John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Why Nigeria’s North South Distinction Is Important

by John Campbell
February 7, 2011

I have a piece on Huffington Post today exploring Nigeria’s North South distinction and its relevance in the upcoming elections.

Apologists for the Nigerian political system often accuse outside observers of viewing the country’s North and South as monolithic blocks. With more than 150 million people, at least 250 different ethnic groups, and Christian and Muslim populations roughly equal in size, Nigeria’s diversity is undeniable. Nevertheless, broad differences between North and South are a Nigerian historical, political and religious reality, and, as such, the distinction between the two provides a legitimate analytical lens. It is particularly relevant to understanding the debates and conflicts around who will be Nigeria’s next president, principally as the contest shapes up to pit southern incumbent Goodluck Jonathan against northern former military head of state Muhammadu Buhari.

Read the whole oped here.

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  • Posted by John Ojeah

    The argument that political power will give the North a sense of belonging since they lag behind in other socioeconomic indices has been detrimental to Nigerian advancement, especially when compared to her contemporaries like S. Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia etc. This is exactly the kind of solution the Brits thought would bring the North at par with the South in the 50s. It didn’t work and I don’t think it will work now. Another explanation of this philosophy is that the South should stagnate so that the North will be able to meet them up.

    The last time such was applied was the creation of ineffective monopolies and nationalization of all schools (secondary and universities, mostly in the South) assets in the 70s so that the wealth created by the South can be re-distributed according to Nigerian version of affirmation action called ‘Federal Character Commission”, where every political, social, economic, etc institution shall have equal representation from all states of the country. These resulted in mediocres occupying very sensitive positions in the country just because they re from a disadvantaged part of the country, rather than their competence. The consequence of that action is here for everyone to see. In fact, the socio-economic disparity between the North and South has grown much wider than it was at independence, and recommending such a solution again shows that no lesson has been learnt and its continuous application will only widened the disparity.

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