By Obunike Nwosu
If the truth be told, with all due respect, the over-indulgence of the Moslem North (to be highlighted presently) by the rest of the country would eventually lead to the failure of the Nigerian state – unless quickly curbed. It has come to be taken as a right (rather than a privilege) and has spun a belligerent spirit – rather than one of reciprocity – on the part of the indulged.
This declaration should not be misconstrued as hate speech. Having started life among the Fulani, in particular and the Moslem North, in general (for more than 10 years, beginning with national service) having lived and worked across the country and being a keen student of history, all Nigerians are my brothers. One has seen it all and must tell the truth, no matter how bitter, to get everyone to deeply reflect, rethink and react positively – before it is too late! It is unfortunate that, so far, neither the Moslem North (bent on riding the willing horse to death) nor Southern politicians (who, till today, have no corporate commitment to the South as a block, but easily acquiesce once settled at the personal level) seem to reckon with the impending doom.
First, through its military establishment, the Moslem North has imposed the 1999 Constitution, the obnoxious quota system (whereby Nigerians are judged by different standards of attainment, with the relegation of merit) and other laws and policies, to constrain the rest of the country and to centralize political and economic control and have all arms of government (executive, legislature and judiciary) along with all security and economic agencies of state – from the Armed Forces and the Police to the secret service, the tertiary institutions, the petroleum corporation, the ports authority and the customs service, e. t. c – concentrated in its hands.
Consequently, a region well-known to be educationally backward has usurped the leadership corps of all critical agencies of state, at the expense of those regularly producing thousands of renowned and shining professionals, in all spheres of human endeavor, locally and all around the competitive world. There is hardly any department or agency or legacy institution of state (such as the NPA and the NNPC) or even a political association in which you can get a significant role or benefit, today, without the endorsement of an influential Northern Moslem or someone connected. This closed network is also deployed to plant privileged children all over the place, at the expense of more qualified (but disenfranchised) ones, which is a time bomb.
The message is that industry and merit amount to nothing; that all that matters is patronage! The propensity, then, is for everyone to become a predator – going by the expectancy-valence theory! This is the foundation of public sector corruption. A society which fosters a closed and caste system, in which you can hardly change level (ascend) by industry and merit – other than by patronage – is doomed. It is laughable to talk of fighting corruption when it has, this way, been entrenched and legitimatized. Financial corruption that is always the focus is only an aftermath.
Second, Nigeria is being tendentiously projected to the world as an Islamic state. It has been a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since 1986, at the instance of General Ibrahim Babangida, who sacked Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (Chief of General Staff) for objection. Nigeria is also hobnobbed with other international Islamic organizations.
Almost all Northern states which claim a Moslem majority have adopted Sharia, not minding their Christian populations and the fact that Nigeria is a secular state that should never be run on religious laws. In most cases, Sharia has been extended to cover both civil and criminal matters. The draconian law against rape in Kaduna State, regardless of the large Christian population, is a byproduct of Sharia. Additional laws and policies to control land and water resources, speech, Churches and other non-governmental organizations, e. t. c., being pursued by the Federal Government, are believed to be aimed at accelerated demographic transformation and Islamization – as if to vindicate the theory that Islam can never co-exist with other religions in the same society, whereas, the model of the Yoruba of Western Nigeria is there for all to see and copy!
Third, Nigerians have always come under some orchestrated siege, with little regard for life and dignity, more often, when a Northern Moslem or a Moslem-dominated party is in power, with the consequence of heightened division and acrimony. Many associate this siege (in which the Armed Forces and the Police are deemed complicit) with the quest for total political and religious control.
In the First Republic, under Sir Ahmadu Bello’s Northern People’s Congress (NPC) the siege was directed mainly at the Middle Belt and the Western Region (precipitating the January 1966 popular coup d’etat, mischievously termed an Igbo coup) Since May 1966, it has been directed mainly at the Igbo. It has now engulfed all of the Middle-Belt and the South under General Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) government and has taken the form of banditry in the Moslem North itself as of karma. Why not allow them to separate, or, at least, to move apart, slightly, if you cannot tolerate the basket with their religion or way of life?
