By Gabriel A. Agude
THERE is a school of thought with the conjecture that recent events in the Nigerian socio-political space are all indicative of on-going calculations and permutations for regional relevance and political preeminence for control of authoritative power at the centre in 2023.
Evidentially, the postulation of this school of thought is unhidden and not far from the truth. Another unhidden truth about goings-on, particularly in the political arena and among Nigerian politicians all over the federation, is that though the period of next electioneering campaigns vis-à-vis general election is few years away, alignments and realignments have begun in calculative gang-ups for which particular geopolitical zone will produce the next president to lead Nigeria.
It is quite bewildering that all the open talks and surreptitious moves about which geo-political zone produces next president is still about North-West, South-West and South-South: the regions which have literarily monopolised political leadership of our country at the centre since the beginning of the current democratic dispensation in Nigeria.
Undoubtedly, this is where the whole affair of who leads Nigeria at the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in 2023 becomes imperatively interesting and thought-provoking, especially for North-Central Nigeria.
It is stating the obvious that North-Central Nigeria has been condemned to playing the third fiddle in the political affairs and configuration of our great country in the current democratic dispensation in our country.
This uncomplimentary historical development, which, of course, dates back to the First, Second and the aborted Third Republics, is the encumbering group albatross which North-Central Nigeria should no longer accept from those who believe that the political leadership of our great country at the centre is their exclusive preserve. The reasons for this position are compelling and deductively evident.
First and foremost, North-Central Nigeria cannot not continue to be the slave-partner in the Nigerian project because our constitution, particularly the 1999 Constitution, is unambiguously and explicitly against inequality in running the affairs of this nation.
This Constitution conspicuously provides that there should be equality, social and political justice for all Nigerians. In particular, Section 17, subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria states: “The State social order is founded on ideals of Freedom, Equality and Justice”.
The consequential question implicit in the quoted portion of our Constitution is apparent and the question is: Where is the ‘ideals of Freedom, Equality and Justice’? This question is quite pertinent in a situation whereby three out of six geopolitical zones, evidently created by the late General Sani Abacha for socio-economic and political equity, believe and scheme in perpetuity, to be the ‘men on the horseback’; while the North-Central and other two zones should remain on their knees as beasts of burden forever.
Considering the foregoing scenario, one may not be off the course of civility to admonish current political leadership and powers-that-be across regional boundaries and partisan politics, to begin to eschew all actions and decisions that can resurrect the ghosts of insurrection in the past.
It was Dr. Nelson Mandela who once told the world that: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, no one of us can truly rest.” In its entirety or all ramifications, the late president of South Africa is warning Nigeria, current politicians and political leadership of our country that, indeed, it is gross inequality to hold on to the belief that other geopolitical zones do not matter in leading Nigeria at the centre.
Of course, Dr. Mandela’s warning is also pertinent in another regard that none of us can truly rest in Nigeria as ‘injustice and gross inequality’ persists in power-sharing as well as in all affairs and political configuration of our great country.
To the current ‘powerful’ Nigerian leaders, particularly the ‘political juggernauts, men of timber and caterpillar’, there is wisdom in not being too comfortable and complacent in the injustice and gross inequality that monopoly of power and leadership of Nigeria at the centre constitutes.
Though a parody to civility and civilianised democratic governance, the Dimka and Gideon Orkar’s unsuccessful coups of 1976 and 1990, respectively, were expressions of pent-up anger and feelings of injustice and gross inequality that Dr. Mandela talked about.
We should be all reminded that if the Gideon Orkar Coup had been successful, there is possibility that the map of Nigeria would have been mutilated and quite different from what we have today.
While one’s prayer and aspiration of ordinary Nigerians is that balkanisation should never be the destiny of our country, Nigerian socio-political fate-deciders should be guided by history that former USSR was once a country, so also was Czechoslovakia and others.
The counsel here is that all Nigerian political leaders concerned with what the shape or shapes of things will be in 2023, should return to their drawing boards and patriotically consider those other geopolitical zones that are yet to produce the president since 1999, especially the North-Central. For indeed, and as Aristotle immortally established: “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal”.
