DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA by Akin Osuntokun
“Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-northern Muslim President could have done a fraction of what President Buhari has done by his nepotism and got away with it. There would have been a military coup a long time ago or we would have been at war. The president may have concluded that Christians will do nothing and will live with these actions.”- Matthew Kukah
The extrapolation made by Bishop Matthew Kukah in the quote above connotes two interpretations. It is a trend analysis of the Buhari presidency and by extension contemporary Nigerian politics. Second, it is an explication of the balance of terror (power politics) legacy of the wildly successful mutiny of the Northern faction of the Nigeria army in 1966 and of which the Muhammadu Buhari presidency is an epiphenomenon. The former is a derivative of the latter and the latter originated in the July 1966 counter coup which eventually climaxed in the ‘might is right’ outcome of the civil war. It affirms the power politics ideology that subordinates Nigerian politics to the pace and preference of buhari’s regional constituency. It serves notice that this is a privilege it aims to secure and defend against any counter claimants, militarily if needs be. Such obsession with power is fed by the kind of political behaviour recently popularised as prebendal politics which ‘refers to political systems where elected officials and government workers feel they have a right to a share of government revenues, and use them to benefit their supporters, co-religionists and members of their ethnic group’. Under Buhari, the behaviour deepened into the winner takes all syndrome.
The tendency became exacerbated with the evolution of Nigeria into a crude oil rentier economy typically defined by consumerism (ostentatious living), corruption and lack of positive correlation between productivity and reward. It hacks back to the rationale behind the amalgamation of Nigeria as contrivance for predicating the bureaucratic cost of administrating the Northern protectorate on revenues realised from the South. From July 1966, no Nigerian government has endured autonomous of the balance of terror legacy inherited from the 1966 counter coup. It is a mob rule ideology that legitimised the culture of military intervention with the caveat that any such intervention is the exlusive prerogative of the military wing of Northern hegemony. The implicit understanding here is that a military coup becomes tenable and feasible to the extent of its conformity with this prerogative. Do we need a literature review of military coups in Nigeria to prove the point?
Headed by Murtala Muhammed, the first successful coup of July 1966 was expressly defined as an overt re-establishment of Northern hegemony and other sections of Nigeria were invited to either put up with it or be prepared to settle the contest on the battle field. Remember that, in violation of the political pact to restrict men and officers of the military to their regions of origin (and taking advantage of the paltry representation of Yoruba in the Nigerian army) Northern army personnel stationed in the South-west, refused to vacate the Western Region in the run up to the civil war. Henceforth, military interventions in Nigeria became a game of revolving doors between the military wing and the civilian standard bearers of Northern hegemony. Little wonder the second successful coup was sponsored by Murtala Muhammed and masterminded by Shehu Yar’Adua and his Northern military officers cohort. The Hausa-Fulani superintendence of the hegemony was invoked and pointedly brought to light by the promotion of Shehu Yar’Adua (conspicuously at odds with military professionalism) over superior rank officers to the number two position in the Obasanjo military dictatorship.The attempt to buck this intra-regional power politics perking order by a substantial Middle Belt military elite ended in the fiasco of the abortive coup of February 1976 spear headed by General Ilya Bisalla and in which General Yakubu Gowon was implicated.
Then came the December 1983 coup distinguished for the dubious credit of overthrowing the civilian democratic order and bringing down the second republic to an inglorious end. Another dubious distinction was its introduction of the ‘Fulanisation’ phenomenon, it marked the first time the two topmost officials of any federal government belong to the same ethno religious breed. Both Buhari and the late Babatunde Idiagbon were Northern Fulani Muslims.The Northern Muslim coup cabal (administered by General Ibrahim Babangida) that brought Buhari to power was the same cabal that ousted him in a palace coup. The failure of the two subsequent coups of 1987 and 1990 masterminded by Mamman Vatsa and Gideon Okah affirmed the thesis that the balance of terror veto power resides in the dominant Northern Muslim officers and ranks- without whose centrality no coup succeeds. Both coups were planned and executed by mainly officers of Nigeria Christian minorities origin. A neo Babangida military caucus headed by Generali Sani Abacha effected the last military intervention in another intra regional palace coup. Abacha, of course, bears a direct legacy from the July 1966 coup in which he featured as a major factotum.
