A former communication aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri, has dismissed a recent claim by the spokesperson of Northern Elders’ Forum, Ango Abdullahi, who said Northern Nigeria provided the resources used to develop the southern part of the country pre-independence.
In a Facebook statement Saturday, Mr. Omokri said crucial historical facts in public domain easily countered Mr. Abdullahi’s claims.
“Northern Nigeria could not sustain herself financially talk less (sic) of supporting the South,” Mr. Omokri said, drawing his assertion from historical records. “If you are from the North this is a fact, not an insult.”
“Do not blame me. Blame history.”
While aligning himself with some groups who demanded withdrawal of Nigerians of Igbo origin from the north, Mr. Abdullahi said Southern Nigeria had shown little appreciation for the invaluable contribution of the north, especially in economic development terms.
“These people always pretend that the north is cheating them, not minding the fact that Southern Nigeria was developed by resources from the north” Mr. Abdullahi told reporters in Zaria Friday.
Some northern groups recently formed a coalition to push for the exit of Igbo from Northern Nigeria.
At a press conference Tuesday, the northern coalition said they were irritated by a recent call for Igbo to stay at home on May 30, in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the Civil War.
At least 500,000 Igbo were said to have been killed during the war, which broke out in 1967 and ended in 1970.
The stay-at-home order was announced by two pro-Biafra groups, including IPOB, led by Nnamdi Kanu who has become the current face of Igbo secession from Nigeria.
It came a month after Mr. Kanu secured bail and walked out of prison in Abuja for the first time since he was first arrested in Lagos in October 2015.
The northern coalition said the agitation for Biafra had elicited no condemnation from prominent Nigerians who had allowed it to fester.
They urged all northerners resident in the South-east to equally vacate the region.
“We are also telling our brothers (northerners) out there in the South-East to get prepared to come back home,” Yerima Shettima, leader of the coalition, said at the briefing which took place at Arewa House, Kaduna.
In his reaction to the call, Mr. Abdullahi, a professor of agricultural science and former vice-chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, slammed Governor Nasir El-Rufai and other northern voices who advocated peace in the wake of the threat to Igbo.
“I am disappointed in the decision taken by Northern Governors’ Forum disowning and condemning the agitation by this young agile and progressive youth groups.
“Let me ask these Northern governors, who are they representing,?Are they representing spirits, ghost or people of the north?” he said.
The professor said northerners used their agriculture proceeds during the colonial era to develop Southern Nigeria, which broadly includes South-West, South-East and South-South, occupying predominantly Yoruba, Igbo and the minorities in the Niger-Delta region, respectively.
“These people always pretend that the North is cheating them,” Mr. Abdullahi said of the Igbo. “Not minding the fact that Southern Nigeria was developed by resources from the north.”
He appealed to the authority of a book written by Adamu Fika to buttress his claims that Southern Nigeria was really at the mercy of the north prior to independence.
“Please, look for a book written by Adamu Fika on Nigeria’s budget before and after independence.
“Each year, up to the time Nigeria gained its independence, none of the two regions was able to provide for itself.
“I mean none of the Western and Eastern regions had the money to effectively run the affairs of its region until they get financial support from the Northern region,” Mr. Abdullahi said.
The scholar further stated that resources from the north, which accrued from “groundnut pyramid, cotton, hide and skin among other cash crops”— were used to construct Nigerian Railways, explore oil in the Niger-Delta and build the country’s refineries.
The claims sparked online uproar weekend, and Mr. Omokri weighed in, describing Mr. Abdullahi as “a liar from the pit of hell.”
“How can a nation progress with dishonest and tribalistic elders as Ango?” A bewildered Mr. Omokri wondered.
Mr. Omokri cited the work of a British author and historian, Colin Newbury, who he said had detailed in his 2004 book, ‘Accounting for Power in Northern Nigeria’, that for years before the amalgamation, Britain had been subsidising Northern Nigeria because of the deficit in her budget.
Mr. Omokri submitted his argument as follows:
“In 1913, Lord Harcourt agreed to a proposal from Lord Lugard to amalgamate Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria so that, according to Newbury “custom revenues from the south paying for the projects in the north.”
“Right now, we should be building unity in Nigeria.
“However, we must not distort history to do that.
“Southern funds were used to develop the North. This is a historical fact.
“As a matter of fact, here is a direct quote from Lord Harcourt, the then Secretary of the Colonies who in 1913 said “we have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the economy.
“The promising youth …is about to effect an alliance with a Southern lady of means (referring to Southern Nigeria).
“Time Magazine in March 1963 wrote of Nigeria thus “the country numbered some 250 tribes and languages, three principal religions (Moslem. Christian, animist), and three big, traditionally hostile regions: the feudal, Moslem North, which claims half the entire population of Nigeria; the East, dominated by the astute, industrious Ibo tribes; and the West, richest and most advanced of all three, whose Yoruba tribesmen are Nigeria’s most sophisticated citizens.”
“Liar Ango Abdullahi should note the words “richest of the three.
“Northern intellectuals like Farooq Kperogi should please research and verify if what I have written is fact and if it is they should please call Ango Abdullahi to order.”