Why The Disinterest From Northern Nigeria?, By M.D. Aminu
POLITICS DIGEST – Earlier in the month, I attended the Nigerian Economic Summit #25 as a Resource Person and Moderator for one of the panel discussions. Nothing suggests to me the rearward-ness of northern Nigeria (relative to southern Nigeria) more than what went on at the Summit. From the information available on the agenda, I found out that although there were a couple of panel discussions on different subjects, nonetheless, I and probably one Yahaya Maikori were the only two people from northern Nigeria who moderated a panel discussion.
But that may not be outrageous enough. What is even more outrageous is the realisation that young people from the north were missing in other proceedings too, such as the essay competitions open to undergraduate level students across the country, as well as the start-up pitching awards. And there were, I think, four awards in each of the categories. The panel discussions at the Summit centred around shifting gears toward achieving a capitalist economy for Nigeria in 2050.
Therefore, the panel I moderated was on the Nigerian Triple Helix Roundtable focused on “Incentivising Investments in Research and Development.” The session co-chairs were Mr. Emeka Nwajiuba, Minister of State for Education; and Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, Minister of State for Science and Technology. The panellists were Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission; Professor Suleiman Bogoro, Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund; Dr. Adeola Olubamiji, of Cummins Inc., Columbus, Indiana, USA; and Dr. Marito Garcia, of the Darden Business School, University of Virginia, USA.
While the discussions were robustly steered toward clear outcomes and actions, nonetheless, there seemed to be far more items to be discussed than the timing allowed. Thus, one of the matters not presented to the roundtable was what could have led to the difference in scholarly output between northern- and southern- Nigerian academics. The variance between the two regions in terms of scholarly output is quite distressing. In a research I conducted almost two years ago, which was republished on this column as a two-part essay, I presented research profiles of Nigerian-based scholars who had a minimum Scopus record of 100 publications, leading to a total of 28 scholars who were mostly domiciled in southern Nigerian institutions.
The topmost on the list was Professor Oyewusi Gureje of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Ibadan, while the topmost from northern Nigeria was late Professor Andrew Nok of the Department of Biochemistry, Ahmadu Bello University. But what is even more appalling is that while the top researcher from the south (and indeed Nigeria) had 338 publications with more than 18 thousand citations, the top from the north (who came 23rd in Nigeria) had 114 publications and 819 total citations. But it is important to note that it may be somewhat problematic to make publication- and citation-based comparisons between two scholars from different research fields.
However, given the convenient propinquity of the duo’s fields, some relative evaluation would not be totally out of place. Beyond the figures highlighted, it may be interesting to ask why scholars from northern Nigeria are performing oddly behind their southern Nigerian contemporaries. The answer to such questions would be thought-provoking given that the institutions under discussion may be receiving almost the same amount of funds and other interventions from government. And if it is simply a problem of enthusiasm toward research, then the social enablers of such enthusiasms need to be healthily deliberated upon. In addition to the above, I was recently invited to a platform for the development of a new agenda for Nigeria. The platform membership comprises some of Nigeria’s most successful professionals from different sectors of the socio-economy. One of the points discussed in our meeting was on how the north lags in so many dimensions. A member on the platform noted that in the organisation where she worked, they receive very little requests for finances from northerners even though many requests for same come from southerners; yet the mandate of her organisation primarily focuses on lending to all Nigerians with viable entrepreneurial ideas.
Another person within the platform noted that he had invested over 500 million naira toward a school project that is not yet completed. He said that to complete the school, he might need collaborators who would be willing to invest some funds into the project. But interestingly, his appeal to have some well-off northerners on the school project was increasingly challenging mainly based on disinterest.
The same person further noted that he was approached by several southerners who were keenly attracted to the project and were willing to invest their money on it. When I brought some of these concerns to a social media platform, a couple of friends had their fair share of experience. Dr. Abdullahi Dahiru, from Kano, noted that in a medical ethics course (organised by the West African College of Surgeons), which he attended a while ago, out of 320 participants, probably less than 20 were from northern Nigeria. He perceived that such outcomes may be one of the many consequences of the unremitting adverse propaganda against Western education by some sections of the society who could have used their podia for a positively impacting publicity. Sadeeq Shehu, a retired military officer and expert in peace, security, conflict and counterterrorism, observed that as a British Chevening scholar who was part of the 2018 pre-departure dinner, out of more than 20 scholars selected, there were probably only two from northern Nigeria.
Since then, Shehu had encouraged as many northerners to apply for the scholarship, but with little success. He also observed that many amongst the northern youth were not aware of the Chevening scholarship, even though the central requirement for the application is a good bachelor’s degree and an essay about the candidate. Kamal Kassim, a University of Durham postgraduate student who recently received the 2019 Commonwealth Shared Scholarship, also remarked that this year, there were only two or three recipients of the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship from northern Nigeria.