Imagining the Future of Africa – I

Almost a year ago, young Africans were asked by Global Development Network (GND) to contribute their thoughts on how they envision Africa in the next ten years. Checking through my dossier, I came across the essay I wrote then which I now want to share with you. 

The Essay

“You are always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past.” – Richard Bach

I have a dream that we, Africans, would soon overcome the challenges bedeviling us. I have a dream that our grand children would remember our pedigree as the possessors of some of the highly celebrated human civilizations instead of remembering it by infamous slavery or cruel despotism of the past. That would however depend on what revolutionary path we choose to follow. There is much to be commended for our present economic, political, and social achievements which can serve as good pillars to support our future development. However, to reach that holy grail, we need to formulate a more robust approach that could effectively thwart the present challenges and utilizes our vast human and natural resources to build a continent posterity would cherish.

Economists’ figures place Africa’s economic growth at an admiringly promising state with a projected rate of 4.7 per cent this year (2014). That is despite the subsidence it has experienced in recent years as a result of global financial crises and the political unrest in North Africa. Prominent achievers from the continent do compete with the globally identified emerging economies. South Africa has been among the BRICS countries leading economists identified in 2011, and Nigeria now identified among the new ones, MINT. Unfortunately these numerical scores do not match the actual human development in the continent. United Nation’s economic report on Africa, which was prepared in 2013, raised concerns about the credibility of the development due to its failure to lift millions of Africans from abject poverty. In fact, as George Ayittey usually says, our economic growth doesn’t translate to actual economic development.

Money laundering and corruption are other serious problems which need to be tackled if Africa is to achieve economic independence by 2025. According to Transparency International‘s 2013 corruption perception index result, only five African countries scored up to 50% among the 56 included in the assessment. This supports the claim by African Union that corruption alone, costs Africa $148 billion a year. On the other hand, the countries’ performance in Basel’s Anti Money Laundering Index is also unimpressive. Among 32 African countries, only South Africa managed to get a score below 5.0 (10 being highest risk level and 0 being lowest). This will certainly not augur well toward achieving economic independence.

In order to build a high human resource capacity, Africans, especially youths, have to be well trained and be entrusted with the stirring wheel. Our inferiority complex is one of the major reasons our continent remain underdeveloped. In Africa, employees are paid according to their skin color, instead of what service they can deliver. The whiter you are (in other words, the more European you are), the higher you are paid. A friend from Ethiopia narrated to me an interesting but awaking story during inauguration of the governing council of a renowned university in his country. A German was invited to be the vice chancellor of the university, and when it was the time to introduce the council members, an amazing thing happened. One of his subordinates was a professor who graduated from a prestigious university in Germany. He (the new vice chancellor) declared his resignation right away. He said there was no reason for him to come all the way from another continent to lead a university who has got an alumnus of the dream-university of every citizen of his country. A university he wasn’t qualified to attend. The discrimination we show to ourselves perpetuates the alarming trend of brain drain in the continent.  With over 20,000 professionals being lost annually, the continent is on a journey to doom, unless proactive measures are taken.

Africa has the potentials as well as the resources, the challenge is how to make good use of them. One important area which requires immediate action is governance. It is good that countries which are still under dictatorship are moving toward democracy, but there still remain a question of whether true democracy is being exercised as many countries run a single party system and electoral malpractices are the order of the day. Government officials and their cronies in some of the countries are richer than their protectorates, while poverty among the masses intensifies. This imbalance, coupled with non-progressive tax payments, makes the growing economic activities in the continent convey progress on the surface, but the opposite in reality.

Altruistic nationalism is a key element to social development which is missing in most of the African nations. People tend to prefer religious, tribal or regional affiliation to national identity. Constitutions and governments’ policies in our countries perpetuate these divides by incorporating them in appointments and revenue sharing formulas. It is incumbent for public officers to recognize it to avoid face up with certain communities or pressure groups. This is in most cases to the detriment of expertise and suitability. That might have contributed to non-realization of Pan-Africanism. Colonialism is often blamed for merging communities with completely different cultural identity and in some cases, with feudal history, to live in the same territory. That may be true to some extent, but hasn’t it been long enough for us to reconcile our differences and live as one? There are many countries with similar past, which refused to allow racial and cultural differences to hamper their development. United States of America is a good example. They experienced one of the nastiest racial violence and discrimination, but dealt with it effectively. There may still be traces of it, but Americans today, identify themselves as Americans first, before any other thing and that has given them the glory of leading the world for over half of a century.

