Jigawa: A Summit of Concern And Care

October 17, 2009
7 mins read

I don’t envy Sule Lamido, the governor of Jigawa State. This is because last weekend he opened a Pandora’s Box: one full of expectations as well as the potential pitfall of very bitter disappointment. We shall come to these points subsequently. But last week, Lamido and his team, brought people from all classes of society: the political and traditional elite; the bureaucracy; working people and the poorest of the poor, to a most open forum in Dutse, the Jigawa state capital.


If you read my column three weeks ago, you wouldn’t have missed my enthusiasm about the entire basis of the TALAKAWA summit, which was still two weeks into the future: the conceptualization as well as the amount of work which went into it, not to talk of the determination to pull it through. There was the added element of a radical departure from the way things have always been done in our country. Under Obasanjo, there was the burlesque of NAPEP, which did everything, except fight poverty, run as it was by a right-wing chap brought from wherever in the USA; Magnus Kpakol spent far more time tendering to his impressive suits and jerry curls than to fight poverty. In any case, the Obasanjo regime impoverished the Nigerian nation and its people, in its eight accursed years of rule, than any other regime in our history.


So when people from all walks of life converged on Dutese last weekend, the background was an initiative to provide  a new platform to construct an anti-proverty strategy, which emanates from the poor themselves: the physically challenged; shoes shine boy; local baber; traditional birth attendant; milk vendor; laundryman, to mention but a few. The more assuring element of the day was the transparency and openness with which those called upon, expressed themselves; there was the passion and directness, so characteristic of ordinary folks. They were not intimidated by the presence of the most powerful people in society; and the fact that the day had been set aside so they could ventilate their heart-felt pains, arising from their lives experience, seemed to have emboldened each one, female or male, who came to the open arena to express exactly what it meant to be poor!


If people felt being poor meant being stupid or ignorant, well, the poor people of Jigawa exploded such assumptions, last weekend. In providing reasons for their poverty, issues raised included the problems associated with access to education; the inadequacy of training opportunities for traditional birth attendants; the increasing incidences of conflicts between farmers and herdsmen; decline of livestock production and the consequent decline in availability of milk for those who sell Nono and Fura; inability to sustain families on the earning of artisans and small scale traders: prohibitive cost of raw materials; gender-based difficulties, where women who have acquired such skills as weaving and sewing don’t have access to the implements to practice their trade and even globalized capitalism came into the pruview of the poor in their testament. One of those who spoke, mentioned how foreign businesses-mainly Chineses and Indian- are squeezing the local, small business out of life.


There were issues related to the governance process; we were reminded that one of the grounds facilitating poverty is that government hardly consults the people in designing empowerment programmes, and that corruption undermines efforts at tackling the problems of poverty. Nigeria’s instructural challenge also came into bold relief, when some stated that inadequate supply of electricity has led to the collapse of small-scale businesses like welding, tailoring and cold stores.


The Jigawa summit of the TALAKAWA incidentally took place against the backdrop of another get-together, this time in Abuja, working within the dominant paradigm of a top–to–bottom, presumptive; in-a-hall approach, to the fight against poverty. The past couple of years, from the mid-1980s, when fighting poverty became past of the standard diet of the Breton Woods institutions, such as approach has done anything, but dented the deepening poverty in one country. It was clear that at the heart of the economic polices been rammed down the throats of the Nigerian people, was logic which led to the impoverishment of our people. Globalized capitalism, at least going by the empirical example of Nigeria, carries within its womb, the germs that spread poverty. On the other hand, the approaches which the interntional organizations of imperialism, such as the IMF and the World Bank, favour, do not help us in the effort to reduce poverty.


