National confab and delusion of Northern elders

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THE  leaders of the North, or those who say that they are leaders of the vast North, that supposedly includes the Igala, Tiv, Idoma, Nupe, Gbagyi, etc, gathered recently in Kano and indulged in what can best be described as an exercise in deception all in a desperate attempt to get power to return to a region which has been balkanised because of the natural tendency of some people to think that power belongs to them.

Now that power has slipped from the hands of these few people, they want to remember that an Igala like me is one of them.  For record purposes, there are people from what is described as the North today who do not share this delusive position.  The so-called Northern leaders are mobilising Northerners to perceive President Goodluck Jonathan in bad light as part of the grand strategy to ensure power returns to the North in 2015.

There is no doubt that this agenda is evil.  Validation: the days are replete with battles among Northerners from Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau and Katsina.  Those fighting in this region are not Southerners, but Northerners slaughtering Northerners and these elders who cannot put the North in order are alleging a secret agenda with the National Conference.

But in the deception dance that went on in Kano, there was a ray of hope when Nuhu Ribadu mounted the rostrum.  His words: “At a time global development moves in supersonic (speed), we trail behind on this path of progress.  We give birth in record number and often end up throwing the kids on the streets, leaving them to their own devices.  The parents shy away from their responsibilities of upbringing while the governments abandon their own bits of provision of basic social amenities from healthcare to education.

“It is a little wonder that we have one of the highest mortality rates, out-of-school children, dropouts and social misfits.  Some of these children, who managed to escape the harsh formative years, end up on the streets as urchins. On reaching adulthood, frustration and lack of opportunities would dawn on them making them the victims that now give us sleepless nights.”

Former Federal Permanent Secretary, who wants to be the unsolicited voice for the North and seeks political relevance, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, believes that the National Conference has been “deliberately designed to cause havoc to Northern unity and deepen its problems,” adding that it will make it “easier for President Jonathan to exploit the fallout for his re-election campaigns.”  The reason why this will happen is because there is no longer a monolithic North and there will never be any longer.

Baba-Ahmed, who suggested a sabotage of the conference in other words, continues in his sinister agenda: “This Conference will not find answers to the decaying infrastructure in the North, or solutions to the millions of young uneducated, unskilled and unemployed citizens, or solutions to the dangerous trend which sheds so much Northern blood every time elections come. The North will participate at this conference at best as a spectator or at worst a helpless victim of a conspiracy to exploit its weakness.  [Therefore] every Northerner who walks out robs the conference of more of the very little credibility it has.  The more of you (delegates) that walk out, the less likely it will be that they will claim that they held a National Conference.”

But another Northern politician, Buba Galadima, also slightly toed the general line of argument by lamenters like Baba-Ahmed, Ango Abdulahi and Professor Awwalu Yadudu. According to him, the fragmented North should articulate an agenda that enables it use its large number to determine who will become the next president. What a beguiling motive!

Indeed, it is Ribadu who stole the show and the hearts of a vast number of unselfish Northerners.  Read him: “The story of the North’s deterioration is a replica of the Nigeria’s story. Searching for solutions to these challenges also means groping for the ropes to a better future for our dear country.  I am a believer in the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria, under which we are a federating unit with 72 percent of the total landmass and more than half of the population, according to the 2006 head count.

“As such, we have to first situate ourselves within the larger prism of the country. As part of a federal system, the North can legitimately articulate its own philosophy and tools for development as some people within the nation have done…to achieve whatever agenda is for the North; we must first integrate ourselves fully into the Nigerian entity and the world as it is in this 21st century.  In this journey we are making, we have to continue to evaluate and from time to time, shake up or shake off practices, norms and dogmas that hinder our progress.”

Ribadu continued: “… Putting this house (or the North) in order means getting our acts together; it means cleaning ourselves of the quicklime that keeps us in a standing position without any movement…. Yes, we are in difficult times but I see opportunities in our difficulty.  A lot of places have gone under such difficulties but with much introspection and self-cleansing, they emerged out of it stronger.  Hard time, it is said, is like the washing machine; it twists, turns and knocks you around but it makes you come out clean. Nothing ever goes without teaching us something to learn.”

If the Northern leaders will listen to men like Ribadu, they will win our hearts rather combust energy on inanities.  If we spend the next five years, there is no way anyone from any of the other regions can ever get and hold on to power again.  And we must not pursue power just to have it because if that is done, that power will slip away again, and conferences to abuse other Jonathans of the future will be held.

MATTHEW ADEJOH, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.

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