicians from their zones and celebrate their wins solely because they belong to the region, maybe the electorate will put pressure on them to fix up the north.
The northerners may be looking for relief from poverty and security and improved infrastructure and they are well within their rights to agitate for these things.
But I have to say this: without education, everything done in the north is palliative. It is surface treatment that will still unravel.
The North must be educated. It must be a priority.
Jamila Abubakar, a woman in Kaduna state, took her ex-husband to court for the custody of her two children. She did not want her kids to be in an Almajiri school. She wanted a primary school. The court granted this visionary woman her request.
Jamila Abubakar should be the face of the future for the North. Ordinary individuals going all out to free their children from the burden of an education that keeps them in the bondage of poverty.
The North needs to start from education. Or things will never be alright.