It was with this knowledge that I stated at the beginning of this piece that I do not envy Sule Lamido and his team for daring to look for a more people-centered approach to the fight against povery in Jigawa state. The novel approach to include the people in not just describing their conditions but also making suggestions at ameliorating those conditions, has raised a lot expectations, not just among the poor of Jigawa; those ideas will reverberate around Nigeria. If the expectation are not to become dampened, giving way to disappointment and cynicism, it is clear that the Jigawa state government needs to move fast to begging to distill implementables that can become the “quick wins” of the fight against poverty in that. The poor have become far too mobilized to now return to the status quo ante of deceit and bombastic declarations without concrete action. And to be fair to the Jigawa state team, I think they realize that there is the need to move really fast. I was in the Communique Committee of the Summit, and we worked into the late hours of Sunday morning; a debate ensued soon after our work about what those things to be done were and a number of suggestions were put forward, which looked at the immediate quick fixes; an intermediate process of work and a long term platform, which will fundamentally re-direct the programs and platform being deployed for the guilt against poverty.


I will not be divulging official secrecy, if I state her, that Sule Lamido has set up a team which will do this work of strategic thinking that will translate into correct action. Because I have a role to play some what in what will happen over the next couple of weeks in Jigawa State, I can boldly tell the reader to watch this space, to get updates about the implementation of the issues arising from the testaments given by the poor in Jigawa State, last weekend. Now my dear reader can understand why I stated at the beginning of this piece that I do not envy Sule Lamido. He has consciously chosen to walk bodly on a terrain where his counterparts dread to be caught alive. He has decided to bring politics back to the people, locating its essence within the concerns of the mass base, which used to nurture the radical political teeth. I do notknow anybody who has succeeded to put back the genie of people’s expectation back into the bottle, once liberated. I do hope that Sule Lamido truly means what he has set out to do, because there cannot be a going cack, neither can he and those working with him plead fitgue, lack of funds nor can they be angry, if the people ask for more than they are prepared to give. The person who champions change should know that he will unleash forces that stream so powerfully and even he won’t be able to control the surge! I feel very delighted that in Jigawa State, which some scoff at as a poor, even helpless, rural back water, an original idea can be implemented to move the poor to begin to look into the face of the adversity, which for long has held them back. I think that is very good news out of Jigawa State and at a time when political opportunists repeat, almost like a litany, that ideology is “no longer relevant” in politics, Sule Lamido can reach deep into the ideological fount where he was forged to draw fresh ideas to prove a profoundly ideological lesson about the conditions of his people!


The impressive example of Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar

On November 3, I think, it will be two years since Sa’ad Abubakar was appointed as the Sultan of Sokoto. During the late 1980s, the them Major Sa’ad Abubakar was a young army officer at the 22nd Armoured Brigade of the Nigerian Army, in Ilorin. That incredibly decent young officer made friends with many members of my generation, becoming a most welcome member of the social science in Ilorin at that time.


I worked as a Principal Announcer on Radio Kwara then, but who could have missed Major Sa’ad Abubakar’s disposition as an officer and gentlemen, who also carried his background with so much grace and decency!


Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar has played his role with maturity and so much grace in the past two years. He has been able to present a near–seamless interface between the requirements of tradition and the troubling realities of modernity, in a way that has endeared him to people from all around Nigeria. Sultan Sa’ad has tried, with increasing success, to find his voice as the defender of heritage, who nevertheless appreciates that we must hearken to the needs of the people in the context of contemporary existence.


He was present at the recent summit on the economic development of Northern Nigeria, even when the majority of those governors expected did not even show up. He state right throught the event, once again providing a lesson in leadership and how to be at the side of the people. The Sultan was Dutes last weekend, and not only did he stay through the entire session of testaments, he had presented a most honest speech at the beginning of the event, reminding those in positions of leadership, that they have for too long kept away from the people they led. He urged the poor people to speak up so that their words can be heard by those who led them.


On a final note, it was the Sultan who presented the Stand Up against Poverty pledge on the occasion. Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar has made a valiant effort to renew the legitimacy of the institution which he leads and I feel so proud to state this. My small confession is that I have not visited the Sultan to pay my respects. But I will, Insha Allah!

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