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Nigeria or North?

“I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”- President Muhammadu Buhari in his inauguration speech on May 29, 2015.

The words of President Muhammadu Buhari above remain his best lines to a badly divided country till date… They were reassuring to segments of Nigeria already feeling alienated by the negative triumphalism of some scions of the far North following the outcome of the March 28, 2015 presidential election which I captured in “Arewa songs of conquest”.

The comforting words of Mr. President calmed not a few nerves who were apprehensive that Arewa spokesmen were doing a kind of in-your-face with declarations that did not shy from emphasising that Nigeria in their worldview is no more than the northern soil and the attendant conquest from the south.

The most poignant from the songs of conquest came from Senator Saidu Dansadau who declared and I quote” “Nigerians should take note of the voting trend since independence. In fact, since the 1950s, the North Central per se had never voted in the manner it did along with the other parts of the North as it did at this particular time. These are the kind of things we have been looking for, (for) a long time. Various initiatives have been put in place in order to see that northerners from wherever they are, from the 19 states, become one as far as voting is concerned. We are not saying 100 percent of northerners should be in one political party but that northerners should have one voice, they should decide and dictate the politics of Nigeria; like it has been before independence and even during the First Republic because of the numerical strength of the North.

“But of recent we became divided so we became so vulnerable. But God in His infinite wisdom and mercy used the goodwill of General Muhammadu Buhari and we have gotten the kind of unity that we have been yearning for, for so long. We have realised this dream now. So, now that we have achieved the unity we long for because of Buhari’s goodwill, it is only fair that we now make some efforts to consolidate these gains because General Buhari will not be the president for ever. So that after him, we have consolidated on this goodwill and we will be able to grow this unity, political cooperation, electoral cooperation from strength to strength so that the North will as much as possible dictate the political landscape of the country and what happens in Nigeria as it used to do.”

The type of incendiary talks were out of sync with the mood across the country in the run-up to elections when brooms were being waved all over the country and the talk was about Nigeria and Nigerians. It was a period the descendants of Uthman Dan Fofio were comfortable in wearing “gobi” cap of the land of Oduduwa and Igbo red cap sat prettily on their heads like Mecca wear. Nigeria seemed to have arrived on the surface.

Somehow, those of us who saw the whole scenario like what happened when the American stylists were having their convention still prayed that this would turn out to be true.

What happened at the stylists’ event? An advert agency came up with a grand idea of picking a ghetto boy and captured his scruffy looks. They thereafter cleaned him up and dressed him in a tuxedo. They placed the two photographs side-by-side with the inscription “See the change American stylists can make in a man”. It was grand and the gentleman was at the gate in his new image on the day of the convention shaking everybody.

When the convention was over, the management of the hotel where the event held decided to go look for the branded young man so they could offer him a job. They took his new image to the ghetto and looked for him all day but no one had any idea of the person they were looking for. It was then it occurred to somebody to go fetch his old image and within minutes he was fished out back in his old dirty ways. It quickly registered that the change American stylists can cause is temporary since they are not heart deep.

Like the ghetto boy who went to his old ways in hours, some of our friends from Arewa region are showing their true colours once again in spite of the assurances of Mr. President.

Two prominent cases came up recently that should be discomforting to broom bearers down south.

First was from the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) led by Ambassdor Yusuf Maitama Sule. The group wrote to the President to intimate him with the fact that northerners are suffering under his administration. Nothing wrong with interest groups advancing the interest of their constituency. Except that it becomes worrisome when it is done in violation of the sensibilities of others the way NEF did in their statement complaining of capital projects allocations to the south in 2016 budget. Hear them: “For a region deserving greater resources and attention, as well as the political backbone of your administration, this situation will pose serious problems for your administration.

“We advise Mr. President to review the proposed allocations in consultation with the National Assembly. We wish to draw Mr. President’s attention to the fact that over 75 per cent of all federal government public service employees are from the three geo-political zones in the South. This means that virtually the same percentage of recurrent spending will go to Nigerians from the South”.

The man who signed this document was the preferred candidate of the northern caucus of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to be president in 1979. He was on his way to the presidency until a powerful emir in the north was alleged to have called the attention of the promoters to the marks on his cheeks which put paid to the whole project.

It is curious Sule would say the north is the backbone of Mr. President given snippets of our recent history. General Buhari has carried the North three times without success in his bid for the presidency. He is fourth time lucky because he was able to take a zone from the south with him. A less primordial reading of event should have seen better where the backbone for the President’s victory came from.

The second were views credited to the governor of Katsina State and former speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Bello Masari that they acted in the interest of the North by removing former President Goodluck Jonathan from office. Online reports quoted Masari as speaking at the 33rd annual symposium in memory of late Mallam Aminu Kano held at the Centre for Democratic Research and Training, AKCDRT, Mambayya House, Kano. Masari was said to have described the situation the north found itself as precarious in which the region fell short in every aspect of human development.

When these two developments days apart are taken together, the irresistible conclusion is that something is fundamentally wrong with politics in this polity where guile, deception and pretension are the defining ethos.

The subtlety of our Arewa companions in being able to package the interest of the north as that of Nigeria and distribute brooms for grown men in the south to be waving all over the place should be of some interest for serious academic study.

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