Arewa Governors: A Clarion Call For Regional Economic Integration, By Salihu Tanko Yakasai
The first ever article that I wrote was “19 Northern Governors: The certified parasites” back in 2012. In that article, I criticized our governors then, for I opined that they were the ones holding Arewa back as a region. Majority of them lacked focus, had no vision, and represented a complete betrayal of what the founding fathers of Arewa laid their lives for, to see Arewa become. Most of those Governors were members of the hitherto government in power the PDP.
Elections are now over, new leaders have been sworn in across the federation. For the first time in the history of our great nation, and indeed our democracy, an opposition party has defeated a ruling party and with it, brought in new fresh set of leaders, particularly here in Arewa. Currently, out of the 19 Northern States, only 3 are under the control of PDP, while the rest are of the APC. This unprecedented event has presented a golden opportunity for our governors to stand out, be different and write their names in GOLD in the book of history.
Arewa as a whole is suffering from all sorts of negative parameters. From illiteracy, to poverty, to insecurity, inadequate healthcare facilities and massive unemployment amongst others. The statistics on these are some of the worst around the world, how sad. Yet, this is a region with massive potentials, from the vast fertile land for farming, to huge deposits of mineral resources, abundant affordable Labour, to the biggest of them all -human resources. Unfortunately, our elected governors do not see it fit, to rise to the occasion and save the day. If left unchecked, the current insecurity that has plagued the region is a child’s play, compared to the looming crises that will engulf the region (God Forbid) and the country at large.
The Northern Governors, irrespective of political parties, need to come together in an effort to device functional strategies of moving the region from its near comatose state URGENTLY by first calling for an emergency meeting AS SOON AS POSSIBLE with the SOLE agenda of regional economic development and integration. There are well researched and documented regional blueprints that have been sleeping around waiting to be implemented. I know of two groups that have done well in this regard, one is the work done by Dr Bugaje and his team, Arewa Research and Development Project, and the other wasn’t made public, but it was done by couple of brilliant northerners, one of whom is currently a Governor from the North West zone, how timely. These documents should be looked into thoroughly, upgraded and enhanced to suit the needs and challenges of today, and implemented ASAP. As a matter of urgency, they should first and foremost, declare a state of emergency in the education sector, and tackle the problem head-on. If they can do this alone, we would have solved half of the problems in the region. Then followed by agriculture, the importance of this cannot be over emphasized, it will not only feed the region, but also provide employment, expand the industrial based, and the multiplier effect of this is unimaginable. Another vital area is the solid minerals that have for the most part, been ignored and untapped, sadly. let us also not forget ICT, his sector can create huge opportunities as well as becoming a huge revenue earner for the region.
These are some of the well known areas that demand immediate attention from our governors, but for me personally, I want to see more bilateral as well as multilateral cooperation between states for rapid economic development. The old Kano (Now Kano and Jigawa States) have an agricultural blueprint developed by Late Audu Bako, first Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Inuwa Dutse was his commissioner of Agriculture to explain the vision. But after the creation of Jigawa State, Kano was left with all the 14dams constructed for the sole purpose of irrigation farming, while Jigawa took away the lands. But the Governors of these two states have never deemed it fit, to come together and put resources to harness these common potential that they share. Katsina State and Zamfara are well known for their cotton, while Kano and Kaduna have textile industries that are now moribund, taking with them the livelihood and lives of the employees. These four states can come together, to pool funds for cotton farming in Katsina and Zamfara, while providing raw materials for the textile industries in Kano and kaduna, (particularly now that the two states are in the process of having their own Independent Power Projects). If we go to Sokoto, they have one of the best hides and skin in the world, while Kano is known for its tanneries, Kano used to be one of the major exporter of hides and skins, often referred to as Moroccan leather is globally well sought after . The tanneries have also been shut down. Imagine the two states coming in to resuscitate this sector.
One of the FEW things that I commend former president Goodluck Jonathan, is the Abuja-Kaduna rail line. Once commissioned, travel time will be an average of 40minutes. Why can’t Kano start thinking of having a rail line that can take passengers to kaduna so that they can board the Kaduna-Abuja train, cutting costs and saving time? Niger and Nasarawa are also two states that are close to the federal capital, a rail line should be put in place with the federal capital providing counterpart funding for not only economic development, but also decongesting our roads and Abuja itself, because people can live in these states while working or doing their businesses in Abuja. Also, there are about 361 Local governments in the 19 Northern States, imagine if each local government can commit just N10 million a month from their allocation, that’s N3.6Billion a month, and if each of the 19 States can commit N100million that’s N1.9Billion, add that up and you have N5.5Billion a month, then multiply that by 12months, that’s a huge total of about N66Billion a year. That’s enough funds to set up hedge funds and asset management companies managed according to global best practices. Imagine the profits they will be sharing at the end of the day.
All these things are REALISTIC and POSSIBLE if our Northern Governors put their minds to it. We share a lot in common, our culture and history, our way of life, and trade. It will be very easy for integration, rapid cooperation and economic development, these states can go it alone no doubt, but they can rapidly grow by collaborating with one another.
What we’ve always lacked is the political will, and I believe this is where the massive opportunity brings itself, with the new government of APC, and the new exemplary leadership some of these governors bring to the table, people like Dr Abdullahi U. Ganduje of Kano, Mallam Nasir Elrufai of Kaduna, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, and many others. If they do not rise to the occasion, then we will miss a golden opportunity, to reclaim Arewa’s lost glory, and save our people from further hardship. I do hope and pray, they will make us proud, in the words of Mike Hockabee. “A leader is the one who can outline the broad vision and the direction, and say here’s where we are going to go, here’s why we need to go there, and here’s how we are going to get there.” We have chosen them, let them lead with remarkable vision and foresight.
SALIHU TANKO YAKASAI