I was born in Plateau State, my mother was from Plateau State. I went to primary and secondary school there. I went to Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi. Youth Service was my first time of living outside the North for an extended period of time.
The North is home. The only Nigerian language I speak, fluently, is Hausa.
This world is sick. Not a single place is left out. Some places are sicker than others.
The North is very sick.
I know because I lived and interacted with Northerners for the almost, first 3 decades of my life. But interestingly enough, I never saw the sickness. It was just how things were and we accepted it.
Not till my Youth Service and subsequently moving to Lagos did I know that something was not quite right with the North.
I know it sounds so broad and non-specific when I say North, but I know that Nigerians will get what I am talking about.
I can feel people bristling already as they can see a huge button flashing “Stereotype alert”, calm down and give me a chance to explain.
The North is sick. Very. Hiding or defending the illness will not cure it. Covering it with a Hijab will not make it go away.
The whole country can see our gaunt cheeks, our protruding collar bones and smell the gangrene. Wearing rogue cannot hide the pain in our eyes as we shuffle daily to exist.
We are sick, and healing starts with a diagnosis and not a denial.
Decrying a stereotype will not change what is happening. So all of you that are raising your hands and saying.
“I do not support Child marriage.”
“I have never been violent.”
Please put your hands downs. I have used two examples but I cannot deny that I have seen them play out in the North more than any other place I have lived.
Imagine a house full of people. But there is a decomposing corpse in the house. The people in the house are used to the putrefying waft and try to live normally. But the smell seeps outside and people that pass by hold their noses, spit in the gutters and point at this house saying…
“That house stinks.”
The people in the house get offended. They sniff their armpits and say:
“But I am not smelling, how dare they define me with this smell coming from my house?”
And instead of removing this corpse and cleaning the house, the yell at the people passing by saying.
“Do not say our house stinks, say there is something in that house that stinks. We do not stink, it is only the dead body that stinks”
The North is reeking.
Reeking of poverty
Reeking of violence
Reeking of illiteracy
Reeking of underage brides
Reeking of beggars
Reeking of intolerance
Reeking of marginalization of women.
And the educated people from the north that try to detract from this with eloquence and clever prose do a great disservice to the North.
The people that try to use religion to justify this do a great disservice to God and for those already bristling the Emir of Kano has said it all – You cannot be more Islamic than the prophet!
I once passed by a ward filled with VVF patients in Jos. I promise you, there were only Northerners there. The number of children hawkers and beggars are unprecedented in the North compared to anywhere in Nigeria.
Religious violence was a new normal for me from 2001 in Jos. I remember a day when I was at the university when I swore that my children would never go to school in the North. I had just experienced a terrifying situation where a mob of university undergraduates surrounded the entrance of the female hostel (the northern girls had fled the hostel earlier) holding knives and scimitars. I promise you folks, SCIMITARS. They had walkie talkies and were chanting.
The police commissioner had to come to the hostel at night and the girls were rescued, we were sent home for months after that.
I told myself my children would never experience the fear from volatility of the situation I felt that day. Or the fear I feel passing by certain areas with my heart in my mouth especially on a Friday.
I am trying not to perpetuate stereotypes, at the same time, I am telling my truth. I have met wonderful Northerners with hearts of gold but the North is still sick.
Is it in the air? Is it in the water? Is it in the interpretation of religion? What is the cause?
I have no idea.
I just know that it is not fine. Hence the ability of Boko Haram to successfully gain grounds there.
The South have their peculiarities and ailments. Pointing them out does not make the North any better. It does not justify our ills.
Now back to the Emir, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. The educated, erudite, eloquent aristocrat. I cannot understand how an adult will bring a child and it falls under the radar of the Emir and no one was arrested.
People, whether Ese followed this young man willingly or not is irrelevant, a minor with an adult left Yenegoa without parental consent. Any person would be horrified and hasten to reunite the girl with her family irrespective of the will of this girl.
For some reason, this young lady was protected as a new convert subjecting her parents to a torturous 6months.
This here is not a single crime committed by Yinusa. This is the complicity of a whole community that cannot see the grievous ill of harbouring a 13 year old against the wishes of her parents.
Please, do not shout baby factories or even worse shout, “ISOLATED CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.”
Something is not right.
Admitting that the North is sick is the very first step towards healing.
And with that, I won’t say another word.