By Donu Kogbara
TWO videos are doing the rounds in numerous online fora. One features Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, the spokesman for the Northern Elders Forum, saying (at a public lecture last year, apparently) that his region possesses the numerical strength to determine who will follow President Muhammadu Buhari and that “the heavens will not fall” if another Northerner emerges as head of state in 2023.
The second video is comical and features singing UK-based Yorubas and Igbos voting in a spoof referendum on a London street. Waving separatist flags and wearing T-shirts and caps that advertise their allegiance to breakaway South-Eastern and South-Western republics, they queue up and dance towards three ballot boxes.
One ballot box is for Biafra supporters, another is for Oduduwa Nationalists and the third ballot box is for anyone who doesn’t think that Nigeria is dead and wants to vote for an entity that the grinning Yoruba lady narrator describes as “the Janjaweed part or The Zoo” – which she says is full of rapists and kidnappers.
I don’t need to tell anyone what a zoo and its inhabitants are. But some of you may not be familiar with every conflict that has haunted our continent and may be wondering what Janjaweed are. The word means “devils on horseback” in Arabic; and it refers to vicious mounted Islamic militias who have terrorised Western Sudan and Eastern Chad. But it is also colloquially used as a disparaging nickname for Muslim extremists or bandits in Nigeria and beyond.
Anyway, back to the colourful London drama: A man dressed in Northern garb and the colours of the Nigerian flag stands in front of the third ballot box. He is on his own. He begs the Oduduwa and Biafra crowd to join him and cast their votes in his box, which basically represents a continuation of the status quo.
They drive him away and he looks crestfallen. OK, so this video is an immensely childish piece of crude theatre, as well as cruel and exceedingly insulting to our Northern brethren. But it made a lot of Southerners laugh gleefully and made some Niger Deltans I know grumble sarcastically about the fact that they weren’t included in the anti-Northern joke.
“Why is there no South-South ballot box in this video? I’m not ready to be stranded in the zoo with Janjaweed herdsmen and Boko Harams o!” said a Warri indigene who shall remain nameless. But lest anyone be tempted to dismiss this video as irrelevant trash, please note that most satire contains a serious underlying message; and the serious underlying message within this context is that a significant percentage of Southerners are totally fed up with the status quo and would love to be totally liberated from the North (despite a profound and genuine sympathy for northern Christians).
This anger and hatred can be erased from the hearts of Southerners who are fed up. But only if Fulani supremacists and their sidekicks stop making inflammatory anti-South comments. The likes of Baba Ahmed should curb their tongues, modify their behaviour and quit looking for trouble…because big trouble will surely descend upon this country in the not too distant future if oppressive Northern chauvinists don’t behave themselves and stop carrying on as if Southerners are politically trapped slaves and doomed to do the North’s bidding ad infinitum.
As a fine writer and perceptive commentator called Tope Oriola pointed out in an open letter to Baba Ahmed that appeared in the Premium Times publication last September: “I totally agree that the heavens will not fall if a Northerner emerges as president in 2023. The heavens have been around for a while.
Nigeria has not. We do not know if Nigeria will survive it. The heavens are naturally (some would say preternaturally) occurring phenomena; Nigeria is a human invention. It is no longer serving its purpose – security of lives and property and promotion of the public good.
“[As for your numerical strength claim]…perhaps you can speak with the Commissioner of Finance in Gombe State, who asked the governments of Rivers and Lagos to be “our brothers’ keepers”, regarding VAT collection. Any part of Nigeria that can unilaterally determine who emerges president should be able to contribute to the national purse. That is not disrespect; it is called federalism.”
Baba Ahmed has also said that the North can live with its poverty. “No, you cannot,” says Oriola, adding that: “We all assumed there was happy poverty in the North, until the chickens began to come home to roost. Maitatsine and other millenarian movements troubled Nigeria for decades but were sporadic. Suddenly, the al-majiri phenomenon mingled with other social problems to produce fresh candidates for what would become Boko Haram, ISWAP, herdsmen, bandits and miscellaneous criminals. We respectfully ask you to not live with your poverty (to the extent anyone can lay claims to poverty) because you are our fellow citizens.
“We believe in human dignity and do not wish to continue to suffer the consequences of spillover social problems. We no longer want the destruction of rural livelihoods, rape, kidnappings, killings and brigandage that have made life unbearable for many Nigerians from Benue to Abia and Ekiti. Anyone who goes to bed when a neighbour’s house is on fire is probably foolish. The North’s problem is Nigeria’s problem. Do not allow pride get in the way of solving our collective failure as a country.
“I do not think your current approach solves the problem. I cringe at the rhetoric emerging from you. Dialogue is the way out. But that means we need to tell ourselves some home truths. The Nigerian system had been systematically rendered weak and ineffective long before the current administration. People with incredibly low scores in JAMB and other performance metrics were selected.
“That’s not a problem, if properly managed. Affirmative action can be a force for good. However, somehow the same persons were the super majority (sometimes over 90 per cent) of ‘competent’ and trusted people found for serious positions.
They dumbed down the system, clinically and methodically. They hired only their kind and frustrated anyone who seemed bright, including fellow Northerners. The nepotism of the core North…has destroyed the country in which we should all have joint ownership.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself!!! And by the way, Mr. Baba Ahmed, no amount of arrogant talk or blind bravado will change the fact that Nigeria would have completely collapsed by now if not for Southern education and Southern natural resources.
A few words are enough for the wise.
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