By Bola Bolawole
One Northern leader after another has, in recent times, decried the so-called poverty of the North, as it were. They have attempted to state why this is so as well as proffer solutions. The World Bank says 87% of Nigeria’s poor are in the North; and since Nigeria is the capital of the world’s poor, it stands to reason that the capital of poverty in Nigeria and in the whole wide world should be somewhere in the North.
Many Nigerians, especially those from the South, will dispute that the North is poor. Many will query the statistics and describe it as a clever ploy by the North to continue to siphon the country’s resources – or, better still, the South’s resources – to the North. The evidence speaks to the fact that the North is not as poor as it is being advertised, or is not poor at all or, better still, it has no reason to be poor at all or to be as poor as is being stated.
The North has ruled this country more than the South since Independence in 1960. And unlike the few Nigerian leaders produced by the South, Northern leaders have been audacious in using State power to favour the North while short-changing the South. They have deployed State power to give the North so many strategic advantages against the South. Let’s begin to count.
They have leveraged on the periodic census to maintain and expand the manipulated population figures the British colonial masters awarded the North; with Nigeria, therefore, becoming the only country in the whole world where hostile, inhabitable desert areas are more thickly populated than the more hospitable, more habitable, more population-friendly forest region and good climate areas of the South. Thinking aloud, why, then, are they migrating down South if the desert North is so habitable?
With this “arrange” population figures, the North corners more of the country’s resources when monies and other development projects are shared among the various segments of our stunted Federation. The North gets more allocations from the Federation Account even though it contributes far less into it.
The North’s bloated population also translates into its getting more elected representatives into the National Assembly – the House of Representatives and the Senate. Its more members translate into its representatives getting more salaries and other allowances and perquisites than their counterparts from the South.
It also means that no business can successfully be conducted there without their accepting or supporting. For example, it will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for an amendment to the Constitution (e.g. restructuring) to pass through the National Assembly without the North’s concurrence.
In elections, the South, even if they vote as one man, cannot match the North on account of the North’s orchestrated population advantage. They are presumed to have more voters and this has always been manipulated to churn out humongous votes for the candidates of the North’s choice. Except a miracle happens – or a revolution takes place – the South on its own and by itself cannot wrestle political power from the North.
Unlike their flippant, selfish, self-centred and myopic Southern counterparts, Northern leaders are strategic thinkers and schemers. Nigeria started out as three regions – North, West and East. When it served the North’s interests, its leaders refused to have their vast region split into many parts but seized upon “small” Western Region to carve out the Mid-west in 1963.
But immediately they saw that more states meant more resources, they ensured that the North has more states than the South. Today, the North has 19 states; the South 17. Out of 774 local governments, the South has 334 while the North has 416. Since states and local governments are what they use to allocate resources, the North that contributes far less receives far more than the South which contributes the lion’s share.
The North moved the federal capital from Lagos in the South to Abuja in the North in 1991. The capital being where the action is – where the money is shared, where all the three arms of the Federal Government are, where all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies have their head offices – the North holds the yam and also holds the knife, as it were.
Trillions of Naira must have been sunk into Abuja. Because the new capital is surrounded by the North, majority of those who work there, who feed on it, and who benefit more than the others are certain to be northerners. The economic advantage of Abuja to the economic well-being of northerners cannot be over-emphasized. The pledge made when the capital was being moved from Lagos (that Lagos would be given special status) has not been fulfilled.
Now, the richest black man in the whole world is a Northerner. How much has he impacted the North with his wealth, which originated from this country? Majority of the country’s oil wells are in the hands of Northerners, even though there is no single drop of oil from their own part of the country. What have they done with this wealth? Since 2015 that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari came to power, all the important and vital positions – in the military, in the MDAs, in the economy – have been held by northerners. What have they done with this awesome power and influence?
Why is banditry more pronounced in some states of the North such as Katsina and Zamfara? It is partly because they are illegally mining their mineral resources by themselves without bringing the proceeds to the basket to be shared by all, in the same manner the wealth of the South is being shared by all. Tell me, where is that money going if not into the North’s pockets?
No, the North is not poor. The North may even be richer than the South. The only difference is that the North’s riches are concentrated in fewer hands than those of the South. There is more democratization of the distribution of wealth in the South than we have in the North. In the North, there is more feudalization of wealth than we have in the South.
Again, there is more application of wealth in the South to productive purposes than there is in the North. The North’s wealth appears to be more expended on frivolous and non-economic activities whereas more of the South’s wealth is poured into economic activities which re-generate themselves. Tell me, how many industries are in the entire North?
Why are Northerners not investing their largesse, taken out of the South’s resources, into the development of their area? Who are they waiting for to help them develop their area while they squander the enormous resources they cream off the sweat of the South? Ask the Northerner leaders bellyaching about the North’s poverty to point to the industries they sited there!
Reminds me of the then governor of old Oyo State, late Chief Bola Ige’s encounter with eminent Ibadan indigenes who had come to complain that Ibadan was not getting its fair share of development. Trust the Cicero with his caustic tongue; by the time he ended his “Who neglected Ibadan” tirade, the Ibadan leaders of thought filled out of Ige’s office with their heads bowed.
Who neglected or underdeveloped the North? Who made the North poor, assuming it is poor? Ask Northern leaders! They are the ones who have short-changed the North. How: In short-changing the South on all fronts, thinking they were helping the North! They taught themselves and the North to be leeches and parasites; to be indolent and lazy; to be cheats and dishonest fellows who trade on deceit and subterfuge.
The Yoruba have a proverb: The man who hurt you badly has only taught you to be strong. The many decades of the North’s maltreatment and cheating of the South have only made the South stronger. No, the North’s only problem is not marrying many wives and siring many children they do not educate or take care off. That may be part of the problem but it is not all of it.
The North’s undoing includes the many undue advantages its leaders used their hold on the levers of power to award to themselves and their people. Used to reaping where they did not sow, how can they value or put to good use what they acquired sleight of hand? Federal Character is also the North’s undoing. They have thought themselves and their people not to work hard; not to compete but to expect manna from heaven, and not to have quality. You drop plum jobs on their laps. You give them positions they do not merit. You victimize and oppress Southerners who are by-passed, who are prematurely retired so that Northerners can take over – and you thought you did the right thing spoon-feeding your own people! You still do these things, further deepening your grave.
The North’s leaders must undo their undoing before the North can have any hope of exiting poverty. Restructure the country and put everyone, including a parasitic North, earnestly to work. Stop favouritism and nepotism! Stop the killings! Stop the land-grabbing! Do justice to all! Develop your own deserts. Israel and Dubai developed theirs. There is no substitute to hard work. Righteousness exalts a people. But say to the wicked, the cheat and the lout…
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