To be continued.

Why you should join an engineering association

Originally posted on The Civineer:

“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” Will Rogers

The best way to know everyone in the game is to attend a party of the players. The best way to acquaint yourself with fellow engineers is to attend their activities. There are numerous engineering associations and societies you can engage with; either as a student or an engineer (graduate, licensed or unlicensed).

Merits for students

Participating in such professional associations will give you an opportunity to interact with certified engineers practicing the profession. They get to answer all your curiosity about the career you want to pursue, and if you have none, they can give you a heads up of what’s going on.

By the time you graduate school or sometime close to it, and you begin searching for jobs and places you want to intern at, the members…

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What is Cheap might End up Costing More than Expected

Rango has never understood the meaning of the saying “what is cheap might end up costing much more than you expect” until last weekend after his encounter with a Nairobi goon.

He was walking along Moi Avenue towards Hilton tower when a young man approached him with a smart phone for sale.

“Hello gentleman. Would you buy this phone? It is Samsung S 3 and it is in good condition. I will sell it to you at a good price.” The man advertized.

Rango has for a quite some time been without a smart phone and has the intention of buying one recently. Although he hate buying stuff on the street which he believe could easily have fallen off the back of a truck, he decided to ask for the price. The guy told him it will go for 15,000 Kenyan Shillings (that is about 180 USD).

The price sounded too good to be true. Perhaps it may be a Chinese phone. He collected the phone to examine. He dialed some code to verify if it is genuinely Samsung brand and it indeed was. As he was observing other features, the man, probably thinking that Rango did not want to buy, said, “15,000 is not the final price though. There is room for bargain.”

Rango was further thrilled. At this point, he was certain the phone was not clean. The price was too cheap for a Samsung Galaxy S 3. But then, the avaricious part of him wants him to buy. “If it is stolen, then the damage has already been done. The guy will sell it anyway.” And then there is a room for bargain.

“I will give you 9,000 Shillings. That is the only money I have.” Rango pleaded.

“That will be difficult for me. Because I need the money, I will give it to you at 10,000 Shillings.” The man responded.

“9,000 is what I can afford. If you don’t agree, then here I go.” Rango said, attempting to move.

“It is a deal then. 9,000”

Wow! Rango is soon going to own an S 3 with his 9,000 Kenyan Shillings. He told the guy that he needs to insert his SIM card so that he can make call to confirm everything is working fine. The guy did not hesitate. They found a phone shop close by where they cut Rango’s SIM card to micro SIM size and put in the phone. He made call to two of his friends and it was fine at both ends. Now it is time to pay out.

The guy collected the phone as Rango was trying to take out the money. He counted 9,000 Kenyan Shillings and handed over to the man. The man gave him back the phone which he threw into his pocket and hurried away happy with his luckiest bargain ever.

Lucky bargain or worst experience with Nairobi boys, he had to decide few minutes later when he met his friends at KFC. He brought out his new phone to show them, only to find out there was no display. He thought the battery had run down but he remembered seeing the battery meter full. He tried to open the cover of the phone but it was so hard. He knew right away that he has been duped.

He was sold a dummy phone.

Rango's phone

The inside of Rango’s phone after we opened it

“My SIM card together with my contacts are now gone.” Rango lamented finally.

WED2014: Raising awareness on campuses

Part of what my friend, Sadiq Gulma, and I did today in raising our voices towards a better environment was distributing flyers at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Kenyatta University to create awareness on food waste and energy conservation. Copy of the leaflet is attached below. Join the cause by getting in touch with us for more information.



