Groundnut Economy: What is Ango Abdullahi talking about?

by Alexander O. Onukwue


The Government College Umuahia, the buildings that came to be after the Ajayi Crowther structures in Badagry and the refineries, all were developed with money from the North.

That is one way of interpreting the claim by Prof Ango Abdullahi, spokesman for the Northern Elders Forum, made as part of his (indefensible) defense of the Kaduna declaration of the Arewa youth goups. In a repeat of a claim he has always made, Prof Ango Abdullahi reiterated that before the advent of oil money, all of Southern Nigeria virtually got all of its developmental funds from the North.

In a significantly elaborate response to the Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II reported by Sun news online, Prof Ango Abdullahi detailed his thoughts on why he believed in the economic sufficiency of the North and its preparedness to stand firm and develop, after Nigeria divides.

There are many documented research that Northern Nigeria sustained the entire Nigeria state from 1914 to 1974.” according to him. “It cannot be contested that right from the colonial masters to the late Sardauna of Sokoto’s time, Northern Nigeria supported the economic growth of this country… the budget of Western and Eastern Nigeria was derived from resources and revenue from Northern Nigeria earned from the Colonial government”.

In other words, Prof Abdullahi’s recent claims are not new. But how true are they? Groundnut pyramids in the North were an acclaimed resource and credit mill, but did that really mean the western cocoa and eastern palm, kernel and coal were of no value?

In a rejoinder on the matter, Reno Omokri provides some clarification. According to him, “Northern Nigeria could not sustain herself financially talk less of supporting the South” as a result of the deficit in the region’s budget, leading to the need for British subsidy. Mr Omokri referred to the book by a British historian, Colin Newbury, ‘Accounting for Power in Northern Nigeria, published in 2004.

From the book, Reno’s further explains that “Lord Harcourt” in the year before the amalgamation “agreed to a proposal from Lord Lugard to amalgamate Southern and Northern Nigeria so that custom revenue from the south paying for the projects in the north”.

It would be interesting to find out what other details are contained in the book by Mr. Newbury. That is while noting that virtually all the ports in Nigeria are concentrated in the South, from which trade had been done in pre-Independence times. Prof Abdullahi’s polarizing comments have befuddled all, but if any positive can be taken at the moment, we will all be revisiting libraries to update our knowledge. We would not have our elders lead us astray when we have books to verify, would we?

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