By Ifeanyichukwu Mmoh
In a recent letter to the former Emir Sanusi II of Kano shortly before the dethronement, the very respected elder statesman Ahmed Joda had (according to Dan Agbese’s recent article on the Daily Trust newspaper) communicated certain feelings I used to think was proprietary only to me to the former Emir; noting especially how that the feudal leaders of the north had used Islam to impoverish the people and to keep the region backward in the scheme of things in Nigeria and, what the emir should expect as reaction because of Sanusi’s ideological stand that’s no doubt ruffled vested interested.
In the first part of this content, I had ended it with these lines, “I think it was time we asked the Muslims of the core north why the core north has continued to make Islam to look like it was akin to a political weapon, to misbehavior, to illiteracy, to backwardness, to ignorance, to poverty, to living off the destitute, to looting and crass corruption and in opposition to western cultures. For if we go by what the Muslims in the United Arab Emirate are doing to drive their economy; these political leaders back in the core north deserved to be stoned!”
Going by contemporary realities, I write this way because in my mind, the northern region was economically strategic, not just for agriculture but also for industrialization but what has continued to rob it of greatness was the narrow-minded view of its feudal leadership that believed it was normal to use religion for political weaponry and illiteracy for social landmines. That Nigeria’s socio-political and economic structure was out-of-frame sounded to them as melody and, why wouldn’t it? After all, there are still oil resources to be sold and the monies spent on them.
A typical example of this mindset of selfish and reckless abandon is Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje’s lackadaisical approach in containing the Covid-19 pandemic in Kano state. For starters, many had questioned the rationale behind the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the FCT while leaving out Kano. These states all had functional international airports like Kano and by implication; they were flash points states that ought to be kept under a thorough surveillance given the ease of spread of the virus. This was not done and on his part, Ganduje cared less.
The unwritten body language in fact, was that the economic power house of the southwest was under locks and should remain so. Not long afterwards, the plague started to kill Nigerians of Kano origin en masse and guess what he does? Firstly, he denies that it wasn’t the virus but some mysterious sickness that was made worse by the unavailability of hospitals while Kano was on Lockdown. But when the pressure mounted on him to do something; anything, he claimed it was un-Islamic to autopsies therefore any investigation should rely on verbal autopsy.
Secondly and to add insult to injury; Ganduje demands for a whopping 15 billion naira from the federal government under the guise that he needed this to provide for palliative measures. Perhaps, and maybe because Lagos was given 10 billion for the same reasons, Ganduje forgets that what Lagos was giving to the federation through Customs alone on an annual basis was twice the budget size of Kano state. Should Nigeria still maintain the system of the state-with-the-largest-local-government-gets-the-lion-share as against the system of the state that gave the highest revenue?
Ganduje needed to answer this. And to say the feudal powers of the core north immediately saw a chance of selfish gains by politicizing the reality of a pandemic was to state the obvious for if not so, why will a governor use religion to shield every effort at unraveling the mystery behind strange deaths in his state? If religion had been so helpful, why did it not stop the deaths? If religion could make humans to behave better, why has greed and corruption so enslaved Nigeria? Unfortunately, it is difficult for selfish persons to see the difference between religion and science.
Only in countries like Nigeria would one find people who are well aware of the exploits of medical science and how life has been so enhanced with it yet they chose to remain slaves to religion, culture and traditions. The core North’s responses to contemporary realities like science, technology and modernism make one to wonder how it hoped to harness its economic potentials and use it for the benefit of their unchecked population. Today, the barrel of oil sells for as low as -$3 USD and with the pandemic export is still at its lowest; but this is our reality.
With many countries strategizing for self-sufficiency first in the face of this global pandemic; is it not a surprise to find the likes of Ganduje of Kano state, Nigeria hoping to receive some non-existent 15 billion naira FG money? I had compared the core north with the United Arab Emirate (UAE) on the basis of the Islamic faith just to point out that if religion (any religion for that matter) actually had the power to change human beings; the north would’ve been more beautiful than Dubai and the people would’ve been better behaved than they are presently.
A wise man once told me that those who blamed their folly on a lack of mentoring never tell the truth. This is because they did not tell how adamant and lazy they were to find one for if they had, you wouldn’t be wondering why there were so many worthy men that existed around them which they could’ve looked to by just looking around to find them. Behold a governor who believes verbal autopsy was reliable enough to provide needed clue on how to understand and then handle the strange illness that has so far taking more than 600 lives to the grave. Governor Ganduje, I hail oh!
Comrade Mmoh, an advocate of attitudinal change writes from Onitsha, Anambra state.