It is common knowledge to every Nigerian particularly in the south, the relative northern underdevelopment. It is written in the papers, parroted in speeches, expressed in films and in the objective statistics which glares at you wherever you turn. It is common knowledge. This pitiful state of northern affairs is a subject of scorn and, the gleeful telling and retelling of how we got to this point a favourable past time among some of our compatriots. No serious attempt however, is given to the question ‘how the north became so underdeveloped?’
The theory of how we became relatively underdeveloped has become a dogma. It is theorized to be ‘because later leaders betrayed the legacy of Sardauna…engaging in corruption and neglecting education’. All forms of inquiries into this subject must arrive at this conclusion to be regarded with any degree of credibility and validity.
I humbly hold a contrary view from this majority opinion. In fact, I think it is a miracle we survived as a country, despite the acts of commission and omission of our post independence leaders. (Another discussion for another time). The cause of our underdevelopment seems genetically determined in our internal organization of social and economic order in the north (‘How the North Underdeveloped the North’)on one hand and, the socio-economics of the relationship between the north and the south within the Nigerian state on the other (‘How Nigeria underdeveloped the north’). I intend to address the later cause in this paper.
The socio-economic relationship between the nearly 100 million strong north and the nearly 80 million south is one of PRODUCER and CONSUMER in a strange economic interaction where the producer made no profit. The guarantor and enforcer of this unjust economic contraption is the Nigerian state. Thus, the producer is progressively incrementally impoverished while the consumer increases in prosperity.
Southern peoples were relieved from the basic struggles of subsistence (food) by the northern producer, thereby freeing their energies into other endeavours that generates and accumulate wealth. The northern producer not acquiring near value for the worth of his produce, is forced to remain in a state of primitive subsistence. This, in summary, is how Nigeria underdeveloped the north. This underdevelopment is being enforced by the current Federal arrangement which has a strong centre with little devolution of powers and responsibilities.
The need for a solution to the problem is urgent and necessary in the light of the consequences of the northern underdevelopment to the security of the state. Nothing short of giving the northern producer due value for his labours shall solve the northern situation. The only way to achieve this is by radical restructuring of the federal arrangement.
I humbly call for A TOTAL NORTHERN REGIONAL AUTONOMY.
In this arrangement, the taxation system would be totally changed as also the economic relationship with the other regions. The region when formed will be in economic terms immediately a market of about 100 million people and taxable non indigenous traders numbering nearly 10 million! In this entity an estimated $30 billion dollars (N5.7 trillion naira) could be generated through taxes alone without mining any solid or liquid mineral or exportation of any commodity.
HOW TO GENERATE $30 BILLION DOLLARS IN AUTONOMOUS NORTHERN REGION WITHOUT OIL
In 2013, the estimated food and other agricultural exports from the to the south is about 150 billion dollars at a price which is very much below international market.
1. 10% taxation on food export to the south yields 15 billion dollars.
2. 25% income taxation for estimated 10 million non-northerners 5 billion.
3. Taxation of estimated 90 million northerners yield 5 billion.
4. Conversion of 70% northern economic activities into the formal taxable sector yield 5 billion dollars (the technology already exists and only needs adapting).
The above conservative estimates are to answer the question of viability which may be entertained by skeptical northerners addicted to Niger delta oil.
This era of sincere and responsive government affords us a unique opportunity never seen before, where we can hold a genuine national debate. The outcome of which is likely to be implemented. Let us all seize it and correct the anomalies inherent in our federal arrangement. This is the only viable solution to a viable federal republic of Nigeria. One that we can all be proud of.
Dr M. S. Jidda
Senior Lecturer, Department of Mental Health,
University of Maiduguri
MB, BS, FMCPsych, MHPM, Dip. Ed, MSc CAMH (in view)