The story of Northern Nigeria is indeed a sad one. The region, though with vast geographical landmass, enormous natural resource potentials and immense human population, yet remains the most backward by every standard of development.
It becomes more saddening when one considers this endemic backwardness against the fact that leaders from the North have had the most advantage in terms of central political power control than the Southern zones combined in the entire history of Nigeria’s independent existence.
In practical terms, the Igbo nation, occupying the eastern flank of the South, has literally not held power at the centre besides the six-year ceremonial presidency of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. Yet, the Eastern region and its people are today the most developed in terms of industry and commerce. The West, too, happens to be far off in terms of educational and economic development even though it held power for just a few out of the 55 years of Nigeria’s independence.
In a sharp contrast, the North, which has had the most central power advantage, remains the most backward in all respects – education, economy, industry, technology and even general infrastructure and health.
The North is today battling with the most disabling level of excruciating poverty, want and disease while boasting of having the richest man in Africa in its midst. It holds the worst end of the nation’s economic rope which is now worsened by the most devastating and most prolonged violent insurgency recorded in Nigeria’s history. It is straddled by phenomenal ever-expanding battalions of almajiris in addition to millions of young unemployed and unemployable men and women aimlessly roaming its streets.
The situation got so ugly that it took a president from the South-South to build schools for the formal education of the northern almajiris.
Despite its inherent right to the claim of being the most cultured of all the three major regions, Northern Nigerian youth population today leads the rank in dangerous drug consumption that has even pervaded households with housewives authoritatively reported to have joined the wagon.
Unfortunately, too, despite its endowment with thousands of school and other training institutions, the North still holds the highest level of illiteracy far above the western and eastern regions combined. This trend persists whether a northerner is in power or not.
When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from the South West was in power, that part of the country enjoyed unprecedented patronage and empowerment for rapid individual and regional development. Similarly, when Goodluck Jonathan held sway as Nigeria’s president, he gave serious attention the South South, including the sustainability of the Amnesty Programme.
But hasn’t it been that good for the North?
Even with the coming of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the North still appears poised to face a fresh eight-year ride in rough tide with the present warped federal appointments and infrastructure allocation design.
In this regards, there is no gainsaying that one of the single highest beneficiaries of the present government is Babatunde Raji Fashola from the West, who was appointed Minister in charge of Power, Works and Housing – three hitherto major separate ministries collapsed into one.
With this came the inevitable reality of northern Nigeria standing a further risk of being short-changed in terms of distribution of infrastructure projects as reflected in the first budget of the administration which allocated more than 70% of development projects to the South West.
Going by these observations, one is bound to be concerned about when the northern region and its leaders would start thinking of how to get things right. When would our leaders wake up to the reality that the North is long positioned to compete favourably with the rest of the country? And the earlier we do this, the better; lest the coming generations would be bound to hold us to account for what went wrong.
Jirgi wrote in from Abuja.