By Sharon Faliya Cham
The Good Book says, perfect love casts out all fear, and that there is no fear in love. In other words, when you harbour deep seated or even shallow hatred, you will eventually live your life in perpetual fear and suspicion of what you hate, especially when the hatred is against a particular person or group of people. In such state of mind, your actions and utterances will largely be exhibitions of confusion, illogic and puerility, and to mask these 3 poor character traits, you may end up putting up a bellicose attitude that gives you a false sense of bravery, which will not even threaten your objects of hatred but will rather strengthen their resolve in the quarrel you’re picking with them. In other words, if you carry a bellicose state of mind against certain people or against someone, you may have just successfully caged yourself in a state of what behavioural scientists call inferiority complex, especially if your bellicosity is based on outright prejudice, lies and mischief!
This piece is necessitated by the following words from the mouth of Professor Banji Akintoye, a man purportedly elected a few months ago as the new Yoruba leader at a meeting said to be attended by certain Yoruba delegates sometime in 2019:
“Those Southerners thinking that the North will relinquish power in 2023 are wasting their time… Any Southerner jostling for 2023 is wasting his time… One doesn’t need a soothsayer to know where the pendulum will swing. It is obvious that the North is not ready to relinquish power. The present Federal Government has become a government of the Fulani, and you know Fulani love power, and they are not ready to surrender that power in 2023. This is one of the reasons why Governor el-Rufai, a thoroughbred Fulani has come out boldly to say that zoning or rotation should be scrapped in 2023…. You can’t trust these people. These Northerners are greedy. They are very greedy…. It is however left for the Southerners to determine their own fate. If they like, let them continue to remain in servitude. As far as I’m concerned, there is no basis for our co-existence with the North again. A word is enough for the wise…. The North is dragging us backwards. Definitely we can’t continue like this.”
(Page 40, SATURDAY SUN, September 28, 2019)
To begin with, when Professor Banji Akintoye says “the North is dragging us backwards” one wonders what he actually means. And if you cast your gaze on all the cardinal compass points of the country, you will be left wondering how anyone could say the North should be held responsible for any backwardness you may have seen in Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Nigeria! For example, was it the North that caused the mysterious disappearance of $16 billion purportedly meant for electricity in Nigeria between 1999 and 2006, without even counting the cost of 2007 to 2015, but which failed to add even a single Megawatt of power to the country’s power grid, or was it the North that also caused the equally mysterious disappearance of about 300 billion naira meant for reconstruction of federal roads between 1999 and 2003?
If the North is dragging Nigeria backwards, as emphatically claimed by Professor Banji Akintoye, then one is left wondering how the North led to the complete abandonment of the famous Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the equally famous Second Nigeria Bridge and many federal highways in both southern and northern Nigeria between 1999 and 2015 until a northerner who became President in 2015 began fixing them all with meagre financial resources! Or, again, if the North is dragging Nigeria backwards, is it the same North that caused the deliberate abandonment of the Nigerian railways rehabilitation scheme since 1999 which was initiated and contracted to a consortium of Chinese firms by General Sani Abacha in 1997, so much that it took the coming of another northerner to power in 2015 for the railways rehabilitation scheme to regain a new and determined momentum?
Just how did the North drag Nigeria backwards, or in what ways is it still dragging the entire country backwards? Was the North responsible for the country becoming a net importer of common rice and other food items that can be grown and harnessed here, which ended up pauperising our own farmers while making European, Asian and American farmers wealthy at the expense of our economy? And if we pretend to be dumb a little bit, and agree that it was the North that dragged us backwards into being a consuming than a producing nation, then shouldn’t Professor Banji Akintoye and others who think like him applaud the North through President Muhammadu Buhari for the renewed drive towards local agricultural production and sustenance, which even received the fillip of the closure of our land borders recently so that our local producers can tap into the immeasurable benefits of economic protectionism? Is there, or has there ever been, any economic policy in the world beyond government protectionism of local production that has ever catapulted any nation on earth to an economic or industrial powerhouse? Name it and let’s see, and name just one economic and industrial power today that didn’t attain its super-power status without first closing its borders to enhance and protect its local production from undue competition with foreign varieties!
