In the west of the Sudan is a vast territory called Arewa. It is peopled by hundreds of ethnic groups with rich history and culture. The two major religions of the people of this land are Islam and Christianity, with animists in various locations. Though some of it’s of provinces are at the edge of the great Sahara, it is a land of many rivers, lakes, springs and rich farmlands. It is a land of open prairie, hills and lakes, rich in vegetation and animal life.
The people of the land of Arewa are hardworking, tolerant and usually laugh at some of life’s follies even at the worst of times. The land has the human and material resources to sustain the highest standards of living comparable to anywhere in the world. At a time, it seemed that it was only a matter of time before the arrival of a great new nation was announced to the rest of the world.
But Arewa is afflicted with one great tragedy – it has no leaders. This is a self inflicted tragedy because in the beginning, the first set of leaders under the Sardauna led by example. From all the provinces, Arewa’s leaders were totally dedicated to the good of the people and growth of the land. Though of varied ethnicities and religions, they lived and worked together as one. The intrepid Kano trader found accommodation everywhere. The fearsome Jukun and the Zuru men found natural habitats in the Army. The Nupe man had settlements everywhere.
At a time, the Kabba man could aspire to any position. The migratory Fulani took his cattle everywhere. The hardworking Igala took his labor to every province. The Kanuri man with his fearsome daggers was respected everywhere. The Tiv man had no problems with his neighbors. The Katsina scholar and the Kano merchant; the Jaba farmer and the Idoma farmer; the princes of great kingdoms and the natives from smaller fiefdoms; all found accommodation and acceptance wherever they went.
Then a calamity struck Arewa. Its selfless leaders where killed in that calamity, and it became obvious that the new set of leaders were incapable of producing the selfless dedication of its forebears. On the table where the Sardauna had his meals with Muslims and Christians, the new leaders could not eat together. On the platforms where the old leaders campaigned for the good of the entire land, cracks of ethnicity began to appear. Unity, it seemed, had died with the old leaders. But it did not die a natural death. It was murdered by the cold calculations of a cruel cartel whose only craving was to cart off public property for private pockets.
Arewa continued to deteriorate. The Igala man who found work and acceptance in Kano was no more a son of the soil. The Fulani with his cattle became targets wherever he took his herd. The children of the Kano trader who founded a settlement in Benue could no more get scholarships. The Ebira man in Zaria had to go back to Okene to get a certificate of indigene. On the Plateau, the Hausa-Fulani whose grand father was born there suddenly became a settler. The Christians who found accommodation in Sokoto became strangers. The Moslem call to prayer, long accepted became major irritants in Christian communities.
But the tragedy of Arewa continues. The fuels fanning the flames of these fratricidal feuds are fired not by the common man of Arewa who has no problems with his Moslem, Christian or animist neighbors, but by the leaders elected to unify them. All that the common man wants is an opportunity for honest work to feed his family and train his children. He wants a market for his farm produce, hospitals when ill, schools for his children and security of life and property. But even these basics of life were too much to expect. He got none of these, just the constant call to hatred that has become the anthem of Arewa’s tragedy of leadership.
Worse still, even at local levels, hatred is being spread by the vermin that call themselves leaders. But the worst tragedy of all is that after getting into office, these walking tragedies go on to set the worst possible records in governance and administration. The major objective is to divide and loot. In Zamfara was a bearded one who plied the people with lies of a spiritual sort to get to office. That was his only achievement. In the backwaters of Taraba was a charlatan who called himself pastor and ruled for 10 years. Ten wasted years. On the hilltops of the Plateau is another whose sole purpose is a murderous hatred for those of a different ilk. The hills are now in a state of permanent emergency.
For eight years, a comedian held sway in the northern area called Jigawa. Many thought he would put his mathematical mind to good use and lift the state out of poverty. His most famous achievement was weeping in public, surrounded by his wives in court. I still imagine what N10.4 billion can do for Jigawa. In the area called Bauchi is he that was genuinely elected by the people. After two years, his most famous achievement is consummating Nigeria’s most expensive marriage to a presidential daughter.
Also for eight years, one pranced around in the food basket. Today, there is neither food nor a basket anywhere in the state. In the power state was another whose major achievement was providing provisions for those who had everything at the expense of those who had nothing. And at the centre of the tragedy is the recluse of the seven points without an agenda. Secluded in his Villa, he has reduced governance to a cabal of the banal with no ideas and no ideals save a mindless, ceaseless pillaging of public property for private purpose.
But the time has come. The time has come for the common man of Arewa to see through the ruse of a ruling class that seeks to divide and loot; it is time to ask questions; time to agree that no progress can be made if we refuse to see beyond religion and ethnicity. We must begin to ask how many children of the ruling elite were killed in ethnic and religious crises. We must see that the ruling only elite seek to grow hatred in our hearts, illiteracy in our heads and poverty in our lives, so that they can maintain their heartless hegemony over us, and that of their children over our children.
When we see these things in clear perspective, we will destroy the devils and despots that call themselves our leaders, arrest the tragedy of leadership we are faced with today, and together, regardless of tribe, religion and background, restore Arewa and Nigeria to the greatness it deserves. The time has come.