The Insight by Lateef Adewole
In the past weeks, some videos, old and new, have been circulating on the social media. One was by some group of people who called themselves “Coalition for Northern Consensus”.
Their objectives include canvassing for the coming together of northern aspirants in the political parties with the aim of agreeing and bringing out a consensus candidate to be presented by the north to vie for 2023 presidential election. They believe the north should not relinquish power after eight years of President Buhari, a northerner, in the saddle.
Another of such video is the resurfacing of the one where the spokesman for the Northern Elders Forum, Alhaji Akeem Baba-Hamed, spoke about the north “governing Nigeria the way they have always done, whether as president or vice president”. He asked why should they accept to be “second citizens” and accept second position when they can be number one (the president). He bandied their supposed superior population figure that gives them the right to hold on to power in perpetuity because we are running a democracy, a game of number. Nothing could be more ludicrous.
At the time he made those statements, he was adequately responded to, from different quarters, including yours truly. I wrote an article to that effect at the time. That is why it is strange to see the video resurfaced recently. Interestingly, many events that have been unfolding within the political space seem to tow such line, as canvassed in the said videos.
In response to the resurgent clamour by the southerners demanding for the power shift to the south, as reiterated some days ago by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) also responded that the north is not afraid of, restructuring, resource control or even break-up of Nigeria, which they perceived as what the south uses to blackmail or threaten them. Is there any reason for all these bickering? Are there causes for such agitations? What could be responsible for them?
In the last few weeks, the turn of events within the political arena could have been responsible for these. For a long time, the dilly-dally of PDP as to where the presidential candidate should come from, with their unclear position on zoning and power shift to the south, was to some extent, understandable, because of their desperation to get back to the highest office of the land. The leadership toyed with the idea of throwing the position open or even zoning to the north, as a strategy to gain back power.
This was criticised by many southerners. The PDP has since made the position open, with the plethora of aspirants from the north, even more than from the south. The argument was that it is the turn of the north within the PDP, after Jonathan, who is from the south. This means they do not want to reckon with the eight years of Buhari, simply because he is in another party, as if it was not the same country and the same people, who are to be governed.
The greater shock is the recent position of the leadership of APC. The newly (s)elected National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, while responding to question on zoning, said that the party has not taken a position on it. Many were caught unawares with that comment. This is because, many already took it as a given, that the presidential ticket of APC will automatically go to the south after Buhari. Nothing could be more hypocritical, coming from him.
Isn’t it insulting to the south that a sitting president is from a part of the country and his party even contemplates keeping the power or considering candidates from the same zone he comes from, to succeed him? That’s unbelievable. It’s even worse, when one thinks of what had happened few months earlier concerning party leadership positions in the two main political parties; APC and PDP.
Following the understanding that Buhari is from the north and he would have spent two terms of eight years by May 29, 2023, and in anticipation of power shift to the south, all the candidates for the national chairman positions were conceded to the north in the two major parties. Today, we have Senators Abdullahi Adamu and Iyorchia Ayu, who are northerners, as the Chairmen of APC and PDP. How then can the north turn around and want to shift the goal post in the middle of the game? That is treacherous.
When one listens or watches many northern elites spoke as often seen, with regards to keeping power in the region, one wonders to what end? In whose interests actually? I definitely know that it is not in the interests of the ordinary people and citizens of northern region. I know because I lived in that region for over a decade. While the elites’ “babarigas” continue to get bigger, to cover their protruding bellies where the resources of the country go to, literally, the people keep getting poorer, become emaciated and wallow in hunger and poverty.
Many could hardly feed. Of what benefits has power in the hand of Buhari, a northerner, been to the ordinary northerners today? Can the people claim that their lives are better today than seven years ago before a northerner became the president? It is disingenuous to simply want to keep power for the sake of it. Power, governance, leadership and so on, are supposed to be means to an end, which should be to serve the people. But, are all these used to serve ordinary northerners today even with power in the hand of a fellow northerner? I doubt that very much.
Today, the north is like a war zone. Like a killing field. Like a jungle, where law and order have been thrown out of the window. There was never anytime in the history of Nigeria that the region was more unsafe and unsecured. Before now, northern Nigeria was the safest part of the country. You would hardly encounter armed robbers either on the highways or within the cities and communities. People travel round the year, all day and night without harbouring any fear. I know because I travelled across the region in those years, driving myself, many times, alone in the car. What then changed? It is in the north that you see people comfortably sleeping outside their houses to get fresh air, due to the usual intense heat, without any fear of attack. All that have changed now.