If we query this puerile claim by Professor Banji Akintoye further, and factor in the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party’s rule in Nigeria, and then also factor in the fact that the PDP officially apologized to Nigerians twice for looting, raping, plundering and ruining the country for 16 unforgettable years, were the formal apologies for the 2 years of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from the north or for the 14 years of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan from the south? Simply put, was it the 2 years of President Yar’Adua that dragged Nigeria backwards during those wasted years or the 14 years of Obasanjo and Jonathan? And if the apologies were for the 3 PDP Presidents, then who should take the medal of shame for the longest stretch of Nigeria’s plunder and backwardness by the PDP among them?
By the year 2012, over 800 companies have closed shop in Nigeria, without even mentioning the killing and burial of the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL), the Nigerian Airways, the Ajaokuta Steel Mill, the Aluminum Smelter Company (ALSCON) in Akwa Ibom State, and a host of other government owned industries and companies. Who takes the medal of shame for that? And when they say the north has dragged Nigeria backwards, you will think it is the northerners that looted and squandered tens of billions of dollars from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), consequently leaving the region in utter shambles! Well, but then, shouldn’t the north be applauded over President Buhari’s order for a forensic audit of the Commission to find out how the leading lights of the region used the Commission to pauperise and drag their region backwards?
To say that the north has dragged – or is dragging – Nigeria backwards flies in the face of the fact that the expansion and liberalization of all the political structures in post-independence Nigeria were done by northerners in power. The creation of 12 states to 19, and then to 21, which proceeded to 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory were all done by Heads of State from the north. And they all came along with new Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituencies without mentioning State Assembly Constituencies and the 774 local governments with thousands of councillorship seats.
All these new power structures ensured the devolution of powers from few centers of authority to many centers of authority, with the attendant benefits of more spread of the country’s finances, social services and infrastructure, thereby opening up more leadership and business opportunities for more people in both big and small communities. Can there be any restructuring of the country’s structure better than this, which has opened up the political space for more people and groups? Simply put, Nigeria has been democratized more by northerners who opened the power space more to as many groups as possible. So, where did the north drag us backwards, for God’s sake? Or are we to blame the northerner over how governors, local government chairmen, federal and state legislators in the North, South, East and West abused (and still abuse) their leadership positions? Or, for example, should the north be blamed when a state in a supposedly enlightened region chose to elect a corrupt, comical and cantankerous man as governor whose idea of development was eating food publicly at roadside restaurants with supposedly enlightened people cheering him like a circus while cleverly avoiding any developmental or infrastructural plan for them?
Professor Banji Akintoye also said, northerners are very greedy, and cannot be trusted. And I ask: greedy of what? And with what can northerners not be trusted? Definitely, it cannot be based on business transactions and agreements, right? Because, in Nigeria, it is always so easy to figure out those whom you can easily trust in business deals without fear of being swindled or betrayed. But since his statement was made in the context of power sharing, I want to believe he meant to say northerners are greedy of power and cannot be trusted with it, which is the singsong among some people outside northern Nigeria whose intellectual capacity and clarity of thought are suspect, and their knowledge of history apparently barren in spite of the generous availability of historical facts that could have easily educated them to the contrary!
Perhaps, they will want history to say northerners are so greedy of power such that in 1966, they planned the first coup d’etat in Nigeria which violently toppled the north from power after selectively murdering northerners in top levels of power. Or, that northerners are so greedy of power such that they voted against a northerner in favour of a southerner in the 1993 presidential election in key northern states like Kano, Bauchi, Sokoto, Kaduna, Gongola and so on! Or, that northerners are very greedy of power so much that they yanked a southerner from prison in 1998, and made him President in 1999, and that was after they made sure the presidential candidate of the other main parties which formed an alliance also came from the south, right?
