Data published in 2017 by the National Bureau of Statistics revealed a huge and very disturbing gap in the literacy index between Southern and Northern Nigeria.
These statistics showed that only 7.23% of the entire population of Yobe may be regarded as literate; the lowest of our National literacy index. The statistics further puts Zamfara at 19.16%; Katsina10.36%; Sokoto 15.01%; Bauchi 19.26%; Kebbi 20.51%; and Niger 22.88% respectively. Only Taraba remains an interesting exception with a 72% literacy rate.
Whereas, Imo state, in Southern Nigeria, is pegged at 96.43% – the highest in the entire country. This is then followed by Lagos 96.30%; Ekiti 95.79%; Rivers 95.76%; Abia 94.24; Anambra 92.11%; Osun 90.57%; Edo 90.53%; Enugu 89.46%; and Cross River 89%.
Also, a different report by Premium Times in 2018 puts Nigeria’s out-of-school children at 13.2 million–the highest in the world, with the North being home to the highest population of out-of-school children at 69%.
In the South, these out-of-school children are your regular child cultists like Awawa boys and One Million Boys that terrorize our streets and neighborhoods. They are the ones who grow up to be ritualists and brutal cultists that are used by politicians to foment violence and steal ballot boxes.
On the other side of the North, they are the ones that are readily available to kill in the name of God. They are the prospective candidates for extremist groups like Boko Haram, bandits, ISWAP, and all sort of terrorist groups taking over the North.
With the statistics above, one can understand why more Northern Muslims will readily defend the senseless lynching of Deborah compared to their Southern pairs. Even the majority of the few literates and handful of educated individuals can easily become prisoners to what sociologists described as the bandwagon effect, or simply be intimidated to silence in the face of thriving extremist views.
Meanwhile, another statistic published in 2019 places the poverty index of the North at an average of 56.8% far behind their Southern counterpart at 18.9%. Sadly, Sokoto State where Deborah was lynched for “insulting” Prophet Muhammad ranks worst at 87.73%. Its 15.01% literacy index is surpassed only by Yobe’s 7.23% and Katsina’s 10.36%. It wasn’t much of a surprise that Sokoto was unable to register a single candidate for the just concluded West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). And that Islamic extremism thrives in this state should not appear as unexpected.
The North ranking terribly in the literacy index is enough justification for the prevalent backwardness in thought patterns. And when you add the intimidating poverty index obtainable in the region, relative to their Southern pairs, you will not be in doubt as to the reason an average Northerner will easily buy into teachings that guarantee him paradise he had been denied on earth by an irresponsible government.
There is however another insightful twist to these statistics that helps puts things in clearer perspectives.
Nigeria’s ruling class is generally wicked, greedy, manipulative, and highly insensitive, but the ruling elites of the North are exceptionally crude. The elites of that region preside over a completely conquered territory.
It is very sad that the North, despite receiving more federal allocation than their Southern counterparts, the region still ranks relatively worst – no thanks to the manner with which the Northern elites mindlessly loot these allocations and cover their crimes with huge Babariga. For instance, of the over 10.2trillion naira allocated to the 774 local governments across the country between 2007 and 2016, Northern states have received over 50% of these allocations with absolutely nothing to show for it.
In 2016, the total statutory amount allocated by the Federal Government to Imo State, which records the highest literacy level of 96.43%, was N29.85billion. Yobe State, with a population twice as less as Imo State continues to rank worst despite receiving more allocation to the tune of 30.95 billion naira.
This is a very horrible situation no doubt. Bad enough to make the best of us commit the blunder Chimamanda Adichie described as ‘’Danger Of a Single Story’’. While we can admit that the situation is critically bad, it is equally not irredeemable. Neither is it in any way hopeless.
Despite the difficulty in maintaining liberal thoughts and progressive views, there have been individuals that have and continue to risk their lives to organize and speak against the ruling class barbarism in the North, and the entire country: right from the days when the military demobilized public education through the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) — these were the times’ students of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria took the frontline in organizing against the Babangida’s junta in 1986 – to 2016, when Kano reacted swiftly in protest against an increase in fuel price at a time the entire country was still sold off to the illusion of some non-existent integrity of the fraudulent Buhari administration. Even labor was yet to call for action at the time citizens of this Northern part of the country had begun occupying the streets. And when the NLC eventually called a strike and mass protests, compliance was incredibly low in a state like Lagos – partly due to a general distrust for organized labor, and majorly because Lagos state like most others was still in a mood of honeymoon with the relatively new regime. This is not surprising as those who window-dressed and packaged the incompetent dictator, and robed him in apparel of integrity were the so-called intellectuals from the South, majorly residents of the commercial city of Lagos.
Aside from the 2016 resistance in Kano, there have also been numerous protests against the regime over insecurity and the incompetence of the Buhari regime in different parts of the North including, Niger, Kano, Yobe, Adamawa, Katsina, Abuja, and even Sokoto.
For instance, the nationwide protest called by the Coalition for Revolution on the 1st of October, 2020 recorded participation from eleven Northern states out of the entire twenty-three states where the action happened.
It is the same for the June 12 protest against the dictatorship of the regime in 2021. Some may however throw up arguments that the protests in this instance barely parade a hundred people on the street of the North. But again, aside from places like Lagos, Abuja, Edo, Ondo, and Osun with a rich history of activism, there is hardly any part of the South that commanded the street presence of more than a hundred. Hence, It wasn’t much of a surprise that even during EndSARS, the protest was the hottest in these states with a rich history of organizing and activism. Interestingly, the EndSARS protest was equally massive in the Northeast, Taraba, and Plateau states in the Northcentral, with women taking a lead and courageous role in Jos.
The tragic lynching of Deborah in Sokoto opened floodgates of barbaric views. But while there had been many Northerners who echoed backward thoughts justifying Deborah’s violent murder, there were also others, progressives, pseudo progressives, Moslems, and Imams in the North who spoke up. Even people like the popular Digital Imam and the chief Imam at the pro-sharia Zamfara state condemned this barbarism and expressed some progressive thoughts.
So, beyond the emotional outburst and narrow perception of the North, it is rather important to direct our anger properly–not against the mass of hungry, impoverished, and enslaved victims in the North, but against a very cruel ruling elite that has for decades, kept their mind, soul and body in perpetual socio-economic bondage.
That the oppressed people of Southern Nigeria are better off fighting to secede from the Northern backwardness is debatable. But the question proponents of secession are yet to answer is the possibility of secession of the South without first defeating Nigeria’s ruling class, who as a matter of fact, isn’t only powerfully organized across all regions but are equal beneficiaries of the Nigerian enterprise, irrespective of ethno-religious differences.
Accordingly, should the demand for secession depend on defeating the entire Nigerian ruling class, is it not somewhat rational for the more organized and educated Southern masses to join the great effort by the few educated progressives in the North to defeat this entire class of thieves and rogues?
I strongly agree with the general view that our country is in dire need of a re-discussion. And this discussion must involve whether to continue to exist as one or to part ways. But we will not have the opportunity to reach this critical milestone if we do not first clear the anti-people roadblocks who are beneficiaries of the enterprise named Nigeria. #WeCantContinueLikeThis