El-Rufai Made the declaration at the Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit which ended on Thursday.
His position came as Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje said a survey has revealed that there are more than three million Almajiris in Kano State, majority of whom he said are foreigners from Niger Republic, Chad and other neighbouring African countries.
El-Rufai said: “Yesterday, the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Muhammadu Sanusi II, made certain observations about the state of northern Nigeria within the larger Nigeria context. Because the truth of the matter is when you look at human development in the indices of Nigeria, they hide a lot of information. They saw us as middle income country, they saw that we are making progress in terms of education and health care.
“But when you disaggregate this number and look at them from zone to zone, from state to state, it is very revealing. It shows for, instance, that some states in Nigeria are as backward as Afghanistan in terms of education, health care and opportunities. And many of the states in the Northwest are afflicted with these challenges.”
He urged Northern leaders to recognise that within the larger Nigerian context, the region have some common problems.
“We have the largest number of out-of-school children, we have the largest number of girls not completing basic education, we have the lowest levels of women giving birth in hospitals and health clinics, we have the highest infant mortality rate and we have the highest maternity mortality and morbidity rate.
“Unless we recognise that and come together and address our common challenges, we will continue to pull Nigeria backward, in my opinion, and that is the last thing we want.