Well, but the reactions that followed a simple reminder and request in 2010 by some northern Nigeria PDP power brokers about the need for the ruling party and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to honour their party’s zoning pact that will alternate power between the north and south, and which, by divine providence, President Jonathan was among the signatories, have already revealed the groups and persons in Nigeria that can be appropriately labeled as greedy of power, whom therefore cannot be trusted to dispense fairness with it! Professor Banji Akintoye and the persons he represents simply need to jog their memories a little bit or visit any nearby newspaper library to recall that most of the people and all the sociocultural or sociopolitical or regional groups now shouting for the zoning of the presidency to the south in 2023 categorically said ”ZONING IS DEAD!” in 2010, and that Jonathan MUST contest in the 2011 presidential election. All entreaties made by northern power brokers for the zoning pact to be respected was loudly and arrogantly rebuffed by the ”ZONING IS DEAD!” orchestra, and Jonathan went ahead to contest and win the election in the spirit of the DEATH OF ZONING to the great applause of its killers!
So, if zoning was killed and buried in 2010 by the current activists of zoning, at what point did zoning resurrect from death and who resurrected it, and for what purpose was it resurrected, especially when you reckon that the voting patterns of the 2015 presidential election showed that the killers of zoning in 2010 actually wanted it to remain dead so that power will remain with them? In fact, even after General Muhammadu Buhari became President in 2015 against all odds – including the odd of the haters and killers of zoning – there was a preponderance of death wishes and death prophecies against him, principally from the quarters of the haters and killers of zoning, so that power can remain outside the north in the spirit of the zoning that was killed and buried in 2010!
So, how can your actions, utterances and voting patterns be in perpetual defiance of zoning and then be champions of zoning at the same time? At whose expense should zoning be practised when you don’t even believe in its principle and practice? And since majority of your votes have been consistently against zoning, whose votes or which voters do you want to cajole or compel to materialise your hypocritical zoning request? Should there be a set of voters who shouldn’t believe and vote for zoning and another set whose votes should be used to actualize the zoning desire of the set who don’t even believe in it? Hating and killing zoning in 2010 but agitating for it in 2023 is the same as eating your tomorrow yesterday and still expect to have the tomorrow today!
Or should Nigeria practice zoning only when it suits you and then ditch it when it doesn’t suit you, just like when regionalism and parliamentary system of governance was violently toppled in 1966 because it was seen as working in favour of the north and a unitary system was foisted, but which there is now a hypocritical noisy agitation for restructuring by the very same killers of regionalism and parliamentary system for a return to the same regionalism and parliamentary system that they killed because the unitary system that they foisted on the country is also being seen by them as more beneficial to the north? So, can Professor Banji Akintoye now tell us who the real power-hungry people are that cannot be trusted with power? So, just what do some people, nay, some regions, regard the north or Nigeria to be? A playground or toy which they can play upon, or play with, or even fiddle with, anyhow they want?
In any case, I think we should all agree with the ”majority” argument that killed zoning in 2010, that the concept is undemocratic, as it always tends to narrow the democratic space, thereby stifling the rights and privilege of others from seeking to be elected into public offices. While democracy is meant to liberalize and expand the political space and opportunities for all persons in a given territory, zoning tends to shrink or constrict such opportunities to certain limited interest groups who think and believe that they have the wherewithal to rotate power among themselves at the expense of the other collectives.
For example, in Nigeria, whenever you hear any debate or agitation over zoning, it is always thought along the lines of the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups without regards to the other hundreds of ethnic groups. In other words, zoning is a clever tool of dictatorship by certain interest groups in a supposed democracy. The remedy is to simply agree with its killers and allow free political enterprise for everyone, and then let anyone with the best manifesto and character win. A good product always sells easily, irrespective of where it was produced, isn’t it? This itself has better ability and grace to unite us than the usually cantankerous, divisive and hypocritical debates about zoning.
