Northern Agenda: A backbone without coccyx?

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The South South region in this presentation reacts to the “Key issues before the Northern delegates to the 2014 National Conference”, articulated by the North at the conference

By Ayakeme Whisky

PREAMBLE: Part of the fundamental considerations for the convening of the on-going National Conference is to provide a platform for Nigerians across ethnic and geo-political divide to sit together to resolve all divisive issues that appear to have set our dear country in the recent past on the seeming state of conflagration.

No one discerning mind will contend the fact that our country has been besieged with polemics of interests over resource appropriation and management, resource ownership, right to perpetual rule, marginalization and all conceivable issues.

Therefore, for the sake of national interest, as clearly evinced in the President’s admonition at the inauguration of the National Conference on March 17, 2014 conferees and all other interest groups are expected to be broad minded, with a clear sense of accommodation in their articulations as we seek resolution of the several divisive tendencies for the sake of national unity, peace, stability and progress of our dear country.

Compendium of myths

The people of Southern Nigeria were, therefore, astonished when a document titled “Key issues before the Northern delegates to the 2014 National Conference” was circulated to conferees in the course of the various committee works.

Quite sadly, rather than convey articles of progressive and centripetal blocks of nation building, it was a compendium of myths, fallacies and misrepresentation of facts. As a people desirous of sustaining truth we find it compelling to state the unblemished facts of history, not only to educate all discerning minds but also to, indeed, ensure that Nigeria as a country belongs to all of us and no one group of people or tribe can claim greater patrimony.

After taking a perfunctory look at that document one discovers the catacombs of historical falsity, chalice of myths, fallacies, misconception and misrepresentation of issues, facts and events in Nigeria’s march towards nationhood. We wish to note that these gamut of lies being peddled and canvassed as sterling new issues are, after all, not new at all to all students of political history.

Two statesmen and elders of Northen extraction,  Alhaji Auwalu Yadudu in 2005 and  Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, only a fortnight ago, attempted to resurrect these same moribund and infantile claims.

The more robust document under reference is thus an amplification of Yakassai’s memorandum to conferees. Whereas those hired to tilt the course of history could bemuse themselves for “a supposed” scholarly work, it is indecorous within the presumptive refinement of intellectualism to use such uncouth, unrefined and crude language and the unrestrained use of invectives and innuendo to vilify institutions, groups and regions in a document that should stand time. As part of our obligations as enlightened citizens we have taken the responsibility to respond to fight negative ideas because bad ideas stick if left unchallenged and evil thrives where good men keep quiet.

Unmasking the Hausa-Fulani hegemonic national development agenda: We note sadly that there is a strong retrogression of our embrace of cultural and highly cherished national values. From the high pedestal of urbane, disciplined, and respect for cultural values and ethos our precursors were renowned, the recourse to provocative use of language to convey a “plight” deserving of humane consideration smacks of arrogance and profanity.

A critical analysis of the “so called Northern agenda” that recommends a “fight to finish spirit” for all Northern delegates at the on-going National Conference clearly establishes a certain mindset and preconceived assumptions. Firstly, in a country where all citizens are equal stakeholders there appears to be an assumption of “complex” deriving from the well crafted colonially induced legacy of hegemony of the North over and above every other region.

Privileges and patronage

The authors, however, tried unsuccessfully to mask the Hausa-Fulani as the North who have always been providentially positioned to dispense privileges and patronage to the rest of Nigerians. The unholy claim of Northern Nigeria  being the Backbone and Strength of Nigeria, by merely ascribing 80 per cent land mass to the North as against 20 per cent for the entire South is as pejorative as ridiculous. It is of course laughable! We are learning for the first time that a barren unproductive land could confer strength on a country.

For example, Liechtenstein in Europe, with a landmass of about 160 square kilometres has the second highest GDP per capita of US$98,432 and ranked second in Europe in 2012. South Korea with a landmass of only 97,100 square kilometres has a GDP per capita of  US$32,500.16 in 2012.

Similarly, Switzerland with a landmass of only 40,000 square kilometres, with a per capita GDP of US$53,367 is ranked the fifth highest in Europe in 2012. Where thereof lies the “strength” in a barren unproductive landmass of 786,754 sq. km as claimed? At best the so called landmass has been an economic burden and drain on the national treasury funded exclusively with revenue from petroleum resources from the South-South geo-political zone.

We are little surprised at the deliberate recourse to bigotry because despite the economically induced marriage between the North and the South to off-load the liability of the North on the British tax payers to the South, their progenitor, Sir Ahmadu Bello exposed their hegemonic flanks thus”

Conquered territory

“The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather, Uthman Dan Fodio. We must ruthelessly prevent a change of power. We shall use the minorities in the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to have control over their future.” (The Parrot, October 12, 1960)

This attitude of belligerence evinces a contradiction from a people who only seven years earlier in 1953 premised their opposition to Nigeria’s self government in 1956 on their lack of education and sophistication to manage an independent Northern Nigeria.

Perhaps it would be expedient to recall the words of Lord Harcourt, the then Colonial Secretary, in an attempt to justify the proposed unification of the Northern and Southern protectorates before the British Parliament: unification of Nigeria demanded both ‘method’ and ‘a man’.

The man was to be Lord Lugard and the method was to be the ‘marriage’ of the two entities. We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the Treasury.  The promising and well conducted youth is now on an allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a Southern lady of means. I have issued the special licence and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ceremony. May the union be fruithful and the couple constant.

Without doubt the North since the amalgamation has been dependent on the fortunes of the South to service their recurring annual deficits. What, therefore, confers on the thinking of the authors of the Northern agenda a claim to being the “strength” of Nigeria?

