The Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, has called on religious and political leaders in northern Nigeria to do more in addressing the twin issues of poverty and illiteracy in the region.

At a public function where the monarch spoke on the theme “Promoting investment in the midst of economic challenges,” he appealed to the leaders to secure the future generation by providing more funds for education and healthcare.

“We are in denial. The north-west and the north-east, demographically, constitute the bulk of Nigeria’s population, but look at human development indices, look at the number of children out of school, look at adult literacy, look at maternal mortality, look at infant mortality, look at girl-child completion rate, look at income per capita, the north-east and the north-west Nigeria, are among the poorest parts of the world,” Sanusi said.

Available statistics from Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative showing the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) support the emir’s claims that northern Nigeria, especially the north-west and north-east, are not pulling their weight compared to other parts of Nigeria.

1. South West – 19.3 percent poverty (+ Average)

2. South-South – 25.2 percent poverty (+ Average)

3. South East – 27.36 percent poverty (+ Average)

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*The national average is 46.0 percent poverty

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4. North Central – 45.7 percent poverty (+Average)

5. North East – 76.8 percent poverty (- Average)

6. North West- 80.9 percent poverty (- Average)

Reactions have trailed the Emir’s statement. A former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, believes northern Nigeria needs at least 40 years to catch up with the southern region in terms of educational development. The lack of education that has held back socioeconomic development has been identified as the nest for insecurity in the region heightened by the Boko Haram sect.

“You know the position of educational development in national growth. This is the reason why the North is a troubled child and has never allowed Nigeria to have peace, unity and progress. It is not possible for the northern people with this unequal human capacity to participate actively in their affairs. They will always be the source of trouble,” said Balarabe.

The media attack from northern elites on the emir should be discouraged. The discourse should not be regarded from the traditional or religious point of view or as a match between southern and northern Nigeria over who is better. It is a march to achieve Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

According to the United Nations, Goal 1 calls for an end to poverty in all its manifestations by 2030. It also aims to ensure social protection for the poor and vulnerable, increase access to basic services and support people harmed by climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.

Therefore, the political class should concentrate their energy on making free and compulsory education available to those in the region. This should be captured by adequate budgetary funding for the ministry of education to employ qualified teachers and re-train those on ground. Considering the apathy to western education in preference to Islamic education in some northern state measures that will attract persons of school age should be encouraged. This will help to stifle the supply line for Boko Haram, who have contributed to the increase in poverty levels in the region.

As the SDG suggests, there should be concerted effort to make basic health care, water, electricity and other social amenities available to a large percentage of the population. How else will the people feel the effects of good governance if they cannot enjoy basic amenities?

As effort is made to tackle illiteracy and the dearth of other basic amenities, attention should also be placed on boosting agriculture in the region. There is an abundance of arable land and the capacity to cultivate all year long through its irrigation system. This means that the region can feed the country and even export.

The north needs more voices in the class of the Emir of Kano to provoke positive action in both the leaders and the led. Discontent among the people is gradually beginning to show. The attack on a senator and House of Representatives member from Katsina state at the weekend is a warning sign that people from the region can no longer ignore their leaders and how they are being led.

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