By Jesutega Onokpasa

I have never read a very nakedly contrived cocktail of falsehoods and misrepresentations than Dr Sani Sabo’s article titled Tinubu’s plan to strangle the north.

The truly weird and inciting article published on 4 November,  claims the Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shettima presidential campaign manifesto seeks to “further plunder” the North into “eminent collapse”, whatever that means!

While the greater part of Sabo’s offering vide his rather technically ignorant and altogether ridiculous article is actually either too hypocritical or downright nonsensical to warrant a response, certain naked lies he sought to peddle through the write-up require refutation.

In the first place, it is possible that Sabo was dissecting another document other than the Tinubu/Shettima ‘Renewed Hope’ manifesto, as he claimed that the document, “seeks to reduce the North into a war-ridden region, permanently waiting for hand-outs.

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This of course is patently untrue.

On the contrary, the Tinubu-Shettima Action Plan seeks to breathe a fresh air in the region, which as of today is plagued with problems of insurgency and banditry.

As for what Sabo refers to as ‘northern economic exclusion’, this is a most dishonest take on the economic condition of the Northern half of our dear country and especially problematically so coming from someone who is clearly just another political hack pretending to be speaking for the North. First of all it is very hard to make a believable case that the economic travails of the North arise from “exclusion” when in total, our country has had more leaders from the same North. In any case, Sabo clearly has no deep understanding of economics which he decided to make his subject matter in his pathetic critique of a sterling manifesto he clearly barely comprehends.

While the North truly faces rather acute socioeconomic challenges that must genuinely worry all of us as one nation, it is not as if the Southern half of our country is some highly advanced and economically buoyant eldorado. Perhaps Sabo requires some tutorship in real economics as opposed to the motor-park ideas his pedestrian article was based on. Of a truth, the major impediments to economic progress in the North majorly arise from abysmally poor human capital development and endemic female exclusion from economic participation in many parts of the region.

If in one jurisdiction, you have 80 percent literacy in a socioeconomic paradigm that is not gender discriminatory, all other things being equal, that jurisdiction will continuously outperform another with a far lower literacy rate coupled with poor female engagement in economic activities. These are the hard facts and harsh realities of the economic disparities between North and South which genuinely concerned and patriotic leaders both North and South must square up to and take into cognisance. This should be the course of action rather than pandering to the most unhelpful and patently false blame shifting antics of pseudo-leaders like Sabo whose approach to the problems of the North offer absolutely no solutions at all and only end up further exacerbating an already dire situation.

Sabo’s criticisms of President Muhammadu Buhari are most disingenuous and clearly emanate from a mixture of economic ignorance and pure mischief making. In the entire history of Nigeria, no President, or Head of State for that matter, has tried to develop the North more than Muhammadu Buhari. Indeed, if any other President tried his best, it would be President Goodluck Jonathan and certainly not any leader of Northern extraction.

Against the handicap of drastically reduced oil earnings, the Buhari administration somehow managed to perform what is effectively a miracle of food production sufficiency and even surplus for export in this country! That is quite apart from sustained investment in artisanal training, youth economic empowerment and support for small and medium scale entrepreneurship. Indeed, there simply has never been a government that impacted the entire country nor benefited the North, in particular, more than the Buhari administration. The administration, however, has been hampered by the problems of insurgents in the North and oil thieves in the South.

As far as insurgency goes, Sabo, while pretending to be concerned about  the plight of its victims, nevertheless found occasion to excoriate the Buhari administration for bringing succour to internally displaced persons and insurgency-impacted communities. What sort of philosophy of governance does Sabo subscribe to? A government that plays the ostrich with its internally displaced as Sabo is doing with the true source of the problems of the North?

The violence we are currently experiencing in the North is powered by religious extremism, which, worldwide, has proven to be extremely intractable and practically impossible to eradicate. My personal take on religious extremism is that subsequent generations will mature out of it until it is finally and permanently deposited in the dustbin of history. When Sabo accuses the government of providing palliatives instead of tackling insurgency, does he realise he is being most shamefully pedestrian for a PhD holder? Did the Americans, with all their might, not finally give up and accept defeat after fighting insurgency for 20 whole years in Afghanistan? What is the meaning of “leaving insecurity unchecked”, as Sabo rather most deceitfully chose to put it?

