Strengthening equity

I read an article the other day about how Nigeria is divided along two lines – the rich south and the poverty-stricken north.

The author’s main point was how data could help identify areas in Nigeria that needed assistance the most. To bring the point to life, the author compared lives of two mothers and their children; 18 year old Hausa mother from the northwest and 27 years old Yoruba lady from the southwest.

Hausa lady did not have access to antenatal care and had her child at home. Yoruba lady had 10 antenatal visits to the clinic and delivered her baby with the support of a midwife and important information such as the weight of the baby at birth was documented.

Both newborns were monitored, two years down the line baby from the north has stunted growth and was well  below WHO growth standard whereas baby from the south has grown as expected and was within WHO growth standard for her age.

Full article on Weforum here published in collaboration with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I too believe that data is very important, however, it is also important to compare two likes rather than two extreme cases.

I wondered why the author did not take samples of children from the northwest or southwest,  I believe this would have been more helpful to Nigerians.

For example Senator Bala Na’Allah is from the northwest, he once said flying his private plane is a lot safer than taking the roads – he is unlikely to know about very poor children in his region. He has been in the government for more than a decade so would make a stronger case to see how the senator’s wives and the very poor in southwest go about antenatal care.

Also, the article talks about the ‘rich’ southwest lady. Today, one do not have to work too hard to see many women having their children without antenatal care in southwest either.

Actually, just around the same time that this study was concluded in 2013, a friend of my sister’s died during childbirth because she was not able to give birth naturally. It  was her third child so planned to have baby at home. Sadly, went through difficult labour, lost lots of blood, baby didn’t come out. Husband didn’t take her to hospital as afraid of the bill. She passed away, both mother and child.

In the same southwest, lost of our public officials have their children out of the country or if at home have adequate access to maternal healthcare.

151218-children-health-Nigeria-Impatient-OptimistsSometimes, it is better to compare apple to apple. Millions of southerners are equally poor and politicians as we all know haven’t invested where it matters for a long time.

Most helpful bits in the article is the information data – it speaks volume.

The article suggests important factors to measure equity: monitoring, evaluation, and action. This, I agree is important. However, I wonder if there is more than meets the eye in this case. Why do we have 93% of citizens in rural northwest compared to 64% for the rest of the country? This goes for all items highlighted on the info data. Is this because this area have been neglected for so long or the fact that allocations given to the area were diverted to fund pilgrimages and extravagant lifestyle for the few elites while the rest were made to believe they will have better life in afterlife?

The poor southerners are not any better if we were to look beyond the gloss of the city.

While the whole of Nigeria can be a basket case, it is important to pay attention to lifestyle choice that kept some folks down.

Categories: Nigeria, Women

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10 replies

  1. Eku Odun FK
    This was a very interesting article.
    A few points I’d like to raise.
    I’m glad that you pointed out that southern Nigeria, is in reality not much better off than the ‘poverty stricken’ north. My anecdotal observations from my father’s village will show that there is no electricity, running water, or road to the area. Whilst driving from Lagos, electricity pylons stop as you approach that part of the former Bendel State, whilst the terrain is the same – that is politics at work. Even the cities in the south can’t compare to any city in the ‘developed’ world. It is really relative to the north, not worldwide.

    It is good that the disparities have been raised, this is usually taken as a call to arms by most progressive societies, but in the case of Nigeria – I have my reservations. To redress such imbalances takes a very long time and unwaivering commitment, neither of which Nigeria has much of. For instance the re-unification of Germany, where the people are culturally homogeneous and strongly believe in the German state. Over 25 years and hundreds of billions of dollars has been invested by the West into the East, which still today lags behind. The former East Germany was many decades ahead of Southern Nigeria. This makes me think that one can’t hold out much hope that the North East or North in general will show ‘green shoots’ of sustained growth anytime soon.
    This should not be taken as green light by the northern elite to demand more funding from the government whilst offering next to nothing in return. We have not even taken account of the rapidly rising population the country is experiencing, and the cultural resistance to ‘Western education’. Then you know the problem is huge.

    Questions have to be asked as to what led to the breakdown of society there over what period of time and what happened to the funds given? I head the US has recently pledged $2 billion dollars for the region. This is a lot, but even if were $20 billion – I doubt it will have any impact as Nigeria has not got to the bottom of mystery of lost of stolen funds.
    The author pointed out monitoring evaluation and action. The last two really need to be examined thoroughly in order to ‘get to the bottom of this’ once and for all.

