The North will not sacrifice power again
As part of the traditionally occasional disagreements between students and their learned teachers, I write today to express my disagreement with the concept of power sacrifice that was suggested by my Editor-in-Chief, Mal. Kabiru Yusuf. It was published as a lead comment in the October 6 edition of Weekly Trust. However before raising my objections, I would like to review the portions of the article that are relevant to my discourse for the sake of readers that could be too busy to refer to its full text.
He started by saying: “of all the numerous daunting challenges facing Nigeria, one has a special urgency: evolving a system for the periodic election of a national leader.” The alternative to democracy, i.e. military rule, as rightly pointed out by Mal. Kabiru, has lost the confidence of people, both within and outside Nigeria. And with threats of disintegration and doom coming from the most informed elites of the South – people like Soyinka – as correctly put by Kabiru again, “we should put heads together to seek human solutions to our never-ending problems.”
I accept the review made by Mal. Kabiru on “power sharing” during the First Republic and “power grabbing” during the military eras that followed. I also have no quarrel with what he wrote under “power shift” of either 1993 or 1999. Under “power sacrifice” however, he said, “I want us to examine the workability of power sacrifice by all the major ethnic groups. Since the Hausa Fulani, Yoruba and to a lesser extent Igbo are perceived to be the main beneficiaries of national office since independence, let us agree to a written or unwritten rule of excluding them from contesting the office of President for at least another generation. This might prevent the sort of unhealthy rivalry that might plunge the nation into another serious conflict.”
Now this is our point of departure. But before I put across my reasons, justice demands that I mention his. He continued by saying, “This might prevent the sort of unhealthy rivalry that might plunge the nation into another serious conflict. It will also give us the chance to choose the best candidate from any of the smaller ethnic groups in the North or South.” Mal. Kabiru tried to illustrate: “Since we are such a big and fractious country, our best bet is to borrow from the tradition of international organizations like the OAU and the UN where candidates from the dominant countries are not considered for the top leadership. By convention OAU Secretary-Generals come from such countries as Togo, Cameroon, Niger and Tanzania and not Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya or South Africa. For UN, even though it is based in New York, can you imagine an American or even a Briton running it?”
Our first disagreement with the suggestion of power sacrifice as a solution to Nigeria’s leadership problem is the fact that organizations like UN and OAU are not sovereign nations like Nigeria. UN, for example, is an organization of different nations, guided by principles and charters voluntarily accepted by its members. On the other hand, people belong to nations by destiny and history. I am naturally a Nigerian. I was not given the option at birth to be an American or Indian. If some of us had one, they might have chosen to be born in a different country altogether, certainly not Rwanda or Burundi, but obviously somewhere in the universe where they will not share land and resources with people that are inherently pathological troublemakers. But here we are, all the same, very grateful to God.
Functionally, the leadership of the UN is a puppet or, at its best, ceremonial. That is why it can be left to the weaker nations. The strong ones have permanent seats in the Security Council, where the real power lies. Its permanently is limited to the five most powerful nations. Their decision is final and any member can veto what it feels is adverse to its interest.
Leadership in Nigeria, on the other hand, is executive. Wherever such type of leadership exists, access to it must follow the Machiavellian principles, except in the very few and always brief cases that are witnessed in history, like where piety or scholarship were considered supreme.
The attachment people have to their nations run deeper than that of organizations like UN or OAU. At the level of nations, you have land, history, race, culture, etc. as binding forces. These are absent in international organizations that are abstractions and creations of necessity or convenience; concoctions, if you like, of different herbs that are too different to ever approach homogeneity. That is why citizens are ready to sacrifice their life to protect their motherland, but not for the survival of the UN. Only the American president is patriotic enough to do that! It is therefore natural to expect that the leadership of a sovereign nation would operate at a level of commitment and interest higher and above that of any international organizations.
There are many other arguments that could be presented to prove that the analogy between Nigeria and the UN or OAU is a wrong one. But the above two are enough. Let us now turn our attention to other reasons why we feel that power sacrifice formula will not work.
The first is history, the mother of all proofs. It is not on the side of power sacrifice. The idea that a majority will concede power to a minority (I hate using this term) is largely not supported by history. The dominant has always ruled, except where they are inferior in skills. Whenever a minority rules, it must have possessed skills that put it at a better position than the majority. It could be in warfare or even sheer politics. For example, the British that ruled this country were few, but they came to power as a result of their superior weaponry and maintained their political hegemony by their astuteness. Even now, they control happenings in the country remotely by the same old principles of divide and rule. The course of balkanising the country that some are fighting for today is nothing but reading their colonial script. Old ideas, new devices! Slave merchants yesterday, brainwashed intellectuals today!
There are few instances when the society becomes value-oriented and de-emphasize rudimentary appeals like ethnic sentiments. In such societies, it is possible for a leader to emerge from the tiniest ethnic group. Islamic history in particular is replete with such instances. Of recent, Marxist history has also offered some impressive, even though brief, examples.
But today leadership is based on democracy with its popular concepts of freedom to vote or be voted for, and more importantly on the supremacy of number, where the majority can do as they wish. How then do we reconcile this with power sacrifice? It will no longer be democracy. How could the three largest ethnic groups collectively step aside and watch others determining their fate? What is theri sin? I would like to believe that even the power shift that recently took place negates the principle of democracy. That is precisely why we are having problems with it.
