The umbrella association of northern youths, Arewa Youths Forum (AYF), today accused the elite from the region, both Muslim and Christian, of undermining the north in political power and economic development.

The indictment came in a communiqué issued by the youth group at the end of an emergency meeting held in Kaduna, capital of Kaduna State. The AYF’s communiqué, which was sent to local and international media, argued that the north had completely collapsed and needed purposeful leadership in order to rise again.

Led by Gambo Ibrahim Gujungu, the group x-rayed the political and economic performance of the northern part of Nigeria and found the situation deplorable. “The leadership of Arewa Youths Forum (AYF) met today in Kaduna and critically reviewed the state of the nation and, most importantly, the predicament bedeviling Northern Nigeria. Sadly, [as] we stated in March 2012, the North is still at the bottom of every index ranging from health, education, social amenities, infrastructure, socio-cultural integration and peaceful coexistence,” the communiqué stated.

The AYF added: “The worst of our woes is the insecurity ravaging the North that has gradually balkanized Northern Christians and Muslims…through a deliberate elitist mischief.” In addition, the group argued: “On good governance, judicial utilization of public funds and quality leadership, from our review of the 19 Northern States, except in [a] few states, the order of the day is outright embezzlement of public funds with impunity. The leadership being showcased at all levels of governments [is] nothing but a monumental sharing of public funds…while poverty and illiteracy [sweep] through the…region thereby posing a big threat to our existence and progress. In plain terms, the North is not only at the verge of extinction but has finally collapsed and just standing on its shadows and a cosmetic unity that is far from the reality.” In an ominous tone, the communiqué added that “reality has finally caught up with us.”

In a statement that spared neither Muslims nor Christians, the group insisted that “the major problems of the North [are] the result of the accumulated machinations of both Christian and Muslim elite, who in the course of pursuing their political and economic interests kept sowing discord along religious and ethnic lines to a gullible illiterate majority. Even if for nothing, the intense struggle of Christian and Muslim elite for inclusion into several juicy boards and parastatals confirms that all the noise about religion and ethnic divides are pure manipulations meant to aid individuals’ access to economic and political proceeds.” They challenged the northern elite to show evidence that they contributed to “development, unity and progress” in “their native Christian or Muslim dominated areas of the North.”

The AYF accused the elite, “who got life on a platter of gold,” of squandered opportunities to make a difference in the region. They stated that “insincerity and double standards” existed on the part of “traditional and religious institutions, governments, civil society, media, security agencies, and opinion leaders in addressing the mess that has enveloped the North.”

The group suggested that the remedy to the region’s “institutionalized mess” lies in “sincere and purposeful leadership at all levels of government in [the] Northern region,” adding that there was a need for “judicious management of resources to check poverty, lack of infrastructure, collapsed education and health sectors and as well unemployment.”

The youth group called for an end to “all tools of manipulation and mischievous propaganda using religion and ethnicity.” They advocated a strengthening of the rule of law “to deal with all those responsible for inciting killings as well those perpetrating the killings.” The group added: “These will aid in bringing about cohesion and stability, while the Federal Government and security agencies assiduously tackle terrorism in the north.”

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