The North and the rest of us

THE present tension in Nigeria following the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen in the last few years and the forced reactions of the frustrated victims of their atrocities in the South necessitate the need to re-visit this topic, the North and the rest of us. The Fulani herdsmen constitute an integral part of Nigeria’s North. The government of the pseudo-federation under the control of a retired army General who himself is a Fulani has exacerbated the tension by not doing anything visible to stop the heinous activities of the rampaging Fulani terrorists especially in the South and Middle Belt of the country. The suspicious silence of the president and the Federal Government on the issue has become too deafening to the victims of the atrocities. This again is aggravated by the overt and covert support of the Northern elite for the Fulani terrorists. When a governor in the South ordered the killer Fulanis to vacate their hideout in government forest reserve, the Northern elite cried foul. To them, because they are Northerners, the Fulanis are free to engage in criminal activities anywhere in Nigeria.

Apart from the unfortunate events that snowballed into the avoidable fratricidal civil war in the country between 1967 and 1970 and the attendant loss of lives and properties, no other issue had heated up the polity more than the prevailing situation now in which some Fulani herdsmen appear to be enjoying unwarranted immunity in their gruesome murder of innocent Nigerians. It is an indisputable fact that there was no nation called Nigeria even as late as the close of the 19th century. Different groups and nationalities with ethnic and linguistic affinities occupied the geographical areas where Nigeria is found today. Before the advent of the British imperialists, each group was enjoying its independence and control over its affairs. It was in 1914 that the colonialists lumped them together to form a contraption called Nigeria. The two territories (Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria) were parts of the British imperialists’ own share (or is it loot?) arising from the Berlin conference in 1884 by the Europeans who were then scrambling for the control of hapless Africans and their territories among themselves for maximum exploitation.

With the emergence of the Europeans at different times also emerged three distinct administrations within the geographical areas today known as Nigeria. This arrangement lasted until 1906 when they were reduced to two viz; the Northern and Southern Protectorates. The colonial powers put them under the control of Frederick Lugard in 1912. Yet, they were still being administered as different entities.

However, building on the recommendations of Selborne Committee earlier set up by the Secretary of State for the colonies, Joseph Chamberlain, Lugard decided to apply economic wisdom to merge the two administrative units of the North and South into one for maximum administrative convenience and exploitation of the resources therein by the colonialists. This is what is popularly known as the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates into a single political cum administrative unit which Lugard named Nigeria. Apart from other factors that made separate administrations under the colonial rule absurd and uneconomical, a re-nowned Professor of History revealed that: “unification also provided a means by which the impoverished Northern Protectorate could share with the South the enormous revenue accruing to her from customs receipts. Southern Nigeria was financially self-supporting while British administration in the North was kept going with an annual grant-in-aid fixed at a hundred thousand pounds between 1912 and 1918…The point to note was that while Southern Nigeria proved itself as a viable economic frontier, Northern Nigeria in spite of its vastness was a classic example of an ‘uneconomic imperialism’, at least up till the time of amalgamation.”

Implicit in the above is the fact that the parasitic relationship of the North with the South dated back to the pre-amalgamation era under the colonialists. In fact, the colonialists, in their efforts to prepare Nigeria for neo-colonial agenda, ensured that no other person from the South could be in control of power in Nigeria apart from a Northerner who they knew could easily be manipulated by them after independence. They pampered the North into becoming the spoilt child of the Nigerian politics which they remain until today. This explains why the North wants to dominate and/or dictate everything in the country. It is either one of them controls the reins of government or they determine who does. For instance, if one may ask: why was MKO Abiola’s election annulled in 1993 by a government led by a dictator from the North? If Bashir Tofa (a northerner) had won the election, would they have annulled it? This question remains unanswered till today. This hegemonic tendency of the North has always been one of the major sources of tension in the country. It has always been a case of the blind leading those who can see clearly. The consequences are what we are seeing today.

Since the amalgamation, the union between the North and the South has functioned more as an association of incompatibles. The poor and hapless masses in the country are the greatest losers. The situation reduces the country to the Hobbesian state of nature where life is nasty, brutish and short. It is even more glaring in the North among the downtrodden. With the struggle to acquire Western education, the situation is better among the rest of us in the South. But with the well entrenched antiquated feudal system in the North, the Northern elite try to keep the poor masses away from education for them to accept their oppression as the normal way of life. Only the children of the elite appear to be having unhindered access to education and good things of life.

The Northern elite appear to be doing this wittingly as showed by the experience of a young man from the South who was posted to one of the core northern states for the  mandatory National Youths Service Corps (N.Y.S.C) some years back. This young man found it difficult to believe what he saw. The house where he was lodged belonged to one of the Northern elite. The boy noticed to his amazement that the children of the security guard employed to keep the house were not going to school at all. He challenged their father, asking why he did not care about his children’s education. His reply shocked the young man further. The ignorant guard did not even know that his own children had a right to education which of course was free. The young N.Y.S.C man then made arrangements to get uniforms for the innocent children to join other children in school.

The greatest shocker for the young man from the South came when the Northern elite owner of the house came on a visit. Unfortunately for the innocent children of the guard, the landlord came at the time they were coming from school. The Northern elite felt disappointed seeing the children coming in school uniforms. He queried the guard about what he was seeing. The man explained that it was the N.Y.S.C man who had enlightened him and the children. He then flared up, asking the young man whether that was what he came to do in the North. Thereafter, he arranged for the transfer of the young man out of the area.

