A 2019 presidential aspirant and member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Dr. SKC Ogbonnia has faulted the recently held conference between the Igbo and Yoruba, tagged ‘Hand Shake Across the Niger’ arguing that though the concept is a bold step forward, but its strategy is myopic.
According to him, the event which ought to be applauded as one trying to unite Southern Nigeria towards presenting a united front on national issues has “already given rise to the emerging nickname, “The Igbo/Yoruba Summit”, which is enough to create peppering mistrust among the minorities in the South. It can be misconstrued as sowing seeds of socio-cultural hegemony.”
Ogbonnia in a write-up however noted that though the event was fraught with strategic shortfalls, the move ought to be encouraged by all, because disunity in Southern Nigeria has been a stumbling block to Nigeria’s democracy.
According to him, “A definite problem that dogged Nigerian democracy for ages was a lack of dynamic opposition due to proliferation of political parties. This phenomenon contributed to systemic dictatorship and, by consequence, a history of power abuse.
The god of democracy came to the rescue by provoking the creation of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Unfortunately, however, the desired outcome has been elusive because of another dimension of dictatorship in the form of primordial ethnic tyranny.
“The gist is that disunity in Southern Nigeria has emboldened a minority group in the North to assume absolute authority in the affairs of the nation.
Instead of the government of the people by the people, Nigeria has become a government of a Northern oligarchy by the oligarchy and for the oligarchy. The result has been an absence of the checks and balances central to effective democratic governance and, of course, the continued abuse of power.
“Think of any debate or policy on Nigeria, be it constitutional amendment, restructuring of the country or what have you. When all is said and done, the final decision is hardly based on the salient points raised through the debates, but simply on what the North wants, whatever that north means.
“Worse still, instead of the “North” considering the opinions or the needs of the Northern masses, the final say in the region—or rather Nigeria as a whole—is typically the sole province of the Northern oligarchy, a clique of wealthy Northern traditional leaders and retired army generals. The Northern oligarchy exploits the disunity in the South to a satanic proportion.
“Notice how the “North” embraces notoriously corrupt Southern politicians once they claim solidarity with any vision of the oligarchy. Also consider that any consequence for corrupt elements in Nigeria depends on the degree of their relationship with the same shameless plutocrats.”
“The solution is where projects like the “Handshake Across the Niger” come in. Similar to the path to effective leadership in a multiparty democracy, there is the need for regional equipoise between the North and South.
Such approach has the potential to checkmate the perceived Northern hegemony over the South, reduce the culture of impunity and, consequently, allow genuine development in the country.
“In short, the Handshake Across the Niger is designed for the South to emulate its Northern counterpart to finally demonstrate common sense in terms of unity. For instance, though the North is made up of a multitude of ethnic groups, the region typically speaks with one voice through central organisations.
“In other words, instead of masquerading with beggarly ethnic antiquities, such as Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere or the various Niger Delta outfits, the entire South should simply promote central bodies akin to the different umbrella Arewa groups.
“Unity in the South must not be seen as a coup against any group. It is only a means to an end; the end being the overall unity of Nigeria and effective democratic leadership,” he said.