By Laylah Ali Othman
I vividly recalling the good old days when we all gathered as a family to eat during meal times, stayed outside in the evenings with family and friends to play various local games, with the elders bringing out food from their homes to share with neighbors, when we watched TV as a family at selected hours only, and after school hours we went to Islamiya (Islamic School) and came back with our different stories of how our days went and slept as early as 9 pm.
At that time, visitors came in at any time, and during celebrations such as Sallah, we all dressed up in new attires showing off our Lalle (Henna) and Kitso(braids) to people. We went out to share food and in return got Barka da Sallah, sometimes sweets and chewing gums, and a few houses gave us money ranging From N5 to N20 depending on how buoyant the house was. We visited our grandparents’ house and learned our native language, often at times goofing, and they would both laugh. They were always so happy with us around them.
Looking back, I can only wish that things were still the same in my beloved Arewa, but unfortunately all these belong to the past. What we have today is entirely contrary to what was applicable then. Today, at the mention of Arewa, what comes to mind is almajiranci, early marriages, child labour, rape, malnourished populace, high infant mortality rate, dilapidated education and health institutions. bombing in the North East, kidnapping and banditry in the North West, ethnic and religious crises in the North Central and lots more are what we see in the present generation.
This can all be attributed to bad leadership the region has had from 1999 till date. We have become so gullible, as such we can easily be swayed by the most little incentive thrown at us by the very leaders we entrust with our mandates. Our strength in numbers has not helped us in any way because most of our youths today have been reduced to praise singers and political thugs by the same people entrusted with our mandates again. How did we let this happen? No one can answer this question but it’s simple; we have lost our ways, democracy is nothing but a curse to us at this moment; we were better off before the advent of democracy.
The very leaders we elect to represent us take us for granted and throw food at us like chickens because we don’t really know what we have as the electorate. We can’t seem to comprehend because we are so blinded by self-interest. We only care about ourselves unlike before when we used to be our brothers’ keepers. The few people we have that have the guts to speak up are being insulted and demonized to the extent that everyone is afraid to speak up. Our leaders are like emperors now; whatever they say stands no matter how it affects us. Is this democracy? If this is our type of democracy then I have to say with all due respect to our teachers that they have lied to us by giving us the definition of democracy as the government of the people by the people and for the people.
If we really know the kind of favor God has given us with our population, we would’ve been better off as a people. Countries like India, China and Indonesia that have the vast majority of the world’s population are putting that to good use and it is evident to everyone.
All these will not lead us anywhere as long as we don’t wake up from our slumber and hold our leaders accountable. We have to remove sentiment and vote in competent people that have the interest of our region at heart. We are headed towards the path of total destruction with what is going on now. We have to draw a clear distinction between election periods and governance periods. We have to provide constructive criticism to our leaders instead of giving them the blind cult-like followership as we are doing now.
I will also make a passionate appeal to our leaders to take these matters seriously and uphold the oath of allegiance they all swore to, ‘to protect lives and property’ and that ‘they shall never let personal interest get in the way of the discharge of their functions. Your children that you send abroad while neglecting the poor that elected you are not safe as long as you don’t bring equity and justice to their doorsteps; a disaster is waiting to happen. This is like a ticking time bomb. Let us collectively shun any party line, ethnicity and religion and take these matters seriously before we all come to regret the outcome.
Engage these youths as they are very productive and ever ready to work in order to earn a living. Bring back the lost glory of the North which is agriculture, engage in dialogues with all the warring facts and come up with a solution fast before these things engulf us all.
Wise men say, “A word is enough for the wise’.’ We have to wake up.
Othman resides in Abuja