"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts."
-Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former U.S Senator from New York
Nigeria’s mainstream media is characteristically myopic in outlook. Nigerian journalist and news editors of today rarely hide their ethnic prejudices and preconceived notions. The smart journalist of yore used to hide and camouflaged it, but of late it has become increasingly embarrassing. You can see through these shenanigans with the way they celebrated and headlined otherwise somber reflections of the state of Northern Nigerian economy by its leaders and business executives in their news reports on the Northern Nigeria Economic and Investment Summit organized by the Conference of Northern States’ Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (CONSCCIMA).
A cursory reading of the discussions during the summit clearly shows that every problem highlighted as the cause of the ongoing economic malaise in the north is clearly applicable in any part of Nigeria. Indeed the whole of Nigeria economy is on a slump whilst the federal government is fast asleep.
In the news report on the summit, we learnt from the Bauchi State Governor that there cannot be any investment in the North when there is no peace in the region:
“The North is very backward; at least the death rates among our women and children indicate so. But the truth is that there cannot be investment, where there is no peace. Is there peace in the North? We know how religious riots drive away the investors,”
The fact is everything the Governor stated here is equally applicable to the southern part of Nigeria. The only metrics the north could be said to be below the south is education. And the south had“head-start” thanks largely to the initial rejection of western education by the North during the colonial time.
The economy of the southern part of Nigeria is also in ruins. The biggest companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange are oil companies owned largely by foreigners, northern Nigeria investor and a smattering of Obasanjo created millionaires, all of which gave a semblance of affluence in the midst of abject poverty. Where are the Cadburys and the cocoa derivatives industries like Cadburys and Food specialties of Nigeria? Whatever happened to the industrial park in Ikeja, Warri, Enugu and Port Harcourt? The big companies in southern Nigeria today are not manufacturing or introducing innovative products, they are all glorified money changers and bureau de change called universal banks.
If you want to talk about wars and riots, it is as much a problem of the south as it is with the north. We all know about the full fledged war going on at the Niger-delta. Only the brave will bring investment and manufacturing companies to Ibadan where miscreants recently took control of the state government aided and abetted by their god father. Need we mention the macabre dance in Aba where allegiance to Okija shrine determines who gets to live and govern the state.
At least the northern Nigeria leaders are talking about their problem. What is the south doing about the mass killing going on in the Niger Delta? When was the last time the fractured south addressed the problem between the Modakeke and Ife? Or the fratricidal war for the very soul of Warri by ethnic warlords.
The Lagos-Ibadan-Enugu press can continue to celebrate mediocrity all the want, I am not happy with the state of my country. This is not a time to finger point. These times called for action from educated Nigerian. It is time to educate the electorates to the impending catastrophe that the PDP government is foisting on all of us. It does not matter whether you live in the north or south.
As my good friend and a consummate Nigerian, Finance Minister, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman pointed out during the forum: “It is not enough for you (referring to the army generals and former governors) to stay in the comfort of your homes and complain. You must show interest on who is representing you. The point I am making is that you must take up challenges. Nature abhors a vacuum. You cannot do it alone by staying in your comfort zone. You have to take the challenge.”