By Mahmoon Baba-Ahmed
‘We have no other country than Nigeria; we must therefore remain in it to salvage it together.’ This was the concluding part of the maiden broadcast by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari after his ascension to power on 31st December 1983 following a military coup staged by a group of ambitious army generals that toppled what they called corrupt and inept government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Buhari had really captured the essence of the change of baton in that broadcast because his words were apt and precise reference to the decay of the polity characterized by depressing disunity, naked and untamed corruption, stark nepotism and destructive tribalism that ushered in the most contemptible general elections that preceded the much heralded military coup.
Nigerians welcomed that development especially as it promised to relieve them of untold economic hardships that pauperized them in a land of plenty. Stooges of neo-imperialist forces Buhari set out to confront subsequently frustrated him while the problems his government inherited assumed frightening dimensions and became even more challenging, defying all possible solutions. In the end Buhari and his corrective regime were mercilessly devoured by the reactionary enemies within thus plunging the country into fathomless chasm of socio-economic calamity and administrative clumsiness.
The junta that replaced General Buhari’s purposeful leadership was apparently rudderless, lacking in visionary and committed leaders and soon succumbed to all sorts of vices and malpractices that contributed to the demise of the first and second republics. It woefully failed in making Nigerians exhibit the spirit of oneness by imbibing the culture of patriotism and self-reliance. It instead promoted mediocrity and institutionalized favoritism in all facets of governance. It also succeeded in uplifting the level of corruption and rewarded malfeasance and discountenanced loyalty and hard work. The net result of all these was the cynicism in the civil service and total disillusionment by the general populace. The best brains in Nigeria were being drained away to foreign lands in search of greener pastures, astonishingly losing confidence in their motherland which cannot provide them succor and decent means of livelihood. Several ‘Andrews’ could not even stay behind to heed the wise counsel of General Buhari who admonished them to stay in Nigeria and help restore its fading glories. They checked out of the country in droves engaging in criminal activities or taking up menial jobs in strange lands.
The succeeding government wholly reversed Buhari’s policies and did absolutely nothing to promote Nigeri’as unity except to play one ethnic group against the other, empowering ethnic minorities to engage in senseless irredentism by engaging in unnecessary squabbles with the majority groups. That was how ethnic prejudice developed and culminated into love-hate relationships. Nigerians were thus sensitized to think and behave along tribal considerations, regarding other people as unwelcome intruders. The invidious attitude of the people in the oil-rich areas towards the despised non-indigenes has always been a source of great concern for the unity of the country. That has also been identified as the basis for the occasional friction that develops between the so-called ethnic nationalities. The general thinking now is that Nigeria should be dismembered so that each fragmenting unit can control its own national resources.
This standpoint was further sketched and fortified by the unhelpful attitude of the Southerners especially from oil-rich areas who call all Northerners unproductive parasites in a symbiotic relationship that allows them to reap where they have not sown. In that vein a group of young military officers from the Christian-dominated areas of the Middle-Belt and the South-south have been heartened to stage a detestable coup-de-etat, led by one Major Gideon Orkar in April 1990, against a Northern General solely to excise some Northern areas from the Nigerian federation where the Muslims are predominant. Although their dastardly design woefully failed yet the proponents of that idea are very much alive and still tenacious in its pursuit. Their deliberations are constantly geared towards precipitating ugly situations that will pave way for the disintegration of Nigeria so that they could realize their evil ambition of getting rid of the core North and its d pariahs
Desperate attempts were made by the southern advocates of divided Nigeria, especially during the reign of military strongman General Muhammadu Sani Abacha, when his die-hard critics colluded with foreign powers to topple his administration and pave way for the emergence of South-West presidency. They wanted to realize that objective through the convocation of Sovereign National Conference, championed by Yoruba-dominated National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, a pseudo human rights organization floated ostensibly to destabilize Abacha government.
The NADECO was apparently propelled primarily towards the actualization of Major Orkar’s strange and weird ambition of expunging Muslim territories from Nigeria and for the concretization of the Oduduwa Republic or Naija as it is recently advocated. Members of NADECO have been at the fore-front of those seeking to sever relations with those they refer to as retrogressive elements that retard the progress of the country.
These bunches of perverted chauvinists were equally active during the regime of General Abdussalam and they succeeded in harrying and stampeding him and his ilk into handing over to a southerner from the vocal and highly politically active South-West. That was considered as a first step towards crippling the North politically. It was unfortunate the Northerners were hoodwinked by the military into surrendering the political power which was considered as the only vital tool left for it to remain relevant in the scheme of things in the country. Now with the North defrauded of political power despite its diplomatic finesse and administrative acumen have now remains like a fish out of water, fast losing its influence in political circles. And there is nothing its so-called leaders can do to reclaim its lost status. It is, however instructive to note that commercial economy still remains in the hands of the industrious Igbo while the ever scheming Yoruba still dominate the commanding height of the nation’s corporate economy.
