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THE NORTH AND ITS BOYCOTT OF FOODS TO THE SOUTH

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By DONS EZE

The North thought that they hold the ace in Nigeria. They thought themselves to be too important or too critical to the survival of Nigeria as a nation. They believed that they were the only people producing all the foods Nigerians eat, and that without them, everybody in the country would go hungry and die of starvation.

They looked at what they were producing, such as tomatoes, pepper, onions, irish petato, beans, and of course, cow meat, and concluded that they would go on strike, that they would no longer supply these food items to the South, so that the people there would all go hungry.

The North was reacting to the quit notice issued to Fulani herdsmen by some state governments in the South West, asking them to vacate their forests because of the naferious activities of these herdsmen, who kill, kidnap, maim, rape women, destroy farm crops and farmlands, and burn down houses.

But the South was not perturbed. They were not worried. They did not panic. They were undaunted. They were prepared to bear the consequences, provided the Fulani herders leave their forests and their farmlands. But who says that these food items could not be produced in the South? It would be a matter of time and they would get over the problem. Therefore, they preservered.

As fate would have it, it was not long before the tide turned against the North themselves. If they would not move their food items to the South, they would have no other place to move them, not to the neighbouring Chad, Niger Republic, or to the Cameroun. These were no big markets, compared to what they were making in Southern Nigeria, where most people reside.

In a matter of days, the food items produced by the North, started to rotten. They were perishable items. The people began to feel the heat of their own boycott, their self-imposed strike, and this made them to be losing millions of naira everyday. They then decided to call off the strike, to lift the embargo of food supplies to the South. Nobody begged them.

If the boycott had continued, the South would have learned how to live without these food items, or they would begin to cultivate them in their own area.

The North were poor students of history. They did not read or did not remember the circumstance that led to the amalgamation of the Southern and the Northern Protectorates of Nigeria by the British colonial administration in 1914. Let’s go back a little bit into history.

Following the revocation of the charter granted the Royal Niger Company and the direct assumption of responsibility of a large expanse of land called Nigeria, by the British Government, on January 1, 1900, the territory was divided into two parts, the Southern and the Northern Protectorates. The two protectorates were administered separately, each with a High Commissioner in charge of its affairs, and who were answerable directly to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London.

But all through this period of separate existence of the Northern and the Southern Protectorates, the North had always proved to be an economic burden to the colonial administration. For instance, whereas the South had consistently posted budget surpluses coming from her natural resources such as coal, palm produce, cocoa, timber, etc., the North was always in deficit. That time, crude oil had not been discovered.

In 1913, in particular, while the South had declared a revenue surplus of 1,138,000 British Pounds, the North, continued to receive government grants, averaging 314,500 British Pounds every year, for the eleven years up to 1912, so as to balance its budget.

It was in order to build a self-sufficient and healthy nation, and to relieve the British colonial government of the economic burden always placed on it by the North, that necessitated the 1914 amalgamation between the Northern and the Southern Protectorates, so that the surpluses declared by the South would be used to balance the budgetary deficits of the North.

If the promoters of the boycott of food supplies to the South had read this aspect of Nigerian history, they would have appreciated the contributions made by the South to the making of Nigeria, and therefore, would be circumspect in ordering for the boycott. If also they had known that the boycott would hurt the North more, they would not have contemplated ordering for it.

For the South, the boycott had taught them a very good lesson. It was an eye-opener, which was to also go into farming. There is nothing that grows in the North, that cannot grow in the South. It will only be a matter of interest and determination. If it is the rearing of cattle, the South can also embark on it, by going into ranching.

It is also a very big lesson to the country at large: that no section of Nigeria should hold others to ransom or consider itself so important that without it, the country would collapse.

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