DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN
The latest potential outrage in Nigeria is the credible speculation that the two dominant parties, the All Progressive Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP are scheming to present Nigeria with the fait accompli of two northern moslems as their presidential candidates. Both are using the vaunted fanaticism of this subset of the Nigerian electorate as alibi.
That, regardless of political party affiliation, if one presents a northern moslem as presidential candidate and the other does not, the latter is guaranteed to lose the election.The orchestration of this theory of political backwardness manifested first in the PDP with the causative emergence of Iyorchia Ayu as party chairman.
Confirming speculations of him playing John the baptist for vice-president Atiku Abubakar, it was under his tutelage that the presumption of zoning the party’s presidential ticket to the south was thrown overboard. Equally there was the initial assumption that president Mohammadu Buhari and the APC may yet partially redeem themselves by following through on the hitherto stipulated rotation of the presidential ticket to the south.
On the contrary, especially since the emergence of the northern irredentist and probity challenged Abdullahi Adamu as party chairman, the Nigerian public has been treated to the dissìmulation of ambiguity and equivocation. We are now being advised that the famed capacity of Buhari to sway his cult followership(in the North) to the cause of national unity and integration stops short of his identification with this noble objective.
If this is truly the case (and not a ruse by the region’s irredeemable political leadership), it raises the poser-isn’t there something shameful about this inherent attribution of backwardness and negative exceptionalism to these Nigerians? Of holding the country to ransom at any departure point for making a nation out of Nigeria? Yet Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu are supposed to be the problems of this country.
I have hitherto argued that the partisan divide in Nigeria is less PDP vs APC and mostly the abiding north-south dichotomy (currently embodied in a Buhari writ large constituency versus the rest of us).The platitude is that Nigeria is more divided today than it has ever been. If this is the case, what then are the potential measures available for its mitigation or exacerbation? The most damaging aspect of the Buhari presidency has been the sharp knive taken to practically sunder the thin fabric holding the country together.
The worst case scenario is for calamitous incompetence to reinforce raw divisive nepotism. In being so culpable, the Buhari dispensation continues to make a strong case for the non viability of Nigeria.The experience of the past seven years has simplified and clarified this untenable situation to such an extent that the least educated and unexposed farmer in my village can independently arrive at the conclusion that Nigeria has nothing better to offer him than discrimination and impoverished servitude. The Nigerian water well has been sufficiently polluted and poisoned with the destructive power politics of the winner-takes-all, and the genie, so to say, has popped out of the bottle.
In the short term, the lapse of another Northerner as successor to Buhari will be the culmination and climax of this trend. And will be a fitting epitath to the Buhari presidency that it was under his watch that Nigeria took this most precipitate step.
I will iterate, that by themselves, difficulties, hardship and challenges are routine and inevitable in the affairs of man and society (and often becomes the spur for a quantum leap in socioeconomic development). What matters is the predisposition of the citizenry to collectively rise to meet the occasion with the sense of a shared nationhood borne of non discriminatory governance and commonality of purpose. You would then have fostered a formidable Nigerian coalition of the willing rearing to contend with any national adversity. And then the J.F. Kennedy exhortation to ‘ask what you can do for your country’ will become the rallying banner.
By the same token, discriminatory policies, institutions and governance logically foster the obverse – the alienation and demobilisation of the citizens; and an inherent rejection of the ethos of collective sacrifice without which no nation can prosper and endure. An indication of this consequential weakening of national resolve is the contemporary lacklustre performance of the Nigerian army against the Boko Haram insurgency (in contrast to the efficiency of neighbouring Nigerien military). Would a disaffected cadre of the Nigerian military consider themselves as having an equal stake in fighting for a country they no longer believe in?
The less emphasised lesson of the transition of power from President Goodluck Jonathan to Buhari in 2015 is that it was given momentum by the background of the premature termination of rotation of power to the North – stymied by the peremptory exit of late President Umaru Yar’Adua. Were Jonathan to have become president after a two term (eight years) rotation to the North, his exit from office after one term and (consequent reversal of power to the North) would have been quite problematic.
