By Douglas Anele

Moreover, British officials favoured the north against the south, Igboland in particular, for very bad reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with merit or competence in democratic governance.

First and foremost Islam,the predominant religion of the Fulani, strongly enjoins believers to obey their rulers, which in practice made northern muslims especially the masses pliant and obedient – attributes cherished by colonisers – unlike the so-called “troublesome” “uppity” Igbo in the south who, according Prof. Chinua Achebe, “fear neither man nor God.”

This corroborates what Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist and radical political philosopher from the French colony of Martinique, identifies in his most influential book, The Wretched of the Earth, as the main pitfall of national consciousness among colonised peoples.

In Fanon correctly observes that colonialists tend to prefer as their successors stooges, in other words those who would continue to depend on them and those they could easily manipulate. The British also loved the quaint and picturesque pageantry associated with local ceremonies in the emirates of northern Nigeria, while the Islamic theocratic system there ensured continuous flow of taxes with minimum inconvenience and effort.

They were comfortable with the fact that northern leaders led by Ahmadu Bello would rather employ expatriates, especially British citizens, instead of hiring qualified Ndigbo to fill vacant positions in the north. Because numerous British officials and technicians worked in the north even after the end of colonial rule, there was virtually no support in London from former colonial civil servants, soldiers, and administrators for southerners demanding self-determination in the 1960s.

As Frederick Forsyth explains in his work, The Making of an Africa Legend: The Biafra Story, to them and leading members of the British ruling elite “Nigeria is their beloved Northern Region.”Of course, Britain’s attitude has not changed since that time: on the contrary it is more committed to preserving Nigeria as presently constituted and governed.

British officials are still doing all they could to sustain Nigeria as a strategic client-state in Africa irrespective of the clamour for a radical reconstitution of the country mostly in the south. From another perspective frontline nationalist southern politicians did not reckon as they ought to with the fact that Islam is antithetical to modern secular democratic governance that guarantees fundamental freedoms and human rights.

That serious mistake, in conjunction with the rabid conquistadorial nomadic lifestyle of the Fulani, makes the prospect of peaceful progressive Nigeria virtually impossible. Had Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and others done so, they probably would have worked towards annulling the amalgamation or at least for confederation which is an advanced form of regionalism.

As I stated earlier, the potential for disintegration was inherent in the amalgamation of the north and south that gave birth to Nigeria. Prominent politicians of the First Republic knew this, and made public statements indicating that it would be an extraordinarily arduous task to build a truly united and peaceful progressive nation out of the diverse ethnic nationalities in the geographical expression called Nigeria.

The situation was not helped by huge differences in the attitude of leading northern and southern leaders towards the Nigerian project.This is clearly illustrated by the statements of Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the most powerful politician to emerge from northern Nigeria, and Chief Awolowo, unarguably the greatest Yoruba politician of the twentieth century.

According to Ahmadu Bello, “The new nation called Nigeria should be the estate of our great-grandfather, Uthman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities of the north as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us, and never allow them to have control over their future.”

On the other hand, Chief Awolowo insists that his party, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), was resolutely determined to pursue “Equal opportunity for every Nigerian; equality under the law; extermination of ethnic hegemony; dethronement of mediocrity wherever it exists; guaranteeing for every Nigerian no matter his place of birth or state of origin equal access to the good things of life… . We…can succeed provided we allow ourselves to be guided by this great principle: ‘The glory of a ruler is the welfare of every one of his people.’”

This clearly points to the essential tension between the northern and southern visions of the meaning and purpose of the Nigerian state and how its future was to be calibrated. How can Nigeria be a great nation when leading members of the northern establishment want to dominate the rest of Nigeria whereas their southern counterparts were more concerned with how to make Nigeria a country that works for everybody? 

As a corollary, all these years southern leaders generally ignored the fact that deep down the Fulani ruling class has always believed that Islam (and therewith sharia) is superior to the constitution. For instance, in response to a letter from the UK-based West African Students Union (WASU) calling for support at a Conference of northern chiefs in 1942, the emirs affirmed that “Holding this country together is not possible except by means of the religion of the prophet. If they [southerners] want political unity let them follow our religion.”

Two years later, Siddiq Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto from 1938-1988, reaffirmed the same position by submitting that “Those southerners who desire a united Nigeria should first embrace Islam as their religion.” Boko Haram, one of the deadliest Islamist terrorist groups in Nigeria, in a bulletin it issued in December 2011, publicly declared that “We want to re-emphasise that our main objective is the restoration of the sharia legal system in line with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.

We want the Nigerian constitution to be abrogated and democracy suspended and a full-fledged Islamic state established.”Highly-placed northern muslims apparently endorse Boko Haram’s core Islamisation ideology. President Muhammadu Buhari himself not only condemned the military onslaught against Boko Haram when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was in office; he also appealed to muslims to vote only for muslim candidates in the 2011 general elections.

Even his later “clarification” of the divisive advice that what he meant was for muslims to only vote for those who will promote their religion is like medicine after death, so to speak, for no matter how much he tries to conceal it, majority of southern Nigerians think that Buhari is an Islamic bigot.

Besides, only naïve or ignorant Nigerians particularly from the south actually believe that the President really intendto decimate Boko Haram. As a matter of fact, there is mounting circumstantial evidence that he was never genuinely interested in stopping the group.

Buhari and some of his closest allies not only criticised former President Goodluck Jonathan’s  renewed offensive against Boko Haram in 2014 when Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika was Chief of Army Staff, Buhari himself claimed that any attack on the insurgents is an attack on the north. When the idea of government negotiating with the terrorists was proposed, they nominated him as their chief negotiator.

Not long after he became President, Buhari boasted he would crush Boko Haram within a short period. Six years later, the sect is still around, still terrorising, maiming, and killing people, with many of them now operating as killer herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers. All this is rooted in Islamic holy scriptures which dictate that muslims should always ensure that the religion of Allah prevails in every community by any means necessary, including violence and war.

To be concluded…

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