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Now that the ‘North’ is talking…

By Pini Jason

NIGERIANS, naïve as ever, have been implying that Boko Haram is “faceless”. But it was clear that with the increasing audacity of the Northern intellectuals, technocrats and journalists free lancing for Boko Haram, it was a matter of time before we linked up all the dots. Boko Haram is no longer so faceless, given the audacity of its apologists and spokesmen.

If the raison d’etre of Boko Haram was unclear before, the picture became clearer when the Arewa Consultative Forum signed a statement rationalising the terrorists’ quit order to Christians in the North. It became even clearer when the Governor of Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, provided statistical glorification of the terrorism of Boko Haram in his Financial Times of London interview and rushed a donation of N100 million of tax payers’ money to the victims of the Kano bombings by Boko Haram.

Before the controversy elicited by these acts of impunity died down, the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, who doubles as the Chairman of the 19 Northern Governors’ Forum literally exploded another bomb on Thursday 23 February 2012! He set out to complete Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto’s vision of dipping the Koran into the Atlantic Ocean by reaching deep down South 200 kilometres to take what belongs to the South South!

And, coincidentally, Dr. Aliyu, a famed oratorical blunderbuss, spoke at the inauguration of the Sarduana Memorial Foundation Advisory Council!

Hear the Chief Servant: “The North today is in a very grave situation where illiteracy, poverty and general backwardness are on the rise in the face of unfavourable federation Allocation structure in which the Northern states are at a great disadvantage”. He reeled out statistics to explain why the “North” is in “a very grave situation”.

And as a remedy he proposed that “Revenue from oil wells within 200 kilometres of the continental shelf ought to be for the whole country” and regretted that “the revenue goes to some states”.

On 24 February 2012, the Coalition of Concerned Northerners, made up of who is who in politics, academia, professions and media, in a meeting in Asokoro, Abuja “reflected on the deteriorating security situation in the region, particularly with regards to the growth and spread of attacks and impunity by the Boko Haram insurgents and other ethnic and religious militias in the North”.

And to elevate the status of, and draw a non-existent parallel between Boko Haram and other militant groups, the Coalition, for effect, tossed in the “threats posed by the resurgent Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, (MEND) other Niger Delta militant groups, Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (sic), (MASSOB)”. In addition, the meeting “dwelled on the threats and recent calls by groups for a Sovereign National Conference”.

Of threats and calls for restructuring

Notwithstanding that it described the call for a Sovereign National Conference as a “threat” the “meeting resolved to support the calls for the restructuring of the Nigerian Federation in the hope that the lopsidedness in the structure of the nation’s politics and economy will be a key agenda issue”. Like necromancers who relish blood, the Coalition annoyingly ranted about the human rights of Boko Haram implying that those senselessly murdered have no human rights!

Then the Northern Caucus of the House of Representatives ambushed the 2012 Budget protesting the “imbalance” in the capital allocations to the North, using the South East as the battle ram for its agitation. The caucus threatened to block the budget unless it gets its wish. Threats like this expose the irrationality of those who insist that the National Assembly is the right place to restructure the nation. For whatever it was worth, a so-called Unity Forum, on 1 March 2012, added its annoying and senseless diatribe to the orchestration of support for Boko Haram.

Build up to anarchy

If you link up Governor Babangida Aliyu’s “unfavourable federation Allocation”, what the Coalition of Concerned Northerners’ called “lopsidedness in the structure of the nation’s politics and economy” and the beef about capital allocations by the Northern caucus in the House of Representatives you will get a very clear reason for the emergence of Boko Haram, why the “North” kept stridently silent for a while and why it has come out now boldly to confront the South using terrorism as a back up. It should be clear to all that the terrorism we now erroneously credit to Boko Haram, was foretold and is NOT in the hands of the same group whose leader, Yusuf Mohammed, was killed. Look at these statements for proof: “Anything short of a Northern President is tantamount to stealing our Presidency. Jonathan has to go and he will go. Even if he uses the incumbency power to get his nomination on the platform of the PDP, he would be frustrated out, (If Jonathan emerges President next year).The North is determined, if that happens to make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan or any other Southerner who finds his way to the seat of power on the platform of the PDP against the principle of the party’s zoning policy”— Alhaji Lawan Kaita, former Governor of the old Kaduna State, on 5 October 2010.

