Ode to Mahmud Tukur
DIALOGUE BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN
There is no better way to pay my last respects to the memory of the late Dr Mahmud Tukur than truthfully and objectively bear witness to the precarious political situation of Nigeria, the amelioration of which was his lifelong passion. Unfortunately, he had wrongly bet on the potentiality of his friend, President Muhammadu Buhari to make the necessary positive difference to Nigeria’s fortunes.
Tukur was the most committed intellectual rapporteur, exponent and defender of the Sokoto caliphate and its historical legacy. He notably put his participant-observer commitment to practice in a remarkable duty tour (of Nigerian politics and governance) as Director, Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, ABU; Vice Chancellor, Bayero University, Kano, BUK and Minister in Buhari’s military dictatorship). No engagement better animates him than the scholarly discussion of Nigerian politics. He personified the notion of a putative hegemonic pressure group called the ‘Kaduna Mafia’ – the name given to a loose group of young (they are now old men in their late seventies and early eighties by the way) Northern Nigerian intellectuals, civil servants, business tycoons and military officers residing or conducting business in the former Northern capital city of Kaduna during the end of the First Republic.
Not unlike many Nigerians north of the Niger, he was intellectually sold on the notion of Buhari as political role model in the mould of the historic Turkish reformer, the attaturk, Kemal Mustapha. Tukur then lived long enough to grapple with the agony of Buhari’s comprehensive demystification and disappointment; and an implicatory ruin of the political reputation of his Northern regional base. The jury is out, that, so far, Buhari has the worst presidential record perhaps surpassing that of late General Sani Abacha. After all, Abacha can be excused for inheriting the fraught situation of an escalating political turmoil, an emergent political jungle where personal regime survival was the first law of nature. To the contrary, the inauguration of Buhari’s presidency was serenaded in a cascade of national goodwill inclusive of unprecedented latitude to supplant his administration with a personality cult of power. As he waxed dangerously parochial and made nonsense of the constitutional requirement of federal character principle in political and public service appointments, the peculiar refrain was that he should be allowed to work only with the people he can trust. The revelation of the Osama Bin Laden hero worshiping Minister Pantami as a central player in Buhari’s presidency is the culmination of this political waiver and the equivalence of an imagined appointment of convicted terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as Nigerian minister upon release from his American jail.
Tukur saw Buhari as a Nigerian leadership approximation of the Shehu Usman Dan Fodio caliphal leadership values of “justice; ease and kindness; humility/modesty; abstinence, moderation and asceticism; integrity and honesty; and service to community. Beyond the compulsion of his obvious Fulani identity politics which prompted his premature misidentification of messianic utility in Buhari was his more profitable concern with British colonialism as the bane of Nigeria’s political development. He attributed the principal cause of the breakdown of Nigerian civil politics as ‘the disharmony between the transplanted institutions and the ethos which they represented on the one hand and the sociocultural environment in which they had to operate on the other…The educational system and the secular ideals on which the system was founded are in fact a denial of the heritage of the great majority of Nigerians” Not exactly for the same argument, I share his belief that Nigeria’s sociopolitical dysfunction is rooted in British colonialism.
As Nigeria spins out of control, I have pondered on what magnitude of insolvency is required for our notorious colonial master to declare Nigeria bankrupt and weigh in with its neo colonial hegemony to embark on damage control; to pay down the debt owed the communities and societies herded together to fulfill the fancy and failure of establishing a nation of its imagination. And in so doing, act in accordance with the contemporary dictates of what should now constitute the enlightened self-interest of the British patriarchy in Nigeria. At independence, this enlightened self-interest was extrapolated as the subordination of any modern state potentials of Nigeria to the power politics imperative of adopting, as protégé and standard bearer, the most British colonial compliant faction of the Nigerian political ruling elite. One of the numerous attestations to this effect and the mentor-protege relationship was the insight of veteran British journalist, Walter Gould: “It could be argued that if Cumming-Bruce (British high commissioner) had not interfered in the civil war, Nigeria would have fragmented into several states, possibly as a confederation, in the style proposed by Ojukwu, and most importantly war would have been avoided.
