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Nigeria must exist on basis of equality — Northern leaders

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Nigeria must exist on basis of equality — Northern leaders…Reject notion that North is dependent on the South
…It’s a stupid notion, agric sustains Nigeria — Ango Abdullahi
…Debate can affect Nigeria’s unity — John Hayab
…South shouldn’t inflame our fault lines, we produce bulk of the food — Sani
…North never dependent on South! — Mamman Dan Musa

By Ibrahim Hassan Wuyo, Andy Asemota, Umar Yusuf & Femi Bolaji

NORTHERN political and opinion leaders have strongly faulted the suggestion that the North owes its continued existence to the South given the perceived total dependence of Northerners on Southerners for survival.

They dismissed as untenable the argument in some quarters that the strident opposition to calls for the restructuring of Nigeria by Northern leaders was informed by the realisation that the North cannot do without the resources of the South which remain the economic mainstay of the country.

Prominent Northern leaders interviewed by Arewa Voice posited that Nigeria as a federal state must subsist on the basis of equal existence.

It would be recalled that Professor Ango Abdullahi, leader of the Northern Elders Forum, had in an interview described as “stupidity” the notion that the Northern region is dependent on the South for its survival. The former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu  Bello University, ABU, Zaria, had said that although most of the foreign exchange came from the sale of oil, agriculture, majorly done in the North, still remained the sustainer of the country.

Stupid notion — Ango Abdullahi

He said: “No, no, no! That is stupidity because up to this point as I speak to you, it is the North that is sustaining this country because agriculture is still the sustainer of this country. Agriculture contributes …at least 45 percent (of GDP) as I speak to you now, while oil contributes about 13 percent.

“So if you are talking about foreign exchange, money that is earned from outside, most of the foreign exchange comes from the sale of crude oil but the social fabric of Nigeria is sustained by agriculture as I speak to you now.

“So it is sheer stupidity or ignorance, as it were, for people to think that the North is parasitic to the Nigerian state. In fact, it is the state that is today parasitic to the North because without the effort of the peasant farmer in the North, the crisis in Nigeria would have probably taken us to the level of disintegration at this particular point in time.”

Don’t inflame fault lines — Sani

For Anthony Sani, immediate past Secretary-General of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and one time National Publicity Secretary of the forum: “When some people posit that the North depends on the South, I see that as inflaming our fault lines, and wonder the basis and the wisdom of such position. I do not share such views. This is because we are expected to live a symbiotic livelihood.

“Analysis of distribution of access to national resources by way of projects, appointments, employment and major contracts would hardly avoid the conclusion that distribution of access to national resources are skewed against the North. For example, go to any of the federal universities in the North and see how the lecturers and workers are mostly from the South.

“Because of poor level of education, most Northerners are farmers, and in fact, produce the bulk of the foods and meat for the country, while Southerners who have the edge in education have more access to the national resources than their Northern counterparts. The oil wealth which is not as a result of hard work accounts for most of the nation’s foreign exchange needed for importation of goods and services that are undertaken mostly by the Southerners who are the importers.

“Also, the 13 per cent derivation to ameliorate the effects of environmental degradation makes it possible for one oil-producing state to cart home what a whole non oil-producing geopolitical zone collects from the federation account. And when you consider the fact that even though oil has been producing most of the revenues for running of governments, its contribution to GDP is less than that by agriculture mostly undertaken by the North”.

Sani who was also the spokesman of Northern delegates in the 2014 Confab, explained that: “Nigerians should know that nation building is a continuous process, and the fact that in the history of nations, the powerful and the powerless, the rich and the poor, often change places. Jericho did not last forever.”

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Sani, currently a member of the governing council of Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation and a member of Northern Media Forum, also said: “So Nigerians come together and unleash their synergistic potential against collective challenges for larger interest. Mechanism of community living should not be zero-sum game where winners take all. I say this because it is possible for the nation to make the most of the differences with respect and dignity by working hard to overcome what divides the people. No nation thrives through victory of its faction but by ultimate reconciliation.”

Unholy debate — Hayab

On his own part, Rev John Joseph Hayab, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in Kaduna State said that the provision of the Nigerian Constitution and the current practice in Nigeria do not give a region the power to say the other region was depending on her. He told Arewa Voice that “economically, we all get our funds from the federal allocation, even though some other regions get some more percentage of the derivation from the federal allocation, but it is from the same source and on the same day.

“Every part of Nigeria has something she brings to the table for others to benefit. The regions may not bring an equal amount to the central treasury but that is why we are a federation. Discussing if the North was dependent on the South for survival if not done from a mature mind, carefully, can only add to the unholy debates which have served to destroy our unity as a nation.

