By John Amoda
HAKEEM BABA-AHMED approaches issues of Nigerian political ethos with the energy and perspicacity of Chidi Amuta and I read him for his reading of politics in Nigeria. In his North: The goals of power, he attempts analysis of the political North in a way politics that should encourage politicians in the South to engineer a Political South.
This comment is made because the issues he addresses should be those that the PDP as the political behemoth should address for a Nigeria yet to be envisaged by the party. What is it that interests me in Hakeem Baba-Ahmed’s exposition of the ongoing efforts by stakeholders of the Political North is the spectrum of outcomes that contextualises his analysis of the current move in the Political North to address matters of concern to those involve in what Hakeem conceptualises as a project, for a “politically regenerated North”. To produce such a North, Hakeem is willing to begin with the option of a politically regenerated north outside of Nigeria.
“Many of its educated and political elite think the option of a North, or parts of it outside Nigeria is not as frightening as they used to fear”.
In the same vein, he rules out the option for such regeneration of a unified North doing the Politics of interest aggregation and articulation merely for office holding.
“Many Nigerians outside the North also recognise that a weak and severely crippled and divided North is a liability to itself and an even bigger liability to Nigeria. You cannot fix Nigeria with a bleeding North; and you cannot fix the North when it plays the game according to the rules others play it”.
Between these two poles of a Political North outside of Nigeria and a Fixed North playing the same. “Our turn next to be in control of the country” politics, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed attempts to provide content to the current manifesto of Transformational Politics. In doing so, Hakeem asks questions which all political parties should ask but do not ask fundamentally and explicitly. He asks “why does the North want power?” This question implies a paradigm postulation of the content of Regionalism in Nigeria. Why should a regional block be organised? Why should power be its goal? Most who think in regionalist terms assume that regionalist organisation of political power in Nigeria is the explicit organisation of Nigerian Federalism. Hakeem asks why should a region organise for power in the first place?
What does the North want power for? Is it just to have a Nigerian from the North in the Villa, or are there specific and practical advantages in having a Northerner as the next Nigerian President? How will the rest of the nation benefit from having a Northerner in the Villa as opposed to a Nigerian from any other part of the Nation?” His question is almost heretical from the perspective of Nigerian Federalists committed to zonal distribution of the patronage of office. Hakeem asks the non-obvious question- what is the ethical or ideological content of Nigerian Regionalism, and what advantage accrues to Nigeria from the diversity of its regionalism.
He asks a second question consequent from the first. “Secondly, is the grievance of the North essentially about losing power or having a leadership which does not appreciate and address the interests of North?” The first part of this question describes the present office-holding politics and its zero-sum outcome. Loss of office-holding is a devastating loss in Nigerian politics. Incumbency constitutes a strangle-hold on government at the three levels of governance and government has command and control of the Nigerian Economy. This fact is most salient for incumbency of the Federal Executive Branch- It can be enough justification for the Political North to be brought into being to restore Northern control of the Federal Executive Branch. In the Vanguard Tuesday January 8, 2013 report on its Conference Hall on the Review of the Constitution, a participant describes the almost depostic power of the Nigerian Executive President.
“A situation where the President becomes the most powerful President in the world, he is the one that gives oil blocs, he is the one that does almost everything, he can turn a man into a woman and there are no checks, there are no balances. The President decides who becomes Speaker of the House and the Senate President so that he will get a compliant House. He does what he wants to do and nobody will challenge him”.
Although the point is made with some exaggeration, he captures in his description of the President, the logic of executive power both at the centre and at the state level. Being out of office is thus being out of power and vice versa. The North regaining power should be in itself sufficient motive for engineering a structure through which power could return to the Political North. While this is how politics is currently played, Hakeem demands more of the leadership and followership of the Political North. A regenerated political North should be about a North defined in terms of collective interests and value, it should be a vision of a North in the service of the Northern Populace.
The energy being mobilised should it Hakeem asks “be directed at putting one of several claimants from the North in office? Is the goal of Northern political unity to have Buhari, or Atiku or Muazu Babangida or Sule Lamido or half a dozen others whose ambitions are yet to be made public become president or is more about issues, platforms and a vision of a North outside its desperately limiting challenges? Does it include consideration for the emergence of new leadership unencumbered by a past and present loyalties to structures and institutions that have crippled the growth and development of the Nigerian state?”
Hakeem Baba-Ahmed asks questions about the Political North that should be asked about a Political Nigeria. Indeed it is clear from Hakeem’s interrogation of political development in the North that he would have preferred it to be the case if the stakeholders of the Political North were assembled to Fix Nigeria. This judgment is expressed in his own words.
“The worst card the North can play is one which makes the case of a northern leader only because he is from the North. Zoning or any other arrangement which bestows advantages on ethnic groups or religion is antithetical to the search for leadership which should command respect and allegiance across the land”. Above is the lucid expression of what Nigerian populace deserve from its leaders and should be the raison d’etre of a politically regenerated Nigeria.