By Yinka Odumakin
THOSE who know history will not find it very difficult to put a string to the lullabies of leading Arewa voices lately. Second Republic House of Representatives member, Dr Junaid Mohammed and former Vice-Chancellor of ABU and Convener of Northern Elders Forum,Prof Ango Abdullahi have lately been leading voices in the unfortunate “Araba” orchestra from the land of DanFodio.
“Araba” is the Hausa word for “let us break it“ and the first signal of it was during the riots that started from Kano in 1953 after Mr Anthony Enahoro of Action Group, AG, moved the motion for Nigeria to become self-governing in 1956.How any people should embark on violent protests against those advocating independence and not against the colonialists remains at the heart of the clash of civilization that has stopped Nigeria from becoming a nation 59 years after its eventual independence in 1960.
By the time the bloody riots were over, the North came up with an eight-point demand to return to the Federal parliament in Lagos
It may be necessary here to reproduce this programme so we can properly to locate why leading lights of the North became enemies of restricting (return to federalism).The North asked for the following: (1) That each region shall have complete legislative and executive autonomy with respect to all matters except the following: External Affairs, Defence, Customs and West African Research Institutions; (2) That there should be no central legislative body and no central executive or policy making body for the whole of Nigeria; (3) That there shall be central agency for all regions which will be responsible for matters mentioned in Paragraph (1) and other matters delegated to it by a Region; (4) That the central agency shall be a neutral place preferably Lagos; (5) That the composition and responsibility of the Central Agency shall be defined by the Order-in-Council establishing the constitutional arrangements. The agency shall be a non-political body. (6) That the services of railway, airport, posts and telegraphs, electricity and coal mining, shall be organised on an inter-regional basis and shall be administered by public corporations. These corporations shall be independent and covered by the statutes under which they are created by the board of experts with a minority representation of the regional governments; (7) All the revenues shall be levied and collected by the regional government except Customs revenue at the port of discharge by the Central Agency and paid to its treasury; (8) The administration of the Customs shall be so organised so as to assure that goods consigned to the region are separately cleared and charged to duty. Each region shall have a separate public service.
Those who demand restructuring from the South and Middle Belt of Nigeria today don’t go this far but the discovery of oil after 1953 and VAT subsidies that Lagos generates about 60 % and takes home just 7% have made federalism an unpopular word to hear by those who now reap without sowing.
The spirit of of 1953 was further solidified in the July 1966 revenge-coup from the North against the January 1966 coup.The coup was code -named “Araba” and there was no government in Nigeria as officers from the North insisted on breaking up the country after the putsch. It took British and American diplomats that length of time to make the North see the disaster they were going to bring upon themselves if they left Nigeria for a country without resources and unprepared. They eventually agreed to remain within Nigeria on the condition that Lt.Col Yakubu Gowon who had seniors from the South ahead of him in the Army must become the Head of State.
This desire to sustain the original iniquity is why Dr Junaid Mohammed would tell a bare-face lie against the decisions of the federalism-inspired decisions of the 2014 National Conference that were unanimously adopted without voting once.I recall Pastor Tunde Bakare crying for joy the day the conference ended and the 492 delegates held hands and sang: “Nigeria we hail thee!”
There was excitement in the land that a new day had dawned for Nigeria prior to the “change” of 2015 that returned power to those who believe the status-quo that has robbed Nigeria of its status among dignified countries must be sustained at all cost .
Dr Mohammed who was a delegate with us at the conference now claims that decisions not taken at the conference were smuggled into the final reports by former President Goodluck Jonathan and some unnamed people.
This is an amazing claim for a conference whose first daily business was to look at the votes and proceedings of the previous day’s business and whose hansards are public records. Not once did we have any delegate rise up to say the records were different from our proceedings.
Of course Dr Mohammed was grumpy and disgruntled throughout the conference. We were introduced to ourselves in 2002 by former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I could not recollect if we greeted for more than once or twice on the floor of the conference as he was grunting about as we adopted resolution after resolution for the progress of Nigeria.
He was to later drop a very treasonable one last week when he said the North would remove any Southerner who becomes President and tries to implement the 2014 National Conference report. A very senior colleague and one of the best Nigerian journalism ever produced sent the following to me after reading Mohammed’s inflammatory comments:
“Undoubtedly, I have always known we are not the same people. We are too far apart. The ingredients for compatibility are just not there. See the arrogance, see the recklessness. He does not believe other nationalities amount to anything. I posted it round for those who brought Buhari to the helms to see the harm they have brought on everybody! They were warned by our leaders. Imagine him calling the 2014 a fraud. Can any documents be more fraudulent than the imposed 1999 Constitution that even lies against itself? What do they take us for? All of you participated in the conference; we know how divisive issues were negotiated. I remember Akintola confronting Coomaise! They think we are afraid. Who were the people who won the Biafran war? Was it not the Yorubas? No group can threaten us. Not at all. See him talking as if we are slaves; indeed talking down on everybody else. We don’t accept their population. Nigeria is the only country in the world where as you head towards the desert the population increases and as you head towards the forest region which, everywhere in the world, is the centre of economic activities, the population decreases! It is contrary to the law of economic activities. And it affronts common sense and logic. He has even forgotten that the Creator is up there in His Realm and His inflexible and incorruptible Laws do not permit of injustice. Where injustice reigns the contraption must collapse from its own weight. Some day, we shall definitely have Gorbachev.”
And as if to complement Mohammed, Prof Ango Abdullahi has added his voice to the Arewa songs of division when he said that having taken political power in the country, the North will not relinquish power for the next 100 years.
He said: “81% of Buhari votes in 2015 and 2019 came from the North. Though I am not a card-carrying member of any political party, I am not sure whether APC has any arrangement like this. Hence, they don’t have the issue of power shift and zoning does not arise. It could be right or wrong to adopt it, yet the decision is left to the party. I think it’s something that we have to be careful about. I think there is nothing wrong at all if the north keeps power for a century because democracy is all about numbers and we have it.”
It is clear that it’s another Araba season in Arewa land but the forces of Aburi(negotiation) will continue to push for restructuring as we cannot allow Abuja (domination)to continue the decimation of our lives. If this child would die, let it be on the mother’s lap!