By Hugo Odiogor, Deputy Political Editor
There is no doubt that as an elder statesman in his mid eighties, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, deserves our respect both as a political activist, in the same class with the likes of Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, and Alhaji Balarabe Musa.
He remains one of the few surviving nationalists that God has spared their lives to witness the sad chapters of our historical and political evolution in the past 50 years. There is another reason why God may have preserved Alhaji Tanko Yakassai to this day and that is to use his voice of age and wisdom, to speak to the younger generation from the north of what they would benefit from having a more positive and progressive world view.
This positive progression was expected to come from the realisation that over a period of time, the mindset of an old monolithic north, highly skeptical and distrustful of the south should give way to a more integrative and mutually beneficial relationship built on the principles of collaborative federalism rather than parasite and destructive cohabitation.
The North which Alhaji Yakasai seeks to represent is totally different from the one that both the Arewa Consultative Forum and just recently, the Chief Servant of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, is telling the whole world and this is becoming a burden to the Nigerian federation. To this class of observers, the cardinal issues to identify and resolve, should be what the North is and what is the interest of the North in the Nigerian project. How can this interest be realized and what are the factors that could lead to the realisation or frustration of the attainment of this interest? And finally it must find out what the interest of the other stakeholders in the union and how these interests can be accommodated without being injurious to all the parties concerned.
Without prejudice to his age and status in society, it wonâ€™t wrong to state that Alhaji Yakassai in his ripe old age and wisdom that goes with it, seemed to have missed this mission given his public utterances on national issues. From his base in Kano, Alhaji Yakassai ought to be a leading light for the progressive emancipation of the talakawas of northern Nigeria and the oppressed people of Nigeria in general.
Rather than borrow a leaf from the likes Prof. Wole Soyinka, Late Gani Fawehimni and others who spoke for millions of the impoverished and deprived masses whose dreams as Nigerians have been aborted by few feudal and political elites from the north and their collaborating partners in the south and abroad, Alhaji Yakassai is sowing seeds of ethnic and religious fragmentation who believes that God created them to make life miserable for the weak and vulnerable.
The likes of Alhaji Aminu Kano, Alhaji Balarabe Musa,Â Hajia Gambo Sawaba of the blessed memories, are from the north and they have glorious pages in the annals of history of this country which is what Franz Fanon expects of Alhaji Yakassai, to use his privileged position to speak up for the hoipoiloi or the wreathed of the earth.
The North and its leaders have suddenly come to the realisation that they are now the problem of the country. President Yarâ€™ Adua said much at the fund raising event for Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation in Kaduna on October 17, 2009, when he told the audience that the north had not been making much progress because its leaders have failed to emulate the leadership qualities of the late Sarduana.
According to the President â€œnorthern leaders that came after the late Sarduana have abandoned the tenets of social justice, religious tolerance, leadership by example and democratic principlesâ€ The north from where Yakassai hails, has held political power for over 30 years out of Nigeriaâ€™s 50 years as an independent nation yet the incidence of poverty in the northern part of Nigeria is put at an average of 79% while the figure in the south is 35%. What have the northern political elite, done with political power when they were in-charge, why they could not better the lives of the ordinary people in that region, who languish in penury either as nomads or on streets beggars.
Before the February 9,2010, National Assembly proclamation of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the Acting President, Nigerians and indeed the world had watched how a nation of over 150 million people was groping in the dark without clear information on the health status of President Umaru Musa Yar â€˜Adua who was taken to a Saudi Hospital for medical attention. Neither his friends, family nor party members could gain access to him. Nigeria became more odious in global community when a fake BBC interview was organised for the ailing president.
All the sacked ministers took their turn in foisting lies on the nation and the world laughed at our ingenuity at telling lies. Jos erupted in sectarian violence in January, the budget of 2010 was held up and the appointment of a Chief Justice was made mockery of. Nigeria was grinding to a halt as there as nobody to steer a sinking ship. This was fallout of sick President Yar â€˜Aduaâ€™s absence from work without official leave.
It was therefore a shock to read the highly incendiary innuendoes and insinuations put forward by Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, who bought pages of newspaper advertisement to publish his â€œopen letterâ€ to the Senate President entitled â€œillegal dissolution of the Federal Executive Council of the Federation and other illegal Acts of Acting President Goodluck Jonathanâ€.
Without mincing words, it is a common knowledge that Dr. Jonathan and his boss, Alhaji Umaru Yarâ€™ Adua were jointly elected into the presidency on the ticket of Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party so Dr. Jonathan is not an impostor or a stranger to that office. The presidency is an institution and not a personal estate or company of any Nigerian. Who ever occupies that office does so in trust and at the grace of God. The fact that Alhaji Yar Adua took ill while in office was not a crime, but to hold the entire country to ransom was a dereliction of office and unacceptable to millions of Nigerians.
The fact the National Assembly empowered Dr. Jonathan to exercise full presidential powers may have been unconstitutional but it was the lesser of two evils that faced the country. The first was a possible military intervention and nationâ€™s continuous state on inertia and slide chaos. All these were not seen as worrisome development to Alhaji Yakassai
The Chief of Army Staff Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau displayed an act of disloyalty, lack of patriotism and irresponsibility to the institution of the presidency and Nigeria clime when he allowed massive troop mobilisation and movement in Abuja on February 15, 2010, without the knowledge and permission of the Acting President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who in his capacity as the Vice President is the Commander-in-Chief, irrespective of the ramblings in the political circles.
He was not expected to be partisan or motivated by any other considerations outside his professional callings. In the eyes of military law the action of Gen. Danbazau is treasonable, regardless of his faith. This was demonstrated in 1995 coup trial involving Col. Lawan Gwadabe and others. Nigerians have criticised the Army Chief not for his religious or northern background for his partisan and unprofessional conduct.
Mr. Michael Aondoaaka was similarly criticised, nobody spared him because he was a Christian or from the Middle belt. The same was the case of Gen. Godwin Abbe, who was from the South-South. If Gen. Danbazau and Alhaji Yakassai believe that the Chief of Army Staff is only to take orders from the President or Acting President should be based on the ethnic background and religious affiliations, then they should call for a redrawing of the map of Nigeria using the Gideon Orkar model of April 1990.
. Chief Ebenezer Babatope recently told Vanguard that â€œneither the North nor the military can claim to have monopoly of the instrument of violence or coercion as can be seen in the case of Niger- Delta, OPC, MASSOB and the Yandabasâ€. Nigerians expect Alhaji Yakassai to rise above parochial and sectional concerns to look at the bigger picture, a picture which shows other Africa countries making tangible and appreciable progress while Nigeria perpetually slides into irrelevance and backwardness.
Generally Nigeria continues to ride high on corruption, bad governance. The country is devastated by hunger and disease and ranks low in all social and economic indicators of human development indices with the northern region faring worse in these areas.
It is interesting to observe that Alhaji Tanko Yakassai and his sponsors have not spoken out against the scandalous abuse of the federal character principle in the appointment in NNPC, the predominant use of people from Kano and Katsina States to manage the public finance sector of the Yarâ€™ Adua. To this group of people the situation in the Niger Delta is a needless irritation that should be crushed with force, the silent jihad in the Middle Belt should be backed by federal troops, but there comes such a time when the people rise up to say enough is enough.