Now comes the million-dollar question: Is the minority a better substitute? Not quite. The power shift we are experiencing is a testimony. A section of the country, not even the largest among the three dominant groups, has since the 1950s insisted that it alone is qualified to lead the country. After struggling for 50 years, it has finally achieved that through blackmail and mischief. But instead of upholding the principles of fairness and equality, it feels it is a golden opportunity to implement strategies that would subjugate other groups forever.
The Yoruba aside, think about the real minorities that Mal. Kabiru was referring to. One of them hates to see the ‘longneck’ Fulani. What happens if he becomes the Commander-in-Chief tomorrow? Tilde and all other Fulanis will be sent back to the bush, if they are fortunate to escape a slaughter.
Another strong reason is that power sacrifice will compromise the quality of leadership. Limiting the choice of leadership, a priori, to any group, majority or minority, is bound to limit its quality. The nation will end up operating at a sub-optimal level. Circumstances dictate who would be the best leader in a given situation. That is what informed my decision and that of many northerners to support Obasanjo during the last election. We erroneously thought that under his leadership, the political stability that eluded the country since June 12, 1992 will be realized. Unfortunately, he is proud to prove us wrong.
The perspectives are many. But let us quickly cast a final one. To equate the Ibos and Yorubas to Hausa-Fulani as presented in Mal. Kabiru’s article is not exactly correct. While Igbos and Yorubas can each be regarded as homogenous from an ethnic viewpoint, the word ‘Hausa-Fulani’ today is maliciously used to connote an aggregate of over 100 different minority tribes. Real Hausas, wherever found are a minority, in every sense of the word. Their language is undoubtedly conquering. But no one should be surprised if one day a comprehensive census proves that Fulanis are the largest ethnic group in the North, followed by who else but their obedient followers, the Kanuris.
It is part of the grand strategy to divide the North that the Biafrans invented the term Hausa-Fulani. The term was unknown in the pre-civil war era. It is for their political convenience to compress the individual identities of over 100 ethnic groups into just a single one. On the other hand no one would contemplate a term like Igbo-Efik or Igbo-Yoruba.
But as I have always said, the North has been very generous, too generous in fact, when it comes to the issue of leadership in this country. From the ‘power sharing’ that started in the late fifties and the ‘power grabbing’ that succeeded it, to the power-shift of June 12 and 1999 and the ongoing ‘power abuse’ that resulted there from, ethnic groups of the North have made magnanimous gestures and sacrifices for the stability of this country. If the North had run it the way Obasanjo and his tribe are ruining it today, Nigeria would have long become history. At best the North would not have been so backward: the rivers of Niger and Benue would have been dredged long ago; oil from the Chad Basin would have been in the world market since the early sixties; thousands of tons of gold and precious stones would have been exported; 70% of the federal civil service would not have belonged to just one ethnic group; etc.
But its sacrifice is not appreciated today. Perhaps our redemption will start when we are willing to think on the same ethnic frequency as others. Nuna sani a kasuwar jahilai wauta ce. We have to speak their ethnic language because it is the only one they can understand.
Finally, the last segment of my rejoinder will deal with the conclusion of Mal. Kabiru where he expressed the fear that if the threats of warlords of the South are not heeded to, we may end up with a situation like Rwanda or Burundi. His point is valid. And events on the ground may be interpreted as signals to that scaring fate. With some Ministers in the Obasanjo government already beating the drums of war, referring to Fulanis as Tutsis, care needs to be taken. And it will be taken, assuredly. According to reports, Yorubas are already killing Fulanis and denying it at the same time, as Governor Adesina did to the Buhari delegation last week.
But still, these are not problems that can be solved by Mal. Kabiru’s concept of power sacrifice. The irony is where even a majority attempted to wipe out a minority, like in Rwanda, it often never got away with it. Who is in control of Rwanda today? It is the very minority that the Hutus wanted to wipe out. What would the scenario then be when, as in our case, a minority wants to wipe out a majority? Let Ige and his tribe do as they wish now. But if they look back into history, they will learn that the people they are killing have never been known to be cowards.
And neither is the North. It may be slow in its reaction, as it did in 1966. But when it decides to act, it does so decisively. When it is done with the naivety that power can be shared, shifted or sacrificed, then the Southwest would learn its lessons the hard way; it will know that it has scuttled opportunities for peace; it will be made to pay for the blood it has shed; and, as the English would say, it will be made to lie on the beds it has made. When the time comes, we hope that God would save the innocent. Amen.
Tilde ya gudu
I narrowly escaped the above topic last week. A friend, Engr. Nuhu Gidado, has intended to write and send it in place of today’s article
I have been on a local assignment recently when suddenly I thought of throwing in the towel. Nuhu was among the forces that attempted to prevail on me. Unable to reach me that crucial night, he decided to write Tilde Ya Gudu. But God saved me from Nuhu’s ‘mischief’ through the humility of His Excellency that defeated me, hands down.
That was not the first though. The scenario was a repetition of a similar ‘call it quit’ exercise way back on 10 May 1981. Convinced about the dialectic of jahiliyya as presented by Sayyid Qutb, I set out to “leave the system.” My classmates were disturbed. They sent the closest to me among them to persuade me. But to no avail. I was however saved by listening to the fatwa of Malam Ibrahim Zakzaky when we paid him a visit at his family house at Kwarbai, Zaria. I was a good listener. I immediately returned to school and faced my studies vigorously.