Monday, 21 January 2013

(43): Fighting attitudinal poverty in Northern Nigeria (II)

Understanding this problem requires a lot of study and brainstorming, interestingly attempts have been made in the past to either explain or lament on the problem of Malam Bahaushe (literally translated as the Hausa man). This can be seen from numerous works like the poem composed by Malam Saadu Zungur in which he  hypthesised that ‘as long as the Hausa man is engaged in  begging, and his cap remains dirty, he will continue to live a shameful life’.

The student of Malam Saadu Zungur and the radical Kano politician, Malam Aminu Kano has spent his entire life trying to educate the people from the North about self-respect and living a dignified life. In fact one can hasten to say that the achievement of Malam Aminu Kano in politics is not politics itself, but using politics to teach the average Northerner to have self-esteem in order to emancipate himself from the bondage of poverty and perpetual servitude.
Anthony Kirk-Green’s theory on Malam Bashaushe which tries to explain the core values of the Hausa man, Professor Abdalla Uba  Adamu’s synthesis of the same thesis, the works of Professor Aliyu Dauda  on the same subject, Dr Aliyu Tilde’s Malam B, Malam Bala Muhammad’s numerous articles on Malam Bahaushe in his weekly column, and even some of the programmes conducted during Adaidatu Sahu as well as Dr Salisu Shehu’s Gyara Kayanka  points to the fact that the attitude of Malam Bahaushe is  in need of serious reform.
But here is a point to think about. The same Hausa man that today becomes a problem to his community has experienced a glorious past. Five hundred years ago and beyond, he has developed a trade route that passes through the depth and breadth of the African continent, he passes from one location to another throughout West Africa, down to North Africa in what constitute todays Libya, Algeria and Morrocco. He has embraced new inventions from the merchants that come to Hausaland from different parts of the world and fortified his culture, politics and the economy.

Global historical figures like Shaikh Uthman Ibn Fodio, his brother Abdullahi, his son Muhammadu Bello, and his indefatigable daughter, Asmau bint Fodio were products of the same geographical location called Northern Nigeria. These were not ordinary figures. They were unique individuals who excelled in politics, military adventure and most important of all scholarship. Hugh Clapperton, the British envoy who met Sultan Muhammadu Bello was speechless in his description of the Amirul Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithfuls) because of the intellectual prowess the latter has exhibited during their encounter.
In recent history, the Likes of Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Bukar Dip Charima, Aminu Kano, Murtala Muhammad, Waziri Junaidu and Yusufu Bala Usman did not descend from Jupiter. So what went wrong? There are of course historical factors like colonialism, particularly how it disenfranchises a large section of the Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri and other tribes in Northern Nigeria and parts of Western Nigeria from full economic participation, first because of resistance to ‘western education’, and second because the colonial government was not keen in promoting ‘western education’.
There are potential economic reasons as well, like the discovery of oil which discourages agricultural production, and people leave their villages in search of easy money, this though, is not restricted to Northern Nigeria, it is in fact a Nigerian problem or societies that have access to easy resources. You see, as you go through this essay, pause for a while and ask yourself this question, who are the leading people in the community of Malam Bahaushe that serve as role models? whose life style he cherishes, whose children he would want his own children to emulate, and whose achievements provide a talking point in the Majalisa (meeting points where peers sit and spend time together).

Without much thinking, you may likely suggest the traditional rulers whether at the local or regional level, the Islamic scholars who serve as the reference point on almost everything,  and the businessmen who support the economy. At the risk of making a swift statement, I will suggest that the combination of both historical and economic factors in today’s Nigeria has sent the traditional rulers and the Islamic scholars out of job. But that is not where the problem is. The issue is, with the exception of few, this class of important people who serve as a pillar of the society have developed an attitude that is built in seeking favour rather than hard work. Do you expect the ordinary man to be any different?
So in our society today, the attitude of seeking excessive favour which cuts across the elites and the common man has developed into a culture which needs to be eradicated if we are to fight poverty. Before I left Ogun State during my NYSC, I met an elderly Igbo man, who stopped me on the road on recognizing that I was from Northern Nigeria because of the way I dressed. “Young man” he said, “where are you from”, I said, Kano. He paused for a while and said “ I used to live in Kano in the 1960s; most of the industries were built with my labour, back then when a Hausa man serves as your witness, is like God serving as your witness, but I understand that you too have changed…” , sadly our people have changed, they can even lie just to acquire some privileges.
Join me next week by the grace of God for practical steps on how to fight attitudinal poverty.

8th Rabi’ al Auwal, 1434
20th January, 2013

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