What is the Contemporary Relevance of Northern Nigeria?


In the 11th century when Islam became the politico-religious consciousness of Borno, in what is in present day North East Nigeria, Sokoto had not even witnessed the entrance by birth of Usman Dan Fodio, whose father, Mohammed Fadiye had not even sired as his ancestors were still on course, migrating from Futa-Toro in Senegal, neither had the British imagined entering into the coastal areas of Nyffe, today known as the Nupe kingdom, which in these times is predominantly in Niger state.

As a matter of historical facts well documented, the El Kanemi of Borno had long visited Mecca and returned with the vast knowledge that covers Astronomy, Astrology, Mathematics and Philosophy.

Same knowledge from which the prophet Mohammed evangelized his first set of disciples, not forgetting his father in-law and first convert Abu-Bakr, with whom he performed his first Hijrah in 614 C.E. let alone Ali, that he left in Mecca while running from his persecutors.

I have delved into a part of an engaging history that has come to be undoubtedly entrenched in Northern Nigeria, and as a matter of fact will remain so until, if at all, other human species are created to occupy the Northern geographical space of this country.

It therefore confirms an unarguable posit, that the North had long been exposed to an array of knowledge which it must further improve upon, and in recent times, encouragingly has made a definite statement to accomplish.

Every political as well as socio-economic landmarks is associated with certain junctures in history, and available records show an immensity of that if a careful examination of Northern Nigeria History was well considered.

I daresay forthwith, that it is utterly misconstrued to classify the majority of Muslim North as illiterates or uneducated. while others are quick to refer to them as having the highest number of out-of-school children.

This may not be disputed in terms of Western Education, however it becomes a nullity in reference to strategic capacities and I will say expatiate.

When Usman Dan Fodio began his teaching around 1774/75, he was already an accomplished scholar of the Islamic religion, an adept philosopher and a mystic.

The last classification of Usman Dan Fodio as a mystic has often been ignored to the detriment of light-weight scholars. Let me remind us that, no groundbreaking invention in the West was ever accomplished by mere ‘men’.

By implication, the depth of the spiritual cum intellectual profundity usually co-junct physical dexterity in the creation of stupendous attainments.

For the records, Jesus Christ was an equal mystic, and I write not to be disputed.

That was Usman Dan Fodio, who led his minority cattle rearing Fulani in the evangelization of a greater Hausa North, creating a system that lasted approximately a hundred years.

As far back as 1812, the Hausa dynasties have been existing as part of the Sokoto caliphate.

As of this period, many up North were already literate, speaking and writing in Arabic and Ajami, the latter being a language still sparsely used in that region of the country.


In a Nigerian historical document of 1939 and edited by Margaret I. Potts, it was noted thus:

“the fact, however, that the Fulani were able to rule for a hundred years, although they were a comparatively small number of ‘foreigners’, governing a subject people , shows how great they were among the West African tribes”

This was a recorded statement put in a book of historical reference about a people whose ways have been studied, their beliefs tested and their defiant capacities weighed.

It meant therefore, that as of the early 19th coming to the 20th century, the Hausa-Fulani have carved a niche of ‘Relevance’ for themselves which was not achieved because these peoples spoke English or had Western education.

In the early 20th century, it was said when discussions about the issues of taxation came up that,

“The Fulani chiefs were intelligent men and good governors so they were kept on in positions which ‘they had won before the arrival of the British'”

Points to note here are, “they were kept”, in positions which “they had won”. It meant there weren’t controversies regarding their roles in leadership, dominance and alliances.

As a matter of incontrovertible note, the legislative council that was formed after the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates in 1914 had it on record that

“the council makes laws for the colony and Southern provinces, and ‘has no power to order taxation in the Northern Provinces’, but no money may be spent in the Northern Provinces from the Public Treasury without the consent of the council”

If you understood the above lines correctly, it meant that, before a definite taxation system was put in place up North, the South had been paying and those who controlled tax collection in the South did not immediately do the same up North, but they could spend, albeit upon approval, the tax collected from the South in the North.

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From the foregoing, it is evident that current realities seems a consolidation of what had long been validated, as the impression and expression of value added to the Hausa-Fulani-Kanuri North of Nigeria by the colonists.

It was also recorded in the Bornu versus Fulani war thus:

“El Kanemi (of Bornu) led his army into battle with great splendour..he tried to drive the Fulani out of Hausa land but failed, and later on his son made peace with the Fulani”

It is needless wondering why these references keep coming, as it is an attempt to register that long before the current civilization, the North had demystified a lot about power, politics and its distribution, and this must be told for the South to understand, that the need to study deeply what constitutes the strategies of Northern hegemony could not have come at a better time.


When Sir Ahmadu Bello who was born on June 12, 1909 contested to become the Sultan of Sokoto at age 28, many up North saw this descendant of Usman Dan Fodio as one to take note of.

