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Northern Nigeria’s governance paradox: In search of late Sardauna of Sokoto

By Alhaji Adamu Rabiu   Introduction As we gaze upon the sprawling and vast expanse of Northern Nigeria, it’s essential to delve into its rich…

By Alhaji Adamu Rabiu



As we gaze upon the sprawling and vast expanse of Northern Nigeria, it’s essential to delve into its rich historical tapestry, cultural heritage, and endowed natural resources to understand the roots of its contemporary challenges. A region formed through a confluence of diverse cultures, traditions, and histories, it emerged as a bastion of resilience and unity, guided by visionary leaders who envisioned a future of prosperity and solidarity in the 1960s.

The meeting of Forum of the 19 Northern States’ Governors, which concluded on April 30, 2024, in Kaduna, has left many observers reflecting on the stark contrast between the region’s potential and its realities as it grapples with unfolding and troubling saga of mismanagement and neglect at the hands of its governors, who are encircled within incompetent appointees, with some based on their lack lustre sojourn thus far do not have any business being astride the seat of governance of their states.

The 19 Northern states governors, each entrusted with the welfare, prosperity and security of its people, have allowed the region to languish in a quagmire of insecurity, kidnapping, economic stagnation, unemployment, poor infrastructure, industrial decline and educational turmoil etc.

The noble legacy

The legacy of Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Tafawa Balewa, resonates through the annals of time, epitomizing a leadership ethos rooted in sacrifice, selflessness, and patriotism. Their stewardship during Nigeria’s formative years laid the groundwork for a region poised to embrace its destiny as a beacon of progress. Alas and sadly that isn’t yet to be.

However, as we navigate the labyrinth of Northern Nigeria’s current governance, a stark departure from this noble legacy unveils where the governors remain cocooned in a realm of political expediency. Their myopic focus on electoral gains, unashamed and naïve support of a certain governor over the wanton pillage of his state resources by his predecessor and certain vendettas with predecessors speaks volumes.

The comparative advantage

The land size of the 19 Northern States including Abuja (the FCT) is 662,497 km² roughly 71.7%   of the total Nigerian land mass of 923,768 km², this is quite a significant portion of land.

The Northern States are known for Cash Crops that can be harnessed for cash and Food Crops production such as Ginger, Groundnut, Soya bean, Sesame seed, Cotton, Beans, Rice, Maize, Cowpea, Sorghum, Yams, Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Onions, to mention a few.  Indeed, the famous ground nut pyramid rings a bell.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)- Foreign Trade Report for Q1 2021 and Food and Agricultural Report (FAO) and quoted by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and other reports highlights the following mouth-watering figures:

  1. Sesame Seed – Nigeria (the North) is 3rd in the world with an estimated export value of NGN41.94 billion in Q1 2021 and exported sesame seeds valued at NGN98.27 billion in 2020.
  2. Groundnut- Nigeria (The North) is 3rd in the world with 4.49 million metric tons in 2020.

iii.           Soybeans – Nigeria (the North) is the highest in Africa with an export value of NGN1.72 billion.

  1. Ginger – Nigeria (the North) accounts for 40% of the global ginger production while the sum of NGN5.57 billion was generated from its export in 2021.

Additionally, Northern Nigeria is endowed with minerals like cassiterite, manganese, iron, chromium, nickel, columbite, and gold.

Inefficient governance, insecurity, high cost of agricultural inputs, lack of modern storage facilities exacerbated by the lack of agricultural support and fair pricing for farmers have contributed to put the region in a Catch-22 situation.

Certainly, the Theory of Comparative Advantage is lost on the GOVERNORS.

No strategic focus nor coordination

The Northern Governors Forum nor the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics nor the Security Agencies have an all-encompassing and comprehensible data in respect to the insecurity, banditry, kidnapping ,killings etc that have plagued the region for a number of years but a recent report form  The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – Country Office Annual Report 2021  for Nigeria has this to say  “There were 25 attacks on schools, 1,440 children were abducted, and 16 children killed, resulting in the closure of 618 schools in six Northern states. Also, the Nigerian economy has lost about USD$100 billion over the last ten years. Furthermore, over 2 million people currently remain displaced, and around 1 million children have missed school due to the armed conflict.’’

While Aljazeera reported in June 2021 that “The 12-year-old conflict in northeast Nigeria has resulted in the deaths of approximately 350,000 people, with the vast majority being children under the age of five., with an average of 170 children dying every day due to the violence and its indirect effects, such as lack of access to food, health facilities, shelter, and clean water. The UNDP has warned that if the conflict continues, the death toll could rise to more than 1.1 million by 2030.

It’s a dire situation and the ongoing violence continues to have a profound impact on the region’s development and the lives of its people.

Yet, Despite the enormity of these challenges, the collective response articulated by the 19 Northern States Governors Forum at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House deliberations is at best TEPID, lacking the urgency and innovation required to address the complexities of these crisis rendering their efforts to combat it ineffective.

The failure to forge a united front, the absence of a collaborative spirit to foster peace and brotherhood among citizens is palpable, the apparent lack of coordination among the governors undermines efforts to combat the scourge of banditry, insurgency, and kidnapping and imperils the lives of millions ,destroy the economy of the region and also erodes the social fabric that binds communities together leaving many to yearn for the unity and vision once championed by the revered figure of  Gamji dan Kwarai.

The bureaucratic inertia

The Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), envisioned as a catalyst for regional development, economic revitalization and tasked with spearheading the region’s strategic objectives appears to be in a state of inertia, devoid of strategic objectives or a cohesive vision for progress.

With the governors resolving only to consider a report on its restructuring at their next meeting. This stands as a testament for a lack of vision for regional advancement, additionally, this slow pace stands in contrast to the urgent need for strategic objectives that could usher in a new era of prosperity for the region.

The U.S.A. jamboree

The 10 governors’ recent April visit for the Symposium on Peace and Security, hosted by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), intended as a capacity building exercise, is under scrutiny here. The trip is a mere diversion, a missed opportunity rather than a step towards tangible solutions and did not yield OUR expected outcomes with the end result being a mere “commitment to apply the lessons learned in their respective states”.

That trip should have been to seat with the Home Land Security Outfit to LEARN and to come back and IMPLEMENT best practices in COUNTERING Home Land Terrorism. What a wasted effort!

The Predicament of the Exclave Called Abuja

Not withstanding the status of Abuja as the FCT, based on history, customs, traditions, terrain, etc, it should be given an Observer Status in the Forum of the 19 or is the Exclave now a Bastard?

Just a thought!


Alhaji Adamu Rabiu write from Kaduna


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