One can reasonably guess that that was the end of Western education for those innocent children whose crime was just the accident of their place of birth. How are we sure that those children are not members of the Boko Haram or the murderous Fulani herdsmen or other bandits tormenting innocent Nigerians today? The above story clearly reveals the marked difference between the North and the rest of us on what really constitute values that are really having impacts on the polity. No wonder Sir Ahmadu Bello unambiguously declared the amalgamation of the North and South as “the mistake of 1914.”

How long can we continue to accommodate this mistake and the retrogressive impacts of the North on the rest of us? Under the present situation, it is quite unreasonable for the Northern hegemonists and their selfish collaborator quislings from the South to continue to shout at the top of their voices that Nigeria is an indivisible entity without doing the needful first. This is a great fallacy. Nigeria is divisible. We should stop living in self-delusion.

A Yoruba proverb says that in a hunting expedition, instead of the elephant to be the armour bearer of the leopard, the expedition will rather be conducted separately. If every group goes its different way and life becomes meaningful for everyone, is it not desirable than under an enforced association where life is perpetually meaningless to almost everyone? The situation of the country is moving to where the North and the rest of us will be doing ourselves favour to heed the counsel of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s First Republic President. Zik pleaded in a broadcast: “whether our beloved Nigeria will continue to remain united as one country or will become disintegrated into minute principalities depends now upon two factors … I have only one request to make … if this embryo Republic must disintegrate, then in the name of God, let the operation be a short and painless one.”

Zik added: …Let it not be featured by violence … should the politicians fail to heed this warning, then I will venture the prediction that the experience of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be a child’s play if it ever comes to our turn to play such a tragic role…”.

The bitter truth is that the prevailing system cannot work. It has never worked. It will never work. It is only the restructuring of the country that can save the situation for Nigeria as single political entity. This will foster a symbiotic rather than the prevailing parasitic relationship. Each group in a genuine federation will be allowed to develop at its own pace, creating room for healthy competition as seen in the pre-independent era. Then, under Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Western Region became the cynosure of all eyes as a result of spectacular social, economic and political developments that were glaring even to the blind and audible to the deaf. Other regions tried as much as possible to rise to the challenges of the breakthroughs in the West. Sir Ahmadu Bello in the North and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in the East also did things that were of great landmarks and of immense benefits to their people. Unfortunately the negative effects of the Northern domination on the rest of us had virtually wiped off the gains of that era.

The Northern elite of today are not ready to face the challenge of generating the resources they need. They are only interested in the feeding bottle federalism in which the needed resources, generated mainly from the South, are under their control and doled out to them periodically without making any serious effort to work for what they need. It is purely a parasitic relationship. Ahmadu Bello did not rely on allocation from the centre to develop the North. He worked assiduously for what he needed. In fact, under the present Buhari government, it appears that the detestable Ironsi’s Decree 34 of May 24, 1966 is just being implemented. Ironsi and his cohorts failed to consider the peculiarity of Nigeria as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation before coming up with the ill-fated decree.

Zik pleaded in a broadcast: “whether our beloved Nigeria will continue to remain united as one country or will become disintegrated into minute principalities depends now upon two factors … I have only one request to make … if this embryo Republic must disintegrate, then in the name of God, let the operation be a short and painless one.”

Zik added: …Let it not be featured by violence … should the politicians fail to heed this warning, then I will venture the prediction that the experience of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be a child’s play if it ever comes to our turn to play such a tragic role…”.

The bitter truth is that the prevailing system cannot work. It has never worked. It will never work. It is only the restructuring of the country that can save the situation for Nigeria as single political entity. This will foster a symbiotic rather than the prevailing parasitic relationship. Each group in a genuine federation will be allowed to develop at its own pace, creating room for healthy competition as seen in the pre-independent era. Then, under Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Western Region became the cynosure of all eyes as a result of spectacular social, economic and political developments that were glaring even to the blind and audible to the deaf. Other regions tried as much as possible to rise to the challenges of the breakthroughs in the West.

Sir Ahmadu Bello in the North and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in the East also did things that were of great landmarks and of immense benefits to their people. Unfortunately the negative effects of the Northern domination on the rest of us had virtually wiped off the gains of that era.

The Northern elite of today are not ready to face the challenge of generating the resources they need. They are only interested in the feeding bottle federalism in which the needed resources, generated mainly from the South, are under their control and doled out to them periodically without making any serious effort to work for what they need. It is purely a parasitic relationship. Ahmadu Bello did not rely on allocation from the centre to develop the North. He worked assiduously for what he needed. In fact, under the present Buhari government, it appears that the detestable Ironsi’s Decree 34 of May 24, 1966 is just being implemented. Ironsi and his cohorts failed to consider the peculiarity of Nigeria as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation before coming up with the ill-fated decree.

Compare the language and expectations of that decree with what is on ground under the present regime, you find the spirit of the decree dangerously hovering over the nation. The North can recall the major role it played in the conflagrations the ill-fated decree inevitably attracted which did not spare Ironsi and almost consumed the whole nation.

If the decree, even before implementation by Ironsi, generated such conflagrations, anyone who thinks it would work now is living in a fool’s paradise. The North should not be deluded into thinking that there is immunity for it against the avoidable conflagrations this time around.

Because the Northern elite are already complacent with the periodic allocation from the centre, they are ready to even threaten war to prevent the restructuring of the country that will force them to work for what they need. The only alternative to the restructuring of the country is for each group to go its separate ways peacefully, just as Zik admonished.

 

 

  • Adesua is a former MD/Editor-in-Chief of African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, publishers of Tribune titles.

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