“When the last tree is cut and the last fish killed, the last river poisoned, then you will see that you can’t eat money.” – John May

Raise Your Voice against Plastic Waste

Tomorrow is the world environment day (WED) dedicated to creating awareness on issues affecting us and the fellows with whom we share the world together. The theme of this year’s WED is “Raise your voice, not the sea level.” The worrying events we are witnessing day in, day out are enough to compel us into changing our life style to more sustainable one. I hope you will all join the campaign by raising your voice towards that goal. One big issue of concern is plastic waste which many people don’t know about. We shall continue to raise our voices until everyone become aware.

Plastics, which we use indiscriminately, are observed to affect hundreds of species in the sea and on the land. They are neither degradable in the soil like common organic materials we know, nor digestible by animals when swallowed. Birds, fishes, turtles, and many other poor creatures mistake plastic for food which end up being their death pill. Next time you are buying stuff at the grocery store, think twice before taking that plastic bag whose only use is from the store to your car or home.

Plastic Trash

 Tons of plastics end up as debris in the oceans

You can make your contribution towards reducing plastic waste by changing the way you relate with plastics. We can help a great deal in saving lives by adopting some simple measures while dealing with plastics.

  • Take reusable bags whenever you are going to the store. Combine similar items in a single bag without wrapping each item separately.

Reusable bag 3L – A simple reusable bag. R – Me holding my reusable bag

  • Buy items with less packaging and in large quantity if it is something you use very often. Do you know what I realized? The more packaging, the more expensive are the items. After all, you are only going to use the product inside. Do you also know that people using dispensers save a lot of money compared to those buying bottled water (the small ones)?
  • In many areas, waste collectors are required to separate plastics from other waste, which they end up not doing if the wastes are mixed up. Help them by separating the wastes at your home.
  • Are you still of the habit of throwing away litters on the street? A single bottle cap or a plastic straw can be the killer of a beautiful bird out there. Hold the litter until you find the nearest waste bin.
  • Raise your voice. Become an environment ambassador by creating awareness among your friends, family and co-workers.

Listen to Yaya Toure, a UNEP goodwill ambasaddor, on purging plastics

“It takes one minute to throw out a plastic bag you’ve used once. It takes less than that to down a bottle of water. They then end up in the garbage or the ocean where they live FOREVER — adding to landfills and killing marine life. If you have to use plastic, make sure you reuse or recycle!”

What I like most with living an environmental friendly life is that it makes life simpler. You save money and live healthier.

To learn more read

Yes All Women in My Community

If I have the power to change Hausa community, the first thing I will command is for all women to break the stereotypical limitations on their path and be themselves. Yes, majority of girls in my community, at least from the ones I know, have the common problem of dancing to the tune of the society which is usually in conflict with what they actually deserve. It is nevertheless the same case with boys, but the stereotypes, being patriarchal, hardly affect boys in a negative way. To highlight just one of the issues, let me explain what I observed about the behavior of our girls in colleges and universities.

Our girls grow up with the belief that going to the university is some kind of retention before getting married so they spend more of their time there on courtship than on academics. An average Hausa girl would have more than two male friends (who are somewhere in between boyfriends and normal friends) while in her teens. In fact they compete in having the highest number of male friends. A girl is considered unattractive and of lower class among her peers when she has none. That in itself is a big challenge to her academic performance. The setting is like this: our girls compete among themselves on possessing ostentatious items such as clothes, electronic gadgets and cosmetics which are hardly attainable with the money from their parents alone. They therefore depend on such friends to buy these things for them. Fortunately for the girls, the society also raised boys with the idea that they are in charge of taking care of ladies they are in a relationship with. It doesn’t matter if the boys are being supported by their parents themselves (which is often the case) or not. They get a monthly grant from their parents, be rest assured that boys in relationship (s) will spend at least one third of it on their female friends.

As one would expect, the boys who spend on ladies would expect something in return. The least and the most detrimental is keeping the boys company or speaking to them on phone whenever they so wish. Some of my friends think I am missing the point when I argue that speaking with a girl on phone for the whole night or some part of the night while in school is irrational and purposeless. As we are in school, I would rather spend the time with her studying than denying myself sleep only to speak on mundane things.

