By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Poor Northerners! (3)
(Continued from last week)
There are also those who have never moderated on the partisan propaganda of the First Republic. Mostly in the Southwest, they perceive their region as still in opposition. A lot of lies were written during that period against northerners, the Balewa regime and whoever was in speaking terms with it even among citizens of the Southwest. This much has been admitted in the contributions to the ongoing debate between supporters of late Samuel Akintola and those of late Obafemi Awolowo on the internet. This propaganda polluted the minds of many Southerners with the hatred that eventually brought about the coup that ousted that Republic. Unfortunately, despite the demise of the Republic these old political viruses have replicated their DNA in the genomes of many youths and the tradition continues unabated. They continue to inject that venom into the minds of their youths, telling them about the peculiarities of their ‘race’ and the evil of their principal enemy, the North. These youths would spend their adult life as lecturers, journalists, politicians and businessmen unable to see themselves as Nigerians.
That was the point made by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi when he was invited to speak at a book launch by one of them a year ago. I doubt if his message that Nigerians of his age should be allowed to be Nigerians rather than northerners or southerners was well received by the audience at that event. Every act and every candidate must be for us or against us. I have been following the debate over the approval of Buhari by Pastor Tunde Bakare among members of the Save Nigeria Group. The most adamant opponent of Bakare’s endorsement in the exchange was Dayo Ogunlana. He wrote Egbon Sowumumi saying, “Don’t forget that Buhari has his own k-leg too. He is too tribalistic. I doubt if he has programs that will be of benefit to us in the southwest. He has no soft spot for us in the S/W.” There you are. The urge to return the Yoruba ‘race’ back to the old politics of ethnicity, away from mainstream politics, is strong among many. They hide behind the corruption of Obasanjo and the PDP and interpret the recent successes of AC as an signal that the Southwest is finally regaining its regional consciousness.
Then there is the partition politics of the so-called Sovereign National Conference (SNC). I will discuss its merits and demerits in a later article. Here, I will confine myself to saying that proponents of the conference have always viewed the North as an impediment to the success of their agenda. That assumption may be wrong. Rather than argue with them, I suggest that they come over and conduct an opinion poll among northerners to find out the level of support they may have here. The poll must give three options: a strong centre, as it is now; a lose federation with a weak centre; and partitioning of the country into smaller independent states. I am ready to support whatever would be the outcome of the poll and work hard towards its achievement. I will even switch to supporting a partition once the result of such a poll prefers that. The result of the poll would be a strong argument that will convince many other unionists. Without it, however, I remain committed to one Nigeria.
I have mentioned the aggravated case of the northern Muslim when religion is conscripted to serve political ends in the country. Then, many of his Christian counterparts, will join in the smear and missile hauling against him. The fact is that under such circumstance, the northern Christian is only used as a tool to support the various agenda we described above. The identity of the so-called Middle Belt was reinvented by Obasanjo to divide the North and serve his interest during his first term. He left office without doing anything better for the Middle Belt than the rest of the North. He cancelled the contract for dredging River Niger and Benue immediately he assumed power in 1999. Even now under Jonathan the dredging has stopped, as indicated by the recent appeal for it's resumption by a Lokoja traditional titleholder to the Senate President. In the end, when the chips are down, such Middlebelters suffer from the same injustice, as do the northern Muslims. When it comes to the Niger Delta, TY Danjuma is bombarded as a northerner for declaring profits worth billions of dollars from ‘his’ oil blocks. But when it comes to the power, he is a Christian who would be instigated to support the “Christian” south, like in the ongoing opportunistic power struggle to win the Presidency in 2011 for Goodluck Jonathan.
The Jonathan campaign is unfortunately taking that turn. Emphasizing his minority identity is unwarranted if his intention were to capture the support of every part of the country. He did not need to be so dishonest to dispute the existence of zoning since it is there in Section 7 of the PDP constitution and currently in practice. Otherwise, why aren’t there PDP aspirants from the Southwest, for example? Its obviously because Obasanjo has just spent eight years. Jonathan has not proved to be clever at all. He could not even outsmart his opponents by conceding that he will return the PDP ticket to the North, anywhere in the North, in 2015. No. He is bulldozing his way with the might of incumbency. His supporters among southern politicians know this. That is why in spite of thousands of southerners who are more competent than Jonathan, they would rather cling to him. Who can claim that the Yoruba ‘race’ and the Igbo ‘nation’ are bereft of a better person than Jonathan? Incumbency is the answer. As the President, he has the resources of state at his disposal. He can dish out money. He will rig elections. And he will allow his people to loot the treasury, a motive encapsulated in the ambiguous language of ‘our interest’. If free and fair elections were entrenched in our political culture, it would be difficult for any incumbent to win such unconditional support.
Ironically, belief in incumbency, I must hasten to point out, is not limited to supporters of Jonathan in the South. Northerners in the PDP who are opposed to Jonathan are staunch believers in incumbency too. Adamu Ciroma it was who told Nigerians opposed to the re-election of Obasanjo in 2003 that PDP couldn’t be defeated by virtue of its incumbency. “In 1999, we were not defeated before we came to power, how can we be defeated when we are in power?” he reminded his opponents.
The crisis in PDP is over incumbency. It did not have to be shared by every northerner. Unfortunately, the common northerner has to again be brought in the line of fire before the equation could square up. Point a finger at him and many in the South would be eager to rally around you, by instinct, training or design. And that is when people like me take offence. Poor Northerners. Come rain, come shine, as a group, they must be fired at.
From the foregoing, I think I have made my point clear that the allegations labelled against northerners are really unfounded; if northerners have committed a sin, others have not proved to be saints. In these articles, the ordinary Northerner will find sufficient explanation on the roots of his disparagement. If he is hit by any missile again, as he would surely be, he can now say where it is coming from and why. I hope the victim of these wild accusations and unjust generalizations will continue to ignore them, as he has constantly done. He must not forget that much of these baseless allegations are coming from people who have never visited the North or lived among its people, even though their emails do carry “Sent From My Blackberry MTN” signature.
For those who deliberately do so to vent their anger on a section of the Nigerian population, they must realize that there is a growing number of Nigerians among their kinsmen who are desirous of the unity and progress of this country. To the latter I wish every well-meaning Nigerian would extend his hand of love and support. One day, together we shall leave behind the old Nigeria of religious bigotry and ethnic chauvinism to embrace the new one of love, unity and progress. Then, there will be no North, East or West, but a Nigeria ready to embrace the tenets of civilization, of respect to humanity and transparency in governance. This is the venture in which we must partake with perseverance despite the reluctance of retrogressive forces.
I must confess that this series was difficult to write because of the conscious effort to avoid hurting the feelings of many of my readers. Its length, however, was informed by the desire to forsake brevity for understanding. If you are among progressive Nigerians, you would not find much of its contents hurtful. However, if you are among those who propagate hate, please take delight, as usual, in writing a blistering rejoinder to serve your agenda. I will, however, welcome with equanimity both the praise of the companion and the scold of the rival. The former I receive with caution, the latter with pity.
20 October 2010