By Adewale Maja-Pearce
I was reading with amusement a communiqué from the Northern Elders Forum.
Nothing new, alas. It begins by saying that the ‘majority of the northerners…are far more politically conscious of the two broad regions that make up Nigeria’, and laments the ‘dangerous trend’ by the Jonathan administration ‘aimed at weakening the determination of the North to reclaim its traditional position of providing leadership for the Nigerian polity’.
After taking a swipe at the traitors among them who have agreed to fall for Jonathan’s divide and rule tactics, it reiterates its long-held belief that the North has a divine right to rule – ‘it is the almighty that has destined it so’ – which alone has kept the country ‘stable and secure’. All said and done, ‘The North is only asking for what it does best in Nigeria: leadership.’
The contempt for the lesser breed is hardly to be credited. Dismissing the current ‘aberration’ with an ‘interloper’ going by ‘the name of a Jonathan Southern presidency’, they recall the only previous occasion when they were caught ‘unawares’, which was when ‘Aguiyi Ironsi and his Eastern cohorts’ jumped the gun.
Other than that, they once ‘even denied themselves’ by allowing Obasanjo two terms, although he ‘nearly abused this privilege’ by latterly trying for a third ‘after he begged and pleaded with the North that brought him to power in the first place’. Although he ‘made amends’ of sorts by installing ‘his friend’s younger brother,’ he nevertheless oversaw ‘the most rigged election of 2007’ which cheated Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of his deserved prize.
The communiqué is clear that Buhari is ‘currently the undisputed of the North’, given that ‘there is no other person whom the masses in the North are willing to vote or even die for’. It then praises Tinubu, who ‘has seen the light’ by joining forces with him, unlike the inflexible Awolowo, who didn’t understand ‘the strategic wisdom in working with the North for a just and sustainable Nigeria’.
According to their calculations, the North and the South-West between them have the numbers, unlike the current zone, ‘which arrogantly believes that it is entitled to [power] by virtue of [its] natural resources’, not minding the fact that ‘all mineral resources belong to the federal government’, as has been the case ‘since the colonial period’.
Once in office come 2015, they will ensure that derivation is reduced from 13 per cent to 5 per cent for on-shore oil only, and adds: ‘If the North stands together with its allies in the South-West we can ensure that local governments get 35% of federal allocations, while states get 39 percent. Let those who want 50% derivation get it only from those resources that were not located naturally.’
Whether Tinubu himself is prepared to be the willing stooge of a contemptuous North; or whether, more importantly, the people of the South-West see themselves as collaborators in the theft of other people’s resources, will undoubtedly be one of the lessons of the coming elections (assuming that they actually take place), but this is in many ways the story of Nigeria, and in that sense will merely be a continuation of the same.
The entire communiqué reeks of power for its own sake for the purpose of plunder as a God-given right. And in insisting that only the North has delivered a ‘stable and secure’ country when all the evidence tells us otherwise, they also threaten – if only by implication – the mayhem they are currently witnessing in their own domain, a clear enough case of the chickens coming home to roost: If you govern by divine right, you just might suffer divine retribution.
The communiqué was signed by Dr Yusuf Jubril (President) and Sani Mohammed (Secretary). Nothing much seems to be known of either of them and perhaps they are misrepresenting another group by the same name, which has been more measured in its tone, if not in its demands.
In an address delivered to Jonathan two years ago, they professed themselves distressed by the activities of Boko Haram while blaming the government for its ‘misjudgement’, which led to ‘the poor handling of the sect’s activities’. But they were also distressed over the disparity in revenue allocation, ‘which appears to ignore the constitutional injunction of promoting even development’; and the dearth of federal appointments, currently standing at about 18 per cent.
In a way, it’s unfair to blame the ‘arrogant’ North when one is talking about a severe minority of the self-interested, as contemptuous of their own people as they are of others. This includes the Middle Belt, Jonathan’s only apparent ally outside his own zone, whose inmates are distinguished by their ‘treachery right from the days of Joseph Tarka and his likes’, but which nevertheless couldn’t prevent ‘the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) from winning in the past’.
Their ‘political naivety and narrow mindedness’ will deliver them into the hands of the North this time around, ‘if only the APC selects a Northern presidential candidate’.
‘If only the APC selects a Northern presidential candidate.’ So there you have it. Once you get past the grandstanding, the veiled threats, the extended sulk, they must openly beg those who nearly abused the privilege after they begged and pleaded to be allowed power in the first place.
But the game is up and they know it. More importantly, so does everyone else. They themselves call Jonathan and his people ‘arrogant’ without any sense of irony but they are right nonetheless. And why not? Why shouldn’t Jonathan and his merry men do the same with the same resources, and which they happen to own whether you like it or not.
Meanwhile, Nigeria, the country of however many million square kilometres with abundant land and rain and people – and, yes, oil – seems all but forgotten. We don’t deserve it and for that reason we are going to lose it. This may or may not be a bad thing, but it is what we are doing.
An earlier version of this piece first appeared in Hallmark, 10 June 2014.
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