By Ochereome Nnanna
IN May 2006, the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) convened by President Olusegun Obasanjo, reached a unanimous decision to approve the creation of an additional state for the South East Zone to raise its stake to six states just like the others, even though North West has seven.
It was the first time the nation reached a major national consensus through democratic means to right the wrongs of history and give a major but cheated section of this country reason to believe once more in Nigeria. That state would have been created if not for the tenure elongation clause that Obasanjo’s busybody flunkeys brought in to give their sponsor a third term.
It did not come as a surprise when the Consensus Committee of the current National Conference sitting in Abuja, at the prompting of elder statesman, Chief Olu Falae, resolved to propose for the approval of the plenary, the creation of that missing state in the South East Zone.
It was merely a reiteration, by the broad-based Committeeof delegates from all zones of the country, of what the earlier Obasanjo Conference had already, by overwhelming approval, slated as an item for inclusion in the 2006 Constitution Amendment Bill. Therefore, the creation of an additional state for the South East Zone to bring it to par with the rest has, for the second time in less than ten years, become one of the settled issues of a new Nigeria where, as our National Anthem affirms, “peace and justice shall reign”.
Last week Friday, we read in the media, a 46-page memo purportedly written by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) entitled: “Key Issues Before Northern Delegates to the 2014 National Conference”, in which it opposed the creation of the additional state for the South East Zone. The ACF’s argument was that the Zone does not have the population and landmass to merit six states like the other zones. It went ahead to claim the North is the “strength and backbone of Nigeria”, whatever that means.
The ACF’s memo, which has been circulated to delegates from the North, as nauseating as it is, did not come as a surprise, coming from the ACF. The ACF is a rabid, reactionary platform populated by many discredited elders of Arewa who occupied prominent positions both at the state and federal levels for decades.
They leveraged on the long dominance of the political space by the military led by the North to ravage the entire landscape of this nation, rendering the most blest nation in Africa to one of the poorest in the world. They made their home region, the North, to become the hotbed of mass poverty, destitution, religious conflicts, communal wars and Boko Haram terrorism wracking the country today. It is those in the ACF and their cohorts who underdeveloped the North with their reactionary agenda that spawned Boko Haram insurgency.
The ACF has never been in the forefront of any positive agenda or idea for the promotion of the unity, love, progress and nationalistic values in Nigeria. Rather, it is the promoter of the factors that have made the North an enemy unto itself and the nation at large, pitting Christians/Minorities against Muslims/Majorities.
They do not believe that what is good for Nigeria is good for the North. Rather, they believe that Nigeria is a conquered fief of the Muslim North. They are bedeviled by the “born-to-rule” mentality, which means that the rest of the country are born to be their servants or subjects; a notion that will always guarantee we will never live peacefully together. How can we fight and chase away the British colonial masters only to come home and tolerate an indolent, parasitic local colonialist?
It is this same ACF that is against resource control. They don’t want to work. Rather they would parasite on the oil wealth of the Niger Delta when the country, including the North, is richly blest with human and natural resources which resource control can leverage on to make Nigeria one of the biggest economies in the world. The ACF has never gone into talks with any of the other regional interests in search of peaceful co-existence.
Rather they believe the North can force its way and lord it upon the rest of the country, and hence the boast that the North is the “strength and backbone of Nigeria. The truth is that, as my fellow columnist here in Vanguard, Femi Aribisala says, Nigeria’s strength is not complete without any of its constituent parts and any group that sees itself as the strength and backbone of the country to the exclusion of the rest is merely engaging in empty self-glorification, talking for the sake of hearing their own voice.
ACF boasted it would stop President Goodluck Jonathan from being elected president in 2011. It created the Adamu Ciroma panel, which brought out Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of the “North”. Atiku was roundly defeated at the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) primaries. They switched support to Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Again, Buhari was hopeless thrashed at the polls.
These could not have been possible without the active participation of the Northern patriots. The ACF never wanted the North to participate at the Confab because they feared it would be used to bring about positive changes such as addressing the issues of marginalisation, which is an offshoot of the First Republic crises and civil war. Having failed to stop the North’s participation, ACF is now attempting to incite the their delegates to go against the interest of the Igbo people and other Nigerians, most of who have been great allies of the North at various junctures of Nigeria’s history.
The ACF never condemned Boko Haram insurgency. In fact, they were behind the threat to ensure the nation was made ungovernable if Jonathan became president.
ACF was the only outfit that supported Governor Murtala Nyako’s recent poisonous and treasonable anti-Nigeria memo to Northern governors alleging genocide against the federal government. The conclusion we draw from this is that the people of Northern Nigeria do not take their political compass and marching order from a discredited and electorally hollow group like ACF. Northerners are Nigerians, working with the rest of Nigeria towards the greatness of Nigeria, our commonwealth.
Coming to the nonsensical argument that the South East Zone does not have the landmass and population to merit an additional state, I daresay that state creation was never based on any cast-iron criteria under the military. They were created on mere whims, and in the process, some parts of the country got more states and local councils than the others. States were never created based on viability.
The basic reason for state creation in Nigeria was to give playing turf to relevant contending political actors whose agitation needed to be accommodated for national stability. It was also done to take development closer to the people, and in the process, try to balance the federation. That was how the first twelve states were created by General Yakubu Gowon in 1967. It helped him win the civil war and push the Igbos out of contention due to their secession attempt. After the war, subsequent state and local council creation exercises were used by the winners of the war to reward themselves and punish their perceived enemies. They were also used to loot the oil resources of the Niger Delta.
This Conference is meant to help us balance the federation, reduce marginalisation, cut the cost of governance, promote the faith of Nigerians in their country and strengthen the bonds of our unity. THIS ARTICLE WILL BE CONCLUDED ON THURSDAY. SEE YOU THEN.