Before we drink from a poisoned chalice

ZONING, as wisely conceived  by our political gladiators some years ago, was to give every geopolitical part of this country a sense of belonging; destroy the vestiges of mutual suspicion, mistrust and atavistic fears and instincts of dominance to make our political journey  less bumpy and less contentious. Although not enshrined in our protocols of association, the constitution, zoning has so far been adhered to as a gentleman’s agreement among our politicians as a panacea for skewness. However, for some inane and jejune reasons, some politicians have started their macabre dance to jettison zoning and consign it to the  dustbin of history. To many northern politicians, aeon rulership is their birthright. To them, Nigeria has been wound on gossamer strands of their fawning fingers where they can chant paeans of conquest ad infinitum. The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) which has been ferociously notorious for shearing every  bright longing considered anti-North is at its belligerent worst again by spewing out inflammatory rhetorics with seismic capabilities to rubbish the gains of zoning that have steadied our tempestuous ocean of politics. In a society such as ours where many are hungry and politicians ride on people’s common salve of timid consciences for a meal of porridge, prevarications and Machiavellian manoeuvres have been deployed in political horse-trading to outwit one’s opponents, including sections of the country.

The North has ruled the  country for a larger part of our chequered history and its aristocratic lots will want that maintained at the expense  of other  sections of the country. These are hegemonists that derive utmost pleasure in holding the downtrodden in their midst hostage through skulduggery and religious perfidy. The number of Almajiri street urchins keeps ballooning but it’s none of their business to chart a paradigm shift as long as this crop of people is subjugated and brainwashed that they  are destined to be poor and be at the mercy of any man in a restaurant throwing crumbs at them to assuage their hungry souls. The North has many headmasters in some Primary schools who hardly know the  difference between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, let alone speak or write basic English sentences. Don’t  be bewildered to hear “bah Turenchi” to your basic question in English. As a hospital head in one of Zamfara State’s General Hospitals in 2008, I raised a team to do a health education on measures to mitigate an outbreak of cholera and cerebro-spinal meningitis which are quite endemic there in a seasonal fashion.

I asked the headmaster of a Primary School after exchanging  pleasantries,  if that  kind of exercise had been done in the school before then. He said, “Yes, no, yes” in quick succession that gave him away as quite unlettered. I asked him what the take-home points were at the time. He looked rattled. I sensed he didn’t quite  get my message. I rephrased it in a simpler way that I felt he should  be able to say something sensible. He still looked uncomfortably dazed. It was when one of my laboratory staff on my entourage interpreted my question  in Hausa that  he was able to answer back in Hausa. He had to say he didn’t  get  my initial question  but that that was the first time such an exercise would be carried  out in the  school. I had to use the lab staff to continue to interpret the remaining session of the program to the  headmaster, members of staff and pupils! Yes, that is their monolithic North!

Some could have also gone amnesic about the late Sabo Barkin Zuwo on the campaign train how he referred to the late Abubakar Rimi as his running mate who had been running after him and would want him to lose. He also exhibited his uncanny illiteracy by referring to mineral deposits  in Kano State as Fanta, 7 UP, Coke et cetra. The reporters could  not believe their hears. Against any rational thinking, he actually won and became governor. Yes, that’s  their North where  they like to impoverish the populace, deny them sound education perennially and breed them as ubiquitous willing tools for winning elective offices. Without any scintilla of rational thinking, some people will just outlandishly spew out gibberish and purulent stuffs to crave relevance. What can you make of the Coalition of Northern Group’s spokesman, one Suleiman Abdulazeez who was reported to have said “Whatever the case, let me repeat here that the North would never give in to threats or blackmail to give up its democratic and constitutional prerogative  to field candidates for every national election.  Our position remains unchanged that the North will never respect any arrangement that tends to block northerners from contesting election to the presidency. Akeredolu should  know by now that the North is not and shall never be afraid of threats of disengaging from the Nigerian union by any section of the country that feels strongly about it. In fact, we welcome it. That statement, unfortunately, captures an average northern politician’s mind’s tribal tabula rasa. It was a reckless vituperation from a haughty, cocky, unctuous individual  mired in shameless smugness. But if that had been the position of the  North all along—and still is—why is the Federal Government hounding the likes of Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu for their agitations for Oduduwa and Biafra respectively? Why can’t  the  government  just acquiesce to this kind of assertion and let strange bedfellows divorce  peacefully without any bellicosity? Why have the drumbeats of restructuring been seen as unpatriotic moves by egotistical elite from the South?

Also, an erstwhile vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Professor Ango Abdullahi—of the “Ango must go” fame during his stewardship in the university— as the  chair of the Northern Elders Forum, said zoning was dead on arrival. The ambivalence and steely defiance of some northern politicians to embrace any pacifying arrangement to  oil our wheel for unity, love, progress, equity and justice among the different sections of Nigeria are further reinforcing the morbid fear of underlying arrogance and ‘born-to-rule’ mentality which may be a harbinger to sounding our death-knell as a nation. In a country where politicians become overnight parvenus, people will engage in all forms of shenanigans, dirty intrigues, brigandage, theatrics and puerile outbursts to crave relevance so as to win elections, willy-nilly. If we build an enduring institution to curtail the excesses of these self-serving politicians and the perks of office are very small and less attractive,  people will not be killing themselves for elective positions.

It all amounts to a travesty of justice if a particular section continues to superintend over other sections as it’s been doing since our halycon years but only bequeath squalid conditions and wandering, dishevelled uneducated street urchins on their land. Bedlam beckons in the face of any visceral rejection of this altruistic antidote to subjugation, internal colonialism and all domineering tendencies.

For both parties in the front burner in Nigeria to ever think in their widest imaginations that the South would  remain a lackey of the  North and be subservient to it after being sjamboked into a transparent subterfuge of zoning ab initio, is a presage to singing a dirge for the country. To say Maj.Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd) has a vote bank in the  North that will always vote for his party in the face of maladministration, pervasive insecurity, nepotism, monumental corruption, clannishness and many other vices since 2015 is gallingly insulting not only to the ‘robotic’ northern people but to our collectivity as Nigerians. For that fatuous and vacuous argument to be brought into our public space as necessitating getting both presidential candidates to be from the North shows how hollow and shallow our politicians  are in their desperate rat race to steal what is left of our sorry economic state. They have just openly admitted to the insouciances, corruption and other malfeasances which have hallmarked our inglorious past and our uncertain future.

The niggardly concessions of some posts to the South  while the North perennially calls the shot is capable of plunging our country into a state of anarchy and harakiri. Let’s  say to that chalice from which we are about to be forced to drink from that it remains a mutant variant of a good one; let its glittering image be shorn of its aesthetics loathed by all, let it break into pieces beyond redemption as an entity from which we can never drink from again. It is only then that we can maintain an equitable, egalitarian, peaceful, prosperous, utopian and progressive country of our dream.


Dr. Afelumo, a physician, writes in via



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