Two recent publications have brought the desperate conditions of Northern Nigeria into focus in a rather dramatic fashion. The first; is an article in The Financial Times of London titled NIGERIA'S KIDNAPPING RACKET IS A SYMPTOM OF A FAILING STATE, and the second is an impassioned declaration of A STATE OF EMERGENCY IN NORTHERN NIGERIA on National Television by the highly respected Social Commentator and analyst, professor Muhdi.

Both comments warn that the Nigerian Federation is facing imminent collapse if it does not change its ominous trajectory; 15 years of Boko Haram terrorism and 9 years of Bandit-induced threat to life and property. Apart from the damage wrought on the economy, on average, Boko Haram terrorists account for the death of 5,000 persons per year; to date,75,000 total in 15 years, mainly in North Eastern Nigeria, and in 2003 alone, over 4,000 people were kidnapped, representing mainly reported victims from the North West. There is no shortage of statistics showing this disturbing trend, and both the Financial Times of London and Professor Mahdi lay them out in detail.

True, nowhere is safe and secure in Nigeria, but as Professor Muhdi and the Financial Times both indicated, most of the nefarious activities, and deep levels of underdevelopment which have cast the shadow of societal failure on Nigeria are occurring in the Northern part of the country.

Northern leaders are often lauded for their political sagacity. In every administration in the Nation's 64 years of existence as an independent Country, they would emerge as President and in numerical control of the National Assembly. Despite this obvious show of strength, however, their region has remained the least developed part of the country. This unfortunate irony can be attributed to the error of believing that what matters most in politics is the control of the center. It is an erroneous notion of neglecting the adage that ' all politics is local'. Ultimately this position translates into playing politics for the sake of politics, neglecting that the essence of political power lies in control of resources and service delivery for human and societal development.

At the early contact with Northern Nigeria, the Colonial government offered Northern leaders a choice of embracing Western Education. The Emirs who were the Rulers of the land opted to retain their koranic educational system which they had adopted as early as the 1450s. Their fear was that Western education came with Western cultural attitudes which would be detrimental to their Islamic way of life.

The consequences of this rejection of Western Education; an educational system that is founded on the material benefits of Science and Technology have been devastating to society. Illiteracy and poverty have become the defining reality of life in the North, with the products of unemployment, homelessness, high rate of mother-infant mortality, inadequate health care services, shortage of artisans and skilled Labour force, shortage of food, shortage of clean drinking water, millions of out of school children, millions of children and young adults as beggars on the streets; the Almajiri syndrome.

The significant turning point in the history of Northern Nigeria would begin after the 1914 Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, and the run-up to Independence from colonial rule. Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, grandson of Uthman Dan Fodio became the Premier of Northern Nigeria in 1947. Ahmadu Bello was committed to reducing the North's deficit in education.

His administration built English-speaking schools, Technical Institutes, and Vocational Institutes, and encouraged children of ordinary citizens to attend. The establishment of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1953 is a testament to his interest in education. Sir Ahmadu Bello embraced Western science and technology, applying them to the development of agriculture and the mining industry.

The Premier also instituted his NORTHERNIZATION POLICY through which he would fast-track the overall development of the region. Any young person from the North who wanted an education was given moral, practical, and financial assistance to go to school. Any adult with an interest in working was given employment. The Northern Nigerian Civil Service was reserved exclusively for northerners, and once you entered it, you would be given crash courses to prepare you for rapid promotion.

The Sardauna's Regional growth trajectory was however cut short when he was assassinated by the military coup d'etat of 16th January 1966.

The coup of 16th January 1966 was led by Igbo officers; Major Nzegwu and Major Ifeajuna. On 29th July 1966, Soldiers of Northern extraction staged a counter-coup. This revenge coup, led by Major Murtala Mohamed, Major Hassan Katsina, and Captain T. Y. Danjuma assassinated Major General Aguiyi Ironsi who had assumed the office of Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Country's Armed Forces from the January 16th Coup plotters. Major General Aguiyi Ironsi was an Igbo man, and the objective of the counter-coup was to wrestle power from Igbo leadership and reinstate Northern hegemony which had been sabotaged by the July 16th killing of the North's most prominent Leaders; Ahmadu Bello, Premier of Northern Nigeria, and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister of Country.

