I think he got things wrong and needs to be quickly corrected. It is very important to correct this assertion so that some non-discerning elements from the South will not start jumping up and dancing. They will be as profoundly delusional as the elephant, who was about to be made king of the jungle, where the lion had set a trap with his chief adviser, the tortoise…


I love reading my friend, Mallam El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State. You may not always agree with him. You may not like his style. Some even think he talks too much. But here is a man who is passionate about Nigeria, and about governance. He fears no foe and he says and does what he believes in.

I prefer him to the caterwauling princes who pretend to be concerned about advancing the cause of the people but are always thinking of the next election and the next appointment. These are those a friend of mine refers to as the “kids without the whiz”. They abound in our land, El-Rufai is different.

Hence, when El-Rufai talks, we must pay heed. To this end, I’m worried about the statement made recently by El-Rufai about two Nigerias; one, the backward North and second, the developing south.

I think he got things wrong and needs to be quickly corrected. It is very important to correct this assertion so that some non-discerning elements from the South will not start jumping up and dancing. They will be as profoundly delusional as the elephant, who was about to be made king of the jungle, where the lion had set a trap with his chief adviser, the tortoise, on a throne set atop a massive hole; a o merin jo ba!

It is a fallacy to say that the South is developing. Every part of Nigeria is at best yearning for development. At worst we have a profound reality, an uneven pace of development across states around which Nigeria has been divided since 1967.

See, it may be high time we stop analysing Nigeria within the spectrum of the North and South protectorates, because that regional divide ceased on January 1, 1914. Nigeria, since 1967, has been a nation of states; some state being lucky, every now and then, to be blessed with great administrators like Baba Jakande in Lagos or Chief Ajasin in Ondo, or Ahmed Tinubu and his golden team in Lagos in a more recent era.

What becomes obvious on deeper analysis, is that discounting for historical advantages secured between 1952 to 1966 with regional governments in place across Nigeria, what emerges is a nation deeply united by bad governance, dipping poverty index and quality of outcomes.

We have one large underdeveloped country, which calls for the attention of all of us, be it North or South.

El-Rufai’s assertions might have been true some twenty to thirty years ago, with the advantages that the South secured in pre-independence governance. I can write a book to put a lie to that assertion now, on the basis of facts that I know.

I have traveled around this country, North and South. I have seen things for myself. I am therefore not talking from the prism of one who sits in Washington and the Western capitals and comes up with some fake indicators. I know and I can assert that the neglect of many years has come to haunt both the North and the South.

I am from the South-West. That part, which I know so well, is living on past glory. Today, education in the South-West is growing in quantity and not quality. The products, rather than portending hope for the future, are largely lethal to the health of society. Just go to Facebook and see the quality of the grammar these products of neo-South-West education express daily on the platform. It truly will sadden everyone or anyone.

I come from Ekiti, which is largely, in conventional wisdom, regarded as the bastion of education in the South-West. The myth abroad is that every household can boast of one or two professors. While this may have been true in the past, it unfortunately no longer rings true. Here is a State in which a governor used to encourage “miracle examination centres” for students, with invigilators bribed to look away so that the students could cheat and top the educational league table of States.

Lets leave education and go into food production. Or do I say agricultural production. Most of the food consumed in the South today are produced by the North. The youth down here are no longer encouraged to farm. Where there is some modicum of farming going on, it is done by the Igbiras of Kogi, the Igedes of Benue State and the young farmers from Benin Republic.


This produces, at the end of the day, a high percentage of performance and rating for the State, which is subsequently celebrated by the governor, whose perfunctory attempt at caring is a careless head faked to excellence and a perpetual ode to mediocrity!

Now the products of that appalling situation are out of school and are being recruited into “yahoo yahoo” and “yahoo plus” as they are called. Parents are now known to look for money to buy laptops for their wards to engage in this despicable business of scamming others. What a country!

Contrast this with the thousands of students sent out on scholarship by Northern governors to some of the good schools abroad yearly, a policy akin to that of China that has made major leaps by learning or stealing from the accomplishments of western nations.

As such, Southerners, let no one deceive you that you are developing. You’re living on past glory!

Lets leave education and go into food production. Or do I say agricultural production. Most of the food consumed in the South today are produced by the North. The youth down here are no longer encouraged to farm. Where there is some modicum of farming going on, it is done by the Igbiras of Kogi, the Igedes of Benue State and the young farmers from Benin Republic. Travel through Benue to any surrounding state, and you will encounter a gang of youth with cutlasses in hand and hoes hanging on their shoulders, joyously heading to the farm. Now we have Benue yam, oranges, mango, cashew, etc.

Contrast this with a trip from Kabba and go through Ondo or Ekiti and head towards Lagos, and you will see villages all the way, where young and able-bodied men are playing table tennis and other sports at 11.00 a.m. or filling pot holes, while begging for money from travelers. This cannot be progress.

The beef we consume, the tomatoes, the yam, the beans, the water melon, the goats for our pepper soup are grown or reared by peasant farmers and transported to the South.

The average Southerner now wants an office job, and there are not enough of these to go around! In vast areas of our land, young people roam the streets with bottles filled up with codeine and hard drugs, when they grow despondent and as they are dangerously educated.