This short iteration of military intervention politics gives credence to the Kukah extrapolation that Nigeria is rendered prostrate to the will and whim of the Buhari personified Northern constituency. And provides an insight into how this constituency has exclusively wielded the military veto power to routinely challenge and reclaim political power in situations of threat to its hegemony. Kukah was making the point that the recognition of who wields the advantage (in the sanguinary context of power that ‘flows from the barrel of the gun’) is an inbuilt deterrence for any disaffected political constituency outside of the Northern Muslim orbit to contemplate a resort to military intervention no matter the provocation. It is difficult to imagine how more provocative Buhari can get to invite a similar repercussion were the shoes on the other foot. At the level of theory, nothing provokes alienation from the political system more than the zero sum politics of winner takes all. And no other Nigerian president has personified this syndrome better than President Buhari.The winner takes all syndrome results in a situation in which disaffected citizens feel they no longer have a stake in the political stability of the system. A sense of how the Buhari dispensation is uniquely guilty of driving Nigeria to this edge and dysfunction is provided in the following witness testimonies:
“One of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give preference of one particular tribe over another or show favor to one group of people rather than another. And to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near” Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio. All those who wish you and the country well must mince no words in warning you that Nigeria has become dangerously polarised and risk sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments which continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others.
Nowhere is this more glaring than in the leadership cadre of our security services.
“Mr. President, I regret that there are no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the offices of the federal government, favouring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation” Colonel Dangiwa Umar
“The nation is divided as never before, and this ripping division has taken place under the policies and conduct of none other than President Buhari – does that claim belong in the realms of speculation? Across this nation, there is profound distrust, indeed abandonment of hope in this government as one that is genuinely committed to the survival of the nation as one, or indeed understands the minimal requirements for positioning it as a modern, functional space of productive occupancy
And what is the score within those much-coveted urban precincts? Lop-sided appointments to crucial positions in Civil Service and parastatals! Consider the prime economic cash cow – petroleum – exposed a few months ago as a reeking cesspit of nepotism. Who is the Minister of Petroleum under whose watch such an unprecedented contempt for geographical parity – uncontroverted till today — became entrenched? That happens to be none other than the nation’s president”- Professor Wole Soyinka
“The latest top management appointments, which enraged PANDEF are Chief Finance Officer, Finance and Accounts, Umar Ajiya; Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, Yusuf Usman; Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Services, Farouk Garba Sa’id; Chief Operating Officer, Refining and Petrochemicals, Mustapha Yakubu; Corporate Secretary/Legal Adviser to the Corporation, Hadiza Coomassie; GGM, International Energy Relations, IER, Omar Ibrahim; GGM, Renewable Energy, Kallamu Abdullahi; GGM, Governance Risk and Compliance, Ibrahim Birma; and GGM, NAPIMS, Bala Wunti. Others are MD, NNPC Shipping, Inuwa Waya; MD, Pipelines and Product Marketing, PPMC, Musa Lawan; MD, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, Mansur Sambo; MD, Duke Oil/NNPC Trading Company, Lawal Sade; MD, Port Harcourt Refining Company, Malami Shehu; MD, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company, Muhammed Abah; MD, Nigeria Gas Marketing Company, Abdulkadir Ahmed; MD, Nigeria Gas and Power Investment Company Limited, Salihu Jamari; MD, NNPC Medical Services, Mohammed Zango; and Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Sarki Auwalu”
“President Buhari deliberately sacrificed the dreams of those who voted for him for what seemed like a programme to stratify and institutionalise northern hegemony by reducing others in public life to second-class status. He has pursued this self-defeating and alienating policy at the expense of greater national cohesion. By adopting Nepotism as a primary ideology, clearly unable to secure our country and people, President Muhammadu Buhari is in flagrant violation of the Constitution which he swore to uphold. Today, our sense of national unity is severely under threat and test. Our common citizenship has been fractured and diminished. The principles of equity, fairness and egalitarianism on which our Constitution hangs have been assaulted and diminished.
“If there is any country born and dedicated to power politics, conflict and confusion, Nigeria will be in contention for the prize.
“Nepotism has become the new ideology of this government. In following this ideology, it is estimated that the President has handed over 85% of the key positions to northern Muslims and has ensured that men of his faith hold tight to the reins of power in the most critical areas of our national life; the National Assembly and the Security Agencies!”- Bishop Matthew Kukah
“At the level of theory, nothing provokes alienation from the political system more than the zero sum politics of winner takes all. And no other Nigerian president has personified this syndrome better than President Buhari.The winner takes all syndrome results in a situation in which disaffected citizens feel they no longer have a stake in the political stability of the system”