MATTERS ARISING: My Take on Northern Nigeria (a personal opinion)

Posted: March 21, 2014 in Articles, Matters Arising, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

by Ugochukwu Austinoiz Nwaiwu

I’ve always avoided issues relating to Northern Nigeria in recent pasts, solely because I haven’t stepped my feet into that region before now. Personally, I hate to appraise or condemn anything from afar. So the issues of Boko Haram, large land mass, poverty, and wanton illiteracy in that clime had often received mild/no remarks from me.

But having now recently criss-crossed Kogi, some parts of FCT, and ending up in Minna, Niger state in a 10-day expedition (call it a two-some jamboree because I was in the company of a friend) and now back to base (Owerri), I think I have garnered a lot of first hand information and experiences about the region (as my visit was basically a social one), few of which I want to delve into.

On a passive note, I’ve never seen states so blessed with massive land mass as Kogi and Niger States, and I believe such reflects the collective nature of all the 19 States there. Truly, if we southerners have such, the “me-and-my neighbour(s) wars” that have being gracing our nucleated settlement patterns here, wouldn’t have been in existence at all.

That’s on a light note anyway, the main issue at hand is that, I met for the first time in my entire life, young men and women who cannot hear or speak PIDGIN ENGLISH. I really went through hell communication-wise with keke drivers, airtime vendors, food vendors, and virtually all the commuters I came in contact with. Neither could I copy what they were “aggressively vomiting” as their Hausa words nor were they grasping my Pidgin (even when I chose to “bury” my English for the time being).
This scenario heralded more questions in my mind than answerable. Outstanding amongst them were: -Is there any 7yr-old southerner that doesn’t eat pidgin like bread and butter, what’s wrong with people here?
-Ain’t there schools here? (of course, I saw kids in schools). So why ain’t they capable of teaching these kids Pidgin, if teaching English is a Kilimanjaro for teachers there to climb?
-Why can’t the few who can speak pidgin circulate what they know?

To make matters worse, an Ecobank staff (a young guy in his early 30s for that matter) whom I did transactions with, gave me the real life shocker, when he struggled all day to speak in mere Pidgin to me, as he was so carried away with his native language, while I was sweating to voice out my English-cum-Pidgin words to him. The only thing I could copy from the dude was YES to all I said. The Communication was practically zero…Guys, that was pretty disgusting.

This draws my attention to the issue of Illiteracy in the North. Unlike in the South, where state governments not only ensured free education up to SSCE level, but also set up task forces to ensure that kids are taken off the street and “forced” to be in school, the scenario in Niger and Kogi are different entirely. Yes they also enjoy scholarship/free education over there up to SSCE, but the kids under school age ain’t persuaded/forced off the streets to school.
It is a case of 2 out of every 10 going to school. The other 8 merely graduate from street begging to violent Almajiris with time…and you
know their end product.

It really baffles my imagination to hear people say that poverty is supreme in the North. Poverty didn’t leave the South and travel North-wise. Nigerians are indeed poor, but when a particular section of the country does struggle to put food on their table, without aid from government, it is now far far pathetic.

I suspect that the quest for the control of central power in Nigeria, has over time, made an average Northerner a slut. For them, anything government didn’t/haven’t put in place for them isn’t worth having (since government is theirs). This is in sharp contrast to the people of South Eastern Nigeria. A people that barely rely on the central government for basic infrastructures. The Ibos have over time, known that federal presence and power control are skewed against them by successive administrations…a payback package to us for daring to severe ties with Nigeria via the Biafran war of 1967-1970. So they have being carrying their developmental crosses wisely.

Without being told, poverty is still in top gear in the East and elsewhere in Nigeria, but for the North and their fortunate elites to blame federal government squarely for their “mess” is not only laughable, but also shows their rather bizarre and lukewarm attitude towards working to heal their wounds.

Ordinarily, if I were to be an elite Northerner, perhaps living in FCT, heating up the polity on daily basis wouldn’t do me any good. Clamouring to rule Nigeria in 2015 or heads will roll is a left-sided lust.
Rising up to tackle their illiteracy and poverty challenges would rather be a worthy fight now.

Seriously “the medieval” state of things I witnessed in Kogi and Niger states in these past 10days, doesn’t represent a 21st century Nigeria (not at least a 21 century South Nigeria)

To Be Continued…

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    Mr Ugochukwu, this writeup is very opinionated and controversial. You should work hard to avoid your personal feelings interfere heavily on your writing. Your take on Northern Nigeria is overly negative, and your comparism with the South (esp the South East) is not fair at all.
    I haven’t been to the North either but from stories I have heard, and from studying poor Northerners in my neighbourhood, I have come to a similiar conclusion as you, but in a much milder tone. Many Northerners I see here are too contented in their shoe-maker life, in their suya-selling life, in their nomadic cattle rearing-life, in their gate-man life and other menial-working-life for my liking. A Northerner here will live for 30 years working as a shoe-maker, sleeping under the bridge and rearing children like their are puppies, tthese children will grow up to become illiterate Shoe_makers or Sacarine-makers and the cycle continues…but a southerner or a south-easterner will go out and start little by little to sew shoe, hoping for an opportunity to break even..while sending his kids to school at least primary and secondary..I agree with you here…but I have seen places in South-South too that reminds me of stories I have heard of Northern Nigeria. Villages whose students can hardly speak pidgin english, or whose inhabitants hardly do anything useful, whose youths idle away all day, forming cult groups and waiting to be initiated into oil bunkery, militancy or any other vices in order to get back on FG for “their” oil.
    Yes, the Northern Elites are the major problem of the North and Nigeria. They underdeveloped their region and in extension Nigeria because they wanted their lineage to continue to be in the helm of the Country’s affair. It is today biting them in the ass and the worst might not have come yet.

