January 25, 2022

2023 and the dilemma of Nigeria




OUR engagement on this page today is somewhat a reaction from some of our readers last week. Let me confess my confusion that newspapers, as we used to know them, are fastly and virtually out of existence.

In spite of my love for advancement in technology which has not spared the information community, I remain fixated, conservatively with love, newspaper vendors and their little trumpets announcing their presence in the neighbourhood. In a nutshell, newspapers and newsstands are virtually extinct.

You don’t see vendors dashing from one vehicle to the other in traffic, thrusting the headlines in your face. Such enterprise makes no meaning any longer.

The days are gone with breaking news through the papers. With the ubiquitous social media, information is released as events occur almost simultaneously. The news which makes the papers daily are merely repetitive either of their online edition or of faster, careless, social media. 

Even the stale information published by newspapers are made more juicy, even in the local language, through the headline and inside – newspapers reviews by electronic media now tucked in every corner in virtually every local government.

Thus, on daily basis, except for those looking for a particular advert or opinion, or in some supply arrangements at home or in the offices, the reader is so fully and pleasantly fed that the need for the newspaper becomes realistically superfluous.

You can then imagine how one feels that some folks out there still took time to look for and not only read our modest contributions on this page but also digest same and write informed opinions thereon.

Today’s piece, therefore, is in reaction to the salvo fired by some of my colleagues, particularly one from across the Niger, who felt last week’s edition should be the dilemma of Nigeria rather than of the North.

According to him, the people of the South are rather ignorant, in spite of our claims to learning about the structure and features of the Nigerian federation. He was of the opinion that the Hausa/Fulani, in spite of their different places and histories of origin, have become so intertwined that the Southerners looking for differences in them to stimulate independent ethnic opinions to take advantage of were really living in fool’s paradise. To him, it is more profitable to engage the Hausa/Fulani as an ethnic block bonded by religion which is more glueing of all social relationship materials.

He berated what he called the unending search for the illusory Middle Belt which he swore existed only in the fertile imagination of the Southern elites. Going down memory lane, he said all the so-called fraudulent constitutions handed down by the military started with the 1979 Constitution which was the brainchild of the Obasanjo administration, a model copied under the 1999 Constitution which was handed down by Abdusallam Abubakar whom he described as a Middle Belt element without mentioning his tribe and town. He said everything we complain about in Nigeria, none could be traced to any Fulani military Head of State or President.

He said he had often read my analysis of the lopsided distribution of local governments in Nigeria which creation he attributed to Obasanjo, Babangida and Sani Abacha whose ethnic origins were not strange.

I swore to him on my ignorance of Babangida’s origin and all he told me was that “at least, neither Hausa nor Fulani”. His argument was that North is North and that the so-called Middle Belt nationalities have never altered the Nigerian political equation against the North.

He reminded me of the efforts of Obafemi Awolowo in Ilorin and with Joseph Tarka and his United Middle Congress, including in Bauchi and Borno Provinces which he dismissed as struggles in futility.

 He swore that those being paraded by the Southern elements as representing some Middle Belt tribes were merely on ego trips signifying nothing. While he recognised the current sense of oneness among Southern states which, according to him, was unprecedented, he nonetheless swore that it would not last and that it would be truncated by what he preferred to call the traditional rivalry between the Igbo and Yoruba.

Waxing historical, he reminded me that the South-South would never vote for an Igbo president, while none of them would support a Yoruba president.

He gave examples of the First Republic when Awolowo and Azikiwe, in spite of their learning and having a combined numerical strength in terms of parliamentarians, could not agree on an alliance to form a government at the centre.

Instead, Zik preferred an alliance with Ahmadu Bello/Balewa Northern Peoples Congress.

He also gave examples of the Second Republic where a combination of Azikiwe’s NPP winning three states combined with Awolowo’s UPN of five would have given them an advantage over the NPN of Alhaji Shehu Shagari with nine states. Without much ado, a deal was struck between Zik and Shagari whose party had seven states.

Not done, he reminded me of the Moshood Abiola and Tofa Presidential tussle. While Abiola won around the country, including Tofa’s home state of Kano, it was only the South-East states that he lost, even woefully. I cut in that even Obasanjo lost in his South West region, while he won handsomely in the Igbo South East region.

What he told me of Obasanjo and Igbo is beyond my repetition here, but suffice it to say that he dug into appointments in the Obasanjo administration and wondered if it was accidental that it reflected Igbo dominance.

Stirring the hornet’s nest, he posited that Afenifere is really the troubler of Nigeria. He asserted that all the military coups in Nigeria, starting from Nzeogwu in 1966, had been given impetus by agitations of the Afenifere’s Action Group and their elements in all the campuses.

He accused Afenifere which he said was essentially the same with NADECO, of being so naive to have called upon Abacha to topple Shonekan their kinsman in the laughable belief that a military junta would be successful in a coup and hand it over to a civilian whose victory was never declared.

The kind of crossfire is not strange between my friend and me who was my junior Comrade in students struggles and jointly ever since served Nigeria on different fora and platforms. Our common friends reading this will readily know him. However, he extracted a promise from me that he would not want his name published because of his political ambition in his home state in the North East. There were, however, so many questions he could not answer.

He was stuck on the question of why the Fulani would assume that political leadership of Nigeria should come from its stock, each time it is zoned to the North. It was also inexplicable that his most coveted One-North would kill fellow Northerners seeking assistance even from outside the country with accusing fingers pointed always at one group.

The mindset of the core North, we argued, has now put Nigeria in a dilemma in several ways. One of such is the unnecessary pandering to religion in our politics. We have had it said, for instance, that one of the qualifying criteria for any Southern presidential candidate is that he must search for a Muslim Northerner, not minding if the candidate himself is a Southern Muslim.

The implication is that the core North cannot do without political power at any time. Thus, in spite of my friend’s talk of One-North, the Middle Belt is not up for either the President or Vice President. Every political party must look up to the North West just dropping the baton of the President and must be of a particular faith.

I have heard it said by eminent Northerners, not the least being Ghali Umar Na’Abba, former Speaker of the House of Representatives and Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Secretary of the Northern Elders Forum that one of the reasons the North may not be supporting power shift to the South is because Northerners have not benefited from Buhari’s Presidency. Nigeria is indeed in more than a dilemma.  It is a logjam only restructuring will untwine.

Nigeria, we hail thee!

•Ebiseni is the Secretary General, Afenifere.

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