Behind the veil of the ostensible Jonathan enabled democracy leap of faith is the compelling masquerade of the unfulfilled Yar’Adua tenure. Twenty nine years ago, it is doubtful there would have been any nation threatening crisis were the military president who annulled the June 1993 presidential election to be Yoruba. These two instances constitute a specific background to the expediency of power rotation in Nigeria.
The attendant crisis of the 1993 election was far less about democracy and more about the monopoly of power by the North. It is the reason there was a contrived concession of power to the South West in 1999 and the stabilising enactment of the zoning convention. It is the reason the still born vice president Abubakar Atiku’s challenge to president Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 was ultimately doomed.
Speaking on behalf of the Western region to the pre civil war situation in May 1967, Chief Obafemi Awolowo had this to say “If any region in Nigeria considers itself strong enough to compel us to enter into association with it on its own terms, I would only wish such a region luck. But such luck, I must warn, will, in the long run be no better than that which has attended the doings of all colonial powers down the ages.
This much I must say in addition, on this point. We have neither military might nor the overwhelming advantage of numbers here in Western Nigeria and Lagos. But we have justice of a noble and imperishable cause on our side, namely: the right of a people to unfettered self-determination. If this is so, then God is on our side, and if God is with us then we have nothing whatsoever in this world to fear”. In thus speaking to the prevalent context of balance of terror (in which the North wielded the advantage) Awolowo might as well be addressing himself to the emergent Nigerian situation.The current dispensation is even worse – when the embarrassing governance incompetence of Buhari and nationwide security breakdown are factored into the equation.
Igboho may not be Awolowo but in his boots on the ground galvanisation of the Yoruba self-determination spirit he is the current personification of the position eloquently tabled by the latter at a comparable period in Nigeria’s history. And this is precisely the symbolism of Professor Wole Soyinka’s courtesy visit to him at coutonu the other day. If Nigeria has deteriorated to such a degree that this is the perception of Igboho, blame the increasingly intolerable status-quo for making identification with Igboho a growth industry. Blame those who have taken Nigeria captive to an agenda that may be tolerable or beneficial to some and completely degrading to others. If we are getting increasingly powerless to influence a course reversal, we are, at least, entitled to the right to repudiate the Nigeria indicated in this trend.
With reference to Awolowo’s observation on “military might and the overwhelming advantage of numbers”, the population numbers game is the original sin of the Nigerian union and its fraudulence is contemporaniusly captured in the following report by the Guardian of London “Indeed, the official 1963 figure of 55.6 million as total national population is inconsistent with the census of a decade earlier because it implies a virtually impossible annual growth rate of 5.8 percent’. One of the abiding peculiarities of Nigeria is that the full knowledge of the fraudulence of these figures notwithstanding, it has been adopted intoto and remains the standard for extrapolating the validity of subsequent enumeration of Nigerians.
Such subsequent exercises have been little more than a variation and proportional upward review of the figures initially attributed to each region and states. Here again is the London newspaper “analysis of the data for each of the country’s 36 states and its capital shows that INEC has increased the number of new registered voters by almost exactly the same percentage across all states.
The correlation is a “statistical impossibility”. Plotted on a scatter line graph, there is a 0.99 correlation across all the states, without a single outlier. According to three separate data analysts, the parity cannot be a coincidence. “Only God works that closely,”. It is significant that the only population census bereft of any political implication and fignalling has the figures of 9,075560 and 8,615376 for the southern and northern provinces respectively-as extracted from the table showing the total number of Nigerian deaths during the pandemic of 1918-1919.
It used to be the case that a northern proxy from the south (as president) reinforced with a stranglehold on the national assembly is deemed sufficient guarantee for the subsistence of northern hegemony. But like Oliver Twist the managers keep coming for more until there is nothing left to give.
Going forward, the challenge confronting the wounded sub national communities comprising Nigeria transcends the superficial divide between the two major parties. And it does not require a soothsayer to predict that, in the current trajectory, the country is headed for a scheduled appointment with fate. Meanwhile monumental efforts are going to be deployed to divide and dismember the ranks of the politically disinherited and render them prey to a renewed bid for internal colonialism. It is a period that will test our individual and collective resolve to stare down the political menace with which Nigerians are, once again, confronted.