North’s misplaced priority by Lateef Adewole
The Insight by Lateef Adewole
“Prof. Aliyu Muhammed spent 25 days with bandits before a ransom was paid for his release, in Zaria. He revealed how the bandits grisly fed human corpses to their Dogs & other horrors. Those who want to defend these atrocities should please reserve a space in their hearts for the victims & their families.” – Sen. Shehu Sani
The Nigerian situation is burdensome and becoming overwhelming for some of us who take issues that border on the country to heart. We tend to overthink the challenges facing us as a people and constantly think, meditate and struggle to bring out possible solutions to them.
Like a friend asked me what the way out is, after our laborious discussion about Nigeria, I simply told him the same thing I said above. I have written numerous articles which were centered on what we are going through at different times and proffered solutions and made recommendations, as I do not believe people should just highlight problems without providing possible solutions.
However, it is becoming like what the Yorubas will call “egbinrin ote, bi a se n pakan, nikan n ruwe” (the soot of conspiracy, as we uproot one, another sprouts). I have lost count of incidents that happen in Nigeria on a daily basis, I could not catch up with them. Many times I wished I also have the luxury of “tuning away my mind”, like a friend once told me, starting with not following the news and other programmes on television, not listening to the radio for news, going off social media; But that is impossible.
As a writer, whose focus is not fiction but reality which must be based on facts, I am always compelled to do all these. And writing consistently on a weekly basis for years has not been a joke. One will never know until one begins. I remember those years when I was just a reader, an article that might have taken the writer hours, days or even weeks to write, would be read only in some minutes. It took starting my weekly column to appreciate it more. A lot is put into the articles.
In the past few weeks, I have read and listened to some groups and people from the Northern region ‘blackmailing or even threatening’ the South-West with the 2023 presidential ambitions of people from the South. There were insinuations that the north will not ‘handover’ to the Yorubas as if the presidency or the country belongs to them or to any single region. By the way, there is actually no monolithic north again.
Such careless statements emanated as a result of the various incidents that happened in the South-West this period. The directive by the Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), that all people illegally occupying the state forest reserves should vacate there. And that whoever wants to continue doing business in the state should get identified and registered. This directive affected many herders who have turned the forests to their grazing area and abode.
That action became necessary as a result of criminalities being perpetrated in the forests. Criminals who hide under the guise of being herdsmen, have turned the forests into their safe haven where they keep their victims while negotiating for ransom after kidnapping them on the highway. Many have been killed in the process. Rape and other heinous crimes are also committed there. This rattled the cattle rearers and their northern people misread it to mean a vacation order for herders or northerners to leave Ondo State. That was borne out of mischief as the order was very explicit.
The other incident that also contributed to the standoff was the decision by Chief Sunday Adeyemo to champion the routing of criminals who mixed with herdsmen in Oyo State and Yorubaland generally. He gave a seven-day vacation order to the herdsmen to leave Igangan in Ibarapa land, which he later enforced. His actions were predicated on numerous cases of kidnappings, killings, maiming, raping, and destructions of farmlands of the indigenes by these herdsmen for many years. Other recent events tipped the situation over, hence, that reaction from Sunday Igboho.
This continued to spread across the South-West and other states in the country who are also suffering from similar problems. Edo women even protested and blocked main roads. Similar protest actions were reported in some other states in the South-East. All these must have informed the opinion of the northern groups to conclude that the Yorubas do not deserve the office of the president of Nigeria in 2023. That’s preposterous.
Such statement makes me wonder what the interest of the north actually is. What is their priority? Power or better life? I ask these because, if there is any region that has suffered more than others in all ramifications during this administration, it is the north. And this is ironic because, the same government has been accused of practising “northocracy; government of the northerners, by the northerners and for the northerners”.
This was said based on the accusation of nepotism that coloured major and critical appointments that the president has made in the last five years. Many saw him as favouring his ethnic nationality in them. And it has not stopped. As recent as the extension of the IGP tenure and the appointment of the new EFCC chairman few days ago were still considered to be a reflection of the same biases.
If this is true, how valid is my claim that the north is also worse-hit? Isn’t that a contradiction? Strange. This has been the point I often canvassed about the ruling elites versus the masses. In reality, the government often favours the ruling elites, irrespective of where the leadership comes from. The masses are often the ones at the receiving end and this is evident across the country.
Unfortunately, it’s the same masses that the ruling elites use and manipulate to maintain their grips on power. Just like the issue being discussed, the people who are antagonising power shift to the south or to the South-West specifically now, are only using those members of the masses to actualise their selfish political interests. With most of the critical appointments in Northern region, of what benefits are they to the ordinary people there?
Let’s examine few cases. The security architecture is in the hands of the northerners. aside the Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Air Staff, all other people involved in securing the country are northerners, starting from the president himself as the Commander-in-chief. Minister of Defence, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Inspector General of Police, National Security Adviser, heads of NIA, DSS, NSCDC, Immigration and Customs. They are all northerners. But, has that secured the north?
