Saturday, August 25, 2012

Is Northern Nigeria really poor? Part One

A meeting of minds usually involves using ideas to fight ideas until superior ideas gain prominence.

The meeting of minds in Nigeria may atimes end up in X-raying issues that affect us as a nation most especially, the topical issues.

There are many issues of importance to address in Nigeria today, but one bothering on its economy and security seems to be of utmost priority. Trust Nigerians, they address issues with all the components of their being-verve, voices and

vision.

In addressing the issues of economy and factors that brought us to where we are today, some here find it appropriate to heap a large portion of the blame on northerners, (domiciled in northern Nigeria) for their contribution to slowing down the desired uniform growth expected in the South-South, South-West or South-East—if at all there had been any encouraging growth in these zones.

Every time issues of poverty are mentioned in several fora in Nigeria, critics are quick to point to or sheepishly grin in the directions of northerners present. This realization has prompted me to ask a pertinent question—is Northern Nigeria really poor? Nigeria is no doubt a blessed country. Blessed in both human and natural resources, yet its people remain poor due to bad governance, bad leadership, corrosive and docile followership.

With a population of about 160 million people and as the 6th largest producer of crude oil in the world, coupled with a viable agrarian base, one does not expect the spectre of misery and poverty as evidenced today, if such endowments have been fully tapped and prudently utilized for the betterment of its people. While the poor economy/poverty status of the nation remain worrisome, at least to patriotic Nigerians, it actually gives more cause for concern when one x-rays the situation in Northern Nigeria vis-a-vis the rest of the country.

 While I agree that the north certainly has the highest number of poor people in the country, I do not agree that the north is poor.

The north is one of the vibrant regions of the country. It has approximately half the percentage population of the country. It occupies 70% of the country’s land mass of 923.713 square kilometer, a large part of the land mass is arable and can support all year round agricultural production.

Out of 360 House of Representatives members, the North has more than 200 legislators, yet continues to make less political impact in the nation.

The north has few men whose wealth are in the range of billions, it equally has the richest man in Africa, yet the same region produces the worst of poverty-stricken people on the African continent. It has 19 out of the 36 states on the nation.

It has the largest deposit of solid minerals of highest grades and quality, yet it remains the region whose women spend hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase gold, silver, and other products of solid minerals outside the country.

Despite all these endowments and potentials, it is undeservedly poor, underdeveloped and crises-prone, thus drawing disdain, slight, blame, and criticisms from other sections of the country with higher efforts at development.

The South-South (Niger-Delta) supports the Federation with crude oil which benefits the entire nation.

The South East supports the federation with its industrialisation and commercial activities jointly shared by the entire federation. The same applies to the South West but not the North which seems not to have any thing to bring to the centre (despite its endowment) yet willing to share the resources of others.

One can truly understand why Comrade Joseph Evah, National Coordinator of Ijaw monitoring Group remarks that “it is the North that is benefiting from the wealth and unity of this country”.

One can truly see why the sustained agitation of MASSOB leader, Ralph Uwazuruke and Major Gideon Orkar’s coup’s speech attempted to cut off a section of the North from the rest of the country. Senator Kennedy Waku in one of his interviews with some national dailies said that ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo was all out to destroy the North. Obasanjo, he said promised to make every Northerner a beggar. Whether he said it or not, nobody can make the North or Northerner a beggar without the cooperation and permission of the northern. Yet poverty continues its steady encroachment into every home in the region just as desertification is knocking on every door as it eats into the North.

Whatever parameter is used to measure poverty and standard of living, the North is certainly at its worst grading. The fact is that the North remains one of the least developed parts of the world. In2007, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s poverty index asserted that the prevalence rate of poverty in the North was 70%. Today, the north still has the highest poverty incidence of 64.8% compared to the South which is 42.8%.

Several factors and issues contributed to where the North is today. They include but not limited to communal carnage (ethno religious conflicts), fair weather politicians, collapsed infrastructure, almajiri and child destitution syndrome, weak industrial base, reduced inter-state cooperation, poverty, cultural inhibition and intolerance, land tenure system, increasing disunity, neglect of agriculture and education, dependence or reliance on monthly statutory allocations and insecurity.

Insecurity more than any other factor has greatly undermined and has continued to undermine the ability of the North to grow and developed. The region is losing precious human lives and money and properties due to the Boko Harm insurgency. It is estimated that the region is losing around N25 billion daily as a result of the Boko Harm insurgency. It was calculated that the Boko Haram insurgency has set Borno State backward for another 12 years, just as the present civil war in Syria has set the hand of development back for another 25 years.

The Boko Haram insurgency is a product of bad leadership and fair weather politician, who lack vision, foresight and purposeful ideology to mobilize and make any positive impact on the lives of the common Northerner. No wonder today, the North is discredited politically and continues to suffer political decline. It lacks effective political succession platform and strategies and its democratic skills remain shallow.

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