Years later, particularly in the alliance formed by the NPC and the NCNC, he decided to remain Premier of the North, even if he should rightly have become the Prime Minister of Nigeria and practically ceded the role to his deputy at the Northern People’s Congress, in the person of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa so as to remain Premier of the North.

Here is the understatement of the process, Ahmadu Bello took his sociopolitical stamina a notch higher, having not only been schooled only here in Nigeria, but also gaining knowledge of local government administration in England, besides his unalloyed knowledge of his Islamic religion.

He therefore was a man who could best be described as a thoroughbred, leading the North with an agenda to promote all that is Ascendancy of Northerners.

Be reminded, that, Sir Bello said and implemented an agenda of the North First before any other, finding the best hands from his region without a thought for others, especially in a comment made in an interview in 1959 that,

“the Igbos are the type of people whose main desire is to dominate everybody. If they come to a village, a town, they want to monopolize everything in that area”

The late Sardauna of Sokoto went further to say, there were 10 people in the Northern civil service when he held the first elective office in 1952, and that the policy for him has to be Northerners first, and if they couldn’t find a round peg in a round hole for that role in the Northern civil service, then an expatriate will fill it but only on contract basis, as well as any person from another region.

He mentioned then, that how many Northerners were employed in the Western or Eastern civil service, and if there were any, that they they were not more than ten, who were labourers.

Infact he added, that institutes of the North were churning out graduates, and that unemployment and bloodshed must be avoided.

Was this position glossed over, was it considered as mere statement, or that the position has become strengthened in these times?

His cabinet in 1959 had all Northerners but one Southerner, in the person of George Ohikere who was his Minister of Works.

As a matter of fact, Ahmadu Bello provided the impetus for the conversion to islam of a 100,000 persons in the provinces of Zaria and other parts of Nigeria when they realized his intention was genuine and appealing to his people.

Let’s be reminded, that the focus here dwells on the current relevance of a region that other Nigerians must do a proper study of, rather than look at things inconsequentially.

Ahmadu Bello, whose impact loomed large until he was killed by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu on January 15, 1966 seemed to have operated a template that remains a blue print for subsequent military and civilian rulers/leaders of the North.

It is however important to state, that whatever the North was has a Southern support to it. Had the NCNC aligned with the AG after the 1959 elections, there wouldn’t have been a coalition with the NPC, which saw the North reigned even after the elections of 1964.

By implication, the South became fragmented by ideological vagaries, selfish, regional and egoistic stenches, thus making herself cannon fodder for the political mileage of the North.


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It is unarguable that the military years held the nation in bondage. First, the Coup detat of January 1966 and the counter coup of July 1966 led by top military officers from the North.

In the words of a Veteran Broadcaster Jones Usen, it was “an overkill”. It would not have been less agreed to, especially with the pains and sorrow of the Asaba Massacre still fresh in the minds of many.
Chuma Nwokolo is a lawyer and initiator of the ‘Bribe Code’.

He recalled how his father feigned dead to survive the bloody dispatch of innocent and armless Nigerians who had come to welcome the Federal troops.

With a bullet lodged in his father’s shoulder, he lay as though dead until the wanton military destroyers left the town.

Many parents did not enjoy the privilege to tell the story Chuma recalls with unhealed gash.

After the First Republic, there were four military rulers, two of whom were from the North. General Yakubu Gowon and General Murtala Mohammed. That was between 1966 and 1976.

The second military interregnum also threw up Northern military rulers, in the persons of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and General Ibrahim Babangida. That was between 1983 and 1993.

When the military returned to take the reigns a third time, two Northern leaders were at the helm viz: General Sani Abacha and General Abdulsalami Abubakar, between 1993 and 1999.

If we took a careful count of the years spent by military rulers from the North, it totalled over 26 years up to the fourth Republic.

The question again is, how relevant is Northern Nigeria in contemporary times with respect to what have been outlined.

Furthermore, a proper analysis during the military era shows, that states were of course strategically created and to a large extent given the opportunity to leverage numbers that have always been the advantage for the region of the country they represent.

I ask again, what can we describe as the relevance of Northern Nigeria, such that during the military superintendence of their officers, we could make definite references to the things that were attained.


A Northerner midwifed the country into the Fourth Republic

…a Northerner was the vice-president to a South West president for the first approved two terms.

A Northerner was again the president with a South South as the second in command, then another Northerner deputized for a South South president and in the current scheme of things, another Northerner, from one of the seven original Hausa states is the President of Nigeria.

It was a Northerner that also spear-headed the converting of a military decree into the document called the Nigerian constitution, especially when the country was to return to democracy in 1999.

Professor Auwalu Yadudu was said to have single handedly written the nation’s constitution in 2014 as a legal aide to the bespectacled one, also called Sanni Abacha.