However, Cumming-Bruce was only extending British policy that had been formulated in the run-up towards independence: that Britain’s investments will be best protected if the country was left to run in a ‘safe pair of hands,’ those of the Northern rulers…”
This is the realpolitik of British neo colonial policy on Nigeria- which makes sense and serves British purpose to the extent there is a Nigeria, stable and secure enough for British economic exploitation. The moment this utility evaporates, it then becomes untenable to argue that the vested interests of the British patriarchy is served by the perpetuation of Nigeria’s political status quo, by omission or commission.
It has been difficult for me to live down the deserved insult on Nigerians by former British prime minister David Cameron to the effect that “Nigerians are fantastically corrupt”. The reason it has been so (for me) is that if Nigeria has failed, the responsibility for the failure is more that of British than of Nigerians. Nigeria is a British creation and experiment that has gone awry and fulfilled the fate to which it was doomed. “With Lord Lugard’s arbitrary conception of Nigeria in mind, one can begin to see the many and varied problems colonialism created in Nigeria, across West Africa, and around the world”. Walter Gould further revealed that “Cumming-Bruce was able to persuade the Emirs that secession would have been an economic disaster…As Cumming-Bruce stated: ‘But it wasn’t on the face of it easy to get them to change, but I managed to do it overnight. On a second meeting with Cumming-Bruce he greeted me with the comment: ‘I sometimes wonder whether I did the right thing in keeping Nigeria together”.
Similarly bitten with buyers remorse, the neo Lugardian establishment pundit, Anthony Kirk Green, soberly reflected, “The tragedy of 1967 is that many of its seeds were not, as is often claimed, sown in October or even July 1966, but in the 1950s or, as some see it, in 1914 or maybe in 1900 itself.” And in his memorandum that crystallised from the 1957 London constitutional conference on Nigeria, the Secretary of state for the Colonies, Allan Lennox Boyd, regretted that “the North fears and dislikes the more educated Southerners and if they were not economically bound to the federation would be glad to be quit of it.”
“Since 1914, according to Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any sign of willingness to unite… Nigerian unity is only a British intention for the country.”- Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Somewhat echoing Tafawa Balewa in lucidity I would never have thought of Isaac Adaka Boro, he reasoned that “The attitude of the British to the Nigerian problem suggested that their handing over to Nigeria a political set up of total democratic imbalance and contradictions was satanic and a calculated trap to overwhelm the country with disastrous political upheavals. Surely, their reasons would be that they were reluctant to leave the country and were only forced out by political pressures of certain ambitious citizens of the country…What all lovers of peace and equity would tell them was that they made a mess of Nigeria and owe a profound apology to the democratic world at large.”
Regardless the validity of this train of opinion, the remorse I regularly feel is how to make the point that Nigeria is an ill-conceived nation without hurting the sentiments and emotions of friends and confidantes across the cleavages of region and religion. As a theoretical proposition, Nigeria is a non-starter, a creation in whose womb resides the virus of its destruction. The fact that the ill fate of Nigeria was near inevitable does not however extenuate the culpability of the willful and cruel midwives of its failure. As the scriptures warned “the Son of Man will go as it has been decreed but woe to that man who betrays him!” The Nigerian inheritors of British colonialism were entrusted with the tall order of making the best of a bad situation and this they did for a few intermittent years until the emergence of the perverse primitive breeds who came to make the worst of a bad situation.
BUA Vs Dangote
If there is any positive news buzz that caught my attention lately, it was that of the business row between the two giant industrialists, Samad Rabiu and Aliko Dangote. It is a signal that it is less likely than not that they are jointly exploiting the relative lack of competition to collude and foist a sellers market price regime of cement and sugar commodities in the Nigerian market.
Moreover, “If anything, this battle or clash of the titans can only be a good thing for the country, and indeed the continent. America was built by bold industrialists, each vying for dominance. The Korean Chaebols (large, conglomerate family-controlled firms) which are now global giants, grew huge thanks to fierce competition amongst themselves that pushed them to innovate, be lean and become globally competitive.”
Significantly, together, the two wildly successful entrepreneurs constitute the utility of a Nigerian role model especially for their home region of the North. Weaning Nigeria away from a general obsession with public office to the productivity driven industrial sector is a magic wand against Nigeria’s killer pandemic of corruption. They offer me a clarification of my position on the political reforms that are germane to the productivity driven development of Nigeria. That no one is suggesting that Fulani or northern Muslim identity is synonymous with backwardness and lacking in achievement motivation.