In all of these, the contention is that the injustice and inequality of making North-Central the footstool of the superstructure of domination by them at the centre, should be reversed and made right in 2023! This contention is pillared on two broad realities of our national life in Nigeria.
First, the official division of Nigeria into six geopolitical zones by the late General Sani Abacha was a smart, expedient and historic move to guarantee equity and equal socio-economic and political opportunities among the contending major ethnic groups in Nigeria.
And, it was equally a remarkable social design to douse the perennial consuming conflagration historically effectuated by unjust domination, ethno-religious politics and all the centrifugal forces that pulled Nigeria into the grueling Civil War between1967 and 1970.
Thus, the seeming inconsiderate monopoly of political power of the Nigerian state at the centre; is nothing but blatant desecration of the Abacha ingenious design for guaranteed equity, equality, unhindered access to economic and socio-political opportunities by all Nigerians and should no longer be stomached by North-Central.
The second plank of the contention is that there couldn’t have been a blanket sense of deprivation by North-Central without a concomitant pride of the great contributions by the sub-region into Nigeria’s economic and socio-political grid from colonial Nigeria through independence, the military interregnum and to present democratic dispensation.
Historically, the North-Central has always been a most senior partner and stabilising factor in economic and socio-political development Nigeria, particularly between the two domineering geo-political czars.
In this regard, the role played by Joseph S. Tarka’s United Middle Belt Congress, UMBC, first as third largest political party in Northern House of Assembly and as an ally of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group are edified in political history of Nigeria and should be highly valued and esteemed in considering which geopolitical zone leads at the centre in 2023.
This contention is buoyed by the historical fact that even in the dark years of Federal Republic of Nigeria between 1967 and 1970; the country needed a Yakubu Gowon from North-Central to keep the Nigerian project alive.
This he did with patriotic zeal to lead the onslaught against what would have ended in balkanisation of the then newly independent Nigeria and restored the nation to its founders’ master-plan and path of unity and sovereignty as we have it today on the global scale.
Moreover and still on contributions to keeping Nigeria one as a indivisible nation, the sacrifice made during Nigerian Civil war by North-Central was quite massive as it is posited that the region suffered the highest number of causalities among the gallant soldiers that fought on the side of Federal Government in the ‘task to keep Nigeria one’.
Of course in terms of leadership, North-Central has produced great and visionary leaders whose strides in socio-political development in the nation’s firmament are cast in gold. Thus, apart from great leaders like the late Chief Joseph Tarka, the late Chief Solomon Lar, living legend of Nigeria’s unity, Gen. (Dr.) Yakubu Gowon, iconic Gen. T.Y Danjuma and many others, the region has produced four out the 14 Senate presidents in Nigerian political history.
These prominent national leaders include Sen. (Dr.) Iyorchia Ayu, Sen. Ameh Ebute, Sen. (Gen.) David Mark, who holds the record of the longest serving Senate president in Nigerian history and Sen. (Dr.) Bukola Saraki. The submission here, therefore, is that the region has astute politicians and national leaders capable and well equipped in all ramifications to lead Nigeria from 2023.
In a similar breath, socio-economic contributions of North-Central to the Nigerian project are very intimidating. These contributions reflect in industry, power-generation, mining, agriculture and many others. Of a fact, there cannot be any serious talk of food security in Nigeria without a princely appreciation of North-Central–this is evident in the fact that Benue; one of the states in the geopolitical zone, is the Food Basket of the Nation.
Undeniably and with particular reference to 2023, the universal dictum that freedom is usually won and it is never given on a platter of gold, applies to the situation of North-Central in the scheme of things in political Nigeria. The North-Central is also aware of majority population joker always used by the domineering geopolitical zones.
But, this time around, it has to be accepted that North-Central is a region of minorities in majority as hardly had South-West or North-West ever won any presidential election without active support and alliance of the geo-political zone. So, the crux is, 2023 should be a year of political compensation with the presidency of Nigeria for the North Central.
Agude, a lawyer, wrote from Jos, Plateau State([email protected]),