By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
LAST year, I was invited by Lanre Idowu, of Diamond Publications, to review a book he edited, on the late Chief Anthony Enahoro.
Many issues struck me about the book and the occasion. Here was a man described as a frontline nationalist, yet not a single Nigerian from the North, was found worthy enough to contribute a chapter.
Similarly, the cast of authors was one whose viewpoints are so well known, about the Nigerian condition, that there was not a line contributed to the book, that one could not literally, recite, almost line-by-line.
The central argument running through the book, was that Nigeria was doomed, if it was not ‘restructured’; and the only means of arriving at that ‘restructuring’, to enthrone the panacea of ‘True Federalism’, is a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) of the ‘tribes’ or ethnic groups making up Nigeria.
Of course, the leading light of the advocacy was Chief Enahoro, who argued that the Urhobo ‘state of nature’, only recognised the village, clan and tribe and its largest horizon, was the pre-eminence of the Oba of Benin.
I had argued in my review, that one of the drawbacks of the argument for SNC on the basis of ‘tribes and ethnic groups’ so forcefully canvassed by its proponents, is that it is very problematic, given the historical evolution of the many peoples making up Nigeria today.
Furthermore, that history cannot be reduced to Enahoro’s world of village, clan and tribe! The dynamics are much more complex.
Frankly, the argument for SNC on the basis of ‘tribes and ethnicities’, is an absurdity which has been canvassed by the same set of people from the 1990s.
Of course, it was a copycat idea, in the wake of the SNCs held in post-dictatorship conditions of French West Africa, from Mali through to Benin. Its Nigerian advocates vulgarised the idea and substituted the political and social forces of the original settings for ‘tribes’ in Nigeria.
The argument is then stretched further, that our Founding Fathers agreed to “True Federalism”, in the Constitutional Conferences of the 1950s. They conveniently forget to add that the Constitutional Conferences were attended by political forces; not ‘tribes’!
In recent weeks, we are being corralled back into the old trenches of SNC. A choreographed campaign is taking hold of the Nigerian social space for SNC: from the gerontocrats of NADECO through to Wole Soyinka, Emeka Anyoku and younger elements, like Rauf Aregbesola, governor of Osun and of course the media ‘brigade’ of commentators. We are reminded, ad nauseaum, that SNC is the panacea to all problems that will midwife ‘True Federalism’. Boko Haram is the latest backdrop for the SNC troops to return to their trenches.
But as Simon Kolawole asked at the weekend, SNC advocates must “come out and tell us about its entire ramifications….Would it be based on states, councils, wards, ethnic groups or dialects? Would it be equal representation no matter the population of any group?
Three, how would representatives emerge-through election or selection?” I have the sneak feeling that the noisy advocates assume THEY will be representatives of their ‘tribes’; but I honestly think there are too many delusions associated with the noisy campaign for SNC, and the SNC cast has deafened us for too long with their noisy advocacy.
It strikes me that they have not carefully thought through their platform, despite the noise!
Femi Fani-Kayode’s voice from the fringe
THESE are the best of times. These are the worst of times! Pardon me, good old, Charles Dickens. When crisis engulfs a nation it sometimes manifests in various forms of malady; amnesia is one; and then the absurdity of attempting to write one’s self back into social relevance, any which way!
Nigeria suffers the notorious affliction of forgetfulness; as if a collective act of lobotomy was carried out, almost as village barbers used to harvest the organs of young girls, in the old practice of ritual circumcision; condemned more elegantly today, as FGM, female genital mutilation. But we permit that collective social lobotomy.
We therefore allow ourselves to be inflicted with all kinds of insults. People who ordinarily should not appear in respectable society, then strut the stage of social existence.
Take Femi Fani-Kayode for example. This character lived on the margins of society, making of himself a nuisance and authoring doggerels, in the wake of the annulment of the June12, 1993 elections. The central theme of his writings was that Northern Nigeria was responsible for, and the source of, every problem which dogged Nigeria.
