Deficit of transformational leadership, dwindling economic fortunes and increasing violence have turned the vast plains of Northern Nigeria into a bastion of despair.

Figures produced by the official National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, for 2011 are frightening. For instance, average unemployment rate for the nineteen states of Northern Nigeria is 27.9%, which is higher than the national average of 23.9%. What this means is that about one out of every three adult employable citizen in the North is unemployed. Northern Nigeria has an estimated population of 83 million, out of which forty million pass for a working population. A total of twenty seven million of the forty million working population of the region is unemployed. Problem of high unemployment in the region has significantly contributed to high poverty rate, which the NBS estimates at 73.8% for the three geo political zones that make up the 19 states in 2011. This is higher than the national incidence of 69%, which means that more than seven out of every ten citizens in the North are poor. In other words an estimated 61 million of the eighty three million residents are poor. High unemployment and poverty rates are partly a reflection of low economic activities. This, in many respects, has translated into low internally generated revenue, IGR, for all the state governments in the region, on account of which the total IGR for the 19 states for 2010, according to Central Bank of Nigeria Annual Report released in March 2011 was N92.1 billion. Compared to total personnel cost of N245.7 billion, internal revenue generation capacity for the nineteen northern state governments can only meet thirty seven per cent of personnel cost commitment. Taking into account the contentious minimum monthly wage of N18,000 or $120, which came into effect in March 2011, the internally generated revenue of the nineteen northern states may meet no more than fifteen per cent of personnel cost commitment.

The criminal neglect of agriculture, mineral resources and other non oil economic activities for easy oil money from the federal government has aggravated this situation as the federal allocations are hardly directed towards reviving infrastructure, capital projects, empowering the populace or investment in non-oil sectors of the economy. After all, the relatively easy art of sharing oil driven monthly federal allocations has killed whatever initiative is left in a rudderless leadership to even contemplate other means of internally generating revenue. In the place of creativity, monthly allocations which run into billions of naira are brazenly shared among a few and, in most cases where they are seen to be spent, large chunk of the allocations are expended towards recurrent expenditure and unproductive ventures such as allocation of free Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage seats and distribution of rams and other essential commodities to those who ordinarily can afford them. Some governors regularly cause stampede by openly throwing money in the air for their subjects to scramble for. Pity! The crass neglect of education, despite the seemingly huge resources committed to it, especially in the last four decades, has contributed to the backwardness of the north and reinforced its image as a major drawback to the nation. Not even the recent and unusual admission by one prominent northern political leader that the free education embarked upon by the government of the defunct Western Region was the tonic that gave South Western Nigeria a good head start has informed the need for a reversal of steps by an increasingly clueless leadership.

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