Now where am I heading to? Remember majority of the girls (the campus hot chicks) have multiple male friends, which means allotting time for every guy who in most cases is from different faculties, meaning the meeting is never for studies. If male friend X calls asking for a date, she has to remember to give him time she hasn’t given friends W, Y and Z. That happens all the time, all the week, all semesters. I forgot to mention that there are usually outside boyfriends or suitors (the sugar daddies) with whom she must also deal with. She ended up with little or no time for studies.

When you try to advise a girl to loosen up on friendships and concentrate more on academics, she tells you that she has to do it in order to find someone to marry after graduation (or even before, who cares?).  To her, marriage courtship is like contract bidding: you consider multiple tenders and then choose the best one at the end. It would have been better if the bidding system in this case is chosen to be a closed one so that the bidding time is kept to minimum. That is regrettably not the case. It is public tendering: all parties are invited and the almighty client has time to screen them all. After all, girls’ parents have counseled them that it is not good to reject any person who declares his love to you.

What their parents failed to tell them is that being financially dependent on someone opens the road to exploitation. It is human nature to feel indebted to people we receive from sometimes without even being conscious about it. A friend of mine, Rango, narrated to me a drama he witnessed when he accompanied his friend to see a lady at their school dormitory. The friend wanted to take the girl out but she happened to have a test the following morning. She was begging him to allow her attend tutorial class that night because she hadn’t prepared sufficiently for the test but he didn’t want to listen. Rango had to intervene before the girl was allowed to attend the class. She thanked him for the intervention as she wouldn’t have had any choice but to go out with the guy.

Stories of that nature are very common in our community. Worst that could happen, which does happen, is for the girl in such relationship to be lured into sex against her will or even be raped. These are kind of rape cases which are rarely reported. Although there are many other factors that contribute to raped women’s silence, I believe being less dependent would reduce the rapist’s chances and give the raped more courage to take necessary action.

Most men don’t want to marry self-reliant women because they are a threat to their patriarchal dominance. The best way to deal with such men is for all women to be educated and be self-reliant so that they can also exercise their full right on choosing partners and how to live with them. Forget about men’s ego, just build your self-esteem and let them know that you can do it on your own.

If male students in school can do part time jobs or take loans to support themselves, then why not you? Trust me you have all it takes so don’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise. You just need to break the stereotypical chain around your ankles and wrists and be yourself. If anyone should take credit for your progress apart from yourself, let it be your parents. In that way, men would have no choice but to allow you be the person you want to be.

Written by Sadah

What looked like poverty, was really GREEN

A colleague on an online Coursera course on Energy and Environment posted this and I want to share it with you.

“Growing up in the inner city and honestly not having very much caused some mental distress. My family really didn’t have much and as a kid I focused quite a bit on what we didn’t have. Which, let’s be honest, is very easy to do when others around you clearly have more. Some of the things that I now see as awesome, at the time were just horrible!!!
They include:

Riding the bus because we didn’t have a car
Hanging clothes on a clothes line to dry
Walking to the neighborhood store
Walking to school
Picking pecans from the backyard to sale

I’m sure there are a few other things I could mention as well. One of the major problems? Those things (in the States) that denote success and wealth are amongst the very things holding us back from progressing as a society. They include the big house (often many miles from work and activities), large SUV, huge energy sucking appliances, etc.

What I didn’t see as a child was how wonderful it was for all the women in my neighborhood to get together on Saturday mornings at the vegetable truck and get their fresh produce as they traded other goods from their own gardens. In my community in those days, there were no expensive gym memberships because it was a part of our lives…EVERYDAY.

As much as we’ve progressed, I miss those days of old when I thought I had nothing, but in reality, I was living a wonderful life”

Reflection: My experience on a Nigerian highway

I was with Engr. Beki of the Federal Road Department for another road monitoring exercise along Kaduna-Abuja Road on a serene summer day.  She and her driver were in the front seats while I and her younger brother, Rango, needing a ride to Abuja were at the back seats. Every engineer in the department who has been assigned a road is expected to report on its condition biweekly (fortnightly) in case repairs are needed, an experience I had while working as an intern for six months under the supervision of Beki.