What is Sabo really trying to do? Blame Buhari for extremism in the North? Was Buhari, himself, not almost murdered by these same extremists when they bombed his convoy even before he became President? This is something that has to do with misguided religious ideology and across the world it continues to prove to be a most difficult problem to solve! Why do too many of us in this country like to lie so shamelessly, and, all because of politics? Faced with an insurgency, as a government you keep relentlessly combating the insurgents while most definitely providing palliatives and protection for affected citizens or you’ve failed completely! Does  Sabo, with no less than a doctorate degree,  not know this?

Throughout his article, Sabo consistently descends into what can only be described as patently ignorant lamentation. According to him, “how can my application be vetted by a commercial bank ED in Lagos before I have the approval to start a local business in Kankia LGA of Katsina state for example? How is this fair?” What nonsense? This is perhaps the most pedestrian part of Sabo’s stupefying writeup. Going by Sabo’s kindergarten logic perhaps someone from Gashua in Borno or Zuru in Kebbi might wonder why a federal project meant for their benefit should have to be approved in Abuja as might someone in Sapele in Delta or Obudu in Cross River!

It is neither Tinubu nor the Federal Government, for that matter, that headquartered banks in Lagos – the banks, like other firms, including Aliko Dangote’s behemoth, will headquarter wherever it makes the best economic sense. In any case, that’s why it’s one country, one economy. Why does an American in Seattle, Washington, not bang his head against the wall about having to get approval from a bank on Wall Street, New York or an agency in Washington, DC, both of which are approximately as far away from Seattle as Dakar, Senegal is from Kano, Nigeria?

As for Sabo’s bafflingly baseless verdict that the Tinubu/Shettima manifesto “visualises the North as a war zone and seeks to deepen that”, how does anyone pretending at playing public affairs commentator even muster the shamelessness to propagate such blatant falsehood. Nobody visualises the North as some war zone – the North is already a war zone in certain areas and the only thing likely to further deepen this truly sad situation are the hyper-sectionalist, ultra-regionalist and altogether most arcane mindset of people like Sabo who have always been, are and seem determined to continue to be the biggest problem of the North.

What the likes of Sabo do not yet realize is that the good people of the North have left them, their lies and their sectionalism far behind. There is a national consensus in this country to the effect of power shift to the South in 2023 and it is a consensus championed by Northerners, themselves, led by their Governors and true leaders.

No matter how many Sabos Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, can find to write utter crap and whip up base sentiments for him, he is going to fail most woefully in his ethnocentric quest for a shortcut into Aso Rock.

In any case, were Atiku to become President, the South, in implacable resentment at being cheated out of its turn to produce the President, is most likely to become just as destabiliszed as the North presently is and the likes of Sabo ought to start wondering if their puppeteer would even have a country to govern then!

While Sabo might delude himself he can pin the blame for the problems in the Northern half of our country on Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, truth is, if either Tinubu or Shettima could be blamed for anything, it would be for bringing uncommon and most innovative approaches to governance as they most excellently delivered in Lagos and Borno states, respectively.

It is just exactly this sort of empirically verifiable competence in governance that was pioneered in the current republic by Bola Tinubu as Lagos State Governor and was followed by Kashim Shettima in Borno that is desperately needed going forward by our entire country but more especially so by the North that the likes of Sabo are actually most responsible for bringing into its present lamentable condition.

Indeed, the positions canvassed by Sabo are representative of sentiments that have been the bane of progress and development in the North and thus, inevitably, the entire country. Sabo and his ilk would do well to just shut up for the good of their home region and leave the stage for authentic progressives like the Shettimas of the North who truly have something of value to offer the region and our country at large.

In Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, we are set to get a President who has throughout his career shown an astonishing capacity for always leaving a place far better than he met it. Simply put, Tinubu is the City Boy who turns the village into a town, turns the town into a city, and, turns the city into a megacity.

As for Senator Kashim Shettima, we are primed for a Vice President who stoically refused to capitulate to insurgency, would not lose his head in the midst of full scale war, and, somehow managed to keep good governance afloat even with bullets flying around him and his people.

Far from trying to strangle the North as Sabo most reprehensibly claims, the Tinubu campaign logo is an artwork indicating broken shackles. If Sabo and co are even remotely genuinely concerned for the North, I am happy to inform them that help is on its way and that the prescribed medicine the North desperately requires at this time is a brand now available at every pharmacy, called the “Tinubu/Shettima Solution”.

Onokpasa, a lawyer and member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Campaign Council, writes from Abuja.


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