When the level of insecurities in Nigeria is weighted, the North bears the largest burden. I can’t keep reiterating this point, I will sound like a broken record. What then shocks me every now and then is the way the people of the region have accepted such dastardly situation. When attacks on them or their villages happened, they simply bury their dead and treat their wounded ones.
Where their whole community and farmlands have been razed down, they just run away to another location and become refugees in IDP camps. Where there are still remnants of life in the community, they count their losses, start all over to rebuild the community and life goes on. Not as much as a whimper is often heard. The scenario is repeated over and over and over. And nothing has happened.
Why would the same people be more concerned about how their region should be keeping the presidency? Something is definitely wrong. Many roads and highways in the north are impassable for fear of bandits’ attacks. People travel on these roads with their hearts in their mouths. The same holds true in many parts of the south.
On economic conditions. With all the support that the federal government has provided for agriculture, rice farming, production etc. the last HDI released on state basis still put most of the northern states at the bottom of the ladder. The poverty indices are the same. While the country is recorded to have descended into one with the highest number of poor people in the world, the largest number comes from the north. But the north wants to retain the presidency. In whose interest?
There is a claim of improvement in children enrolment in schools, something I hope is actually true. Despite that, the number of out-of-school children is still over 10 million. Over 80% are from the North. The region has enjoyed the status of being “educationally less privileged” for six decades, which has always given them undue advantages in admission into schools; federal unity schools, universities, military schools and other nationally competitive slots, but this is what we still have. Should the situation remain like that forever?
These are issues that one will expect to bother all well-meaning northerners rather than fixation on power through the presidency. Instead, many of the privileged among them will prefer to promote practices that will keep their people perpetually on the ground, in penury so as to make them vulnerable and readily available to them to be used whenever they are needed. After all, “it’s easier to cheat uneducated minds but difficult to control them while it’s easier to control educated minds but difficult to cheat them”.
No wonder reckless, insensitive and irresponsible statements have been made by some leaders in recent times. Why would any governor whose own members of family are living large on public funds, his children sent to schools home and abroad, and living comfortably within the cosmopolitan city, justify that herders should still continue to roam the forests across the country, on foot, bearing AK47s? Did that really show love for them? Would he have allowed his own children and family members do the same? That’s precisely the same thing Governor Ganduje said.
Imagine the highly respected Sheikh Gumi claiming that the bandits didn’t kill anyone. That only few died in their hands which were mistakes. He also justified their killings as reprisals and ethnic war. He has more or less become their spokesman, image launderer, sympathiser, advocate and defender, given his utterances. He has been strongly demanding that they be given amnesty, the basis of which we do not know. He even questioned why they should be called criminals, in line with Governor Matawalle’s statement of; “not all bandits are criminals”. The same bandits, “who are not criminals”, who they are advocating for, just kidnapped over 300 girls from Government Secondary School, Jangebe, Talata Marafa LGA yesterday. The Kangara boys are still being held hostage. What is Sheikh Gumi talking about?
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the statement he was said to have made while interacting with the bandits in one of his missions. He was quoted to have said that it is the “non-muslim” soldiers who were killing them, which created all the problems. This is in the realm of treason. A serious government would have invited him for questioning by now. Or, was Dr. Mailafia not invited for questioning by DSS when he made allegations against a governor some months ago? His case is still ongoing.
Sheikh Gumi wanted to destroy the only remaining institution still “assumed” to be “national” and not completely wrecked by tribalism and religion. This has made many to start suspecting his intentions and has even led to many northern groups like ACF, Borno Elders Forum, and others, to dissociate themselves from him. In fact, they have called on the federal government to call him to halt his further involvement. He disappointed many of us. He just gave more credence to the accusations of a northern agenda carved as “Islamisation and Fulanisation”. How could he be so reckless and insensitive? How could he insult the sensibility of other Nigerians like that? How could he be so heartless as not to be compassionate with the victims of these bandits who run into thousands? Shocking!
These are issues many believe should be things that should bother most northerners, especially the victimized masses, rather than being obsessed with the presidency and power, who becomes the next president of Nigeria in 2023, and from which region he or she would come, which is still over two years. Won’t we all survive and be alive till then first before we talk about “one of our own” becoming the president? Human beings, who may not live till tomorrow, will be planning for a decade.
In my opinion, I believe the north has more than enough to worry about than the presidency and whatnot. Their elites and leaders should show compassion on the downtrodden. The masses themselves should wake up and demand accountability from the leaders. They should not end up being mere voters. These are not totally peculiar to the north. It is national, but I do not expect the people to keep quiet and be fine with the level of killings happening across the north on daily basis. It should be unacceptable to them.
May God continue to protect and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
Lateef Adewole is a political analyst and social commentator. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or via WhatsApp +2348020989095 and @lateef_adewole on Twitter, Lateef Adewole on Facebook.