Most of the abnormalities observed during the outing involved traffic signs which were either uprooted or defaced with posters (of politicians). This has been the department’s challenge for a long time and begs the question why people don’t respect things which are public. I was told the poles are removed because they are made of aluminum which blacksmiths use to make utensils. I believe a stake would be sold by the miscreants at a price probably less than tenth of what it costs the department to install which resulted in the management resorting to using steel stakes despite its relatively higher cost. Ninety percent of the traffic signs are rendered useless by placed posters making the effort to safeguard the road almost futile and further putting peoples’ lives at risk. I wish the government would start prosecuting the politicians whose posters are found on such places then they would surely find a way of calling their supporters to order.

Halfway into our journey to Abuja and having not observed prominent potholes, I commended Beki on the good work she has been doing and also told her that the road is amongst the safest in the zone despite its high traffic volume but she surprisingly had a different view.

“What do you mean by becoming the safest? Being free from potholes? I think you know little about what is going-on on this road. People were complaining that accidents rate was high because of poor road condition but now that we have restored it to good condition, the rate of accidents has paradoxically only proliferated,” she said, with sheer disappointment in her face.

“Because they have got a smoother road surface now, drivers turn the road into a racetrack,” she added.

Right she was because I could remember witnessing some accidents a few months ago while I was still an intern working on the road. The accidents were mainly due to reckless speeding and we often happen to be the first people at the accident scenes to offer first aid to survivors if any, pending the arrival of road safety personnel or police. In most cases, the survivors tell us that they were travelling at a ridiculously high speed before the accident.

Not long after we finished talking about the accident rates, we encountered a fatal one and the driver died before we arrived at the scene. There were a few people who had stopped before us trying to offer help in one way or the other. The victims were two, the dead driver and another person who was still unconscious and all efforts to revive him being carried out. Our driver recognized the car as the rear part was not severely damaged. The front, which hit a massive tree off the road, was smashed beyond recognition.  He said the car overtook ours us about 15 minutes back at an extreme speed. Another speed racer!

We were told police were on their way to the scene. Engineer Beki saw the ID of the driver with someone and she was surprised to find out the driver was a civil engineer working with a private company. Although she was apparently touched by the accident, she was infuriated by the fact that an engineer who knows very well the reasons for setting speed limits would drive recklessly.

“If someone who sets the rules don’t abide by them, then what do we expect of the common people?” She lamented.

We went back to our car almost immediately as there was nothing much we could do and drove off.

I figured Rango didn’t understand the linkage between a civil engineer and traffic rules as he thought they are only responsible for designing buildings. In addition, he did not know the reasons behind fixing speed limits and asked me to expatiate.

“Those who design buildings, and by design here I mean structural specifications, are called structural engineers. There are also civil engineers who are trained to design roads and traffic and they are called highway and traffic engineers. In Nigerian universities however, civil engineers are trained to do all these tasks at undergraduate level. Basically, you would expect every civil engineer to know the significance of traffic rules.

“There are various factors which govern the choice of speed limit. Engineers consider things like the location of a road section, the road, vehicle, driver, and weather conditions for example to determine the safe speed at which a car would remain under driver’s control under any emergency. If they say drivers should not exceed a speed of 100 kilometers per hour along a particular section, it means that from the time a driver would spot a potential obstacle on the road, he could be able to bring the car to stand-still without hitting the object provided he’s not exceeded that speed. It may also be because of the shape of the road at that section. A car may spin out of control at a bend if it exceeds the design speed.” I explained, with that feeling of authority speaking about my profession.

It is really sad that our law enforcement agents are not able to strictly impose traffic rules on our roads. The irony of it is that people feel harassed when forced to obey rules while abiding by them is for their own safety. When it comes to obeying rules, I devised my own maxim, “go by the book and the world will be your oyster.”

Written by Sadah



Before I go into the discussion, let me first and foremost make clarification upon which profession we are talking about here, for, profession is all encompassing, regardless of which institution the professional in question attends. It is in mind as we all know that profession is not limited to the academic courses we studied in our various institutions of learning, but also include other crafts as nail cutting, tailoring, blacksmithing, driving, car washing and water vending, among others. These are all professions, and those who engage in them are as well professionals in their own capacity as, say, Nail Cutters. But since our audience constitutes of students and the paper is targeted at them, it would be important to limit ourselves to the academic professions we are trained upon from our various schools. This will make the best of sense because even if we go outside the scope to include the Nail Cutters it will not benefit them per se, for not only the fact that the audience are students but also the context is designed to enlighten students primarily on the need to put our actions together toward having a better Katsina society, and if the Nail Cutters are themselves however students, we can frame another topic for another day to include them, but for this now, we shall focus on the academic professions only. May Allah help us.

