By Yinka odumakin
A FREELANCE American journalist, Brian Hall, was one of the last outsiders permitted to freely take a tour of Yugoslavia during the final days of its existence. From early May to mid-September 1991, he interacted with members of the various Balkan “tribes” in Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo and points in between, taking notes of their comments on their history, prejudices, superstitions, fears, aspirations and opinions of other ethnic and national groups.
He wrote a book titled The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia in which he described the last days of peaceful coexistence among Yugoslavia’s religious and ethnic communities and highlighted conflicts that would trigger the horrors of “ethnic cleansing” and war.
In the gripping account of the former Yugoslavia’s decay and collapse in 1991, Hall’s powerful sense of location and mentality is expressed through a blend of close friendships, high-level interviews, and courageous questions. Hall moved comfortably among Serbs who perceived the nation as a “superpersonality,” Croats who remained ambivalent toward their World War II fascist regime, and Muslims like Bosnian president Aliija Izetbegovi’c who claimed only the “freedom to define themselves as a people.” By January 1992,the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia ceased to exist having dissolved into its constituent units.
It is only those blinded by hegemonic desire for domination and control that cannot see today that Nigeria presently is wobbling through its last days regardless of whether a Brian Hall is travelling through it or not.Never in the history of this country (save for the civil war years) has there been the level of bloodletting currently going on along its fault lines. There is hardly any day one opens the newspapers now and don’t read of Fulani herdsmen dispatching innocent souls to the great beyond in the hapless Southern and Middle Belt communities of the country.
Shorn of pretenses ,these hitherto stick-wielding herdsmen who are now the only group “officially” sanctioned armed group in Nigeria (not one of them has been arrested for wielding AK 47 rifles ) are out on an expansionist mission as the level of violence they are unleashing cannot be about cattle rearing. As a child, I remember how we used to run after their forebears who graze animals in our communities without any harm befalling us.
The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Reverend Olasupo Ayokunle a few days ago was moved to deliver a timely warning to the Federal Government on the unhinged monstrosity of the Fulani herdsmen. In asking for the Federal Government to prosecute the herdsmen arrested in connection with the recent killings in Benue and Southern Kaduna to ease tension in the two states, he declared: “We also want the Federal Government to investigate, through intelligence gathering, those unpatriotic Nigerians supplying the herdsmen with weapons being used to perpetrate evil.
“If the government fails to stop the provocation by the Fulani (herdsmen), they should be prepared for war. No ethnic group has a monopoly of violence and no ethnic group should be a monster to others.” The CAN President summed up the hopelessness and frustration in the country today as there is official indifference to the ruthlessness and criminality that is going on as the marauders have set evil loose on their host communities.
Given the happenings in Nigeria presently rational thinking dictates that those who think that the only possible means of survival is milking others would at least be interested in the continued corporate existence of Nigeria by cooperating with reforms that could extend the life span of the entity,but hail no.They would rather become much more insensitive and unfeeling. They have continued to task the long sufferings of patriots who stand in the gap between Nigeria and disintegration by campaigning for restructuring.
On May 2, I travelled in company of some compatriots from the South West to Abuja to join our former colleagues at the 2014 National Conference for some re-Union. On the eve of the meeting, one Bashiru Dalhatu was circulating a text message to northern delegates not to attend the meeting as his rebel group of Northern Delegates Forum, NDF, had met earlier to declare the reports dead and buried.
Attendance from the North at the meeting however proved that Dalhatu was representing only his fraction of the country that he misnamed North. He could not have been speaking for those communities in the North whose killers instead of being arrested are being compensated with taxpayers money. Neither could he have represented Southern Borno where Elder Paul Bassey told the meeting was still under heavy bombardment from Boko Haram despite official claim by government that it has been degraded. Those who still engage their brains of course know that you cannot exchange commanders of a murderous group for innocent Chibok girls if indeed you are not claiming false victory.
One poignant message from Elder Bassey to the meeting was that all the reconstruction the Federal Government is spending fortunes on is concentrated only in Northern Borno with total and virtual neglect of the Southern Borno communities, whereas the hegemonists talk of “one north” glibly. We left the Abuja meeting that faithful Tuesday with a beautiful communique signed insisting on the implementation of the 2014 National Conference recommendations under the chairmanship of Alhaji Tanko Yakkasai.
The following day saw the presentation of a book by General Alani Akinrinade in Lagos during which the need to restructure Nigeria came on the front burner from speaker after speaker. By Thursday, Alhaji Yakkasai was already telling The Sun Newspapers that South West leaders campaigning for restructuring were envious of the North and unpatriotic. I had to check “envy” and “unpatriotic” in the dictionary again to be sure the elder statesman cannot be right.
Any doubt about Taqqiya (deception) at play was to put to rest when Alhaji Yakassai told The Guardian of May 12: “I have always suspected the motive behind such clamour (restructuring). The whole idea is to deny the north its God-given advantage of population and landmass which it has effectively used to earn appreciable allocation from the Federal Government. Those behind it are not interested in Nigeria ‘s unity and progress.”