No opprobrium was insignificant for him to hurl at Northern ‘straw-men’, with a missionary zeal (he even describes himself a Deacon). The minders of the rottweiler were satisfied, for as long as he snarls at the Northern enemy, at the receiving end of the Quixotic tilting of NADECO or OPC and other ‘fighters’ against “Northern hegemony”. But in truth, the clown was hungry! It took the old despot, Olusegun Obasanjo to deconstruct the malaise.
Obasanjo took the chap from the streets into Aso Villa, with a basic instruction: “You’re hereby anointed to abuse all my enemies”; or words to that effect. And with gusto and a handsome perk to boot, as a Special Assistant, Femi Fani-Kayode went to town. No ‘enemy’ of the old despot, escaped his sharp tongue.
So effective was Femi, that Obasanjo promoted him a Minister! The last has not been heard of the financial controversies of his tenure. Somersaults are a veritable item of the kit of survival. Deluded he was going to play a role in Yar’Adua’s regime, Femi got nothing.
In recent weeks, obviously unhappy at being passed over in appointments, he even joined the nationwide protests against subsidy removal. But who can stop a stray dog from lapping up fecal matter? The dominant mood in certain circles in the country, presently, is to accuse Northern Nigeria of every crime under the sun again; what with Boko Haram, and anger at Jonathan’s subversion of the PDP, to become its candidate in 2011?
Trust me, there is something rotten in the state of Denmark, as Shakespeare said. Femi Fani-Kayode is back to his ‘best’, snarling at Northern Nigeria: “The Lugardian ‘poor husband of the north’ cannot force the ‘rich wife of the south’ to remain in this unholy and iniquitous union for much longer unless the terms are right and unless there is equity and justice for all. The mistake we made in 1967 by not standing on Aburi will not be repeated. The days of the master/servant relationship that we have witnessed between the north and the south for 51years of our national existence are long over and they shall never return again. This country is moving forward and she is not going back and if President Goodluck Jonathan can just get his act together and vigorously resist the hegemonist giants in the land he would have my full support…”
As if Obasanjo wasn’t in power for eight years and the clown was not even a minister in that disastrous and criminal regime! Or maybe Jonathan is also ‘Northern’! I think Femi Fani-Kayode desperately needs a job. The voice from the fringe of society is in desperate need of a new master. Is there a taker? Is anyone listening at the Aso Villa?
Wole Soyinka should name Boko Haram sponsors
LAST week, the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, revealed to a South African newspaper, an “original discovery” he made on Nigerian affairs, stating, that “both religious and political forces were driving the insurgency by the Islamist sect Boko Haram”.
Furthermore, the playwright added that “power-hungry politicians from Nigeria’s Muslim North are using indoctrinated young militants, drawn from the ranks of the poor unemployed and educated in Islamic schools, as foot soldiers in a battle over who should control the country”.
Soyinka continued: “Those who unleashed Boko Haram on the nation are politicians…Unfortunately one has to point to what section they come from, and that is the North. This minority is much focused, very powerful, very rich, they used to be in government, and they’ve accumulated billions….They are the ones who unleashed this monster on the nation.
They have articulated their conviction that it is their turn to rule Nigeria’. Well, Wole Soyinka has lived out a lifelong career in literature and can be pardoned if the substance of reality often merges into the fictional world of essays, plays and poetry! His bête noire has remained constant and that is Northern Nigeria and especially its Muslim component.
But if his convictions about the alleged sponsors of Boko Haram are as infallible as he has sounded, won’t the right thing be for the Nobel Laureate to assist the security services with a list of these sponsors?
The regime in power might even kill many birds with a stone: arrest and prosecute the sponsors and maybe, even collect from them the “billions” Wole Soyinka alleged “they’ve accumulated”! We are waiting for a dramatic entry from the Nobel Laureate on this matter!