The Ruining Dynasty
As a carryover from our arguments last week, we have touched on the various allegations made against our elders by younger generations. Our analysis ended up in apportioning little blame, if any, to them as far as the sad state of our development is concerned. Many would be surprised with that conclusion principally because it does not concur with the popular chorus that has filled our political waveband.
With a bit of sincerity however, the reader will not help but agree with me, based on the premise of my argument. As I said, these elders occupy no position of authority today. They have little energy or resources remaining. So they do not have the capacity to change the course of events in the North or in the country in general. Only one avenue outside the purview of the above mentioned parameters would have accorded them a leadership role in our traditional milieu: respect to elders. Unfortunately, that has ceased for quite long, no thanks to freedom of expression and democratic imperatives. The North today has little respect for honor and age. It worships only two people: the man in position of authority, no matter how foolish he might be, and the rich, no matter how scandalous he could be. If he happens to combine both, he earns double allegiance.
Leaders and Youth
Changing the course of events is the responsibility of leaders and youth, not elders. By leaders I mean people in authority that have the final say on our affairs, regardless of their age. In Nigeria, particularly with the pervasion of corruption nowadays, they alone control wealth and apparatus of coercion. The young on their part are the reservoir of energy and growth. They give a nation its vigor and the aggressiveness with which it pursues its development. They also represent its future when they, at the right time, step into the shoes of their masters.
Development takes hold wherever each of the two groups plays its role selflessly and in harmony with the other. Leaders, because of their knowledge, experience and skill, will have the vision to meaningfully direct human and material resources of nations. The youth form the vanguard of labor and growth sustenance. Wherever one or both of the groups fail to perform their duty or acts in disharmony with each other, development becomes checked. Stagnation and decline eventually follows. Progress will not resume until the two groups reawaken to their natural role in the paradigm of development. That is the time when leaders learn to behave responsibly and invest their knowledge, wisdom and vast experience in developing their nation. Youths must learn to first concentrate in acquiring knowledge and skills in various aspects of life including leadership. They must also learn to be patient to wait until they mature into being masters, as did their predecessors.
If we understand this simple logic, then it will be easy to conceive how things fell apart in the North since January 1966. We had a gang of youth who were entrusted with weapons and training to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country. They grew impatient with the enormous challenges of building a new nation immediately after independence. Their tribal sentiments and sectarian affiliations might have instigated them. They might have read a script from the opposition that could not withstand political defeat, who were annoyed that the dumb donkey they considered “the North” had refused to give its back for a ride. The young officers might also have been working in confederation with some elements within the North whose interest were being threatened with the N. A. reforms of the Sardauna, or with those who, for tribal reasons, thought that he was their only obstacle to economic and political salvation. Nay, this gang of youth might have been surrogates of forces far beyond the boundaries of this country: forces of the papacy, of International Zionism and of Freemasonry. There were one thousand reasons why different people wanted the leadership of the North truncated. But that is not our subject matter today.
Whatever was their motivation, the young army officers turned beastly on the early morning hours of January 15, 1966. They massacred northern leaders in their homes in a manner that is yet to be repeated in the history of Nigeria. What surprised me most was that they went Scot-free.
With this event, the standard of leadership in the North and Nigeria as a whole started to decline. If Sardauna and Balewa were the stumbling block to the progress of the nation, it would have made sense for the coupists to hand over power to those who they felt were better, people like Awolowo or Azikwe. But they did not. When they were faced with the decision of what to make of power, they succumbed to their desire. They grabbed it. Quarrel ensued among them. First, as Ademoyega said in The Five Majors, more senior officers in the army hijacked the ‘revolution’.
Suddenly, the inexperience of these young men manifested itself in their approach to leadership matters. They did not have the courage to punish Nzeogwu and his gang. Rather they found them a sanctuary in Kiri-Kiri to safeguard them against what Nzeogwu called a possible “maniac” that might hack them. They were later to be released. Nzeogwu in particular fought on the side of Biafara. When he got killed in a battle outside Nsukka, his body was identified after two days. It was returned to Kaduna on the orders of the Gowon regime and given a depicting military burial.
This was the reward to a murderer, according to the leadership logic of these youth. Are you surprised? Don’t be. Nzeogwu offered them the opportunity to be in that position. People from the southwest are insisting that Mustapha and other Abacha boys be tried for the murder of Rewane and Kudirat. Bamaiyi is today tried on the attempted murder of Ibru. We do not support murderers, certainly. But has the North ever requested for the trial of the murderers of Balewa, Sardauna. Maimalari, Kure, etc.? Or is it not their right to do so? We simply lack guts.
The young officers promised to wipe out corruption, if you we will recall the pungent broadcast of Nzeogwu. The same ‘revolutionary’ was thinking of building a hotel in Benin, according to one of the letters that he wrote his closest confidant, Obasanjo, after the coup. With which money, we may ask? He did not say either. However, time is a good teller. His friends that were lucky to survive and hold on to leadership positions provided us with the answer. They built hotels, mansions, farms, shipping lines and so on. From their salaries and allowances as public servants? Ask them.