This is the crux of the matter for the Yakassais of the North as exemplified also by the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, which met in Kano a few days back. And what it all says is that we are dealing with the deepest contradictions flowing from clash of civilisations which are non-negotiable.It is like the notorious man Leo Tolstoy talked about who said he would do all humanly possible to ease the lot of the fellow he was riding on his back except getting off it.
It is clear at this point that the Nigerian contradiction has gone beyond restructuring. I watched the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo on Channels TV years back showing his deep understanding of the Yoruba Language as he waxed eloquent on the Nigerian situation. He said when something is damaged the Yoruba would say “o ti ra”(it is rotten). And that when it is irretrievably damaged they will say “o ti se din”(it is maggot infested). Nigeria is already maggot infested. May be its about time campaigners for restructuring suspend this appeasement and see how long the hegemonists can run this contraption before it answers the call of nature.
Re: In search of a new political class
THE assembly of the three generals can only mean one thing…that Nigeria is on the brink of a crisis. There will surely be lots of body language and less talking in the days to come. The silence will be deafening as our fears grow, until this grand health cover up implodes on the ruling party. It has started in the form of accusations and open confrontations and it wouldn’t take long before the current unease graduates into something else. This ‘graduation’ that we fear is two-pronged. On one side is tribalism and the zoning that we have somehow etched into our national consciousness, then on the other hand is the bull of religion that has so easily divided us for decades. The president is on yet another medical leave and we sincerely wish him health and strength to return with the vigour that saw him in office.
In truth, he has done the needful by once again calling on Osinbajo to assume the presidency in acting capacity (though the letter used an unconstitutional word) till he returns. Yet, in all the ’needful’ that were met before his departure, the question that hangs in everybody’s heads are the ‘what-if’s’. We are on the edge once again… and our political future seems uncertain.
With the recession biting deep, and the people groaning under the burden of unpaid salaries, raise in tuition fees, high cost of living and the poor infrastructure; almost 100 million Nigerians do not give a hoot about what is happening in Abuja. They do not bother about the exchange rate that keeps changing like the readings of a faulty sphygmomanometer, neither do they care how long the president is going to stay away. To them…To us, the plan is to survive every day by day, one step at a time. Some of us who are literate know that we have a constitution that is efficient if only the parliamentarians will allow it to be and also, if the members of the kitchen cabinet will agree to play by the rules. Instead, we get to hear about brazen acts that are unconstitutional, the news will carry another fantastic headline; everyone simply moves on. Decades of misrule has led to the dearth in the leadership potential of Nigerians. In the organised private sector, the Nigerian is at his 100%, but in governance, the culture of redundancy and laissez-affaire holds sway. Why? Because, like the bus drivers say about hardworking traffic wardens, ‘you no fit carry government work for head’. There is this general perception that joining them is better than beating them; share the money…the new capitalism.
Shrouded by the what-if’s, is the zoning principle. The politicians have made us to believe that the democratic setup we have is meant to run in a regional/tribal cycle. Contrary to what we read in books and learnt in school, we continually witness the trampling of meritocracy under the weight of zoning; and till today it is still puzzling to the proponents of this formula as to how to weld it into our constitution.
There are more than 100 ethnic groups split into the six geopolitical zones and if the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba are fully represented in the cycle, what then would be the fate of hundreds of others? Someone might argue that federal politics is only for the big three tribes, the other tribes can thrive in a state zoning cycle. But in state elections, clashes and assassinations happen because some group of people/tribe/zone believe that it is their turn, thereby rubbishing the power of the ballot box. Also shrouded by the what-if’s… is religion. Our belief in God has constantly kept us at daggers drawn.
After a Christian rules, the next must be Muslim or vice versa, as we were made to believe. A tradition that is different from Moshood Abiola’s victory in 1993; a presidency (had it existed) that would have cured this paraplegic Nigeria that we all live in today. Muslim against Christian, Christian against Muslim, bloodshed, lynching,violence, pogrom, war…is all that ring in our minds whenever any election nears. And the present ruling class love that Nigerians die for them every day.
In our search for a new ruling/political class, the type that will support an egalitarian society of equals and not lords vs. serfs; will we find them averse to this mixture of zoning and religion? Will we find that they prefer the power of the ballot box to the anointing ceremony that we call elections? Will we find that they would seriously start considering a parliamentary system of equal representation for our federal democracy? Will they have among them, reasonable men and women that will willingly sacrifice zoning on the altar of a ceremonial rotational presidency; with the possibility of a two-party state? Will they be willing to strangle mediocrity and exalt meritocracy? Will they liberate the 774 local governments and strike out immunity clauses protecting elected officials once the final verdict pronounces guilty? Will they agree to restructure the federation guided by the principles of secularism? Unlike the present sudden converts of the anti-corruption crusade, will they hate corruption from the onset? Will they, unlike their forebears, possess common sense? Lest I forget, it is not an abomination for the members of the new ruling class to be made up of young people. So that the more we look can be the more we see.–Ikenna Ejinkeonye