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The Cultural Revolution North Needs

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By Abdul-Azeez Suleiman

For Northern Nigeria to be able to make meaning in the context of a Nigerian nation that currently runs on the basis of values and practices that we need to understand, adapt to, or create alternatives that suit our cultures, circumstances and interests, it requires basic socio-cultural reorientation to keep its youth focused and disciplined in the pursuit of goals and living with values that define the Northern character.

As is the norm today, with every gathering to discuss the North, intellectuals and leaders have formed the habit of referencing the life and times of such founding fathers of the region as Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello and others who have toiled to keep the flames of dedication to the interests of the people of the North and Nigeria alive.

These past leaders carved a glorious path for the region’s development and many of them had to pay the supreme price for standing by the Northern villager, the trader, the teacher, the farmer and the rich merchants against attempts to make them second class citizens.

Under them, the North competed with other regions and defended itself very well, though occassionally losing ground when it made massive sacrifices to keep the nation united and push it past critical turning points when national survival was threatened.

In particular, the late Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, a passionate believer of the organic links between generations, was always available for young people, and it is no exaggeration to say that the North lost a great statesman when he was assassinated, and the youth lost a mentor, a guardian, a living history and an embodiment of all the exemplary qualities young Northerners should strive to achieve.

Unfortunately, several decades after, not all Northern leaders appear to be committed enough to work to solve our basic socio-cultural problems, our regressing economy or address our precarious future.
Many of those who pose as the region’s leaders today, claiming descent from the Sardauna’s political philosophy and claiming legitimacy by his name, will prefer to leave the bulk of Northerners in poverty , fighting each other, so that they can continue to manipulate them during elections.

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They have repeatedly shown they cannot, or will not, do much to stop millions of northern children living wretched lives in the search for education, and wasting the greatest asset of the North, which is its human capital.

Yet, in the present political chess game, there are a few aspiring politicians who see things differently believing that it is essential for the North to anticipate and checkmate the maneuvers of outside players in all possible and likely scenarios, in order to obtain some form of ascendency over them.

Among the new generation northern political leaders with this new thinking, is Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim who has already moved passed rhetoric to come up with plans for effective advocacy and engagement with people of the North as core internal partners, as well as with external entities that would have to be reasoned with or contacted now or in the near future.

This initiative is distinctly a mentoring process that aims to encourage the young people to go beyond where the elders went believing that when the idealism of the young is combined with discipline and knowledge, there is nothing they cannot achieve for the North.

The initiative involves plans for effective advocacy and engagement with especially the northern youth on all matters related to the national question and reasoned presentation of the Northern viewpoints and positions on all matters related to the current discourses at all levels.

It also involves preparation and sensitization of the Northern people on various positions and situations as regards to the unfolding situation in the country, and enabling the Northern people to be less reliant on outside sources of information and less amenable to manipulation by deliberate misinformation campaigns.

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This includes creating the right conditions for negotiations with the Southern groups during any national conference on the political dispensation of the country that should emerge now or in future through the athering of useful and important materials by way of research on all matters of interest and importance to the North.

First, it is important to lay claim to being Northern and having interests and concerns that are Northern without reluctance or shame.

As the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello once said, it is neither possible nor necessary to forget our differences as Nigerians, although we also have to remember the important things we share in common.

The project teaches the youth that the North has a rich history, has strengths, endowments and challenges that are peculiar to being Northern, in the same manner Southern communities have peculiar problems, so they own up to being Northern without arrogance or conceit.

The concept is basically to encourage the young generation to be proud of their cultures and legacies, and accept and deal with their limitations and to respect their identity, and respect the identities of those we share this great nation with.

It also drums in the minds of young northerners the reality in accepting that the North is the North of Muslims and Christians, of the largest and the tiniest ethnic groups, of the weak and the strong.

It also teaches the youth to respect other Nigerians’ right to live by their values, to be conscious of your rights and defend them with every legitimate means because there is enough room for all to grow and prosper in Nigeria, if each other is trusted to play by the rules, and to be fair and just with each other.

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The youth are tutored to learn the history of the North, and draw the appropriate lessons, which must include courageous stands behind values and interests that protected it; to learn from its mistakes and miscalculations, and avoid costly adventures that created disunity and disharmony among its communities.

This would involve tutorials on how the younger generation of Northerners can begin to strive, in all they do, to live by the personal and social values and standards these past leaders lived and set for themselves as citizens, subjects and leaders.

If indeed the youth are to draw inspiration from the life and works of those past leaders whose leadership, sacrifice, statesmanship, patriotism and unwavering commitment to the interests of the people of Northern Nigeria, and citizens of Nigeria as a whole they need to key into this progressive programme for cultural and social reorientation.

Students in higher institutions especially, are legitimate and natural claimants to shaping the destiny of the North by keying into the Olawepo initiative, but they will not do this well unless they begin to join the struggle to identify its weaknesses and the enriching endeavour to finding solutions to them.

Suleiman, a journalist, writes from Abuja.

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