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AGENDAISM IN POLITICS: The consequences on the nation

By Adisa Adeleye
THE recent happenings in the country have led to the resuscitation or rebirth of the old gimmicks by politicians or people under political or economic pressure to ascribe their woes to either ethnicity or some hidden agenda.

As it is known in Nigeria , ’agendaism’ is not a new concept in our political history; it pre_dated Nigeria Independence in 1960.

Fortunately or otherwise, the political or regional leaders who won freedom from British colonialism were all tainted with the sordid brush of one Agenda or the other.  In the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, such words like Yoruba Agenda, Ibo Agenda and Northern Agenda featured constantly in the then sectional newspapers.  In fact, Lagos and Western Nigerian politics of the 1950s was a political battle between Ibo vibrant nationalism and Yoruba conservatism.

The principal participants were Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe (Zik) and Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Awo).

The battle was eventually carried to the floors of Western House of Assembly when Zik suffered a devastating heavy blow that sent him scappering back to the East of the Niger, his home base.  Chime Achebe (now a respected Professor) captured the event graphically.

He wrote, ‘as a student in Ibadan, I was an eye – witness to that momentous occasion when Chief Obafemi Awolowo ‘stole’ the leadership of Western Nigeria from Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe in broad daylight on the floor of the Western House of Assembly and sent the great Zik scampering back to the Niger whence (he) came’.

During the unfortunate drama, majority of the Ibos saw tribalism or Yoruba Agenda in play as against the display of superb political acumen and organisation by Chief Awolowo.

The hurricane, however descended on the nation from the North under what could be termed the real ‘Northern Agenda’. Alhaji Tafawa Balawa (murdered Prime Minister) was reported as saying; ‘I think 1947 will always stand as a very important year in the history of Nigeria .

Since the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Provinces in 1914 Nigeria has existed as one country on paper. It is still far from being united.

The country is inhabited by peoples and tribes who speak different languages, who have different religious, different customs and traditions and entirely different historical background in their ways of life and who have also attained different stages of development’.

That speech was as true in 1947 as it is potentially true in Nigeria of today.  It is as if you have forced the Northerners into a country called Nigeria , then you must allow them to rule or be a significant part of the ruling class.  Afterall, as Alahaji Maitama Sule has aptly reminded us ‘Northerners are endowed with leader ship quality’.
What is being regarded by Southerners as ‘Northern Agenda’ under the banner of ‘One North_One People’ is simply a statement of truth that the North’ under any circumstance must rule or be a significant part of the ruling elite.  It is an exercise in political ingenuity and opportunism and not hidden agenda.

The ‘Yoruba Agenda’ under Chief Awolowo was regarded as pure and undiluted tribalism and anti-Fulan feudalism.  According to its political organ, ‘one of the things that Action Group set out to do was to destroy the basis of this feudal concept’.

There is no doubt that ‘Yoruba Agenda’ under Chief  Awolowo placed the Yoruba at a strategic and enviable position in the country which became a subject of envy by other tribes; its anti-Fulani stance did not help Awo during his attempt to become Nigerian President.

The ‘Ibo Agenda’ or Ibo Problem (as Ibos see it) is being interpreted by others as an attempt by that sturdy and enterprising race to dominate Nigeria politically and economically.  No matter the strong argument to the contrary, many Nigerians viewed the 1966 military coup as an attempt to sub due the country to Ibo rule.

Perhaps a mission of emancipation was badly handled by overtly ambitious blood-hounds who shed innocent blood for personal gains and vendetta.

Perhaps the fear of ‘Ibo Agenda” originated from Zik’s presidential address to the Ibo State Union about 1946.  In an unguarded moment of oratorical brilliance, the great Zik thundered.

‘The God of Africa has especially created the Ibo nation to lead the children of Africa from the bondage of the ages……………….. The martial powers of the Ibo nation at all ages in human history has enabled them not only to conquer others but also to adapt themselves to the role of preservers…………..  The Ibo nation cannot shirk its responsibility’.

There is little doubt that the generation of Ibo youths who sacrificed their lives for the survival of Biafra later were fired by the embers of the ‘martial powers of the Ibo nation’.

The Ibo Problem to the Ibos is the failure by others to recognize their sacrifices and emulate their achievements to others, Ibos themselves were a part to their general problem.

As noted by Professor E. A. Ayandele; ‘the tribal factor as the major cause of the Nigerian crises and the civil war centered around the Igbo, not because they were worse than the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani, nut because they were worse than the Yoruba and Hausa Fulani, but because in the circumstances in which history has pushed them they were less discreet, more articulate and abler than the others to irritate and provoke others.  It is in this respect that their role as an ethnic in the contemporary history of Nigeria is singled out as an illustration of tribalism at work.’

On the enviable success of the Igbo individual and collectively, which earned them envy in the past, Chinua Achebe noted, ‘but this kind of success can carry a deadly penalty of hubris, over-weaning pride end thoughtlessness, which invites envy and hatred; or even worse which can obsess the mind of with material success and dispose it to all kinds of crude showiness’.

The Igbo must learn less abrasiveness, more shrewdness and tact and a willingness to grant, the validity of less boisterous values;

It has been asserted that the past leaders had used ethnic agenda to strengthen their individual and group positions in the country.  Now is the time for ‘NIGERIA AGENDA’ which is based on equity, justice and rule of law.  A country where every citizen is free within the context of true federalism; where actions of public officials reflect the true interest of the whole and not that of a part.

We need not talk about the ‘Northern Agenda’  if Governor Sanusi of the Central Bank sincerely believes in the future of the banking system of the country.

What should be address is the consequences of Sanusi’s action on the free flow of laudable funds and the dwindling confidence in Nigeria banking operations. We need not sell our banks to foreign interest 100 percent. It does not make economic sense.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.