By Obi Nwakanma
This past week, a group from the South-South political zone of Nigeria made public its endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan for re-election in 2015. It is all in the larger scheme of things of course, but not unexpectedly, various reactions, some subtle, some more blatant, have accompanied the endorsement from this group purporting to be speaking for the South-South.
Some of the more curious reactions came from northwards, including politicians like Isa Lawal Kaita, who said, “the north will be prepared if the country remains one.” There was no hiding behind the predatory “if” – Mr. Kaita, former governor of Kaduna state, is quite clear in his threatto make Nigeria prostate for any other person to govern, if the power of the presidency is denied “the north” in 2015.
There was an even more curious response from Colonel Hamid Ali, former military administrator of Kaduna state and official of the northern lobby group, the Arewa Consultative Assembly, who said with the kind of absolute conviction that makes irony blush,“The People that endorsed Jonathan are all Ijaw people; they are not the only people that constitute the south-south region, so their claim cannot hold water.
Who has the strength to clinch power, if not the north? They can say what they want to say, but it remains for Nigerians to decide what they want. Of course, they are enjoying power and they have the right to claim anything.
They are clamouring for 2015, because they have not tasted power before.It is left for the north to decide if they want to wrest power back; it is left for the people to put their own strategy and get their own in power, otherwise the south-south will take it again.”
It is such brash and unmitigated self-regard that creates the hubris of so-called “Northern” overreach; and it makes victory, were it ever to come, pyrrhic. In the background, but in another context – the rather incisive Vanguard interview, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, intellectual, physician and second republic legislator, rightly quotes the American modern philosopher, George Santayana, and his admonition to those who are condemned to cyclic and tragic repetition of history. They are bound ineluctably to repeat it because they forget the past.
But I should also remind Dr. Junaid Muhammed of another statement by Santayana who that “fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your original aim.” And it is in that context that we must fix Junaid Muhammed’s claims for the north of what I call its quest for “justifiable purpose.” A claim that insists that Junaid Muhammed’s north has become the victim of a skewered derivation principle.
The north is impoverished because too much money is going to the Niger Delta, Dr. Junaid Muhammed insists. The revenue question and the accruals to the states of the South-South has become the flashpoint of anger and the catalyst for a push towards a northern common front. Dr. Junaid says, the South-South governors do not know how to manage such large sums of money in their treasury – the result of an unfair bequest from an unfair or skewed federalism.
Presumably, only they in the “North” have the experience to manage such resources, if we must go by the implications of Dr. Junaid’s hints. It echoes very closely, Colonel Hamid Ali’s equally presumptuous and rhetorical claims: “who has the strength to clinch power, if not the north…it is left for the north to decide to wrest the power back.” Really?
But who is the “North?” Not too long ago, Dr. Junaid Muhammed convened a meeting of intellectuals, politicians, and former bureaucrats from the “North,” and the aim was to forge a common ground for political action aimed at retrieving power from the “South” or perhaps as he suggests, to enact the “North’s” counter narrative around the question of a Sovereign national Conference.
Junaid Mohammed’s summons drew a wide range of interested partisans, to be clear, and as group politics go, those men have their 24 carat worth of pot-bellies.
They presume, and merely indeed presume, to speak for the entire north from their high and removed towers; far removed from the bread and butter realities of the real people whom they often never see or meet. As it often is the case, the poor “northerner” is an invisible Nigerian; too poor and too silent to be heard, until election time when it comes to cast their votes.
Let me note here that power may be in the South, but I do not personally feel it or gain by it. I do know that there are many people in the South who have these same sentiments I have expressed.
To be certain, there are many in the so-called North who fare much better than I, this Southern intellectual, in spite of the current situation of power in the South. But not to digress to far from the main question I wish to ask, so what indeed is the South?
What is the North? I have asked these questions merely to point to the ridiculous and meaningless use of these geographical markers in our current political terms. They have become so dated that anyone who must address the argot of contemporary Nigerian politics must seek new terms which must address and redress its new realities.
The North does not exist any longer as a coherent political reality. It ceased to exist, as did the Eastern, Western and Midwestern regions, as sites of political power the day in 1967, Yakubu Gowon announced the first twelve states.
Even before then, the north was as much a figment; as much the creation of British colonialism as was the rest of Nigeria. Most southerners imagine, by all the exertions of the Hamid Alis and the Junaid Muhammeds that the “North” is a single political entity with a single historical will and obligation.
It is not. It is the most diverse part of Nigeria with so many ethnicities that the often misleading term , “Hausa-Fulani North” still used by an imprudent press based in Lagos, and comfortable with easy platitudes is an insult to many who live in that region.