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He said this on Saturday in Kaduna at the Northern Youth Summit themed: “Awakening the Arewa Spirit” and organised by Northern Hibiscus, a non-governmental organisation.
“Looking at the statistics, Nigeria appears to be a middle income country. But, if we segregate those statistics across states and zones, you will see that, in terms of human development indicators, Nigeria consists of two countries; there is a backward, less educated and unhealthy northern Nigeria, and a developing, largely educated and healthy southern Nigeria,” the governor said during his address.
He said northern Nigeria has development indicators similar to war-torn Afghanistan and the bulk of poor people and out-of-school children in Nigeria are from the region.
“Northern Nigeria has become the centre of drug abuse, gender violence, banditry, kidnapping and terrorism. We have also been associated with high divorce rate and breakdown of families. These are the challenges that confront us. This is the naked truth that we have to tell ourselves,” he said.
He urged leaders in the North to have conversations about the challenges, and deliberate on solutions “because increasingly, as many of you must have seen on social media, we are being considered as the parasite of the federal economy.”
“Even though, that is not entirely true,” he added, “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.
“We are generally considered to be more honest and less corrupt than other Nigerians. 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.”
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that of the top 15 states in Nigeria on the 2017 Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) ranking, only three are from the northern region: Kano, Kaduna, and Kwara, which occupy the 5th, 6th, and 10th positions respectively.
Likewise, among the 15 states that generate the least revenue according to the ranking, only three, Ekiti, Ebonyi and Osun, are from the sourthern region. The rest are northern states.
The State of the Nigerian Children report of 2015 also reveals lower performance in the northern region when it comes to the wellbeing of young Nigerians.
All 18 states that top the ranking for places with most stunted children are in the north. All 16 states with the highest percentage of children with no early childhood education are from the region. And all 10 states with the least percentage of children with no birth registration are from northern states. The same pattern is observable on various other rankings as well.
A 2016 report of the World Bank titled Poverty Reduction in Nigeria in the Last Decade, confirms that, while Nigeria may the world’s poverty capital, states in the northern region have a far greater population of poor residents.
“The states in the North East and the North West are the poorest states,” states the report, “while the states in the South West and the South-South show the lowest poverty rates. Five states display an exception to this general rule: Ebonyi, Enugu, Cross River, Gombe, and Sokoto.”