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the Ugly Northerner

The legend of “God’s Own Country” spun round the image of the United States of America by the Americans themselves had tended to enhance its strength from the vital contributions made by the Yankees towards the victory of the Allies in the Second World War .

The role played by the US in the resuscitation of the economy of Europe, was likewise boosted by the successful Marshall Plan which rehabilitated the damaged economies of the ravaged countries.

Dr Junaid Mohammed

However, the Americans soon pushed themselves out of favour when they began to visit the land of the people who had taken them from afar as Titans. They trampled upon cherished norms, wrapped in a hubristic cloud that obscured their perception from the mores of their environment. The Europeans subsequently began to discern the presence of what they termed, “The Ugly American” in their midst.

Each time I come across the disdainful personality of a braggart who poses as a representative of a class of people, particularly with an egoistic fervour, I think of “The Ugly American”. It is somewhat disconcerting, however, that such a person sometimes bears the burden of a position that would appear to be shared by a number of notable citizens whose views he poses to represent. He thus finds himself on top of a popular pedestal from which he is enabled to glare down at those with whom he does not agree.

 

Dr. Junaid Mohammed is a Northerner who might have been described as one of the liberated ones. He is in fact, liberally described in some circles as a “social critic”, which is a characterization one would ascribe to a man of discretion, motivated in his reactions by patriotic feelings. Unfortunately, he is liable to let his opinions run away with him, to the point where they have him, rather than he holding them.

One of his pet dislikes is any mention of the Sovereign National Conference. This he associates with the “Lagos Press” and the sponsors of a putative “Oduduwa State”. One may not be in favour of The SNC, as it is proposed, but sheer decency demands a sense of proportion in the statements of an avowed “social critic “.

I am myself not comfortable with the proposal as it is set out at the moment. I do not see it approaching any milestone of success at a distance from the full participation of the National Assembly and, indeed, the entire legislative institutions of the country. But these are constituted by men and women who rightly believe that they have filled all the space for deciding the core objectives of the proposed conference, to wit, how Nigerians can coexist more profitably with one another, on an equitable basis. They will not be in favour of any proposal that will take that role away from them.

And since as the government in power, they control all the apparatus essential for convening such a conference, its chances of ever seeing the light of day are already proscribed. In short, it is unrealistic, though the circumstances that give constant thought to its creation urgently need to be addressed.

One of those situations is the jaundiced perception of a man like Junaid who must in himself feel inferior to Southerners if can state that the “Lagos Press” mentions “the North as if it were a colony of lepers, and as if some of us are not Nigerians, and as if some of us are not human simply because we are seen as lazy and irresponsible or greedy … “ Haba! Can you believe that a “Second Republic Parliamentarian” could ever say that? It is simply not true.

This man is dangerous. His ideas are inflammatory. He spouts trash from dainty lips that emit despicable odours. He says nasty things. Only a chauvinist would liken a respectable patriot like Balarabe Musa to a “hired thug” who would accept to read a script written for him by others. Balarabe Musa, if Junaid has to be informed, is not a “nobody”, as the ex-parliamentarian insolently claims. Balarabe Musa is a true progressive who still represents the hope of the North today. In him is the Northerner clearly visible as a Nigerian, not in people that are held captive by archaic notions of an ethnic imbalance that can be exploited to hold the rest of the nation to ransom.

 

These are the people who believe that “the North can go it alone”. Junaid boasts that the North is ready for Nigeria’s “break-up.” That is a treasonable statement worthy only of anyone who can glibly refer to what he calls the “Biafran” tragedy. If he had been with the drift of the feelings of those who are genuinely interested in this nation’s progress, the thoughts recently expressed about Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and his position in Nigeria’s history, would have instructed him that the Nigerian Civil War was a national tragedy. All contributed to it, and everyone participated in its suffering. If such a calamity should befall this country again, the script will still be the same.

The North cannot go it alone. The West cannot go it alone. The East failed to go it alone, because the rest of us would not agree. Now some of us wish we had. But the reality now stares us in the face that we can no longer split up. In fact, we no longer need to split up. Each section only has to hold on to its own. And each section can.

Unfortunately, we have been spoilt by the windfall of our oil resources. The blessings that should have bonded us together have become the roots of the dissension among us. Everyone wants to have a lion’s share, at the expense of the lion’s share. But there are other resources that could build each section to great heights if only we would turn to indigenous sources of wealth, like cocoa and other agricultural products, for instance, in the West. That is also true, to a great extent, in other areas of the country. But there is that part that has been, ironically, devastated by the very resource that provides the wealth in which so many of us wallow with such relish. That part, it is only fair to concede, has multiple points to its share credits. A rational approach compels us to admit as much. Dr. Junaid Mohammed is one of those who need to be convinced of what is so patent it allows for no alternative. And so do the governors of the nineteen states in the North.

There is also the problem of the Boko Haram terrorists. It is indeed more than a mere thorn in the flesh for all Nigerians—and I mean, all Nigerians. No one dare be complacent about it, even if he thinks he has the answer to the question of the purpose of this movement which is said to be anti-Christianity but not religious, anti-social but not criminal, but open to dialogue on its own terms. Unfortunately, Dr. Mohammed’s intellectual gathering did not come up with much light, other than the usual heat, about poverty as the cause of evil all over the world.

However, we can assure this man that Nigeria is not going to break up. Other prophets of doom came before him and left with their tails between their legs. To throw up such parochial vomit against the backdrop of his wealth of experience, and at his time of life, is by itself almost a national tragedy.

Time out.

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