THERE is minuscule disputation with the fact that the South West remains one of the most politically sophisticated parts of Nigeria. Many politicians have used different vehicles of political mobilization to woo the South West, but they have often only succeeded where they have a track record of public benefits. Unlike most other zones, the South West people are not easily swayed by eleventh hour democrats, hence in the 2011 general elections they voted along the patterns of their permanent interests within the dynamic body politics of Nigeria.
Perhaps this track record must have informed the recent anxiety by oligarchic political forces from the Northern political axis to woo the South West zone. However, given the history of how the South West has suffered recurrent political deception, persecution and condescension from that axis, it should not come as a surprise if this attempt only elicits indignation and amusement from the people of the South West zone.
Many from the South West zone are indignant, just like many from the Igala, Nupe, Tiv, Idoma and Wukari political axis will be indignant about such political courtship, because it has historical parallels with the alliances of Alimi. For the South West zone specifically, the mention of Alimi throws up the deception and bitterness of the Mugbamugba wars, the entrapment of Afonja into a deceptive political alliance which was used as an entry point to subjugate his people in a southward expansionary quest for imperial power.
It is the same mindset which sought to fragment the South West, along with other progressive forces, who were intent upon making the best out of the enforced amalgamation of Nigerian nationalities to create a developing nation. Such attempt at fragmentation is best captured by the following differential perceptions of early Nigerian nationhood. While other progressive forces were pursuing the independence of Nigerians from British colonialism, the stalwarts of the Northern People’s Congress, NPC, such as Tafawa Balewa indicated that there was no basis for Nigerian unity because it was merely a British intention (Time Magazine October 10, 1960). Nonetheless, having attained the same independence, others like Ahmadu Bello stated that Nigeria was an estate that was inherited from their grandfather Othman Dan Fodio, in which they would ruthlessly prevent any change of power by using minorities in the North and South as tools (THE PARROT of October 12, 1960).
Similar mindset informed why another stalwart of the NPC, Mallam Bala Garuba, while gloating about their political victory after independence, stated that: “The conquest to the sea is now in sight. When our God-sent Ahmadu Bello said some years ago that our conquest will reach the sea shores of Nigeria, some idiots in the South were doubting its possibilities. Today have we not reached the sea? Lagos is reached. It remains Port-Harcourt. It must be conquered and taken” (WEST AFRICAN PILOT, December 30, 1964). Today, It appears that Governor Chibuike Amaechi and a few others have granted them that wish.
That same mindset was replayed when S.L. Akintola was used as a fragmenting bastion to instigate political disarray within the South West; with such determination that in both the public field and the courtroom, the forces fortified the combatants with such vehemence that development, which had gone on in the South West at a pace that was unparalleled anywhere else in the country, was brought to a standstill and ramified into a widespread conflict which ended the First Republic.
The same forces were awakened again in 1979, pointedly under General Obasanjo and the structural capture of the electoral and administrative systems to frustrate any efforts by the South West to come to the “mainstream”, they repeated same in 1983 with the most blatant parody of democratic competition, and remained steadfast in recruiting their militicians (military politicians) to hold forte where political deception proved unsuccessful.
It is for the latter reason that, despite the pretensions that Chief MKO Abiola was a friend to many of the politicians from that axis and their military factions, he could not be entrusted with power because they were suspicious that the South West could see opportunity in the threat of imposing a candidate that the axis considered a friend. Thus, irrespective of the widespread mandate received by Chief Abiola, he was pointedly denied his mandate to rule as an elected civilian president. But the South West and other progressive Nigerians saw through the deception and understood the oligarchic forces behind it; this was why they could not be pacified even when General Obasanjo was presented as their front to mollify the indignation arising from the persecution of Chief Abiola. For that reason, the very politically aware and sophisticated voters of the South West did not concede any constituency to General Obasanjo in the 1999 general election.
But this oligarchic power axis is unrelenting in its quest to retain the control its has maintained since independence. A control that was influenced by post- independence British favour, which gave them 174 seats out of 312 in the parliamentary house, without prior demographic evaluation to consolidate their control of national leadership; however, they have been placed on panic mode by the deconstruction of the oligarchic control arising from the 2011 general elections in which the Northern minorities, who actually have a significant demographic advantage, used the calculus of the federal constitutional requirements for presidential election victories, based on 25% of the votes in at least 24 states to alter the dynamics required for national electoral victories.
