Muhammad Sanusi II, the emir of Kano, says northern Nigeria needs to move on from the 13th century mindset of Islam, emphasising that the rest of the Muslim world has moved on.
Speaking to the theme ‘promoting investments in the midst of economic challenges’, Sanusi said northern Nigeria has not been paying attention to providing necessary education and healthcare for the girl child.
“We are in denial. The north-west and the north-east, demographically, constitute the bulk of Nigeria’s population, but look at human development indices, look at the number of children out of school, look at adult literacy, look at marternal mortality, look at infant mortality, look at girl-child completion rate, look at income per capita, the north-east and the north-west Nigeria, are among the poorest parts of the world,” Sanusi said.
“As far back at 2000, I looked at the numbers, Borno and Yobe state, UNDP figures, Borno and Yobe states, if they were a country on their own, were poorer than Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
“Nobody saw this because we were looking at Nigeria as a country that averages the oil-rich Niger Delta, the industrial and commercial-rich Lagos, the commercially viable southeast, and you have an average.
“Break Nigeria into its component parts, and these parts of the country are among the poorest, if it were a country. And we do not realise we are in trouble.”
He said books preaching love were being burnt in northern Nigeria, calling for better interpretations of Islamic views, which can drive a better life for women and the girl-child.
“We need to understand the roots of the problem of northern Nigeria. Burning books, it happened in Kano, what is the crime of those books? They were writing about (love), and love apparently is supposed to be a bad word,” he said.
“In a society where you don’t love your women and you don’t love your children, you allow them to beg, you beat up your women, why should anyone talk about love?
“We have adopted an interpretation of our culture and our religion that is rooted in the 13th century mindset, that refuses to recognise that the rest of the Muslim world has moved on.
“Today in Malaysia, you wake up and divorce your wife, that is fine. But you give her 50 percent of all the wealth you acquired since you married her. It is a Muslim country. In Nigeria, you wake up after 20 years of marriage, you say to your wife, ‘I divorce you’, and that’s it.
“Other Muslim nations have pushed forward girl-child education, they’ve pushed forward science and technology. They have pushed forward the arts. We have this myth in northern Nigeria, where we try to creat an Islamic society that never existed.
“We are fighting culture, we are fighting civilisation. We must wage an intellectual war, because Islam is not univocal; there are many voices, there are many interpretations, there are many viewpoints, and we have for too long allow the ascendancy of the most conservative viewpoints. The consequencies of that is that there are certain social problems.”
WE CAN’T FIX THE NORTH UNTIL WE FACE OUR TABOOS
Sanusi said the north needs to fix fundamental social and religious issues to see a flux of investments into the region.
“In 1960, land per rural dweller in Nigeria was two hectares, today, it is 0.9 hectares, in a decade it will be 0.5 hectares.
“Some of these has been environmental desertification, some of it had been huge demographic explosion and we do not want to address it. The age at which girls get out of school and married, the number of children that they have; having babies every year.
“The number of wives people marry when they cannot maintain them and their children. These subjects have been tabooed, but we cannot fix the north and get investments into the north until we confront these subjects.
“What is our attitude towards educating our girls? What is our attitude child spacing, so that we can financially maintain and educate and bring up children? What is the purpose of a large population that is not educated, that is jobless, that is unemployed?”