COVID-19: Whither Mu Dan Arewa Spirit?

Ahmadu Bello
Ahmadu Bello

By: Alkali Dan Tsoho

Time there was when the slogan One North, One People helped to make every person of the Northern Nigeria region to be his or her brother’s keeper irrespective of ethno-linguistic or religious inclination.

The then Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) or Jamiyar Mutanen Arewa largely driven by graduates of the Katsina Teacher’s College propagated the principles of assimilation. Little wonder why the Deputy Leader was Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa whose family background was animist/pagan while most of the leaders of NPC were Hausa/Fulani with a prince of the caliphate, Sir Ahmadu Bello as the overall Leader.

Earlier in his life, Ahmadu Bello had indicated interest to become the Sultan of the Caliphate, but the colonial powers opposed him. So upon his installation as the Sardauna of Sokoto, he channelled his energy into political and socio-economic emancipation of the Northern region.

Then the slip started and there emerged Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), populated by leftists; later the Bornu Youth Movement (BYM) made up of radical young Kanuris whose fortunes were buoyed by the entrance of Ibrahim Imam who had occupied the position of Secretary-General of the defunct Northern Peoples Congress but transitioned through NEPU before landing in BYM. Then the coming of the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) which was a fusion of the Middle Zone League and the Middle Belt Peoples Party.

The drift increased following the creation of states, first in 1967, and subsequently in 1976, 1987, 1991 and 1996. Today, in this COVID-19 era, it seems what started as a crack in the first Republic has widened into a crater or gulf. There is massive deportation or displacement of citizens in the name of returning them to their place of origin. They are being denied access to critical services such as health care and shelter.  Are we no longer our brother’s keeper? Is there no more milk of kindness left in us? No thought is given as to the gravity of the repercussion to the well-being of the nation in general. We are actively promoting the spread of COVID -19 inadvertently.

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In an opinion published on March 7, 2018 in Premium Times, an online newspaper, Ainoko Israel Aye-Ebene and Dauda Garuba had this to say ” ….the present crop of Northern Nigerian elites who claim descent from the Sardauna’s political philosophy and claim legitimacy by his name have, in fact, departed from the Ahmadu Bello Way. By fixating almost exclusively in holding onto political power and office at the federal level, the present crop of Northern Nigeria elites, demonstrate a lack of passion and commitment to the people and the pragmatism depicted in the Ahmadu Bello legacy.

“The passion and commitment of Sir Ahmadu Bello to the welfare of persons of Northern Nigerian descent and his pragmatic approach to the development of Northern Nigeria described above can be termed ‘the Ahmadu Bello Way,’ which sought to ensure the competitiveness of Northern Nigeria within the larger construct of the Nigerian federation. To achieve this, he united the ethno-religiously diverse people of Northern Nigeria under a single political agenda…

“He prosecuted a war against illiteracy Yaki da Jahilici. Unfortunately, what we have witnessed in recent times in parts of Northern Nigeria is a reversal of the gains attained through the innovations pursued by Sir Ahmadu Bello…”

The present-day Governor of Kano State, Dr. Umar Ganduje has ordered the evacuation of almajiris from the state to their states of origin, inadvertently re-distributing the coronavirus to states which hitherto may not have had an explosion of cases. The recent report credited to Dr. Nasiru Gwarzo of the Presidential Task Force as to the preliminary results from investigation showing the recent deaths in Kano are COVID-19 related is rather worrisome that Kano may not after all be epicentre in the North but a national epicentre of community transmission in the country.

It is strange that Governor Ganduje may claim not to know that one of his predecessors in office, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, the famous former leader of ANCOPSS- All Nigeria Conference of Pricipals of Secondary Schools, has his roots in Biu, Borno State. His father had worked with the Native Authority Police in Kano, and was familiar to the late Sarkin Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero. The deportations or displacements have been done in bad faith and must be stemmed. Resources must be gathered to be able to care for these victims until they have recovered and can be reintegrated with the society. A stitch in time saves nine!

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What Ahmadu Bello united, let the pandemic not divide. Let the motto: One North, One People irrespective of religion, rank or tribe continue to be the candle lighting the path of, and cymbal echoing tenor of unity among, the progress-minded Northerners. Jamiyar Mutanen Arewa!

Tsoho is a Northern youth activist