    I feel Nigeria is in somewhat of a dilemma, to carry on throwing money at a region that is slow to show positive results and at times is very antagonistic to the south. Neglect will lead to added instability, and will lead those who are suffering to spread their pain throughout the nation (they feel they have nothing to lose) – which is recipe for unending warfare.

    Also a degree of patience, humility and understanding is required by those that give, and honesty and commitment is required by the northern elite to do things right this time. Northern elite should stop diverting funds from Nigeria to the Middle East, or frittering it away on ‘religious pilgrimages’. The money should go to where it is intended. Funds should be given in smaller ‘tranches’ and evaluation must be more frequent to determine what the outcome to date is. This may be overbearing, but when given the opportunity to act responsibly they have fallen flat on previous occasions. Senator Na’Allah is symptomatic of the sub-standard leadership that has risen to occupy powerful positions.

    A real frank discussion needs to be had by all concerned parties to hammer out some sustainable agreement by which everyone benefits. Make no mistake this will be a very long road lasting several decades (at least). No nation can prosper or hope to rise, if part of it is sinking, this is why this matter must be addressed.


    • Thank you jco, Odun a y’abo fun gbogbo wa o.

      Agreed, only when Nigerians can see the truth that no one region is immune from underdevelopment can we truly have a headway.

      As opposed to what we try too hard to convince outsiders to believe, Nigerians are tribalistic to the core, problem with this is that it benefits the incompetent and selfish elders/public officials – the more people listen to them, the more they use the ignorance to squandered public funds. This is the problem we have throughout the country.

      Totally agree that we must be honest and the elite up north must be held to account, if they were not selfish and spent the money for intended purposes, today they wouldn’t have to sponsor folks to Mecca. My thinking is, let them go to Mecca or Medina but it should not be tolerated that everyone is made to feel guilty about people’s welfare when they chose to use their fund to benefit Saudi Arabia rather than their own country.

      Actually, I think southerners only started the craze of Jerusalem + Mecca subsidies because they too wanted free tourist tickets like their colleagues – this particular subject is so sickening to even think about. Who does that? How could I claim to love my family but take away the little they needed for a better life in disguise for worshiping God, which God?

      A Saudi king a few months ago could not believe northern Nigeria is that poor – who could blame him? All he sees is the thousands of people every year…

      Personally, I think if the northern elite are really genuine about lift up folks there, they need to get off their high horse and literally walk around their area to see the reality. We no longer have to imagine what the outcome might be, we already have Boko Haram to reference.


      • You identified the issues well:
        1) An ignorant and tribalistic society, that are deceived by a corrupt and incompetent leadership.
        2) Religion has been used to sustain the waste of funds.
        3) The scale of poverty throughout the country.
        4) The need to make sustained, tangible and meaningful steps for the welfare of the people. Even the Saudis, who care little for the welfare of their people ensure there is a minimum standard of living.
        5) Sustained vigilance to ensure Boko Haram and Maitatsine and others never re-emerge again.
        6) The population issue, which is set to double again within the next 20 years.

        I did not include the feudal culture that supports the suppression of the masses in their societies.

        Can Buhari do all this, unlikely but I would like to see him try his best. Will other leaders face up to the challenges in a meaningful way, judging by past attempts even more unlikely. Hopefully, they will be more capable than I think they will be.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks jco. I think Buhari will try his best but clearly he can’t do it alone. He needs Nigeria youths especially to wisen up but the truth is lots of people are blinded with party loyalty, forgetting that just last year alone significant number of PDP defected to APC not because they were any better but they only want to be on the ‘safe’ side.

          Most of our public leaders would not do a thing to effect positive changes in the community but may do better if folks can ditch ridiculous party talk and keep reminding reminding them of what we’d love for him to achieve.


          • FK
            Thank you for editing my original post.
            Thank you for offering a partial solution, I feel a little better about these issues and Nigeria’s ability to deal with them.
            I was going by the past performances of the political class, which have been woeful. The problem is that today’s leaders were once youth, and for some reason they are as useless as their forefathers and mothers. Youth is the only hope, but we can only hope they will not go the way of previous generations so that the cycle can be broken.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Folakemi,

    Thanks for this.

    My only comment is with regard to the obscenity of a so-called senator’s private plane enabling him to forego the death traps known as Nigerian roads IN THE SAME ESSAY that has the simple Melinda Gates who, with his spouse, continue to champion the cause of poor people through their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Where and how did this senator get the resources to own a plane? Bill Gates, despite his billions acquired through the old-fashioned way of EARNING IT, has been known to fly the ” red eye” – the night flight from the US WEST coast to the EAST coast

    My regards for this enlightening piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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