Hakeem Baba-Ahmed and northern Presidency in perpetuity by Lateef Adewole
The Insight by Lateef Adewole
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – Wiston Churchill
Nigeria is a “one week, one drama” country. Hardly could a week pass without something or someone stirring one controversy or another. This week’s episode was stirred by the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed.
His comments while delivering a keynote address at the maiden edition of Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture Series, organised by Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, students wing of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) have generated unending debates since then.
He was quoted to have said that northerners would not accept to serve as second fiddle in 2023 as they were not second class citizens and that the region had the population that enabled it clinch the number one seat.
He also said that the North was not for sale and northerners would surprise those waiting for them to queue up in 2023 and be given money in exchange for their votes. He added that anyone that does not want a northerner as President should leave the country in 2023.
I watched his interview on Arise TV where he was invited to clear the air on his statements and he repeated what he had said earlier. He was unapologetic about it. Nearly arrogantly! Despite his opinion that the north could continue to rule Nigeria and heaven will not fall, a direct question was posed to him as to whether he is not disappointed about President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration’s performance in the last six years, given that he was a strong proponent of his candidature, a staunch supporter and promoter, going into 2015 elections. His response was precise and direct: “who isn’t disappointed?”
To be fair to him, and the organisation he speaks for, NEF, they have been, largely, consistent in raising issues concerning the poor governance and mismanagement of the current administration in the last few years, after realising the direction the government and country were heading.
On many occasions, they have had confrontations with the Presidency and government of the day. The organisation and their members have been called names by different spokespersons of the administration at various times.
And as an individual, he is very well educated, enlightened and civilised. That is why it was shocking to many of his admirers and contemporaries from the southern part of the country when they heard his statements. Was it deliberate to cause an attendant uproar or actually “test water” by the northern elites to gauge the mood of the south and how they will react to it? If it’s for any of these reasons, he got his answers. There was outrage from many southerners and part of north (Middlebelt) against his comment. Apparently, he was not speaking for the entire north, if the reactions of Middle belters were anything to go by. Press releases that condemned his statements have been issued by Southern and Middle Belt Assembly (SaMBA).
So, if Baba-Ahmed and his associates are disappointed with the present administration, what then was his motive? Many have often questioned the obsession of the north with political power. Even when such occupation of the highest political office might not translate to the betterment of the ordinary people of the region, as evident in what we are seeing in the last few years. The truth is that, it’s the elites that are always desperate to grab or hold on to power for their selfish interests. That has nothing to do with the people actually. Unfortunately, it’s the people, the masses, who are the ones at the receiving end, that they still use to attain their goals.
To be fair again, that is not exclusive to the north. In all parts of the country, it’s the elite’s game. It’s always them versus the masses. Only that there is a slight different between the masses from the south. They sometimes ask questions. They sometimes challenge their leaders as to their stewardship. They sometimes revolt against bad leadership and government, often peacefully. However, the elites understand the game. While they unite across the country among themselves irrespective of tribe, religion and even party leaning, they sow division among the masses, who ignorantly fight one another on behalf of the elites.
A typical example was the recent marriage of the only son of President Buhari, Yusuf. Didn’t we see them all from across the ethnic, religious and political divide, troop to the occasion in Kano in over 100 private jets? Didn’t Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who contested on the platform of PDP in 2019 against President Buhari of APC, represent the groom’s (Yusuf Muhammadu Buhari) family? Surely, there might still be some people who became enemies since that election because of the two candidates. That’s the tragedy of the naivety of the masses!
Back to the main discussion. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed’s utterances, both at that lecture and on the television, have attracted criticism from many southern leaders. Many felt his priority is misplaced. Given that he hails from Kaduna state, in the northwest Nigeria, where things have gone terribly wrong, especially with regards to insecurity, to rather be focused on 2023 presidency and how northerners could continue to rule ad infinitum, seemed insensitive and irresponsible.
Apart from the lopsided advantages in many national spheres which the leadership of the country by northerners for many decades, conferred on the region, especially during the years of military rules, what direct benefits have accrued to the ordinary northerners?
With more states and more local governments areas created far in favour of the north by the military, which give them undue advantages in national assembly, sharing national allocations, political positions and the likes, have that improved the lives of the people?
In the 61 years of Nigeria’s independence till date, the north has ruled for 26 years as military heads of state and 19 years of civilian administration, making a total of 45 years, while the south ruled for 3 years as military and 13 years as civilian administration, making a total of 16 years. Then, who has cheated who?
