By Dr Dons Eze
Our brothers in the northern part of the country have told us that they do not want western education, that western education is evil (Boko Haram). Yet, we would not leave them alone. We would not listen to them. We would continue to force western education on them. We would insist that the people go to school, to learn about developments in the modem world. That would be unfair.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan made that mistake. He insisted that northern children must go to school, and started building Almajiri schools across the length and breadth of Northern Nigeria. He followed this up by establishing some universities in the area, all in a bid to please the North. But the people were not happy with him. They were angry with him.
To show, or to demonstrate their annoyance with Goodluck Jonathan, they arranged for the kidnap of over 300 students from a girls' secondary school in Chibok, Borno State. The former President thought they were joking, but the girls would not be found, till he left office. They further gave Jonathan a bitter pill to swallow, by massively voting him out when he sought to come back to office after his first tenure.
After Jonathan left office, the Almajiri Schools in the North became the abode for rodents and reptiles. Nobody goes there anymore for the purpose of acquiring western education.
Since after the Chibok kidnap saga in 2014, kidnap or abduction of children attending western education in different parts of the North has assumed alarming dimension, and become a regular occurrence, a pastime for Northerners. We see it happen almost everyday in most parts of the North.
In a commando style, hundreds of children would be collected from inside their school unchallenged. They would be taken to one secluded area of the town, inside a bush. A negotiator would emerge, who would be dialoguing or negotiating with the abductors about how much to be paid as ransom before the abducted children would be released. The government would be on hand to play the necessary ball, and the children released.
After the release, the children would be showcased on television, beautifully dressed. We would clap and hail the government for the wonderful work they did in securing the release of the children. The next day, another group, or even the same group of kidnappers would surface, to repeat the same game, and the circuit would continue.
Kidnapping or abduction of school children attending western education has become a lucrative business in many parts of Northern Nigeria, and the government would dole out billions of naira as ransom to the kidnappers. Who would think of wasting his time going to school to acquire western education so far he would be making it through kidnapping?
Interestingly, so far as we know, kidnapping had never taken place in any Arabic or Islamic school. It is only in secondary schools, where western education is taught that it takes place. As recently reported, about 618 schools in different parts of Northern Nigeria are under lock and key, due to the activities of kidnappers. This shows that the region does not cherish western education.
When the white men came to Nigeria, they studied the psychology of the people of Northern Nigeria and found out that they were not interested in western education. Accordingly, they decided to play along with them, to leave all traditional institutions in the North, their cultures, and all that, intact.
They therefore adopted a differential policy for the development of the country. While the wind of change was blowing incessantly in the South and all her institutions opened to western culture and civilization, the North was preserved from being "contaminated" with foreign culture. This accounts for differences in social mobilization and awareness, between the North and the South.
In 1953, Chief Anthony Enahoro, an Action Group member of the House of Representatives, moved a motion proposing internal self-rule for Nigeria in 1956. This was stoutly opposed by Northern delegates in the House, and later sparked off riots in many cities in Northern Nigeria, on the ground that the North was not ready for self-rule.
That was why, Nigeria, which started the process of decolonization along with Ghana, had to wait for four more years before she could get political independence in 1960, while Ghana got her own independence in 1957.
Successive regimes since after the creation of the political entity called Nigeria, have been trying to manage this fragile relationship between the North and the South, all to no avail. There have been hiccups here and there.
The tragedy of it all is that instead of the country making progress, it continues to regress; instead of better appreciation among different groups in the country, each group continues to view the other with suspicion and hatred.
Worse still, those with progressive minds arising from aculturation, from cultural interaction, are held back by those who still live in the past, who stuck to their old culture, and who prefer to live wild life with their cattle inside the forests, rather than embrace modern way of rearing cattle, which is ranching. That's why Nigeria continues to be in a mess.
Nigeria would have been a great country if all the elements that make it had operated on the same level, on the same frequency, if they had understood each other, if they had viewed reality the same way, and if they had worked together as one people. But due to their myopic views of the country, they would not come together to build a strong and virile nation.
Since it has proved very difficult for the people to unite, to come together as one family, we propose that it would be better if each group shifts back a little and begins to develop at its own pace, rather than continue to be entangled in an amorphous union where none was able to realize its potential.
...Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI, is a Public Affairs Commentator. NNL.