The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, has called on political leaders to focus on programmes that would better the lives of ordinary Nigerians and not just programmes that benefit the elite.
Also, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, said cultural and religious dogmas that are not in tune with the realities in the rest of the Muslim world have contributed to the backwardness of the North.
Both traditional rulers spoke yesterday at the second edition of the Kaduna Investment Forum in Kaduna.
In his goodwill message at the occasion, the Sultan urged political leaders to keep politics aside and focus more on development issues that would improve the living condition of the masses.
He regretted that in spite of the poor condition of roads and lack of basic infrastructure, some governors were constructing airports and other white elephant projects that have no bearing to the generality of the people.
According to the Sultan, “I have always talked about programmes that will touch the lives of the common man in the villages, on the streets pushing trucks, carrying water to sell to survive.
“We want programmes that will touch the lives of these people, not programmes that will touch lives of the elites alone.
“There are governors building airports worth billions of naira while our roads are a death trap. Governors who building airports when we don’t have functional clinics. Governors are building airports just for their private jets.
“I want to assure our political leaders that when we advised them, we do so with the fear of Almighty Allah, because if we don’t advise them, we will account for our own actions.
“So let’s put the building of airports and other white elephant projects aside and face issues that will bring water, food, good health, peace, security and make people go about freely without molestation.
“Therefore, let’s do politics of development, because I know very soon, we would be in 2019,” the traditional ruler said.
He said further: “We will use our votes to vote out those governors who refused to work for us. If you think 2019 is far, it is not far, it is very much around the corner.
“Therefore, my fellow citizens of the world, for those governors that are working for us, we will vote them back, for those that have not work for us, we will tell them to go back home and learn how to govern us better and try their luck next time,” the traditional ruler said.
He, however, commended the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa’i, for initiating such programme, stressing that once Kaduna is developed, it is going to impact positively on the North.
He declared that the project must succeed, emphasising that “we don’t have any other option than to make sure that this project being put together by the Kaduna State governor succeed and for this to succeed, there must be peace. Nobody will invest in a place where there is instability.”
On his part, the Emir of Kano, Sanusi, in keynote address, lamented that culture and dogmatic religious practices were stunting the development of the North.
In his address with the theme: ‘Promoting investments in the midst of economic challenges’, the emir said the North needs to understand the root cause of its problems.
He advised the North to invest more in education and healthcare, noting: “We are in denial, the North-west and North-east demographically constitute the bulk of Nigeria’s population.
“But look at the human development indices, look at the number of children out of school, look at adult literacy, look at maternal mobility, look at infant mobility, look at per capita income, the North-east and the North-west of Nigeria are among the poorest parts of the world, not just Nigeria.”
Sanusi recalled that “As far back as 2000, I looked at the UNDP figures on human development indices, Borno and Yobe State, if they were a country on their own, they would have been poorer than Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
“Nobody saw this because we see Nigeria as a country that leverages on oil rich Niger Delta, the industrial and commercial reach Lagos, the commercially vibrant Southeast and you have an average.”
According to him, if Nigeria were to be broken into its component parts and “this part of the country would be among the poorest, if it were a country, it would be the poorest; nation in the world and we do not realise that we are in trouble.
“We need to understand the root of the problems of Northern Nigeria, because we have adopted an interpretation of our culture and religion rooted in the 13th century, that refuses to recognise that the rest of the Muslim world has moved on.
“Other Muslim nations have pushed forward girl-child education, they have pushed forward science and technology. They have pushed forward the arts. We have this myth in Northern Nigeria, where we try to create an Islamic society that never existed.”
Speaking further, the emir declared: “We must make an intellectual world because Islam is not univocal, there are many voices and interpretations, many view points and we have for too long allowed the most conservative view points to be in ascendance.
“The consequences of that is that there are certain social problems….To have three million children out of school begging on the streets, I can’t think of any conceivable means of coping with them.
“There has been a complete failure of social policies in northern Nigeria. For us to address social issues, we have to look at what our religion says as opposed to what culture says.
“We have to have the courage to go throw the path that all societies go through by standing up and challenge intellectually, world views….
“The number of wives people marry when they cannot maintain them and their children. These subjects have been tabooed, but we cannot fix the north and get investments into the north until we confront these subjects.
“What is our attitude towards educating our girls? What is our attitude child spacing, so that we can financially maintain and educate and bring up children? What is the purpose of a large population that is not educated, that is jobless, that is unemployed.”
Sanusi used the opportunity to debunk the statements credited to the Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, on meningitis, saying they were horrendous and “Islamically incorrect.”
Yari in an interview he granted in Hausa language in the Villa on Tuesday, was said to have submitted that the illness was severe in his state because many of them engaged in immoral sin of fornication and hence, the disease was God’s way of punishing them.
But while debunking the assertion, Sanusi said as a man who is well read in Islamic law, he knows that Yari’s statements are incorrect.
“For us to address social policy, we have to reclaim our religion, we have to know what our religion actually says, as opposed to what culture says, and we have to have the courage to go through the path that all societies went through, which is to stand and challenge intellectually, world views,” the emir said.
“Some of the examples are horrendous. I’m sorry about a current issue yesterday. 200 people died of meningitis in a state, the governor was asked and he said it is God’s curse on us for the sin of fornication, which apparently does not happen in America, which is why they don’t have meningitis.”
The monarch, according to TheCable, went on to say that 90 per cent of the problems around the North are self-inflicted and can be solved.
“How have we reduced ourselves, what have we done as a people, that we have placed ourselves in a situation where simple things, a medical issue…you don’t have vaccines, say you don’t have vaccines.
“Treat those who have contracted it, don’t give these kinds of explanations. But this the mindset. I have a degree in Islamic law, and I can tell you that is not an Islamically correct statement to make.
“These are the kinds of things that we have; and when we talk about a difficult environment, we realise that 90 per cent of that difficulty, we can address, because it is self-inflicted.”
Speaking earlier, the Kaduna State Governor, el-Rufa’i, said the state is the place to do business.
He said stories that the state is unsafe are exaggerated, adding that the state’s ‘Ease of Doing Business Committee’ headed by his deputy, Barnabas Bala Bantex, has delivered.
According to him, the African Finance Corporation (AFC) recently ranked Kaduna as the fastest growing state in Nigeria, adding that Kaduna is the first state to start implementing its budget which was passed by the state assembly in December 2016.