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Northern Nigeria: Below The Horizon Capt Daniel Omalehttp://www.leadershipnigeria.com/product_info.php?products_id=22774To me, Northern Nigeria starts from Kwara, Kogi, Benue and Taraba States upward. Any state below these boundaries is considered as Southern Nigeria, irrespective of tribe, ethnic group or religious affiliation. The same goes for the Northern part of Nigeria. God naturally divided the country into two spheres with so many differences, like the climatic system, vegetation, economic disposition and social orientation.
By this definition, I am a full Northerner by virtue of my state of origin, place of birth and place of abode. When I travel from my state, Kogi, all the way to my home in Kaduna, I can hardly differentiate people’s orientation and social behaviours. Those who carved-out, the names of Middle Belt and core North, did so for their own political and personal interests. The same people use religion and ethnicity to create segregation, which has ultimately established little cohesion or synergy in driving home a collective economic prosperity for the North as a whole. Each state, among the 19 Northern states, is economically backward.
A typical Northern politician or" big man" is more concerned about his political and economic relevance than the economic well being of his people. A Northerner is individualistic, selfish and power drunk in economic endowment, power acquisition and utilisation. Obtaining power and authority, which are mirage in nature, have confused the minds of most top Northern elite to the absolute detriment of the North and its indigenes. Community developments and social responsibilities are replaced by lordship and domination. Money is power and authority, and education is less relevant than power and authority in our myopic minds. Illiteracy is our tradition, while political domination and financial relevance are goals to attain in a lifetime.
The North is empty economically, backward academically, and visionless. While there have been more Northern heads of state in Nigeria, there are less economic developments in the North than anywhere else in the country. After the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, who was committed to the development of the North in both academic and economic objectives, subsequent Northern leaders, if any, were more interested in self-aggrandising and affluence.
The North is suffering from what psychologists define as "learned helplessness."
The only Northern businessman that has sustained, at least, 2000 employees in our contemporary existence today is Aliko Dangote. I challenge any one to name another person from any of the nineteen states. In the South, I can name over 20 people with such investments.
Unfortunately, I am only competent to speak on only a sector— transportation, and in the transportation—— strictly on aviation issues
Throughout the life span of Nigeria Airways, more than 90 % of the employees were from the South, despite the so-called, federal character, a system that was used to lure Northern-below- standards into the scheme of things, as a refection of the dichotomy in our unity.
In every sector of our economy, the North is in the valley. From education, health-care, agriculture, financial and transportation sectors— Northern Nigeria is at the back seat, ironically and unfortunately, with Northern drivers. The North has driven the vehicle of economic development off the road, and it is really stuck in the mud far away from Northern destinations.
When president Obasanjo woke up one morning to commence his "reform" of the aviation sector, his prime advisers on aviation and privatisation were Northerners (whether the president listened to them or not, is another issue entirely). The reform, in my own opinion, was to slice northern Nigeria off the frequent flier program. Nigeria Airways was sold; sadly, it was the only airline that linked the whole country together. Southern investors were called to establish a new airline as our flag carrier—a partnership with South African Airways failed because, a South African radio made a scornful remark about Obasanjo. President Obasanjo personally invited Richard Branson to start an airline in Nigeria with private placement of shares from Southern business investors.
Kema Chikwe, Aborishade and Fani Kayode, the former ministers of aviation during Obasanjo’s regime, flooded the Ministry of Aviation, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) with their people, while flushing out most Northern employees in the name of reform.
There are five airlines in Nigeria now: Arik Air, Bellview, Aero, Chanchangi and Virgin Nigeria; only Chanchangi Airline is based in the North, and it is the least in terms of operational strength and equipment values of all the five. There are two epileptic airlines, Kabo and IRS. Although they are in need of financial support, but would not accept partnership from investors to strengthen their liquidity and management skills.
The four airlines based in the South have strong investors and are supported by their regional "heavy weights" through direct financial investments and other physical and operational assistance. When Bellview Airlines’ B737-200 enroute from Lagos to Abuja crashed about three years ago, it resumed flying activities almost immediately, with the then minister of aviation spearheading the support and defending the airline in its operational capability. Chanchangi Airline that did not have any incident was grounded along with Sosoliso that crashed in Port Harcourt for reasons best known to the former president. Every one watched with dismay at the president’s action to ground Chanchangi, but no one dared to challenge the injustice.
It is highly interesting to note that the first commercial aircraft to come to Nigeria landed at Kano Airport, and the pioneer of private airlines operation in Nigeria, was Alhaji Adamu Dankabo, the owner of Kabo Air. Despite Nigeria Airways’ objection and the then Ministry of Aviation’s lukewarm approval and permit for Kabo Travels and Tours to operate scheduled flights, Dankabo changed the face of private airlines ownership in Nigeria for good. This effort by Dankabo should have been followed by airline vibrancy in the North, but instead, the effect created a big boom in Southern Nigeria.
Transportation is the backbone of any economic development in any region; there are no regular air links to any part of the North, except Abuja. Kaduna is entirely at the mercy of Chanchangi Airline while Sokoto, Kano, Maiduguri, Yola, Jos, Minna and Ilorin seldom have flights. The rail system as we all know has been buried in the dungeon for the past 15 years and it will take another ten years, at least, for the North to sight a functional cargo or passenger train operating northern routes.
Many airlines in Nigeria have gone bankrupted but the effect of this bankruptcy is felt more in the North, which is so vast in land size, but yet, grossly neglected by its own people to effectively air-link the region.
It is quite interesting to see that the emerging young Northern businessmen are more excited about having private jets as a sign of economic arrival and affluence among peers, as opposed to developing a strong business base with future prospects. Most Southern business people with private jets can boast of a prolonged business growth and survival with a clear cut pedigree of their business derivation. Apart from Aliko Dangote, every northern businessman today, is comfortable with chasing contracts and depending on a known godfather in government. Once the godfather is out of office, the business withers. The North needs a strong manufacturing and agricultural base supported by a dependable transportation system.
Through this medium, we wish to praise the only relative of a Northern financial institution, Unity bank plc, for their encouragement and support towards Kabo Airlines and their interest in promoting Northern youths, but Unity Bank alone cannot be the only Northern affiliated bank in this dispensation. We need more banks to originate from the north to back more airlines and more businesses. We also need more viable Northern airlines to fly the northern skies.
While we support the governments of Zamfara and Bauchi in their views to establish cargo hubs in the respective states, our advice is that, they must also endeavour to lure foreign cargo flights into both airports through a strong partnership agreement that will enhance the economic growth of the states, or they will end up like Katsina State, which has a beautiful, well renovated, but inactive airport. Job creation through this arrangement cannot be over emphasised. Bauchi State government has started in the right direction by sending 20 of its indigenes for commercial pilot training. This effort is laudable since there are no more bursaries and scholarships to support our northern youths in schools again.
The North has become an appendage of the South in every facet of economic development. Who can lead us out of this storm?
Northern Nigeria is at a cross road between situational awareness and economic dependency on Southern institutions, established by the Southerners. This article is not about sectionalism, discrimination and prejudice, but is about reaffirming the realties on ground. That is why the coming conference, being organised by LEADERSHIP NEWSPAPERS GROUP on de-industrialisation of Northern Nigeria in all its ramifications next week, February 27 and 28, is right on spot!