“ Take my assets, leave my people, and in five years I’ll have it back”— Alfred Sloan
I like starting with a caveat emptor: What I do are pontifications. By now you must have been used to them. I enjoy sounding off on burning issues affecting our dear country. I even bore you ad nauseam. But as you might have noticed, I am always more particular about the North, our north. And this is not because I care less about the other regions. Of course I do care.
In the last few weeks the country have witnessed calls for separations. From Kaduna to Nnewi, from Warri to Gboko divorce notices were served. People are saying they are tired. They want to go their way. But the voices of for- better- or- worse are not less defeating.
Yet engineers and technicians at Google search machine must be patted on the back for making the site intact as Nigerians were frantically searching for the word: restructuring, amidst shouting ourselves hoarse on the matter.
Indeed restructuring has been our new placebo. It’s being presented to us as the new silver bullet, the elixir of life, the Cinderella magic wand that will solve our perennial problems. Yet as a non-expert I know that it takes more than a structure or a system for us to succeed. The frameworks are often as good their drivers. However, this is not an argument for or against restructuring our structure. It’s about what I want to see the leadership in the North embrace, irrespective of whether the political leadership of the country agrees to restructure or not.
It was Late Yusuf Maitama Sule who once summed up the story of the unparalleled success of the ancient city state of Kano, attributing it to the defensive wall erected round it by King Gijimasu the son of Warisu.
The north has recently seen its bulwarks ruined by Boko Haram insurgency. The North was, undoubtedly, made vulnerable by the activity of insurgents. Thus the technical, ‘militarilal’ and ideological defeat of Boko Haram must continue to be in the front burner. The recent unfortunate development on the Mambila Plateau is a reminder to other causes of worry in the region. You don’t want to hear stories of barbaric communal clashes at a time the region should be in the frenzy of wooing investors from all over the world.
Educate the people. Build their capacity to compete. Don’t play politics with it. The rest will follow.
Gas in Lake Chad
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has since resumed its oil exploration in this region. But it doesn’t matter if the black gold is struck in commercial quantity or not. That there have been enamours gas reserves in commercial quantity in the region had already been established. So what do we do with it? Explore and utilise it for domestic consumption. The north can start some 10,000 Megawatts thermal power plants in the region. The biggest part of our industrialization challenges is thereby solved.
Mambila Hydro Power Plant
Mambila was recently in the news for both cheering and unfortunate reasons recently. Let’s talk about the good news which is the soon be awarded contract for the 3500 megawatts Mambila hydro power station This project is very important; and all hands must be on deck to see it crosses the line.
Optimization of dams’ usage
By this, I mean, maximum utilization of the various dams in the region for both irrigation and energy needs. I don’t need to elaborate, but my state, Kano, has the highest number earthen dams in the country, which, no doubt, if effectively utilised our fortune will be turned around for the better.
Agriculture/Agro allied industries
So far, there has been a lot of talks in this direction. There are some cheering news from Kebbi and other states, too. Governor El Rufai has succeeded in attracting a big animal feeds manufacturers to his Kaduna State.
But will agriculture alone be adequate for the North? I am not sure.
Yet I am certain that if agro- allied manufacturing industries are established to ensure balance growth between the two important sectors, the economy of the North is going to be transformed. The north can supply the country of its wheat for bread if more investments and efforts are made. Thus we should start planning for establishing more flour mills in the region.
Former Jigawa State governor, Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, once took me and my colleague, Constance Ikokwu, on a journey to see his vision on sugarcane plantains from Ringim axis to Baturiya, on Jigawa-Yobe States boarder. Another significant component of the project was the production of ethanol. There’s no space to even scratch the surface on what serous investment in agriculture can do to the North. Production of cotton alone can bring back old good days of our textile industry. Of course, other factors of why the industry died must be tackled first.
Whenever people are talking about the return of groundnut pyramids, I always say that I don’t want them back despite that it was what my father, Alhaji Musa Idris (Musan Gedu) and his bosom friend, Alhaji Shuabu Rabo Ringim used to do during their hey days. My reason is not far-fetched. I want to see the groundnut evacuated straightaway for processing mills. We don’t need to do pyramid. We export the oil and the other by-products.
The North is also home to some of the best leather in the world. Our tanneries should be supported and the end product should be for both local consumption and export.
Tomatoes pest production at cottage level should also be targeted while Benue, Niger, Kogi and Nasarawa axis can give us enough raw materials for juice and other foods and drinks industries.
When Labaran Maku was the commissioner of information in Nasarawa State, he convinced the governor to organize an expo to showcase the abundant mineral resources the state was endowed with. What I saw then was an Aladdin cave of mineral resources.
From the gold that’s perhaps mostly illegally minded in Zamfara State to iron ore reserves in Kogi, to glass sand in Kano, the north can tap these abundant resources to favourably compete with its peers.
Thank God the biggest manufacturer in the country and the black richest man in the world is from the region. It is clear that sentiment has never been a factor on where he sites his business. His refinery is being built in Lagos, but probably it’s the lime that attracted him to Obajana in Kogi State. Yet Dangote and co can site more manufacturing sites in the North. The main attraction of the North is in its huge population, which Chinese like Mr Lee in Kano are exploiting. Huge population in a developing economy means cheap labour for a manufacturer. It also means a huge market to sell products. The North is known for its massive consumption. We eat the biscuits and all the confectionaries they manufacture in Lagos and Ogun States.
Most of the national parks are in the North. It’s unfortunate one of these parks, Sambisa, is now known for a wrong reason. But from Yankari to Falgore et al, the North boosts of these great parks that can be put used like in the rest of the world.
Mambila and Jos have not only the weather to attract tourists, but can you show me a more beautiful topography anywhere in the world.
But is there anyone who will not like to come and see Emir Sanusi II during Salla Durbas? Even Hubbare (The Tomb) of Shehu and other historical places like in Daura in Katsina State can attract tourists from across the world. The only snag is that we need the hotels and other social amenities to market the potential. This is where Gen. Danjuma rtd and co can come to our rescue. We need Intercontinental standard hotels everywhere in the North.
I saw the list of players in Arsenal Under 23 tem playing preseason game yesterday only to discover that at least 4 youngsters are of Nigerian origin. They are all from the Southern parts of the country as their names suggest. From the almajiris that are roaming the streets of the north to the rest of barefoot playing kids, there’s abundant talent that is yet to be tapped. Their counterparts in the South have the advantages of scouting agents close to them. Besides, they are also more encouraged and motivated to pursue their ambitions. Our state governors should come up with policy that will encourage exporting future Ahmed Musas, to European leagues. Let’s catch them young. We can replicate this in other sports, not necessarily football.
A lot of talks on this issue, with less action. We need the political will to do something about this. We need a comprehensive policy to tackle this social menace.
We must have a policy on this burgeoning industry. We must know what we want to do with it.