If it doesn’t make sense to you now, about the contemporary relevance of the North, we could as well leave political power and examine some other aspects of the country.

Please note, that one fundamental in governance is the consideration of who steers the ‘governing engines’.


Early this year, it was reported that Bayero University in Kano concluded the translation of eight English textbooks into Hausa.

According to Professor Liyu Mu’azu who led the translation team, this of course includes Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
If this move does not ring a bell then a grenade has to be unpinned for the sound of impact to be heard.

The literacy level of Kano populace when it comes to English Language is an average of 45 to 50%, whereas Hausa Language knowledge is far above 70%.

By implication, logic suggests that providing for the educational needs in a language best understood will have more impact.

This move unknown to many is in line with the approved National Policy on Education of 1977, in which the Mother Tongue holds a pride of place.

Again I say here, that if this makes little or immense sense, be the judge.


Records from the AFP shows that, contraceptives have helped reduce the birth rate in Nigeria to an average of 5.3 births per woman from 5.5 birth per woman between 2013 and 2018.

Notably in 2016/17, it was still 1 woman to 7 children as the average birth rate in Maiduguri. It was also noted that women in Zamfara state were the most fertile according to reports within the years mentioned.

Seemingly uncontrolled birth no doubt results in population explosion, which by extension can be a problem for any country, but have we sat to think about the arithmetic advantage of the high birth rate of the North.

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It is not quite the ideal for Southerners to be unguarded prolific in terms of child bearing, which in no way is connected to being sterile.

Socio-cultural and religious leanings forestalls the practice of polygamous marriages at the South side unlike in the North where the Islamic religion and lifestyle favours it.

The disparity in birth usually counts when elections take place and even if cases of underage voters have been reported several times across Nigeria and of course in the North, the advantage of numbers continue to count in favour of non-southerners during elections.


From the security chiefs of the country, to immigration and customs, then zooming our lens to the Civil Service, coming to the Judiciary, the North appears to have carved a strategy of consolidating power and privileges.

If one examined the composition of the current cabinet by the president, especially in the appointment to key positions, and if I must say, eminent ministries, one will find Northerners hold sway.

One could deride the president, but understanding these strategies will go a long way to carving a needful niche for other regions.

I hear that he who pays the Piper dictates the tune, and that is equally true in respect of the members of Board of Directors of many corporate organizations in Nigeria, as they are occupied by Northerners.

If the name Dangote rang a bell, then you are within ears-shot in the geographical space called Nigeria.

A Northerner from Kano called Aliko Dangote has remained the number one billionaire on the continent for the past eight years with a net worth of over $10.3 billion.

If politics and power belonged to the North, then what does anyone have to say about such stupendous capacity by a private sector operator, as it concerns the nation’s economy.


If anybody thought the strategies which keeps power and privileges at close quarters to the Northerners may change soon, then think again because the division and disagreements in the South will continue to create a leveraging opportunity for the region they must devote quality time to study.

Someone could also say the Northern leaders prevent their own from getting educated, then I ask what form of education are they referring to.

A man who suddenly finds himself in the desert has to device ways of survival. If mediocrity, as touted in some quarters works for the North, should the South not carefully study how it must make brilliance work for it.

A careful look at Southern politics suggests a deep divide along ethnic and ideological lines. While the Igbo feel the Yoruba cannot be trusted, the Urhobo nation believes he owns the nation’s wealth.

All forms of cracks in the South. The Igbo man forgets however that Nnamdi Azikiwe aligned with the North after the elections leading to the First Republic, but felt disenchanted and cheated by the antics of the same North it had aligned with when the elections of 1964 were held.

The 2019 elections also say a lot about how the North consolidates.

In the South, there was no singular person worthy of presidential support, while the North had two people they queued behind, following which they came to the South to add supporters to their already huge numbers from their region.

I ask again, is the North in possession of any contemporary relevance?

How has this region consolidated the position it occupies and how does the region continue to wield the influence which brings the South to eventually assist in the fulfilment of Northern aspirations?

Nothing in this write-up must be looked at in isolation, as all the segments of this paper have undoubtedly shown that Northern Nigeria holds a place of definite prominence and relevance in the Nigerian project in contemporary times, even extending outside the shores of the Nigerian geography.

The South must deal with the incubus of rancour, imps of hatred, demons of hypocrisy and the vanities of her supposed Western intellectualism.

This is not giving wings of joy to the North, but serving doses which enable sober reflection to Southerners who refuse to say it as it is, or address the issues which they know really affect them.

What is the contemporary relevance of Northern Nigeria someone might ask, I respond by saying the realities of what the North was, is and continues to be have all been put before our eyes.

Keep the logic in and the needless airy platitudes out.

The earlier the “weeds of our disaffections are burnt, the best our soil is, becoming clean, thus allowing for proper seeds to be sown for better crop yields”.

Credits: Adeniyi Kunnu via Facebook

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