The Counter Coup handed power to General Yakubu Gowon, a Northerner, and the North was back in control. Ironically, this turn of events which appeared to be a clear victory for the north would become the start of their erroneous belief that all that was needed to rule Nigeria was to be in charge of the Center as the country's Head of State.

Evidence that the control of the center does not necessarily translate into country development is borne out by the state of deepening insecurity and economic downturn in the North even though Northerners have governed Nigeria, virtually uninterrupted since the 1970s; since the end of the civil war!

Ironically, the only time when the North made progress as a region since the Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria was during the period when each region enjoyed a high level of autonomy; as in the days when Ahmadu Bello was premier.

As the 2027 campaign plans begin to take shape, many Northern leaders have accused the Tinubu administration of marginalizing the North, and are determined to return the Presidency to the North.

To this effect, Atiku Abubakar is talking of forming a merger with other parties, the leadership of which would give him a platform to run for President, should the opportunity not be available in his old party, PDP. Another well-known politician, El Rufai, former Kaduna State governor, and former FCT minister has been in consultation with the Social Democratic Party, SDP, presumably to run as that Party's Presidential candidate. There is also NNPP's Alhaji Kwakwanso, the political powerhouse of Kano.

This obsession with the Presidency is however disheartening. It shows that these Northern leaders have not learned what is needed to help the North out of poverty and insecurity. They have failed to learn from past experience, that despite the fact that Northerners have held the Presidency for most of Nigeria's history, the north has remained the least developed section of the country.

What the North needs to deal with its social and economic problems is not another Northern President, but another political system. That system is the benefit of Restructuring; a devolution of security powers and fiscal powers to northern States. And semi-autonomy for administrative purposes; much as was the case before 1960.

With this, the state governors can provide security for their states, employ their youth population in the community, neighborhood, or State police system, and make joining terror gangs unattractive.

Fiscal autonomy will give states the power to utilize their mineral and other natural resources to finance their own economies without depending on the Federal government guarantee which most often is never given.

As the saying goes, Education is the Antidote to Poverty. And indeed a dysfunctional educational system has been the bane of development in northern Nigeria. With power to develop its own education system, the North can begin to build a system that is in line with its Islamic history and Muslim traditions. Northern Nigeria can adopt the Jordanian or Saudi Arabia model which has successfully incorporated Western technology with Islamic culture to evolve a modern educational system, unique to its developmental priorities.

Much as this may not be common knowledge, these attributes of Restructuring are virtually the same policies advocated by Ahmadu Bello in his Eight Point Agenda of 1953. His first and second proposals are sufficient to make the point:



The military coup d'etats of 1966, and the subsequent civil war took this critical proposal away from the National dialogue.

Nigeria's 200 million plus population with hundreds of languages, multiple religions, and diverse levels of development make the case for decentralization of Federal responsibility and devolution of powers to the Federating Units a compelling one.

The problem of a convoluted Central government as reflected in the 1999 constitution can be solved by a genuine commitment to the tenets of Federalism. Devolution of powers to the 36 States as is the case in the United States of America allows the individual States to cater to their peculiar priorities. This was the crux of the matter in Ahmadu Bello's ' Eight Point Agenda' of 1953. Failure to embrace a Restructuring of the Nigerian Federation at the time contributed significantly to the disintegration of the first republic. And refusal to embrace the ideology of a reconfiguration or restructuring of Nigeria today would signify a major political miscalculation on the part of Northern Nigerian leaders of thought.

Dr Adetokunbo Pearse , PhD is a public Affairs Analyst and Convener Reset Lagos PDP