North vs. Itself: A Memo to the Average Northerner


Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim


The recent appointments of the Tinubu administration have sparked lamentations across different sections of the country, especially in the North. The administration is being criticized for what has been termed by some critics as a regional capture of the economy by the South West geopolitical zone, where the president hails from. This has reignited, rather early into the administration, the North versus South narrative.


While the concerns of such critics may be valid, considering the fact that the positions that coordinate the core of the economy are largely occupied by officials of Southern extraction, it is important to consider the situation from a broader perspective. 


For context, these positions include the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy in charge of fiscal policy, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in charge of monetary policy, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment in charge of industrial affairs and policy, the Minister of Digital Economy, the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, and a host of others.


The motive may not be entirely agenda-driven in favor of a tribe, region, or the president’s organic political dynasty. I personally choose to look at it from an angle of strategic alignment in favor of attaining regional needs and priorities. This attempt at self-consolation is borne out of my desire to constantly present the imperative of taking responsibility and considering situations such as this as opportunities for self-introspection and visionary thinking by the North. The North versus itself should be the prevailing narrative!


By “attaining regional needs and priorities”, which I cited as the possible motive behind the alleged economic capture by the South, I mean the South, especially the South West with Lagos as its capital, has already strategically positioned itself as a giant economic and commercial nerve center for Nigeria. They have developed their economic development mechanisms to a considerable degree that now only requires a little bit comprehensive national economic development initiative to attain a level of sustained economic prosperity.


In this context, consider development as conforming to the operating principles of the electric power sector, whose operations are broadly categorized into power generation, transmission, and distribution. My theory places development generation and transmission under the jurisdiction of the federal government, while saddling sub-national governments with the responsibility of handling the distribution and providing the required infrastructure for such.


By this, consider a situation where the distribution infrastructure has been adequately assembled by a certain sub-national entity and is primed to a tremendous degree of absorptive capacity that would allow for the off-take and distribution of development no matter how large. 


In a country that has often been considered to have two distinct countries within it, one of which has incessantly held the notion that the other is holding it back as a consequence of the immaturity of its development distribution architecture, it is only fair for those with the mature development off-take capacity to prioritize the improvement of the development generation capacity of the federal government once they the opportunity and transmit as much as possible towards the sub-nationals, knowing fully well that theirs is ready to absorb and take a leap towards prosperity and sustained development. How could they do it better than by placing their most capable individuals in charge?


This is the case of Southern Nigeria, particularly Lagos and the South West. And that is why the economy is a priority for them, such that they would strive to effectively utilize the opportunity of their political patriarch being in power to develop and improve the nation's economy and transmit such development to the sub-national level without prejudice to any section. Here, the absorptive and distributive capacity of states and regions , for which state leaders and elites are responsible, would determine the pace of development for each state and region.


The reality that has been painted of varying regional capacities can be empirically ascertained by comparing basic development indices of the country vis-à-vis that of Northern and Southern Nigeria. I will leave to you to this exercise, not to overwhelm you with numbers. But the inference that we all would reach, I believe, is that we are essentially two separate countries within a single country. And our distinct realities depend on our approach to development as sub-national entities.


Therefore, we, the Northerners, must shelve the North versus South narrative and rather channel our energies towards the Northern establishment (to whom my next memo would be addressed to). For our priorities should, in fact, be developing our own development absorptive capacity and distribution system in a manner that can effectively off-take national economic development that may be effectuated by the supposed capable hands that the Tinubu administration has saddled with the responsibility of revamping Nigeria's economy. And hopefully, they succeed.


The onus is on us, for it is a case of the North versus itself!


Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim is a political/policy/public affairs analyst. He writes from Zaria and can be reached via