Of the 36 Nigerian states, Nasarawa came first with 30 per cent of its total budget going to education, followed by Kano State at 25.32 per cent; Sokoto State, 24 per cent; Oyo State, 22.2 per cent; and Yobe State, 21.2 per cent. The reason this is the spectacular news is that the four northern states in the list had not performed as brilliantly on the ranking of literacy rates among Nigerian states only three years ago.


The first part of this column received strong responses. This, from one of my many articulate readers, is typical: “Thanks for the piece. Speak to Lagosians, the majority don’t share this assessment about their state. I will say the same for Kaduna. Innovation and morbid disregard for human life are not compatible.”

Another insightful reader wondered why Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State was not included: “Good article but you didn’t mention Wike who has done so much for his state? Thanks”

I had one general response to these great comments and questions. It was that I used two words in the column to define what to include – ‘best’ and ‘practice’. After some email give and take, my readers, including those not quoted here, agreed with me that the range of behaviour of most states includes the good, the bad, and the extremely wrong; although one of them still insisted unsuccessfully that “The article will need to put the disclaimer!”

I promised to celebrate more Nigerian innovation states with ‘best practice’ in education, support for research, or business creation. But because I underestimated the problems with getting the data to implement the pledge, I am afraid this part 2 may not end with a drumroll.

Trustworthy data on each variable from most of the 36 states of the federation were difficult to come by. The most relatively credible statistics were finally found for the majority of states on allocations to education from the total budget of each state.

Nigeria is notorious for planning without facts, as the Viennese academic, Wolfgang Stolper observed about 50 years ago in the book, Planning without Facts: Lessons in Resource Allocation from Nigeria’s Development. In the case of the majority of our states, data collected over some years on the proportions of states’ investments in education, research, or business creation were nowhere to be found.

Lagos and Rivers that shared the first five positions on the literacy level with Imo and Ekiti just three years ago, were respectively 26th and 17th in percentage budgetary allocations to education in their states in 2020… However, the take away from all of these remains the high level of seriousness with which the northern states of Nasarawa, Kano, Sokoto and Yobe have taken education in this year’s budget.


However, this year’s allocations to education were available from the websites of a majority of the states. For each state, the datum is expressed as a percentage of the total budget to help us understand better the place of education in the priority list of each state government, beyond the rhetoric of voluble politicians.

Take the beautiful state of Cross River. Its Ministry of Education was renamed Quality Education Ministry, a flamboyant labeling straight from Sustainable Development Goal number 4 but in reality, it allocated a stingy 3.5 per cent of the total budget to education. Cheap quality! How can you ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education’ for all as required by SDGs number 4 on such a patent disregard for education? But here’s the good news.

Of the 36 Nigerian states, Nasarawa came first with 30 per cent of its total budget going to education, followed by Kano State at 25.32 per cent; Sokoto State, 24 per cent; Oyo State, 22.2 per cent; and Yobe State, 21.2 per cent. The reason this is the spectacular news is that the four northern states in the list had not performed as brilliantly on the ranking of literacy rates among Nigerian states only three years ago.

In a 2017 ranking of literacy levels in the Nigerian States by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), no northern state made the first five. Imo State ranked first, followed by Lagos, Ekiti, Rivers, and Abia States in that order. In our current ranking of allocations to education as a proportion of a state’s total budget, no southern state but Oyo made the first five.

…our innovation states in education: Nasarawa, Kano, Sokoto, Oyo, and Yobe, know that to make real progress, thousands of schools in deplorable condition have to be fixed, and investments in information and communication technology, laboratories, libraries, teacher training and scholarships, have to be increased.


Lagos and Rivers that shared the first five positions on the literacy level with Imo and Ekiti just three years ago, were respectively 26th and 17th in percentage budgetary allocations to education in their states in 2020. I could not find data for Imo and Ekiti, the other two premier states in literacy levels in 2017. However, the take away from all of these remains the high level of seriousness with which the northern states of Nasarawa, Kano, Sokoto and Yobe have taken education in this year’s budget. That constitutes the best practice.

In the years ahead, it will be interesting to see if this seriousness, as measured by the relative budgetary allocation to education, is sustained, and whether it will gradually translate into higher scores in literacy levels in these winner states of the north through the reduction of the number of out-of-school children in the states. Of course, we all know that allocating high budgets to education is one thing and releasing the funds and seeing to it that they are used for the intended purpose is another thing altogether.

Still, our innovation states in education: Nasarawa, Kano, Sokoto, Oyo, and Yobe, know that to make real progress, thousands of schools in deplorable condition have to be fixed, and investments in information and communication technology, laboratories, libraries, teacher training and scholarships, have to be increased.

It is hoped that their “best practice”, denoted by budgetary prioritisation of education, will spill over to the other states of the federation.

Ebere Onwudiwe is a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja. Please send your comments to this number on WhatsApp: +234 (0)701 625 8025; messages only, no calls.