Former Vice President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku also made the famous quote: “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable”. That statement was later paraphrased thus: “Nigerians do not want a peaceful change. We wish to state that we support the position of our mentor, Turaki Abubakar, that what Nigeria needs is not a peaceful change. This is no threat. Boko Haram will be a child’s play compared with the action our members can take. We have been patient enough. And enough, they say, is enough”—Mallam Abubakar Ibrahim (President) and Dr Yakubu Ahmed (Secretary General), Coalition of Atiku Northern Supporters (CANSU) 15 December 2010.

It is therefore evident that the current terrorism was deliberately programmed as a bargaining chip. For sure it is welcome that the “North” wants to support restructuring of the Nigerian Federation. But when they talk of “the lopsidedness in the structure of the nation’s politics and economy” the “North” must not forget who to blame. For over 40 years, the “North” ruled this country. In those 40 years, it arbitrarily created states and local governments skewed in its favour. It imposed a revenue allocation formula using land mass and other indices that favoured the North. It treated the South South region as civil war booty and shared the Oil Blocks and the sea ports in the Niger Delta among Northerners. It decided where to locate capital projects. So the South should not be blamed for any “lopsidedness” and “grave situation” in the North. Poverty is not peculiar to the North. I have seen poverty in Cross River. I have seen poverty in Akwa Ibom. I have seen poverty in Delta state!

During the Niger Delta agitation for justice and equity in allocating the resources from their soil, many Northerners delighted in asking the Niger Delta governors to show what they have done with the revenue allocated to them. Perhaps, the North should start accounting to their people, not even to Nigerians, what it did with over 40 years of power at the centre! So, if anyone says the North does not owe the South any apology that will be correct. The North owes its people a huge apology.

The Northern Caucus in the House of Representatives got it wrong to compare allocations for capital projects in each of the six geo-political zones. Capital projects are not matters of turn-by-turn. For example, how much does it cost to tar a kilometre of road in Bayelsa state and how much does it cost in say, Kano State? How much does it cost to build a bungalow in Yenogoa and how much in Kaduna? How much does it cost to clean the environmental devastated by oil exploitation? And who made the caucus the advocates for the South East? Don’t they know why the South East is marginalised and who is responsible for it?

From parasitic consumption to productive contribution

Governor Aliyu was right when he said that: “Each of us must therefore begin to change our mindset from parasitic and consumptive tendencies towards what we can do productively to contribute to the economic development of the region; otherwise we shall forever continue to lag behind”. Northern leaders must lead in the eradication of poverty in the North with what they now get. Anambra does not get more than most Northern states! The North once competed favourably with the East and West when the regions had political space to develop at their own pace. The East developed with palm oil and rubber, the West with cocoa and timber and the North with cotton and groundnuts. It is therefore a delirious lie to claim that the agricultural wealth of the North developed most of Nigeria. On the contrary, Lugard’s amalgamation was informed by the need to use revenue from the South to administer the North! Each region developed its area with its resources and contributed to the Federal purse, until 1967 when, following the arbitrary creation of 12 states, the Centre crippled the powers of the regions. Over-centralisation of power at the Centre is what crippled the North. The North simply sat at the apex of that aberration and enjoyed it while the South struggled to develop. It is therefore ironic that while people are advocating a return to a formula that once made the North a region to be reckoned with economically, Northerners are playing the ostrich and abusing those calling for restructuring of trying to divide the country! Pray who has nudged the country to the precipice more?

The call for a National Conference or a support for it should not be a matter of threats or calling anybody’s bluff. As I said before, we have been talking at one another and not with one another. Nothing can come out of arrogance, greed or threats. It is in the hands of President Jonathan to protect Nigerians from the murderous escapades of blood thirsty power mongers. It is the responsibility of those behind this misguided terrorism to stop it. There simply is no parallel between Niger Delta militancy and Boko Haram!

 


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