Fourth, is the lack of give and take spirit. Given its putative population, most leaders of the Moslem North now insist that democracy is, strictly, a game of numbers, in order to repudiate rotation. But in the 1959 elections (for the first independent federal government of 1960) the National Convention for Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) polled 2.6 million votes; the Action Group (AG) 2 million and the NPC, only 1.9 million. Although the NPC, nevertheless, won more parliamentary seats than either the NCNC or the AG, owing to lopsided distribution of constituencies, it did not achieve the simple majority of seats and could not have formed the first federal government had the NCNC and the AG proceeded with the proposal for coalition, based on their majority of votes and combined majority of 164 parliamentary seats, against NPC’s 148.
But, for peace to reign, the NCNC, led by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, conceded that government to the NPC and accepted to be junior partners – when the NPC threatened that the North would, otherwise, secede. Dr Azikiwe and his Nigerian People’s Party, in 1979, extended similar fellowship to enable President Shehu Shagari and the National Party of Nigeria run a smooth government – instead of staging a formidable opposition with Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Unity Party of Nigeria. General Buhari and the APC would not have come to power in 2015 and 2019 without Bola Tinubu and the South-West-based Action Congress of Nigeria.
Fifth, since it cornered the Nigerian state, the Moslem North has ignored the call for restructuring or for devolution of powers to federating units and has met any threat of secession, otherwise, with utter violence, starting with Biafra. But Sir Ahmadu Bello and the NPC (bent on protecting the region politically, economically and socially) were the most vociferous and insistent on regional autonomy during independence negotiations, to the extent of threatening, at times, to secede if the demands were not met. Their Southern counterparts always bent over backwards, to carry them along. At a stage, even the date for independence had to be deferred, to meet their demand for readiness. It revolted against the 1966 Unification Decree, under General Ironsi’s military government, which was seen to negate cherished regional autonomy. But for the counsel of the British, the secession, which it declared after the coup of July 29, 1966 (staged by Northern officers to avenge the killing of Sir Ahmadu Bello and some top military officers from the region, in the coup of January 1966) would have been carried through, without let or hindrance.
Paradoxically, the same Moslem North has ended up imposing the worst version of Unification Decree (in the guise of 1999 Constitution) on the country, have become totally intolerant of dissent (not to talk of secession) and now insist on Nigeria’s indivisibility – on its own terms!
If the tables were turned and it was on the receiving end from any other group, hell would be let loose! What did the Igbo (as a corporate entity) do to deserve the pogrom of 1966 throughout the Northern Region, except that some of the soldiers involved in the coup d’etat of January 15, 1966 (an all-military affair) bore Igbo names? There have been five more coups by Northern officers without ethnic cleansing. And what did Dr Jonathan do for five Northern governors and Atiku Abubakar to destabilize the People’s Democratic Party in 2014, paving the way for APC federal government under which the country and her citizens roast, without a whimper?
One could go on and on. But, in short, the Moslem North takes Nigeria for granted and has never reciprocated the magnanimity of its counterparts (neither to the West nor to the East nor even to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe or Chief Obafemi Awolowo, personally) but dishes to others what it would not tolerate for a moment and predicates everything on its own terms.
It could only be that it does not see other Nigerians as equal partners. What is most surprising is that the easily brow-beaten, blackmailed, bullied, upstaged and disarmed counterparts do not take the lesson and react appropriately. Otherwise, the message is clear that the wish for political domination and to ultimately dip the Koran in the Atlantic and never to concede government to other Nigerians, expressed by Sir Ahmadu Bello, since 1960, is in-progress.
Everyone is entitled to ambition, but outcomes will depend on opponents’ response. If Nigeria fails, the Yoruba and the Igbo would be blamed, as much as the Moslem North – for failing to learn, from shared vulnerability, to put petty differences behind and stand together to rally others looking up to them for the balance of forces needed to reset Nigeria. In the First Republic, the West was besieged. Since then, it has been the East, in addition to the Middle-Belt. None will be truly free until the rest are also free. Taking turns as second fiddle is only the road to perdition!
As things stand, only the Aburi Accord of January 1967 (entered at the moment of reality and which provides for far-reaching regional autonomy, federal power-sharing and can restore merit and industry in public life along with every other thing that Nigerians are clamouring for) can save Nigeria. National Conference reports and amendment of the Constitution by the legislature have been overtaken by events. If the Moslem North is truly passionate about Nigeria, it has to rethink its strategy and drop the overbearing conquest mentality, otherwise, the country will, inevitably, break up in its hands. Let us all reflect, rethink and react positively to save Nigeria!