The young leadership, as if to portray its inexperience, set out to destroy all the political gains of the past. No where is this exemplified like in the ‘unification decree’ which is the brainchild of one of the eldest officers of the armed forces and its Commander in Chief, General Aguyi Ironsi. It was as funny and as it was trouble seeking. And it got more than it bargained for.
His government was toppled. The emergent leaders could not agree among themselves. The regional sentiments that were expected to die with the Sardauna returned in more dangerous forms. Biafara seceded. Civil war broke out. Millions lost their lives, homes and investments. All for one reason: youth that were not eligible for leadership, even by age, were in charge of it.
But even after the war, nothing seemed to have changed. The successive years of military administration showed no goal beyond Nzeogwu’s capitalist dreams of “building a hotel”, or the “unification” decree of Ironsi. They could not withstand the material temptation that Sardauna and Balewa diligently kept under control.
On unification also, they have achieved pulling everything to the center. They just feel that we must have everything the same, whether it is education, justice, culture, police, whatever. In their little vision, they thought that this would bring us together. While they have succeeded in bringing themselves together, circulating the baton of leadership among one another, the majority of Nigerians today are saying that they are not impressed. All the three or four regions are disenchanted. They are crying for autonomy. But ‘diversity’ is not a military vocabulary.
If we will be fair, the military must carry most of the blame. Even in the military, we are concerned with a particular group, a dynasty that has continued to hold on to power since 1966. This same group has marred the name of the military, an establishment that could have reached the sky in repute, had it not meddled into a terrain of politics.
On 15 January 1966 the name reigning was Nzeogwu. Today, Friday, 11 August 2000, the name is Obasanjo. Any difference in class or age? No. They used to be age mates, classmates, close friends, and so on. The same group that were commissioned officers by 1966 continued to feature in the administration of Nigeria to the present day: Ironsi, Gowon, Hassan Usman, Murtala, Babangida, Danjuma, Duba, Obasanjo, etc.
If this nation has failed to achieve its goal of unity and progress after the death of Sardauna and Balewa, then that generation of officers is to blame. They installed a system that subordinated public officers to the expedience of their dictatorship for three and a half decades. They must be held responsible.
With regard to the North in particular, these military officers have in 1967 failed to see that disbanding the North would not solve the political problems of Nigeria. Rather, it will create more problems than it could solve. And that is precisely the mess we are witnessing today. They even failed to realize the political and economic implication of doing so. If the opposition in the North wanted creation of more states as a departure from ‘Fulani aristocracy’, they were myopic to believe that some other tribes would not dominate others in their states. Hence, there will be no end to states creation. So far the North has nineteen states. With that number, we need a miracle to unite us.
Another fact that would have been clear to any skilled administrator is that creation of states will exact heavily on the treasury. Overheads will multiply several times. Thus, the present states all depend on the Federal government to survive. In place of the Balewa therefore, the military has succeeded in making the successive Heads of State super kings. All states, northern or southern, must be subjects of central control.
We wish the ‘dynasty” of military rulers were honest and hardworking. Unfortunately, it is overwhelmingly corrupt, and their corruption has infected the entire nation. It could not even understand the honesty of Murtala and Buhari. The two risked being different. They swam against the dynasty’s tide of corruption. Both had to pay dearly by tasting the bitterness of betrayal of their closest confidants. Their respective successors left a record of corruption that was hitherto unknown in the history of Nigeria. And both are still playing chess with Nigerian politics as they use to play it in the barracks.
Under the leadership of this dynasty, the North was twice blackmailed into surrendering its rights and values in the name of national unity. The first was in 1967 when everything regional started to be ‘nationalized’. And when we say nationalized it means handing it over to southerners, the predominant managers of the country. Today, every relevant matter is under the control of the Federal government, including the management of primary schools in the remotest possible village.
So the fight against the northernization policy that could not succeed during the Sardauna has finally been won today, thanks to the conspiracy of some northerners. I remember what Babangida said in reaction to the ‘nationalization’ of Kaduna Polytechnic, that he feels it is time for the North to give up on these things..” Surprisingly, this man and his like still have a voice in the North.
The second blackmail was when they recently traded off the North over to the South, again in the name of ‘peace’ and ‘equity’. What is happening against the North today is, candidly speaking, is the dividend of that trade. And if it will continue to auction itself to the highest bidder, humiliation will remain its fate.
One would like to ask about the role played by civilian administrators and other army officers that do not belong to that dynasty. My simple answer is that they were serving the wishes of their masters. They were hired or listened to when their suggestions suited the purpose of the masters. Otherwise, they are quickly disposed off. However, some of the civilians and younger military officers were not foolish either. Listening to the music their masters were playing, they willingly danced to its tune. So when the masters dived into the ocean to haunt the whales and sharks of our resources, the young officers and civilians followed them, to feed on the smaller fauna they could catch.
That is the story of our ruining dynasty. They ceased power when they were not prepared for it. They squandered riches and chances due to their inexperience and selfishness.
I wished that the succession of power in the North had followed the natural course we outlined at the beginning of our discussion. But with tired elders and selfish leaders, one is forced to look further downward. Is there any hope that my generation will stand up to the challenge? I am not sure, until we discuss that next week.