•Reaction to ‘The North has already destroyed itself (2)’
By Sanusi Maiwada
I wish to register my total disagreement with the half-truths and innuendos presented by columnist Dele Sobowale. He prides himself as a well educated economist who has been contributing to economic matters for well over four decades. Yet, he flaunted not only inaccurate figures but also deliberately manipulated data to incite the gullible public in southern Nigeria. He has so far made two series under this obnoxious heading and is primed to go the long haul if he is not stopped in his tracks.
Let me begin by exposing some of the wrong information in his diatribe. The North of Nigeria is not a parasite and will never be. From historical times, this region has had agriculture as the main occupation of its people. We remember, with nostalgic feelings, the famous groundnut pyramid, the cotton belts of some northern provinces and the revenue generated by the colonial government which provided the seed capital for oil exploration in the defunct Eastern Region of the country. A region so steeped in the provision of the most basic needs of man cannot be said to be a parasite. If we had had sound political and economic leaders since independence, the North would by now be feeding the entire African continent.
For the purpose of illustration, I will narrate my experience going to Enugu from Abuja. Anyone familiar with the route from Abuja, through Ajaokuta to Otukpa and then on to Nsukka and 9th Mile, will know that it takes nearly 10hrs to get to Enugu because of bad road. In a distance of about 83kms between Otukpa and Enugu, I lost count of the number of trucks conveying cattle, goats, onion, tomato, beans, sweet potato, Irish potato and many other agricultural produce from the North to the South-East. Remember, these are locally produced items and not some imported luxury goods using dollars purchased from the CBN. Pray, what does the South-West produce that compares in economic importance to what comes from the North?
Mr. Sobowale misfired again by showing a wrong table for the zonal allocation of the $22. 7 billion loan being sourced by the Federal Government. One big error is the grouping of Taraba State as part of the North Central. The Mambilla hydroelectric power project, which has an allocation of about $5 billion, is in the north eastern part of the country. Therefore, it is preposterous to assert that the North-East has lost in the ‘Bonanza’, a cruel and mischievous attempt to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. It is noteworthy, however, that projects are located and prioritized based on needs assessment. Nation building is a continuous process. Therefore, no nation starts the construction of all necessary projects at once due to paucity of funds.
Another gross failure in the columnist’s presentation is the notion that the South-West is only benefitting $200 million from the loan. This is also not true. The Lagos to Kano railway project costing over $5 billion will run through Ibadan, Ilorin, Minna, Kaduna, Zaria and then on to Kano. Already, the Lagos to Ibadan section has been completed. Mr. Sobowale was not fair and objective enough to tell his largely southern audience that a railway line, just like any other means of transportation, has a starting point and a terminus. The North has had to endure the blatant injustice of not starting this project from both Lagos and Kano ends. He never bothered to address an issue like this which speeds up the execution of projects because it is not his people that are at the receiving end.
Finally, Mr Sobowale insinuated that the South will shoulder 80% of the loan repayment burden. I do not know how he came about this. Perhaps, this man should give us a detailed explanation of how this is going to happen. The oil in the Delta does not belong to only the people of the Niger Delta or the South. I believe this issue was settled a long time ago, that all mineral resources found within the boundary of a country belongs to each and every citizen of that country. Thank goodness, the value of the black gold is falling. We shall soon see who the real parasite is.
I do not support President Buhari’s government policy of political exclusion. It is grossly unfair to treat the South-East of Nigeria as an outcast. It would have been a game changer if the President had embraced the region like others despite not voting for him in 2015. The opposition against his re-election from the region in 2019 would not have been as fierce. But with his insensitive attitude to the region, the people are right to continue to oppose him. I sincerely hope that a redress will be made to bring everyone on board. It is not too late.
In conclusion, I think it is time to hold a Sovereign National Conference, Restructuring or whatever kind of gathering we desire to thrash out some lingering sociopolitical problems our country has been facing. It is pretty clear that our country is not yet a nation. There have been so many misconception, misinformation, falsehood and injustice perpetrated either deliberately or otherwise against many parts of the country. Virtually every section feels marginalized and abandoned one way or the other. Citizens like Mr Sobowale who have the opportunity to shape public opinion should be very careful and use their pen for the benefit of all.
•Maiwada can be reached via email@example.com