That explains how shortly after the coming of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s government in 1999 effort to cause disaffection and unrest among Nigeria’s ethnic group was surreptitiously revived through the instrumentality of religion. The relationship of Northern governors from Muslim-dominated areas was keenly cultivated by southern politicians who recommended and instigated the use of Islamic Shari’a law in some key Northern states on the pretext of advancing the cause of their religion. Soon after, the entire North was caught in the Shari’a fever while the southern politicians became busy prompting Northern Christians to rise in unison against the use of Shari’a legal code in the country even though it was for the Muslims only. Consequent upon this an unprecedented wave of protest by Christians raged through the major towns and cities of Northern Nigeria, leaving in its wake death and destruction, resulting from unmitigated violent scuffles between Muslims and Christians. The senseless Shari’a riots left Muslims as losers in a battle they fought ferociously.
Consequent upon that the shari’a cause has also been abandoned and is now a lost case. Its fervor has fizzled out in accordance with the prophecy of Chief Obasanjo that the Northerners’ shari’a was a political enterprise and that its fragile bubbles will simply explode in course of time. That prophecy has now come to pass and it will be inconceivable that in the future no one will endeavor to even talk about Islamic Shari’a in Northern states, let alone take progressive steps to reactivate it, unless he wants to be branded a deadly terrorist.
The southerners have not relented in their vigorous quest for relegating the North and its people to the background. They are still clamoring for a national conference to prompt the breakup of the country, a situation that will warrant the marginalization of Northern Muslims and facilitate their expulsion from Nigeria so they could relocate to their own ‘Republic’ where they will be at liberty to pursue their shari’a dreams and observe Boko Haram tendencies thereby satisfying their ‘murderous conscience.’ To the southerners that would be a good riddance to a bad rubbish.
As it is now nobody can accurately predict the nature of events likely to be unfolded in the next few months in the country. With the current developments anything can happen which can trigger off a chain of unpleasant events. If that happened eventually the peoples of South-East and the South-South will have nothing to fear, in fact they will gleefully welcome any situation that would warrant the coming into existence of Republic of Biafra which they had for long been yearning for, and ready for its take- off. Similarly the people of South-West clamoring for a Yoruba Nation will happily welcome the birth of Oduduwa or Naija Republic. They have for long been preparing for that momentous occasion which will deliver to them a country of their own.
What about the motley, feuding tribes of Northern Nigeria? How prepared are they to co-exist together in a new clime they will be consigned to at the eventuality of Nigeria’s break up? Would they embark on emergency arrangement to close their ranks and end the religious and tribal hostilities that eroded their unity? Certainly the giant North will be caught napping when other ethnic nationalities are preparing to go their way after the demise of Nigeria.
It is high time Northerners are awoken from their deep and sedated slumber to face the activities of those who want terminate the spirit of our unity and the life of our federation because they have now found an alternative to Nigeria where they imagine to sojourn peacefully without rancor or recriminations. Viewed from whatever perspective the agitation for the breakup of the country is being intensified and the North should not be lagging behind in the earnest race to promised lands.
Steep Slope to Somalia
There is nothing surprising about the pledge of assistance to President Goodluck Jonathan to combat violence in Nigeria by leaders of the West and America at the just concluded summit meeting of the most powerful nations on Earth on Somalia, a country faltering under a heavy burden of insecurity. What is amazing and perplexing, however, is the newfound romance, bordering on unholy alliance, between President Jonathan and the leaders of these countries known to be the originators of the calamities bedevilling developing countries, especially the Muslim realms in the Middle-East and Africa. Suddenly President Jonathan became the toast of the powerful and mighty leaders beguiling him into believing that they are concerned about the welfare of his people and the progress of his country while in actual fact he was being set up for aiding and abetting a very disingenuous and ominous plan to further aggravate the already depreciated social and security situations that threaten to overwhelm Nigeria.
President Jonathan was recently in London to grace the mini summit on the situation in Somalia where the antecedents of the colonial overlords had precipitated situations that led to the breakdown of law and order which consequently rendered it a failed state. It has now become enmeshed in belligerency, occasioned by armed political insurgents, encouraged by powerful tribal military leaders operating outside the control of government. The resultant effect of that is the hunger that devastated the depressed citizenry already famished by longstanding deficiency of rainfall and fatal famine. Worst of all it has now been caught in the frenzy of religious conflicts that further polarise the people.
Even though President Jonathan was not the only head of African state that graced the inauspicious assemblage of a number of infamous leaders, he was, however the only African head of state assured of support and backing in his feeble and ineffectual attempt to contain the activities of Niger-Delta militants and the dastardly insurrection of the faceless, yet omnipresent Boko Haram dissenters. The latter is a radical group alleged to have connection with the most dreaded Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, operating in almost all parts of the globe.