Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on Saturday said that the present level of poverty and underdevelopment in the Northern parts of the country should not be allowed to define the future of the region.
Osinbajo gave the advice in his address to the summit organized by the Northern Re-Awakening Forun (NRF),tagged Building a Safe,
Secure and Economically Inclusive Northern Nigeria.
“The Northern states occupying about 70 per cent of the land mass of the country have the highest infant and maternal mortality rate as well as the lowest rate of child enrollment in schools,” Osinbajo said.
“They have the highest number of unemployed young people, and of course faces the challenge of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts including the Boko Haram terrorism.”
The vice president noted that the National Bureau of Statistics 2015 figures show that the poorest 10 states in Nigeria are in the North with the exception of Ebonyi state.
However, he noted that dismal as some of the conditions and statistics might be, “it should not define our future or that of our children. ”
“We can point to the past to draw some inspiration from the lives of some of those who gave all to ensure that the vast majority of our people do not remain in want and poverty.
“History reminds us of the visionary leaders in Nigeria, who fired our imagination through their vision, diligence and selfless service.
“Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, J. S. Tarka, and countless others who clearly understood the varied issues afflicting the region, thought over them thoroughly, laid out plans and worked selflessly to realize them.”
He said the new crop of leaders should note that their past leaders did not live or fight to enrich themselves, but rather they lived to enrich the lives of the people.
“They did not leave vast personal estates behind, but their names and legacies live in the hearts of the people.’’
In a paper on developing a marshal plan for the North, Borno Governor, Kashim Shettima, advised Northern elite to shun old practices that inhibited development of the region and pursue education as a priority.
The governor noted that attempts were made in the past to divide the region for political gains but said the region should come together and collectively tackle the challenges confronting the people.
He said that while insurgency and illiteracy were major challenges, the problem of population explosion in the region should be taken seriously in the overall interest of the people.