There is no profession that has no direct bearing with human life, each is a must for a humanity to fine-tune its direction toward having a better society, and absence of one can however causes the humanity to lose its sense of direction with perhaps inevitable colossal amount of consequences. One profession reinforces another, therefore none can stand on its own to bring the meaningful development it was designed for. If this is true, can we then, at this juncture say, we need all the professions for us to achieve the overall development we so desire? If the answer to this one million naira question is positive, as we shall see in the end of this discussion, then when we say profession in this paper, we are not only referring to a single profession like Microbiology or Pharmacy but all the academic professions you ever known.

All professions are from one source

Before the 19th century industrial revolution in Europe, knowledge used to be monolithic, and the scholars who championed the cause were described as being Philosophers who are usually versatile in all fields of human endeavors. This is why you find their names mentioned in all the academic disciplines we study today- being it medicine, Agriculture, Political Science, Sociology, and likes. That is also why there is unending argument among scholars as to whether some courses in Art, like History, should rather belong to science. The root to such argument is simple- the founders of such courses are renaissance scholars whose knowledge cut across all fields of study. During this period, there was no single academic discipline as Economics, Pharmacy, Medicine, Political Science or Sociology as it is the case today, but the ability of the philosophers to equally comment on all fields of knowledge, creates the impression that all knowledge is from one source, and that source was no other than a “Historical Pot”. As nature has it, the pot’s life span terminates, as Industrial Revolution occurred, and issues demanding wider research begin to emerge. This development led to the emergence of many academic disciplines in both natural and social sciences as stated earlier.

So from the above analysis, do we therefore agree that it was only a circumstance that separated the different courses, and had there been no such circumstance, we would have to be faced, in this generation, with only one option; to either accept the fact that we will read vastly to become all-inclusive-professionals or abandon it all and live a life of darkness thereby becoming just a burden to the society without even a nail cutting skill to contribute to the development of the humanity? If we all agree this is true, can we also safely say that human intellect is declining especially in Africa, and in Africa, Nigeria, and in Nigeria, Northern part of it, and in the Northern part, Katsina, and in Katsina, among the Youth? If yes, then why?

Harmonizing all professions towards a better humanity

All disciplines aim to achieve one common objective at the end of the day- to make world a better place for humanity- but how that common objective can collectively be achieved depends largely on how appropriate we put all the disciplines into use- if, for example, the need to remake Katsina to be the Dubai of West Africa that it was centuries ago arises, the first thing to do is to task those in art like History to go as far back as to reviewing the ancient History of Katsina from  the beginning to the time it started manifesting signs of declining, up to its present state, to uncover the causes of its greatness and the challenges that led to its present predicament, and to also bring to surface the picture of what the future potential is if nothing has or has not been done. From there, those in Social Sciences pick, and recommend the way forward and from the concluded work of the social scientists, those in management like public administrators make positive policies towards a better world.

Along this vein, if medical personals gather together and identify Candidiasis to be the major medical problem with women and call on government to act quickly or there will be serious trouble with Katsina women, government will respond in time. Sociologists can add voice to the call by relating to government the social consequences of the disease. Meanwhile, we cannot expect doctors, after having discovering cure for HIV, to however go further as to address the menace of stigma against the victims. In this instance, Historians, sociologists and other related professionals should be engaged to enlighten the public against the danger of stigmatization- being more dangerous, in this case, than the disease itself to the life of the victims. More so, would a judge not depend on ‘Paternity Test’ result, to rule over a controversial case where a father denies his biological child? Come to think of it if urban and regional planners are to plan a new Katsina town without incorporating the social urban ideas of urban Historians/Geographers, whose ideas will cover the social aspect of the urbanization? Would there not be social consequences, as we have been seeing now, in the long run, if the city has finally been built and human live in it without social aspect of urbanization being taken care of?