Selfish regional champions

“Some questions that may beg for answers will include: before Nigeria found oil, what was Nigeria’s source of income? Has the North or other regions ever contributed to the national economy and are they still contributing to the national economy? Mishandling of such a subject by many selfish regional champions has made them use it to create unnecessary tension in their region about who owns this nation and who is feeding who.

“The simple answer here is that ‘yes the North is not dependent on the South and as a unit in this federation, the North is contributing power supply, food, through agriculture, and most importantly her human resources which is the greatest strength for the survival of our national assets and the stability of our economy.

“Accordingly, our federal system supports and allows rich people to build factories and industries in every part of this country. Rich Northerners have factories everywhere, giving citizens job opportunities without sectional biases and that builds and sustains the economy.”

Hayab said given the above points, “no part of the federation should be seen as being dependent on the other, instead, citizens should see themselves as people with equal rights and opportunities, building a verile and endurable nation”.

Second Republic Deputy Senate President and a founding member of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Senator Mamman Dan Musa, also lambasted those proposing or supporting the notion that the North can’t survive if Nigeria is restructured. The elder statesman and veteran lawyer declared that contrary to the belief that the North is dependent on the South, the North is equally endowed as the South. Dan Musa said: “For us, really it is nonsense for anybody to think that the North can’t survive without the oil (from in the South). No! It’s false; there are so many things in favour of the North. It’s only a question of responsible leadership but we have so many things that if we are focused, hardworking and have visionary leadership, certainly it will not be a question of dependence. No! They should know that we have resources, we have land; we have so many things in our favour.”

‘North, South depend on each other’

In his reaction, former Executive Secretary, Petroleum Tax Development Fund, PTDF, Dr. Muttaqa Rabe Darma, said that no particular region, society or even individual is an island unto itself that it can survive on its own and not interact with others. “The North and South are interconnected, interdependent on one another; but on the other hand, if you’re talking about if there is no South, for example, the North cannot survive, then I will tell you no; it’s capital NO!” he further explained.

There’s symbiotic relationship — Abu

Chief Joshua Abu, an elder statesman and former Executive Director with the National Orientation Agency, NOA, in Abuja said the relationship between the North and South in terms of resources is symbiotic. He stated that first and foremost, it is even wrong to generalise the entire South as there are South-East, South-West and the South-South that produces the oil.

“If the South-South is claiming the North is a parasite on the region, that region should ask itself what were the sources of Nigeria’s revenue before the discovery of oil at Oloibiri in the present Bayelsa State in 1965? What was the significance of oil before its discovery and exploration by the Shell Oil? What revenue did Nigeria use to fund oil exploration?” Chief Abu quipped.

He explained that before the discovery of oil, groundnut, hides and skin, cotton, among other products, were the major revenue earners for the country. While stressing that oil discovery and exploration has been the major bane of Nigeria’s under- development Abu maintained that all the regions of the country complement each other in terms resources.

‘It’s derogatory to call North parasite’

Another respondent, Dr. Stephen Manza, the Catholic Bishop of Yola opined that to say the North is a parasite on the South is more or less derogatory as Nigeria is made-up of states and regions and all the resources belong to all. He said regions or states cannot have equal endowment of resources, but that it is left for the leaders to ensure that the resources are harnessed for the benefit of all.

Mamza, who doubles as the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN Adamawa State Chapter, was quick to add that what the North is getting from the South is commensurate with what is going out of the North to the region. “So, if you are talking of parasites, both regions are parasites of each other”.

‘Develop agric and wipe away the notion’

A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Taraba State, Andeta’rang Irammae said: “There are several arguments about the distribution of national wealth, and I am sure the South-South is part of Nigeria. Before the discovery of oil, the country had relied on several national endowments from different parts of the country.

“The South-West had cocoa and the North had groundnut, but the discovery of crude oil in the South-South has further diversified our economy, though those economic resources from other parts of the country were not giving us as much as what we got from crude oil when it was discovered. However, the sentiment of the South-South is not out of place because the development of that area is not proportionate to what is being extracted from there.

“In an ideal society and economy, they were supposed to be given certain consideration over and above other parts. Besides, our relationship economically is supposed to be symbiotic, and not parasitic. This we can do by making other sectors of the economy more viable than they are today so that the man in the South-South shouldn’t have that sentiment that it is only his area that is being exploited, and the North and South-West are only feeding on the resources because that is the impression now.

“But, if we give attention to agriculture and proper exploitation of other natural resources, that sentiment won’t be peddled.”


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