The Fallacy Called Northern Poverty By Aremu Lateef Olalekan
Kano is a city after my heart. What actually attracted me to this city is the way tradition and modernity have blended well. How structures spanning generations existed alongside new ones without one giving way to the other. However, another striking feature of the city is how opulence and deprivation have existed side by side and each knowing its place in the city.
A very good example of cohabitation of opulence and deprivation existing side by side is the Hotoro neighbourhood where I lived during my days as an undergraduate at Bayero university. Although, it is not an area of the super rich like the Nassarawa GRA or even Sharada quarters, but Hotoro GRA can boast of top government executives and handful of the rich in the society. However, just a stone throw away from Hotoro is the Unguwa Uku quarters where poverty welcomes you immediately you step into the area.
Living at Unguwa Uku was an old woman that I formed the habit of checking on and drop whatever I could each time I pass by. The woman and her children always marveled at the battered Honda Accord car my brother allowed me to drive occasionally after I must have given a detailed reason why I need to drive the car. I recalled how the woman told me I must have been a son of a millionaire when I told her I have come to study at the university from far away Ibadan. She told me how the university had been the preserve of the ‘manyans’ and ‘masu kudis’ where the likes of her children has no place. As much as I tried to let her realise that her perception was wrong, she never understood that her children can sit in the same class and rub shoulders with the children of the rich.
The psyche of the majority of the northern poor is akin to that of the above mentioned woman. They have accepted the human induced class structure of the society. They have accepted that it is the birthright of the opportune few to live in opulence and wastage at the expense of the poor majority. The structure of the society had forced them to see what is wrong as a norm in our society. Their material being had led them to accept a social being of perpetual penury.
Perhaps Karl Marx was right when he wrote; “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their social being, rather on the contrary, it is their material being that determines their social consciousness.” The teeming poor in the north has remained poor simply because they have been made to believe that to be poor is their destiny by the stealing elites and the ruling class.
The poverty in the north is not natural. It is not because the north is lacking in natural and human resources to develop the region. The poverty in the north is elite induced. The northern elite has helped to perpetuate poverty due to their greediness and cruelty. How do you explain that a region with such enormous human and material resources is wallowing in deep rooted poverty? Kano is a microcosm of the larger north, the woman at Unguwa Uku is a microcosm of the teeming poor in the north. A typical example of the thinking of the average northern poor is that it is God’s act to be poor. Until this thinking is changed and the northern masses begin to hold our leaders accountable for our commonwealth. Until we demystify the fallacy that the north is naturally poor, we might continue to hear the story of widespread poverty from the north.
A social thinker once said “if I am poor, I shall be a thief; men rob for bread, women whore for bread; rob your neighbour for survival.” I believe it has come to a time the northern masses hold our leaders by the collar of their shirts and ask what is ours of the commonwealth. We are at that stage Karl Marx described as the stage of alienation where we have nothing to lose but our chains. It is time we bury the ruling class in the grave they dug themselves (the grave of poverty). The northern poor have been alienated totally from what naturally belong to us.
The north is not poor. There are enough resources to develop the north. There is abundant manpower to take the north ahead of every other region in the country. Our leaders should stop deceiving us with lies that the north is poor. The north is not poor, our leaders impoverished the north with greediness and lack of foresight (my sentiment though)
Aremu Lateef Olalekan is a serving Corp member in Gombe state Nigeria
@aremulateef1 on twitter
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