This new dynamics has cemented a new scenario, and makes the assertion by Remi Oyeyemi, who first highlighted the strategies of this oligarchic axis in 2010, that it is hoped that the inheritors of this power axis should “see the handwriting on the wall and cease their arrogant attitude and allow Nigeria to be re-negotiated or be broken up peacefully” because it is in their interest to note that this oligarchic kind of approach to politics and power in Nigeria was unsustainable.
But oligarchs do not understand the language of win-win or compromise, for them it is dominion or nothing. Hence, rather than join other Nigerians who have called for the full implementation of the report of the national dialogue that they opposed, sabotaged and reluctantly participated in with an unholy alliance with a few political merchants from our South West, they are making spurious efforts to rebuild alliances of deception, hiding behind the hard work of a few progressives to try to capture power before they show their true oligarchic nature. This new posture calls for vigilance.
It is difficult to understand how such alliance can protect the South West from those who have contributed nothing to the economy except a bogus claim of “divine ordination” to dominate and rule Nigeria.
Even though the South West is well known for separating the wheat from the chaff, it is necessary to highlight the fact that these alliances were used to make peace until the Berom of Jos Plateau then found themselves struggling to maintain their control over their political space.
In the same way, the Zango Kataf of Kaduna were given the illusion of alliance and brotherhood until it was time to demonstrate the same commitment to zoning and rotation that is demanded at the presidency in the state house Kaduna, and they were reminded by the oligarchic axis of power that, some people were superior northerners. Just as the Idoma are asking for similar equity to be demonstrated in the need for inclusional political affirmative rotation of power in Benue state, such disparities in the sharing of costs and benefits within the Nigerian state portrays why the new eagerness to build alliances with the South West from such quarters must be seen for what it is; the hands of a wolf in sheep clothing.
The South West must therefore be wary of potential political entrapment from such alliances having regard for what the hausa-fulani has done to successive true leaders of the South West like Awolowo who they humiliated, imprisoned and denied access to the office of the president of Nigeria, because they claimed they are born and ordained to rule.
In the same way, the oligarchy manipulated Akintola and eventually declared the first state of emergency in Nigeria in the South West region, just as the northern ‘oligarchy’ law-makers mobilized South West legislators to carry out the first in Nigeria the take-over of the House of Assembly of Rivers state to destabilize a Jonathan administration that they regarded as a minority that should never have been a president of a country that they were born to rule.
It is instructive to recall that, before the commencement of the just concluded national dialogue, the oligarchic elements of the north met in Kaduna and threatened that they would “tackle” the South West delegates over their “so-called” regional agenda and they frustrated it with the support of delegates of the South West from Lagos. If Awolowo were alive, how would he have reacted to what is happening now that the Yorubas are now been mobilized to move against a minority president from the South South or the Middle-Belt by the same oligarchy that has always worked against the interest of the South West region? Retrospectively, in what ways really have president Jonathan or the minorities either from the South South or Middle-Belt harmed the interest of Yourbas unlike the northern oligarchic elements who are only comfortable when a region accepts to play second fiddle as the elements in the South West who now ally with them have accepted?
It is often said that permanent interests should dictate political alliance, if this is true, as it is, the most consistent sources of sustenance for Nigeria since independence have been, oil and gas from the South South and South West, industry driven maritime activities from the South West, South South and South East, Agro-Allied activities from the South and Middle Belt and the consistent education, training and capacity development of the denizens of these zones to adapt to technological innovations and take up new opportunities .
Given these permanent economic interest the primary driver for South West politics should be those who have permanent interest to optimize or maximize the sustenance of the South West in these spheres, not those who will disdain and exploit their weaknesses, this is why many in the South West are astonished, concerned and filled with anxiety, that the most educated and politically sophisticated section of the entity called Nigeria is been mobilized by oligarchic elements of the north who are adept in social exclusion, religious intolerance and economic exploitation, against President Jonathan who has a common and permanent interest with the South West. It is difficult to understand how such alliance can protect the South West from those who have contributed nothing to the economy except a bogus claim of “divine ordination” to dominate and rule Nigeria ?
Dr Bolaji K Oyefeso , a political analyst, wrote from Lagos