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What is the North afraid of?

By Muyiwa Adetiba

I have to be careful how I tell the following stories; not because they are not true, but because I do not want the personalities involved to identify themselves or be identified by those who are familiar with any of the stories. At the same time, I do not want to distort the stories to such an extent that their veracity, which is the core of my message, is lost. One of the stories involves two friends who pulled out of an agency to set up their own enterprise. The two had different personalities which led them to have different social lives but seemed to complement each other in business. They both brought different sets of skills to the enterprise in any case.

President Muhammadu Buhari and Northern Governors
President Muhammadu Buhari and Northern Governors

One was out going and made friends very easily. He was the one likely to be invited to parties. He was also the one likely to bring girls to the office or close early to go on ‘business dates’. The other chap was an introvert who was likely to go home straight after work or go to church. He was also the one who stayed at the office balancing the books and doing the general administrative work that ensured that the enterprise was run profitably.

Sometimes, this meant he had to be firm in cutting the financial excesses of his partner. The extrovert was a natural marketer who not only brought jobs in regularly but kept the clients happy and made sure payments were made promptly. He also made the office environment lively whenever he was around. In ten years, the business had boomed. They had two cars each in addition to a pool car. They had also moved into their own houses. It seemed a perfect arrangement to outsiders. One brought jobs in, the other ran the office. Together, they executed the jobs.

Unfortunately, the introvert was getting increasingly irritated by the carefree lifestyle of the extrovert. At a point, he felt he had had enough and wanted out. The partner begged. Those of us who knew the two well begged. The extrovert said he didn’t want to break up what he built with his hands. But the introvert was adamant. In the end, the extrovert walked out without taking a pin from the office. But he went out with more than his suitcase. He went with the goodwill of the company. He went with the soul of the enterprise. It wasn’t long before the clients found him. Too late, the introvert found that the jobs had stopped coming and there was precious little left to run or administer.

The second story is similar except that it involves a man and his wife. The two pulled out of their paid jobs to set up a shop. The husband ran the factory while the wife brought jobs in. Although they both worked on the estimates, she was the one who presented them to customers and was the one who pursued payment. Unfortunately, the husband treated her like another member of staff and kept the lion share of the profit to himself.

She knew how much was coming in and wondered why she had to be given such a pittance. She begged. Family members intervened and also begged. But he was determined to keep her on a tight financial leash. In the end, she walked out of the business for her own sanity and set up her own. She didn’t have a factory because she couldn’t afford one so she outsourced. She increased; he decreased. Claiming sabotage, he walked out of the marriage leaving the home they had jointly built and children they were jointly raising.

My third and final story should be familiar to all lovers of the ‘golden oldies’. It involves two entertainers who were hugely popular in the 60s and 70s. The duo had monstrous hits which included ‘Bridge over troubled water’ and ‘Ceclia’. Unfortunately, one wrote all the songs and did the musical arrangements while the other joined only in the singing. After their many hits, the one who wrote the songs felt he didn’t need the baggage of the other and decided to go solo. But he had been branded and people could not relate to his music without the accompanying voice of his singing partner.

I could go on and on with stories of people who felt they were the indispensable components in their unions only to find that life went on and even prospered without them. There was the story of an advertising guru who ‘divorced’ his financially minded partner because he felt he didn’t understand ‘the nature’ of the business simply because the partner was pushing for financial prudence. In the end, he owed as much as he was owed and the advertising agency packed up.

The core of my message is that people bring different skills to a union and it is easy to over-estimate one’s contribution. Even in the marriages or unions where there is no obvious financial or material contribution from the other partner, they still find that they need the spiritual contribution of that partner for stability. People and enterprises have been known to disintegrate simply because someone they consider an excess baggage is let go.

It was this need to let ‘excess baggage’ go and ‘claim their country back’ that made the UK to leave the European Union. Time will tell whether it was a wise decision. But already, UK has realised that some of the excess baggage are sorely needed to keep the structure going. In every union, as in life, you cannot always cherry pick.

Back home, there are people who are angling for a separation. The North, almost as one, is reluctant to even give it a thought. Our President, a Northerner says the unity of the country is not negotiable. I beg to disagree. Anything is negotiable to quote one of Donald Trump’s books. And it is in fact better to negotiate than to lose control. But why is the North afraid of separating? It may well be that it would be better off than the South in case of a break up.

Its people have more that unites than what separates. You cannot say the same thing about the South. To start with, a Southern Nigeria is not going to happen. There is too much distrust. Even the merger of the South-South and South-East would be fraught with casualties. The combination of greed, ego, guns and oil in the region would provide a lethal combustion that could be difficult to contain. It may well be also, that these two zones are over estimating their importance to the Nigerian union. The likelihood of a separation might let them see how much they need other regions for their own survival and well-being.

In the end, what people really want are transparency, fairness and inclusiveness in governance. Plus a lot of give and take. The central control is stifling and a disincentive to communal growth and development. The time to negotiate is now.

 


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