10 things I would want the Arewa Consultative Forum to do in Sokoto State in the wake of the recent crisis that has exposed the socio-economic fragility of the area


Ayo Akinfe

[1] With Nigeria currently going through a dark hour, I believe it is time for the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to stand up and be counted. I have singled the ACF out because most of the hopelessness we are currently witnessing is in their backyard and their region offers the most potential too

[2] One thing I love about figures is they never lie. Nigeria currently has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, with a staggering 13.2m teenagers doing nothing but roaming the streets. It is only a matter of time before these kids go on to become kidnappers, armed robbers, bandits and terrorists. Now of these 13.2m kids, 1.8m are in Borno State, 1.2m are in Bauchi, 873,633 are in Katsina, 837,478 are in Kano and 784,391 are in Jigawa. This compares with 79,446 in Edo State, clearly indicating where the problem lies

[3] Nigeria is also the poverty capital of the world with 87m people living on below the United Nations threshold of $2 a day. Former Emir of Kano Alhaji Lamido Sanusi Mohammed lamented the fact that these figures were highly skewed, as across southwest Nigeria, only 20% of the population lives above the poverty threshold, while in northwest Nigeria, the figure is 80%.

[4] According to the World Poverty Clock, it is estimated that six Nigerians slip into extreme poverty every minute. Between now and 2030, it is believed that 45.5% of Nigeria’s population or 120m people will be living in extreme poverty. No doubt, the overwhelming majority of these will be in northern Nigeria

[5] Over the last 10 years, India has taken about 270m people out of poverty. As of at 2016, the incidence of multidimensional poverty has almost halved between 2005/06 and 2015/16, falling to 27.5% from 54.7%. In Brazil too, about 28.6m people were taken out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. A combination of an industrial plan, agrarian expansion, vocational education and a reduction of the emphasis on religion can lead to a dramatic turnabout within a short space of time

[6] If it took both Brazil and India just 10 years to take huge numbers of people out of poverty, there is nothing stopping Nigeria from doing so too other than the lack of political will. This is where I think the ACF can come to our rescue. It must make taking 20m out of poverty its sole goal over the next 10 years. If 1m Nigerians picketed their next meeting and demanded that, it would be a start

[7] For now, the ACF is distracted with the misplaced priority of who occupies Aso Rock. That does nothing for the teaming masses of northern Nigeria. Whoever is in the presidential villa will have impact on rural roads, primary schools, agricultural output, etc. What people need across northern Nigeria are industrial programmes that create wealth and offer hope. I think the ACF should set itself a tough goal of saying it will not be interested in who occupies Aso Rock until school enrolment, literacy and graduate production levels across northern Nigeria match those of the south. Kind of like how the Vikings used to sink their long boats at shore whenever they attacked a new territory. For them, escaping was no option. Their slogan was victory or death

[8] Now, all these statistics are meaningless unless we come up with solutions. In agriculture alone, northern Nigeria has some of the greatest potential in the world. It can grow so many crops that require little water such as cassava, millet, sorghum, cotton, gum arabic, onions, neem, cactus, shea nuts, ground nuts, etc. We need to open the world’s largest plantations in all these areas. Remember the size of a the cotton plantations we saw in Alabama and Mississippi during the Slave Trade? I want to see bigger ones in Borno, Katsina, Kano, Zamfara, Kebbi, Yobe, Bauchi, Sokoto and Jigawa states

[9] For all our wahala about livestock, we produce very little beef and are not among the top 30 meat producers in the world. I want to see the ACF come up with the world’s most ever ambitious cattle rearing programme that will see half of Borno State turned into one massive cattle ranch. Global beef production figures are as follows - US - 12.2m tonnes, Brazil - 9.2m tonnes, China - 6.2m tonnes, Argentina 3.2m tonnes, India 2.6m tonnes, Mexico - 2.5m tonnes, Australia - 2.1m tonnes, Russia - 1.3m tonnes and Canada 1.2m tonnes. We simply have to catch up

[10] Across India today, only 46m people out of 1.3bn people live below the poverty line due to the efforts put in by the government. We could easily surpass this with an agricultural expansion plan, an associated agro-processing industrial programme and a mass vocational training scheme. I want to see the ACF mandate each of the 19 states across northern Nigeria aim for this with an annual economic growth target of at least 10% and export revenue projections of $5bn. This is easily doable if the political will is there