In the past four years, there has been a near revolution in agricultural production and processing in the North. The landscape of Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto and many other Northern states have been turned into huge plantations of wheat, rice, and sugarcane. This is being followed up with huge processing plants put in place by the private sector in collaboration with the Central Bank.

These programmes were on willing state, willing partner basis. After all, the CBN governor is Igbo and we cannot claim discrimination here. Over N300 billion has been disbursed through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) was originally capitalised to the tune of $500 million to work with states that have leadership and the capacity to engage.

Jigawa is going heavily into red goat rearing with the goal of processing their hides for the consumption of the world’s animal skin markets, which has hitherto been dominated by Morocco. Cash trees are being planted by the forward-looking governor of Jigawa, who has seen that the market for both hard and soft wood in China is limitless. He got the idea when he attended a meeting where deforestation and illegal lumbering were discussed. Instead of digging in against loggers, he volunteered to plant more trees for collective prosperity!

In Kaduna, where Mallam El-Rufai governs, the biggest animal feed plant in Africa was commissioned two years ago. Just imagine the spin-off effect on grain farmers across the North. In healthcare, his State has been the largest recipient of aid from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as Kaduna’s primary healthcare system is being transformed.

El-Rufai knows the truth. He is too clever not to. I think he may be saying what he said to ginger his brother governors to do more for their people or was at best humouring our people for political advantage. Least, of course, and very unlikely was that he sought to lure the South of the country to a fealse sense of accomplishment.


This is even as only a small glitch which will soon be resolved will ensure that Kaduna State gets the cheapest ever loan from World Bank to transform her schools. Of course, this is after the governor bravely reformed the school system by sacking fake teachers and employing more real ones!

El-Rufai knows the truth. He is too clever not to. I think he may be saying what he said to ginger his brother governors to do more for their people or was at best humouring our people for political advantage. Least, of course, and very unlikely was that he sought to lure the South of the country to a fealse sense of accomplishment.

For four years, the Buhari administration advertised her anchor borrowers’ programme in agriculture. Let us ask how many Southern governors took advantage of this programme? The Ministry of Agriculture, under the same government, came up with a cocoa farm renewal programme. No enthusiasm was shown for this. Instead we had a fellow, whose best idea was to cultivate marijuana for export. Good luck.

A friend of mine visited a government agent in charge of this programme last week. What he told him was depressing. “Why are your governments so disinterested in this programme that would have been of benefit to your people?”, was the question he raised that requires answers from our governors.

Travel around the South and see the army of youth who are unemployed. Yes, there is a similar army in the North as well, but the values, even in their deprivation, are different. Northern unemployment numbers are also seasonal, according to NIBSS, rising in the dry season due to the lack of irrigable lands. That is not even going to last forever, as various programmes to revive the River Basins are ongoing and the employment number up North will stabilise.

I have journeyed around the country with people of power. Wherever we have been, we have been mobbed by the youth. While the Northern variants shout, “Sai Baba”, the South variants shout, “give us the money”. The eyes of the latter are bloodshot, their teeth discoloured and reeking of drugs – enough to get one high. Their sense of entitlement is legendary. When you try to pacify them by offering them the change in your pocket, they throw it back at you saying: “this is not our money.” Before you know it, they are throwing rocks at your convoy. This was my experience as we travelled around the South-West during the last election. I was ashamed.

Yet our governors live in affluence, appointing several assistants with no defined or productive functions. All they are after is making money from government. This for me is not an indicator of development. We have too many gods, rather than governors. This may not sound pleasant to some of my friends who are governors. My apologies. I am saying this because it time we must say the truth to ourselves. It is kidnapping and banditry we are seeing now. If we don’t take actions, rebellion may knock on the door.

Young men and women who should be employed after their half-baked education are unemployable. Even after massive cheating schemes, South-West states still continue to underperform in standardised tests done in Nigeria. At last count, Abia and Anambra led in 2018, while Oyo, Osun and Ogun were below the national average. Add to the fact that the gap in education is inevitably closing. While in 1990, the North had 14 universities, the South had 27. Today that number is 58 and 102 respectively. This is a 414 per cent versus a 370 per cent improvement. Slowly but surely.

In poverty ranking, while the impact of a more diversified economy is felt in lower poverty rates, the South-West especially continues to house the highest numbers of the urban poor, who continue to depend on welfare from remittances to stay afloat. Poverty better measured in the number of people living their best life, will reveal a very different measure I suppose.

In the ease of doing business category that measures current governance, Kaduna was the leader, followed by Enugu, while South-Western states lagged behind at last 10 positions, with Oyo and Osun States struggling for last position with Nasarawa State. It is horrible. It is bad. Our governors are now demi-gods. They will rather do business with themselves or the Lebanese, than with Nigerians, and they have infused the system with frustrated businessmen who rather take their monies elsewhere.

Truth is, a fair comparison will reveal that we are jostling for a position among laggards. Let our governors, both in the North and the South, come up and reassess themselves and govern in the true sense of the word. The accoutrements of power is so much than the responsibilities involved. They should begin to do away with the meretricious and opt for the things that will uplift their people. They should not abandon their role to the omnibus federal government.

Nigeria as a whole cries for development, not a part as expostulated by my dear friend, Governor El-Rufai. The devil is in the details. We must rise up and demand good governance across board.

Babafemi Ojudu is the former special adviser, political matters, to the president, and aide to his excellency, the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.