Can there be strength without economic prowess? We wish to state unequivocally that the present level of impoverishment experienced by the South, especially the South-South states would have been different were it not for the burdens of the parasitic North these states have been magnanimously shouldering.

Indeed, with a total landmass of only 94,942sq. km. and about 31,000,000 people, the South-South states that generated about US$154,186,189,948 between 2010 and 2012 only would have had one of the highest GDP per capita in the world like Norway, Monaco, Luxemburg and Liechtenstein. The people of the South deserves a pat and not reprobation and insults from the Northern beneficiaries.

It may be instructive to place on record for the umpteenth time that unlike some other ethnic nationalities who were conquered and/or ceded their territorial right and sovereignty to the British powers, the people of South-South (and in particular the Ijaws), the city states and indigenous communities of the pre-colonial Oil Rivers Protectorate were not conquered. At the time of contact with the Europeans, the city states have grown their political administration, trade and foreign relations to equate with the standards of modern government.

Modern government

The Treaties of Friendship and Protection and the payment of Comey Subsidy (customs duty) to the sovereign kings of the pre-colonial city states attests to this independence. That through political manipulations aided by their British benefactors, who saw them as beautiful bride to be massaged, they assumed unearned vantage position to leadership and ascribe to themselves a clout of hegemony, does not confer a right of perpetual dictators on them to rule over others in this 21st century Nigeria.

Secondly, the entire agenda is bereft of any production and wealth creation model in our collective attempt at recreating a Nigeria where the creative energies and potentials of its people would be harnessed for our common good. Rather its central philosophy drums the parasitic eulogies of distributive-consumerism, to continually sap and milk the fortunes of others, particularly the oil producing South-South states.

We regret the lack of patriotic intellectualism in a supposed research work to support the present day clamour for federalism where enterprise and creativity would be promoted to reposition our dear country for our collective development and progress. What makes it sacrilegious for the authors to think of maximally exploring and exploiting the abundant natural, human and material resources that abound in each of the states of the federation for our collective benefit?

Thirdly, it is criminal and a travesty of justice for historical facts to be falsified and distorted to serve the narrow interest of the North, primarily to confuse and sway undiscerning minds. We wish to state that the recommendations of the Selborne Report were taken out of context and adopted carte blanche as the dictate and basis of our amalgamation and nationhood to satisfy the imagination of these hegemonists. The calculated denial and obscurity of the deliberations at the pre-1957 Legislative Councils and the constitutional conferences of the 1957 and 1958 is a fraudulent attempt to rewrite history.

The fallacies and misconceptions

Let us first deal with the contextual claims that are grossly fallacious but infused  with deafening spirit of truth to mislead. Engaging in intellectual sophistry and bandying convoluted statistics, the proponents stated: “The argument that creation of states should be on the basis of equality irrespective of the population and land mass is inconsistent with elementary concept of justice, since injustice is not only when equals are treated unequally but also when unequals are treated equally.”

The manufacturers of these misleading half-truths and their cohorts should be reminded that justice is not only when equals are treated equally but also must be based on sound moral and equitable principles. Equity is not where everybody is treated equally but when respect and honour are given to deserving people based on strength, resources, competences and capacity. Creating states on the basis of population and landmass without due regard to economic viability and sustenance is not justice. Therefore, the attempts to rest arguments on population census figures which have been subject of controversies from the beginning is fraudulent. Everybody knows that the population census figures have been openly deprecated by the authorities themselves.

For instance, only few months ago, the immediate past National Chairman of the National Population Commission, Eze Festus Odimegwu, stunned the nation when he said: “No census has been credible in Nigeria since 1863.

Credible census

“Even the one conducted   in 2006 is not credible. I have the records and evidence produced by scholars and professors of repute. This is not my report.”

Also, it would be recalled that Mr. R.K. Foyer, the British census officer for the Eastern Provinces between 1952 and 1953, reported that only Calabar, Bonny, Opobo, Degema and Brass were covered in the census of 1911 in the southern flank of the East. By implication the headcount was limited to the headquarters of these city states. The rural communities which were part of the provinces of these city states were left out in the exercise.

Similarly the 1921 census figures being given scientific adoration were all ‘estimates’ even in the words of Mr. Meek, the colonial officer who conducted the exercise thus: “Whilst it is not pretended that the counts made for the natives in the provinces was anything more than approximately accurate, the statistics nevertheless furnish a great amount of valuable information.”(Everybody’s Guide, 1990). Also the National Population Commission (NPC) in 1998 repudiated the scientific validity of the 1921 figures.

The questionable nature of all census figures is evidenced by the fact that they have been repeatedly rejected by successive governments. Indeed,  it is a matter of historic truth that the Supreme Court nullified the results of the 1963 census and this should have laid to rest any iota of claim to scientifically conducted census figures. As Richard Akinjide (2000) said, it is only in Nigeria that population dynamics work in favour of deserts and savannah belts contrary to global reality.

I would like to point out that, if you look at the map of West Africa, starting from Mauritania to Cameroun, and take the population of each country as you move from the Coast to the Savannah, the population decreases. Or conversely, as you come from the desert to the coast, right from Mauritania to the Cameroun, the population increases. The only exception throughout that zone is Nigeria. Nigeria is the only zone whereby you go from the coast to the North that one finds the population increasing while from the North to the coast, the population decreases.

Population decrease

Yet, at the slightest opportunity academics and intellectuals from the North have chosen this path of aberration to justify their pontifications as scientific. In order to finitely rest all arguments about the accuracy of our population census, Nigerians must wholeheartedly do one of and/or both of two things; we must seize the opportunities offered by  advancement of technology to conduct precision head-count through the capture of nature’s bio-metric attributes of every citizen of this country.

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