Northern Nigeria’s development indicators are similar to those of war-ravaged Afghanistan and should be a source of concern to its leaders, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has said.
Mr El-Rufai spoke on Saturday during the Northern Youth Summit organised by Northern Hibiscus Initiative, in Kaduna. The theme of the summit was ’Awakening the Arewa Spirit.’
Details of Mr El-Rufai’s speech was published by
The Nation newspaper.
The Kaduna governor said Nigeria is made up of two countries: the developing South and a backward, less educated and unhealthy North.
”Nigeria consists of two countries; there is a backward, less educated and unhealthy northern Nigeria, and a developing, largely educated and healthy southern Nigeria.
“We have to speak the truth to ourselves and ask why is it that northern Nigeria has development indicators similar to Afghanistan, a country still at war?
“We have the largest number of poor people in the world, most of them in northern Nigeria. Nigeria also has the largest number of out of school children, virtually all of them in Northern Nigeria.
“Northern Nigeria has become the centre of drug abuse, gender violence, banditry, kidnapping, and terrorism. We have also been associated with a high divorce rate and breakdown of families. This is the naked truth that we have to tell ourselves,” Mr El-Rufai said.
Mr El-Rufai’s statement of poor development indices in Northern Nigeria is backed by facts previously reported by PREMIUM TIMES.
This newspaper reported how eight of Nigeria’s 10 million out-of-school children are in 10 Northern Nigerian states. Also, health indices by various health agencies show that Northern Nigerian states are the most affected by health challenges. A list of cholera ‘hotspots’ in Nigeria , areas most susceptible to cholera due to poor hygiene, was also dominated by states in Northern Nigeria.
Many analysts have ascribed the development challenges in Northern Nigeria to bad administration, a factor Mr El-Rufai wants to be addressed.
The Kaduna governor, however, dismissed the notion that Northern Nigeria is a parasite of the Nigerian economy.
”Which is not entirely true”. he said, ”Because northern Nigeria still feeds the nation. The richest businessman in Nigeria is still Aliko Dangote, not someone from Southern Nigeria, thank God for that.”
Mr El-Rufai is part of a crop of Northern Nigerian elites who believe the leadership of the region has to do more to tackle the development challenges there. Others like the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, have raised similar concerns.
On Saturday, Mr El-Rufai urged the 19 northern state governors to work together to tackle the problem.
He also called on the youth to be proud of their culture, tradition, and demographics, which gives the region a very powerful tool to negotiate in politics.
He said in spite of the negative things said about the region, northerners are generally considered to be more honest and less corrupt than other Nigerians.
”You hardly can find someone from northern Nigeria convicted of 419 or being a Yahoo boy. That is something we should be proud of,
”In addition, our demographic superiority gives us a very powerful tool to negotiate in politics. And that is something we should be proud of and we should preserve. So, we have every reason to unite and not be divided.”
The governor called on the youth to stand up to the challenge as future leaders.
”I, therefore, call on you the youth, you account for 80 per cent of the northern population and the future of this region lies in your hands; not in the hands of dinosaurs like me.
“I’m 59 and among the oldest five per cent of the northern population. I shouldn’t even be governor; I should have been governor 10 years ago. But ‘na condition make crayfish bend’, so we are here.”