BY SOLA EBISENI
IN spite of the undeniable clear identity of the Middle Belt and its incomparable gargantuan geographical space, those who still fantasise the old monolithic North would not budge.
They keep wallowing in the preservation of the North and would not agree that the empire the British helped them create have long served its useful purpose.
The empire is in a constant state of flux either from the exigencies of statecraft which ensure its fragmentation in state creation or the unchecked influx of tribes of all nations in common brotherhood bound either by religion or cultural occupation which puts the earth and its fullness at the unpartitioned disposal of all. In that situation, it requires no research into history to acquire citizenship.
The insistence on One-North is strategic to keep the veil on the diversity of the region and present a semblance of unity of purpose. Truth be told, the way the geographical architecture of Nigeria was cobbled by the British, only two geopolitical zones (South West and South East) could boast of a contiguous territory of one people with traditional mutual intelligibility.
The politics of 2023 have literally torn Nigeria asunder with a cacophony of voices incapable of national consensus. The most veritable of the issues, as they come, is the need to restructure the nation politically for the enviable true federalism on which the nation was erected leading to Independence in 1960. There has been undeniable evidence, before and in the course of Buhari’s administration, of Nigeria national consensus for restructuring. Most of those opposed to it today are only acting out their words in public. We shall return to this in due course.
At a recent conference in Awka, Anambra State, January 3 to 5, 2022, leaders and representatives of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum unanimously agreed and pushed for power shift to the South in 2023 for inclusiveness and a sense of belonging for the good health of the nation. One of the submissions that caught my attention admirably was the theory of attainment of power espoused by my friend and brother, the National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson.
After a critical analysis of power and its sojourning across the nation, particularly since 1999, Robinson submitted that power could be attained in this country by negotiation, deceit or subterfuge and if need be, by force. All of these strategies are equally applicable in war and reminded me of Carl von Clausewitz’s submission that “politics is the continuation of war by other means”.
Looking back years after, it is clear that the strategy of President Buhari’s rise to power at any time in the history of Nigeria has been an intricately interwoven combination of all of these factors. At his first coming in 1983, the impression was deliberately created that he did not know about the coup and that he was only called upon, by virtue of his rank, to lead the government. Those who erroneously claim that Buhari’s current modus operandi in government is borne out of age and health issues only need to open the books and they will find out that Buhari of today is not different from who he was in 1983 when, at 41, his group toppled the civilian government of President Shehu Shagari.
He was dark goggled like Idiagbon, his deputy and Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, who was rightly dubbed the Prime Minister by the ever-sensitive Nigerian press which saw him at the seat of power on a day-to-day basis. Buhari quietly appropriated the Idiagbon efforts and energy which kept him in the psyche of Nigerians as a no-nonsense leader. So when it was time again that Nigerians felt the need for a spartan General, Buhari needed not much introduction to them.
It needs to be emphasised that force and violence were not spared on the way to democratic power, no thanks to extremist views which equated those perceived to be responsible for electoral malpractices with baboons, monkeys and cockroaches who must be crushed. It was not by accident that 12 corps members lost their lives to reactive mob actions in Bauchi. Of course, it was also an era when any military action against Boko Haram insurgents has been termed an attempt to tamper with the demographic, thus electoral advantage of the North.
Pray, what is the difference between Kanu’s allusion to Nigeria being a zoo and a dwelling place of baboons and monkeys? The difference is only found in George Orwell’s own allegory of Animal Farm where the statement that took one to the palace landed the other in prison. It is pathetically amusing (oro buruku t’on t’erin) that Mr. President couldn’t put the alleged offences of Kanu in perspective beyond the fact that ‘he was safely abroad abusing us’ as a mere verbal altercation between Kanu and the dramatis personae of Buhari’s government.
The President would not contemplate releasing Nnamdi Kanu particularly now that he has been brought back to defend himself for calling his fatherland a jungle. We insist that if that is the qualification for trial without the amnesty, the terminology was not authored by Kanu who only surfaced in 2015.
Nigeria has been so euphemistically pronounced as the abode of baboons and monkeys requiring lions and tigers to neutralise. It is the parable of the jungle where the ongoing trials of Kanu and Igboho are the only treatment for the underprivileged.
Of course, all those failed to yield results until the Jagaban hit a deal with Buhari. Each of them had what the other needed. The 12 million Buhari consistent votes were most attractive to the Lagos tactician who already had the South West, except the ever naughty Ondo. The negotiations and permutations worked so much that elections were even most peaceful and churned out the largest number of voters in the most violent North East.
The press was undaunted in its resolve to see to the end of Jonathan who was deliberately and most unkindly soiled with the image of cluelessness. Today is no day for comparison.
The race for 2023 has begun in earnest, with its inherent contradictions and amusements. The APC is still grappling with the legality of the management of its structure which either puts its convention on hold or is bedevilled with such problems that make the gathering at a convention intractable. In such hullabaloo, there is surprisingly and admirably the consensus on which side of the Nigerian North/South divide would produce the next President. It seems settled that the pendulum has swung to the South.
On the other hand, the PDP which has admirably put its convention behind it, even before the National Assembly’s regimented direct primary, is locked in the prism of the morality of the zoning of its presidential ticket. The moral burden has left all presidential hopefuls in the lurk, unable to announce their aspirations to the nation. The closest to it is the statement credited to the new National Chairman, amiable former Senator Iyorchia that he would resign his position should the presidential candidate of the party emerge from the North.
Such comment from Ayu who was former Senate president and the co-chairman of the Electoral and Political Committee of the 2014 National Conference, with his counterpart, also former Senate President Ken Nnamani, could mean so many things which nevertheless confirmed ambivalence on the part of the party on zoning the president.
By the way, I served in that same Committee with both Ayu and Nnamani and still wondering where the likes of Ken are in the quest of Ndigbo for Nigeria’s president. If the position of the ethnic nationality groups mean much in the equation of where the President would be voted, four of them, representing the four geopolitical zones of the South West (Afenifere), South East (Ohaneze Ndigbo), South-South (PANDEF) North West and several parts of North West and North East (Middle Belt Forum) have pitched their tents with the South producing the next president as an interim arrangement which will ensure equity pending restructuring of the country when the location of the President may not matter.
The Arewa Consultative Forum and its Northern Elders Forum variant are, not unexpectedly, singing a new song from the one they sang at the National Conference in 2014 where the ACF was presented as an organisation and its top echelons not only in attendance but with its equals and peers from different parts of the country- Afenifere, Ohaneze, South-South and Middle Belt leaders- forming an official group of 50 wise men and women who ensured consensus after or before heated plenary debates and exchanges.
One of the key issues in the consensual resolutions of the conference was the adoption of the North/South zoning of Nigeria presidency at the end of a maximum tenure of eight years. The desire for a continuous bite at the cherry is the cause of the dilemma. It is a matter of honour.
Nigeria, we hail thee.