The arrogance of touting the population of the north as a block as being a determining factor of who becomes the president of Nigeria is nauseating. The controversial census which appropriated such fraudulent population figure to the region is the cause. Nigeria has not been able to successfully conduct a credible and acceptable population census in the past 61 years. It’s always riddled with embellishments and fraud.
Globally, contrary to scientific research and justifications, it’s only in Nigeria that such lopsided population exists. How could people living in the desert and savannah region be more than those residing in the rainforest region? As we move from the north Africa southwards, there is no country where their northern region has greater population than southern region. But suddenly, and magically too, as we enter Nigeria, the reverse happens. The north suddenly has larger population than the south. How miraculous!
This also begged the question as to what that population has translated to. In the recent time, VAT has been a raging issue between some states, especially from the south on one hand and the federal government and many states from the north on the other. Although, the computation of the VAT might not be as simple as it’s made to look by the protagonists who want states to collect it. The VAT evolved from consumption or sales taxes collected by states. They are based on commercial activities in each state, driven by population. How come the majority part of the north were abysmal in their VAT performances but the same states record humongous population figures? What has such acclaimed huge population translated to in productivity? Or is it only for election purposes? That’s why the figures are suspects.
Despite the many years which people of Northern extraction have led Nigeria, all the worst indices of human development are recorded in the north. Education and literacy levels are very low. The north accounts for over 75% of out-of-school children in Nigeria. Despite the undue advantages the people from that region have enjoyed as educationally less privileged for decades, which gave them admission slots into unity schools and universities, ahead of candidates with far higher scores from the southern part, the region has remained backward.
Many long-forgotten health problems and epidemic in the southern part still ravage the north. Cholera was reported to have broken out some months ago in Bauchi state with 20 deaths from 322 cases. Total Polio eradication has been difficult in Nigeria due to incidents from the north every now and then. What about poverty? The north substantially contributed to making Nigeria the poverty capital of the world, with status of being the country with the highest number of poor people in the world.
Let’s not start with insecurity. That’s a disaster now. The whole north has become one region under hostage by bandits, killer herdsmen, kidnappers and insurgents (Boko Haram and ISWAP). The region has become a killing field given the statistics of kidnappings and killings there. Kaduna south, Benue, Plateau and Taraba states are known for mass murders by killer fulani herdsmen and bandits. Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, and some other states are kidnappers’ territories. Boko Haram and ISWAP ravage Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states majorly. The situation got worse in the last six years, under a president from the north.
Not that the south doesn’t have their fair share of all these disheartening indices highlighted above but the north of Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed accounted for over 75% of them. So, what is the obsession with power for? Self aggrandizement of the minority elites from the north? That’s unconscionable!
At this time, with the country at the precipice, and the northern region on fire, one would have expected that the preoccupation of Northern leaders would be how to save the region, and not just how to hold on to power. It’s shocking how much energy Northern leaders dissipate on attacking southern leaders, especially the elected ones, who make efforts to act in response to the demands of their people and to protect them.
Southern governors banned open grazing of cows. Many Northern leaders criticised them. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was the person to tell them they have no capacity to enforce the laws they passed. How is that his business? How could someone carry elephant on his head and still have time to play with ants with his toes? Southern Kaduna, a part of the state he governs, remained the most attacked so far in the last six years, with many communities already overran by bandits and deserted. Where did he get that time to comment on the actions of other governors from the south?
From both the north and south, what should be topmost on our minds should be how to rescue and save our country. Isn’t when there is a country that anyone could become or any region could produce the president? A country in tatters as Nigeria is, needs first to be salvaged. Nigeria has never been this challenged, not even during the civil war. Ethno-religious divide is at its zenith. Mutual suspicion, lack of trust, unpatriotism, and divisiveness are at their peak. Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi just warned us yesterday in Kaduna, of impending collapse of the Nigeria’s economy. Anybody who becomes the next president in 2023 has their works cut out for them. It’s unfortunate.
It’s high time we all rose up and fought for either the survival or peaceful “dissolution” of our country, Nigeria. Clamour for restructuring and self determination will not go away, as long as there is injustice, lack of fairness and equity. It will remain our albatross, a bane to our collective progress as a country, and hindrance to our national growth, as long as they are not addressed holistically and altruistically. It’s the elephant in the room.
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
Lateef Adewole is a political analyst and social commentator. He can be reached by email email@example.com or via WhatsApp +2348179512401 and @lateef_adewole on Twitter, Lateef Adewole on Facebook