    You writeup needs some more proning to eradicate it of biasness, ethnic bigotry and co. You did a job which I will love to call good, but needs more fine-tunning.

  2. Fiona says:

    Don’t continue with this.
    Pidgin English should stay where it is. No need to export it.
    Google the youtube clips of Tafawa Balewa to hear the English of the north.

    “Violent almajirai” – did you find one?

    Illiteracy – how many languages did you test them in? How many alpahabets? Lugard banned the writing of Hausa in Arabic letters and made the people illiterate over night. Write with Arabic letters, they will read.

    Write about something you know. Add to the bouquet of flowers – it is an alternative to squatting to relieve yourself in the gutters of the press.

    Competent use of grammar, orthography, etc., Pick a fresh topic. No need to continue with this dry one.

  3. Anene Francis says:

    Nawa o. There goes our objective writer again hahaha… Seriously hoping you get to that point soon. Note, we all are learning here. (Shuu! Lady Fiona blunt o lol)
    *You came about all these conclusions from only 10 days stay in northern Nigeria? That is not enough for a full and unbiased investigation/ sampling for a topic such as this. I for one, grew up in north central Nigeria. And by proximity to other northern state, I can speak on the subject with some authority (a privilege, if you ask me)… Your views here have some truth but are grossly exaggerated and some others contentious.
    *Unarguably, Northern Nigeria is lagging behind the south in terms of quality education and by extension, the use of English language. But that does not make us terrible people or our language archaic na. (Let me assume I am still there). The low literacy ratio was and is as a result of many factor such as: nature of culture, delay in the arrival and embracing of formal education, neglect by the ruling class in the past, and presently, insecurity in some parts (indirectly affecting other parts) scaring teachers and students away, and several other chain of factions I don’t wish to delve into now. Rectifing it is not easy as you made it seem, so the manner of comparism is uncalled for.
    * Please note that not all kids in the north are almajiris. Though this form of upbringing do not fit our present society but the generalization that they turn out bad is false.
    * The latter part of the article is dotted with even more land mines of prejudice and I don’t wish to step in yet pending subsequent comments.
    If not for insecurity fears, I would have wished you had done your national youth service in a northern state. Mr Solar included lol. I bet you would have returned with testimonies about how your eyes were opened (wider).
    Its nice sharing your thoughts. Good effort. More powers to your elbow and more room for improvement. Dooh

  4. Arguments not needed here but:
    Mr. Okoye, I advice you to hit North soonest. Hearsays and experiences from “southernized” northerners don’t and can’t make a 40% judgemental passmark.

    Ms. Fiona, I wasn’t running a promo for Pidgin English, but merely suggested the language as the last resort of any below standard-living Nigerian. But it’s good to see the other side of you…perhaps the ranty side.
    I may have been guilty of some grammatical errors, but not orthographical. You made that error when you mispelt my ALMAJIRIS to be ALMAJIRAI.
    I would have loved you to give evidences of Lugard’s thwarts to your so-called Arabics/Hausa. You’re just being too “Hausa-ed” here, but I believe you’re too intelligent to throw unguided jibes around, so why not remain sharp, as being blunt wouldn’t do you good.

    Mr. Francis, you live within J-town’s GRAs, so you be bereft/short of ideas about the lives of majority of the northerners. Those guys need immediate rescue psychologically, educationally and poverty-wise, else, they remain within the confines of my mind as 17th century Nigerians in a 21st century world.

  5. Anene Francis says:

    Opinionated. That’s the perfect word. Assumptions con follow join lol… I learnt a new proverb recently. “I told you o is better than I should have told you o”… I suggest you read the closing lines of Fiona’s write up “Parts of One Body” and the latter comments to it. I take the advice. I rest my case. Sanu

  6. LegendaryCJN says:

    Statistics have almost always been right…
    and the write up is on point as it corresponds with most other related articles I’ve read so far. But it would have done better without the undue comparisons with Southerners. I served in Western Nigeria, Oyo to be precise, and I witnessed illiteracy first hand! But that should not give me rooms to generalise because in that same town are erudite professors, such as the Jamb Registrar, Prof Dibu.
    To apply an adage and a quote to the above mentioned issues of illiteracy, underdevelopment, etc, “it’s neither here nor there”, “all generalisations are dangerous, including this one”- Alexandra Dumas.
    A candid advice to writers of articles, unlike poets who hide under poetic license: try as much as possible to be unbiased and or objective, given that Nigeria is an ethnicized country.
    Keep writing.

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