The communities, the farmlands, the schools, the worship centres, the roads, the forests and almost everywhere, have been taken over by bandits. You don’t have to sleep openly outside to be attacked again, they come for people inside their houses, in their farms, in buses and cars travelling, and now in trains too. Mass kidnappings are now so common they make little or no news again. We have lost count of the number of people who have been kidnapped or killed, particularly in the northern Nigeria. So, of what use is the power that could not protect the people? Useless!
But the elites know what they are doing. The power is to their benefits. And they want it kept solely for their greed and selfishness. While their people suffer in penury, many of them live ostentatious lives. While the children of the poor roam the streets without education, in the name of the despicable “almajiri” practices, their own children are in the best private schools in Nigeria or abroad. While the northern masses die from poor healthcare due to lack of or dilapidated healthcare facilities, they get the best treatment for themselves and their immediate family members from the private hospitals here in Nigeria or even fly abroad on medical tourism. And on and on.
This is how they live a segregated life from their people. Why won’t they want to keep the power to themselves only? Sadly, the same battered, degraded ordinary northerners are their foot soldiers, on whom they rely to capture and keep the power. Or, which population was Baba-Hamed talking about? Is it that of himself and his elite contemporaries or that of the poor masses who continue to born endlessly without minding if the children could be catered for or not?
Rather than the north to focus on what plague them, and be more concerned as to how to get out it, it is the obsession with power that is their priority. What a misplacement!
Let me be clear. I have not said that all these problems are exclusive to the north. I have also not said that only the northern elites are irresponsible or mismanage the trust entrusted to them. The situation is similar in the south. And that is why the elites, whether north or south, east or west, Muslims or Christians, are all friends with common interests; grabbing the national cake. When they begin to bicker and at each other’s throats as we are seeing now, it is not for the love of the ordinary Nigerians, whether northerner or southerner, Muslim or Christian, but a scramble about who will get hold of the knife that will be used to butcher the cake, since such a person could confiscate the larger portion to themselves. That is the only reason.
So, the same poverty, insecurities, illiteracy, etc, affecting northerners, affect southerners too. However, it is the obsessive desperation that the north often displays when it comes to political power in the country that gives concern. And in truth, with all the anomalies, the north bear substantially larger part of the national problems. The people up north are worse off. And the statistics are there for all to see.
Again, when the history of Nigeria is ex-rayed, the north has ruled this country far more than the south, both as military and civilian. So, what is it wanting to shut out others who are stakeholders in the Nigerian project, when it comes to power? Such stand cannot augur well for the unity of the country. Any reasonable Nigerian, especially from the north, who loves that the country remained one, will not canvass for only the north to continue to rule the country, at the expense of the other region. That is unacceptable.
So, while it is true that every Nigerian has constitutional right to aspire to any political office in the country, leaders should be circumspect in their utterances, dealings and actions, not to send the country into abyss. It is an unwritten understanding that power will continue to rotate between the north and the south, for fairness and equity sake, and for everyone to have a sense of belonging. Jettisoning such arrangement is tantamount to dividing the country by any perpetrator of such. It is disheartening that such situation is happening under the leadership of President Buhari, who himself, got to office, on the sentiment that a northerner should be the president in 2015.
Southerners massively canvassed, mobilised and supported his aspiration then, against one of their own, President Jonathan, a southerner. With all modesty, if not for some key southerners who made APC possible and who gave him the presidential ticket, Buhari would never have won, or become a civilian president once, not to talk of twice. Same sentiment was prevalent in 2019, where most southerners believed the north had the right to a second term. This informed only northerners being the candidates of the major political parties then; President Buhari of APC and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP. Were southerners fools then? No! They were just reasonable, love the country and want fairness and equity. Such is what is expected of the north to reciprocate now but here we are. Surely, it can’t end well.
As we inch towards the presidential primaries, let us hope reasons will prevail eventually and the north will withdraw their aspirations from the race. If some people somewhere think they can manipulate the process by surreptitiously sponsoring or encouraging multitude of aspirants from the south to create a semblance of confusion or lack of unity among southerners, it will not work.
Whether only one or hundreds of aspirants come out from the south should not be the business of the north. Only one of them will eventually emerge. Also, in the south, every sub-region is entitled and have capable persons that can lead the country. Where such would come from should be left for the people of the south to determine, not the north. They can indirectly influence that by voting for their preferences among the southern aspirants at the primaries. By this, they would have had their say in the process that will lead to who becomes the next president. Same as in the coming general elections in 2023. But to think they can continue to keep the power to themselves is to severe the fragile thread of unity that still remains between the regions. It will not be accepted.
I am not saying that having a president from the south in 2023 means that all our problems will suddenly disappear. Far from it. But, can we have a change of leadership, direction and strategy? Can we test people from other region too? Doing the same thing over and over but expect different results is insanity, according to Albert Einstein. President Buhari, a northerner, has “tried” for us. Let someone else from the south also try their own.
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.