By Muyiwa Adetiba
I don’t have to be a prophet or even a political analyst to venture who voted against the Devolution of Power in the National Assembly; just a bit of intuition and common sense.
The same intuition that tells me the same set of people must have voted against Land Use Act. To them, these two issues are means to the same end—the need to control what you produce, or put in Nigerian euphemism, ‘Resource Control.’ These people are driven by an irrational fear of change and a burning desire to continue with the status quo irrespective of how inequitable and unjust the present situation is.
It matters little that the Federal Government neither has the money nor the administrative capacity to effectively deal with health, education, roads, security and even local governments any longer. It matters little that the country is on edge with separatist movements springing up in known and unknown places and a simple yeah on these two issues would have assuaged many agitators. After all, it matters little really, what the long term interest of the country is; just the short term interests, privileges—and fears of a select few.
That one region can outvote the interests and expectations of three regions is part of the lop-sidedness in our system. And it happens all the time, whether at the National Assembly, Constituent Assembly, National Conference, Census, or just about any place where the State of the Union is to be discussed and possibly tinkered with for the common good.
As it is, Kano and Jigawa states alone have more local governments than the whole of South-East. That cannot be fair to all concerned—to borrow a quote from Rotary International. That the National Assembly could vote on such momentous issues without throwing them open to the public for robust discussions is another matter. Now, too late, it has realised its mistakes. But then, the less said about the leadership of the National Assembly, the better.
As it is, figures whether true, false or exaggerated, are flying all over the place in different chat groups about the preponderance of northerners in Security and Defence, in key government appointments, in Oil block allocations just it was in the days of import licence allocations, and about the lowering of entry points just to accommodate the North, about neophytes bossing their more experienced colleagues.
There are figures in various chat groups, again whether true, false or exaggerated, about what each zone brings to the commonwealth and what it takes out of it. The northern leaders by their actions or inactions, are doing very little to change the narrative. They must know that these figures will affect the psyche of their people especially since nothing is on the ground to show for the seemingly preferential allocation of national resources and positions to the North.
Let me illustrate what I mean by it affecting the psyche of their people through a little story. Some three decades ago, when I was an Editor of a national daily, I had a friend in the then Managing Director of NIDB, Nigeria’s only development bank. He was in his late 30s or early 40s. A Northerner, he was not unaware people felt he got to that position at that age through other criteria outside competence and skill and sometimes talked about it.
A brilliant man, he was proud of the fact that WASC during his time, despite the clamour to set a different exam for the North, had the same examination standard for the whole country. It meant that his Grade 1 made him as good as the best in the South and qualified him to enter the university at the time he did on merit.
You can imagine how it would have affected his psyche if his Grade 1 came from an easier exam. Like many Northern elites, he was aware that standards were sometimes lowered and years of service waived for them. In other words, they often jumped queues. He felt this keenly when he attended a meeting of development bankers abroad and he was easily the youngest. He felt uncomfortable answering his ‘colleagues’ who wondered how he got that position given the size and human endowment of Nigeria.
This is very much like a man who becomes the Managing Director of a bank because his father owns the bank. No matter how brilliant he is, it will always be alluded that he is in that job because he is his father’s son.
And it will play on his mind. A younger friend once left his father’s bank because he felt people patronised him at meetings. His father was upset but the young man wanted to go out there to hustle and jostle to build his own bungalow rather have the key to a mansion handed over to him.
The pride you feel when you build your property block by block is incomparable. It fulfils you and enhances your self-worth. It is this kind of pride, of fulfilment, of self-worth that has been denied many of our Northern brothers and sisters. I don’t speak for everyone but it is a fact that many of them have been fast tracked into top positions in federal institutions. The result is in the quality of our institutions and the discontent of the workers.
I will end this article with another story that has been going round the chat groups. It is about a professor of economics who wanted to test the efficacy of socialism in his class. He decided to average the grades after a test and give everybody the same grade. Those who studied hard were upset and those who studied little were naturally happy. By the second test, everybody studied less and the average became a poorer grade.
Blame trading and name calling resulted in hard feelings as no one was prepared to study for the benefit of anyone else. By the third test, everybody failed.
The moral according to the story, is that when half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them and the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they have worked for, then it is the beginning of the end of a nation.
Maybe this explains our attitude to work and the commonwealth. There will be more food on the table if we can encourage every family head to till the ground and provide more food for his children instead of relying on his neighbour’s harvest.
There will also be less discontent and more willingness to help out those with a poor harvest. But more importantly, there will be pride in ownership which will lead to better self-worth.