Since it was a ‘MONOLITHIC KNOWLEDGE’ that set the renaissance generation on course, and perhaps was what kindle the subsequent generation’s way to greatness, it is left to us this generation to either make a wise choice by putting together all our today’s fragmented courses of study into a rather ‘MONOLITHIC ACTION’ that will not only liberate us from the life of darkness we youth seem to be living, but as well enable us to make Katsina a better place for all as it had been centuries ago, or because of lack of awareness continue to consider our various professions as just a means of acquiring a ‘White Color Job’ and leave the society on its own to keep on dying, a slow death. Until we put all our professions into proper perspective such as to be so practical to guarantee a better humanity, we will however continue to live a life of darkness and thereby contribute nothing to the overall development of humanity.

Written by Abdullahi Rabi’u

A paper delivered at an annual congress of Katsina Education Charity Club on Eidul Fitr day, 8th August, 2013

Katsina: Time for Pragmatism On Poverty Issues

I was stunned watching the BBC’s Hardtalk interview programme in which Governor Ibrahim Shema denied the alarming poverty rate in Katsina state. It is not surprising, though, for Nigerian politicians to deny statistical evidence that portray unfavourable picture of their constituencies, but I did not expect that attitude from Shema whom I have always respected for his pro-civic policies. Huge amounts of resources are being spent on human development in Katsina; however, no significant change has been achieved because the resources are not being utilised prudently.

The methods used by the survey agency to come up with the recent poverty figures that placed Sokoto and Katsina at the top with poverty rates of about 80 and 75 percents respectively might not be completely unbiased, but even if it were mere speculation, these high figures call for alarm for the policy makers of these states. Let the governors carry out their own survey if they truly care for the people they govern. I may well be right if I assumed that the politicians are comfortable with the situation because it is what keeps them in power. The masses would continue to be docile like sheep during elections, as long as illiteracy and poverty remain rife.

A 75 percent poverty rate simply means that among every four persons in Katsina, three are poor. Based on the criteria used, those three out of four people live below 1 US dollar (160NGN) a day. Anyone who visits our villages would affirm the veracity of those figures. I believe it may even be more than that in Katsina state. One of the major reasons for the dilemma is the incessant high population growth rate in our northern states, which our leaders are reluctant to tackle. If the people cannot be stopped from irrational procreation, then stop encouraging them to marry more wives than they can comfortably take care of.

Governor Ibrahim Shema has done well in transforming the mindset of Katsina people, which somehow and unfortunately, seems to have made his government unpopular. Sticking to his pro-civic policies under tough situations of sheer intolerance of criticism, to me, is indeed courageous. He believes in the philosophy of teaching people how to fish instead of giving them the fish every time. It is unfortunate that the poor people he wants liberated prefer being given the fish every day. But is his strategy working?

The empowerment programmes being implemented in the state are not far from the fish-giving. This is what usually happens: People hang on to an empowerment program because they know there would be incentives in form of business capital in the end. They don’t care if they understand the agricultural or vocational skills they are taught. They collect the lump sum meant for starting a business only to use it as a dowry for a second or third wife they long cherished at a time when their current families are in great deal of destitution. The same thing happens when school teachers are given agricultural loans or when female students in colleges of education receive cash under UN Girls’ Education Project scholarship. My sister once told me that most of the girls doing the NCE programme were in school because their parents had no resources to marry them off. When they received the scholarship money, then that would mark the end of their studies – back home for marriage. Counterproductive, isn’t it?

What is the way forward then? I would suggest that the government and other stakeholders focus on creating job opportunities through building of industries like the Katsina Paint Company established earlier. Irrigation and livestock farming is another relevant area, since we have the enabling environment. The affluent people from the state should be encouraged to invest in these sectors.

It is time we stood up and faced reality. Our religious and traditional leaders must be pragmatic. We cannot continue with a method that has continuously been taking us backward. We must stop treating marriage and childbearing with untoward sacredness it does not deserve. Social and economic prosperity should be our major concern, and we have to work together to achieve that.

Written by Sadah.


Article first published in Dailytrust newspaper of 27 June 2013.

Also online on Blueprint


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