Why the north is underdeveloped
By Anthony Mudiaga
Thursday February 23, 2012

Group mobilization using ethnic, religious or class sentiments is a strategy which political elites in Nigeria often use to gain the support of the dominated citizens to give them political legitimacy. They often do this to gain the support of their constructed identity group or sub-groups, irrespective of the consequences to others. Hence, many politicians in Nigeria prefer to project themselves along ethnic, religious, or regional lines which have been reinforced by Nigeria’s colonial and post colonial history and the failure of the national socio-political developmental strategies to make Nigerians full citizens of any part of the country in which they are resident.

The reason why Mallam Sanusi Lamido, the Central Bank Governor should regress to this strategy in his interview with the Financial Times of London requires further examination.
As the chief official at the apex of the banking industry, the only plausible reason why Mallam Sanusi Lamido may have ventured into this recursive strategy in Nigerian politics may be that, like many other politico-bureaucrats, he is posturing for the 2015 elections. He has the right to aspire for any higher office, if he so chooses, but what is unacceptable and most undignified, is his desire to denigrate the cry of the Niger-Delta people for true federalism, by ascribing the underdevelopment of the northern part of Nigeria to the 13 percent oil allocation, distributed from oil and gas revenue to some Niger-Delta states.

In the first place, the injustice of his claim starts with the assumption that, the aforesaid allocations was an agreement entered into between the exploited oil producing states and other federating units. His counterfactual premise is a double edge sword into the heart of the cause of oil producing states, because at one point it assumes that the exploited states are awash with funds from federal revenue and a thus satisfied with this arrangement, and attempts to stymie any further discussion on the basis of the allocation in the first instance, by implying that for the oil producing states their benefits are superfluous. To further worsen the mortal wound on the oil producing states, he blames this arrangement for the developmental regression of northern states.

But, the fact is, no oil producing state or other states of the federation consulted before an allocation of 13% in section 162 of the constitution for ”any natural resorces” applicable to all states was reached. This allocation was the creation of a military dictatorship which also created a constitution and asserted that Nigerians did so. Therefore, the claim of Mallam Lamido that these states are awash with federal revenue is to turn the argument on its head. In fact, the Nigerian federal government treasury is awash with funds from oil producing states, confiscated from them by military fiat and legitimized by an imposed constitution, created without consultation or referendum by Nigerians. But that argument is for another day and should not make it necessary to digress from the main issue; the hot potato of falsehood, dropped by Mallam Lamido to the effect that the 13% allocation causes under-development in the north, a claim that requires historical and factual refutation to obviate its propagation.
So why are most parts of the north underdeveloped in comparison with many southern states? It is important to make the distinction that not all parts of the north are impoverished, for the same reasons that all parts of the south are not developed to the same extent. This distinction brings to the fore the underlying reasons for greater development in some parts of the South of Nigeria.

The foundational problem for regression in the development of the north has long been identified by its own elites and lies in its “suspicions of western education”, these phrase is paraphrased because those were the exact words of Professor Jubril Aminu, although like many other northern elites, Professor Aminu only mentioned this underlying cause in passing, while blaming sectionalism in university admission for the potential regression of the north. What Professor Aminu however failed to point out, because of his jaundiced views, was that states in the north like north central states that are not hostile to western education, were also far ahead of those which were hostile in terms of human capital development.

Mudiaga writes from Abuja.

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