Furthermore, in his hate-driven misinformation campaign, Professor Banji Akintoye also said the present federal government (meaning the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari) has become the government of the Fulani, and that the Fulani love power, and I wonder whether it is not the love for power that has made certain people vilify and kill zoning in 2010 and 2015, or whether it is not the love for power that is making him (Professor Banji Akintoye) and his fellow travelers to be issuing threats here and there over the zoning they killed and buried in 2010 and 2015, or whether he has a scientific or sociological theory or proof that can tell us whether there is any ethnic group or human being on earth who doesn’t love power except the Fulani ethnic group that has become the object of hatred for all hate groups in Nigeria just as much as the same Fulani have become the fall guy for almost every crime committed by characters from certain areas with well-known pedigrees and history of crime!
In any case, in what ways is the Buhari administration the government of the Fulani when the Vice President is not Fulani, and neither is the Senate President nor the House Speaker? Or has Professor Banji Akintoye miraculously transformed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Head of Service of the Federation, the President’s Chief of Staff, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and the Governor of the Central Bank into Fulani people and he didn’t give us the courtesy of knowing this miraculous feat? Or did President Muhammadu Buhari carefully choose Fulani people as his ministers from all the 36 states as a mark of the Fulani conquest that all rabble rousers are hallucinating about, and yet the roof of the country has not been brought down by such usually noisy rabble rousers who always squeal, scream and yell about federal character principle, which they don’t even practice at any given time they hold any office or any lever of power that carries the opportunities of making appointments or staff recruitments?
Finally, as if anybody or any ethnic group or any region is doing any special favours to the north by cohabiting together as a country called Nigeria, Professor Banji Akintoye arrogantly said that as far as he was concerned, there is no basis for the south cohabiting with the north again, and that ”a word is enough for the wise”. In other words, the professor believes so much in his region’s supremacy, which is nothing different from the cancer of White Supremacy that is plaguing certain parts of the world as well as the xenophobic fever eating away South Africa. But to be fair to him, the professor is not the only person in southern Nigeria holding and expressing this fiction of supremacy. In fact, it is at the core of the ceaseless demands for restructuring by certain arrogant self-serving groups and individuals from the region, which, to them, is a step towards their unhidden quest for the disintegration of the country.
Just like Professor Banji Akintoye, they have given themselves the delusion, illusion and false comfort of believing that the north is responsible for their backwardness, and therefore, a complete break from the north will give them freedom to become like Paris or London or California or any developed nation or city with well tarred roads, ceaseless flow of water, uninterrupted electricity supply and a very functional society in a very short time. The agitation for restructuring is therefore just a mere euphemism for breaking away from the north in order to achieve an utopian state that they believe cannot be achieved with the north. Well, but then, it is all so easy to catch a glimpse of the kind of nation or nations or society they will become if we look at the kind of people they have been voting as governors or parliamentarians to govern them, or by their choices and voting patterns during presidential elections.
Pray, what manner of societies will restructuring activists who have locked themselves in tight romance with a political party that looted, plundered and grounded Nigeria for 16 straight years build after the country is restructured as they wish? Considering that they hold the ignoble ideals of the party dear to their hearts, as seen in the way they revere the leading lights of the rapacious party, as well as their staunch belief that the battle against corruption and enemies of state is undemocratic and a witch-hunt, and then even mock the call for CHANGE among leaders and citizens, doesn’t it then mean that the actual reason behind the agitations for restructuring is not due to any noble or higher ideals but simply a clever quest by certain crooks to create certain fiefdoms for themselves where they can freely operate Banana Republics in accordance with the way Nigeria was run between 1999 and 2015?
Well, unless the agitators of restructuring or breakup of Nigeria have hidden some special people that don’t carry their DNA of corruption somewhere, whom they hope to bring out to govern them differently from the 1999 to 2015 Nigerian experience that they are panting after, they are simply just blowing hot air over nothing. In other words, with hearts and minds structured in favour of corruption and profligacy, how can such unstructured minds restructure any community or society for the good of their own people?
So much for the bunkum of ”the north is dragging us backwards”!