- By ABBA MAHMOOD —
An average northerner produces his best when under pressure. That is why no person or group from there has taken it upon itself to respond to anything until the last minute. And the response is always very cogent and makes the maximum impact. Nigeria is one country today just because the northerners want it so. But this situation may not continue for long. And, as a Fulani saying goes, when the forest catches fire, the grasshoppers don’t say goodbye to each other.
From the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) which was formed in response to the attacks on non-Yoruba by the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) in the late 1990s and beginning of this millennium, many pan-Northern groups have been formed; the last one was established last Saturday at YarAdua Centre, Abuja, which heralded the formation of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF). Like most such gatherings, some of the best and some of the worst were in attendance. The fact that these meetings take place at all was enough achievement.
That the north is now a caricature of its former self is not in doubt. That the leaders have lost control of their people is also a fact. That the northern elite are some of the most snobbish is also true. That for almost four decades since independence successive governments were headed by northerners but they have failed to adequately prepare their people for the challenges of modern nationhood and to take their rightful positions in Nigeria and in the world is also a reality.
However, this is not the time for lamentation and blame apportioning. What confronts the north is its very existence and survival. And when you are confronted with both internal and external threats, you cannot afford to continue complaining. You look for short-, medium- and long-term solutions within the given context and circumstance, putting all options and scenarios together.
The first challenge northern Nigeria faced was the advent of colonial rule in 1903. The second existential challenge was the military coup of January 15, 1966, when all the first-generation political and military leaders were assassinated.
This is the third and most dangerous challenge that the north had ever faced. It is most dangerous because there is no credible leadership let alone a coherent strategy to confront it. To make matters worse, personality clash, ego, greed and unbridled ambitions have continued to make virtually every elite of the region have a price. And, as Saddam Hussein of Iraq once said, when money cannot corrupt you, too much money can. Thus, when the price is right, most of the current so-called leaders can succumb.
There are 19 states in the north and, of course, the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. From Abuja, one has to travel 340km before one leaves the northern territory. That was why Sardauna Sir Ahmadu Bello, the first and only premier of the Northern Region, told the Americans in 1961 when he visited there that Northern Nigeria was the most populous African region after Egypt. But, for some obvious and not so obvious reasons, it is an ineffective majority.
How can it be effective when it has the highest number of beggars, destitute, street urchins and illiterate population? How can it be effective when it has no plan for itself let alone for the nation it is now a part of? How can it be effective when it has elected and appointed leaders who do not know its interests let alone how to protect them? In short, how can it be effective when it is a house divided against itself?
The youth in the North are not being mentored as elders do not want to give them chance to prove themselves and be corrected by the elders when they are still alive. The elected federal legislators of the north mostly employ those who are not from their constituencies as aides and even help to employ people from other areas into the federal service at the expense of their people who elected them. This is the north’s predicament.
One of the most strategic states in the north is Kaduna. Every ideology or philosophy that northerners ever proffered originated from Kaduna. It’s composed of some of the most conservative elements as well as some of the most radical. In fact, Mallam Aminu Kano learnt his ideas from his stay in Zaria under Alkali Lawal who later became Wazirin Zazzau. The foundation of Darika sect is in Kaduna; the root of Izala sect is in Kaduna; and the headquarters of Shi’a sect is in Kaduna State.
It is thus a pity that Kaduna is now a theatre of war. It is also a typical example of how the north has so degenerated that someone like one Uba Sani would insult a respected elder like Prof. Ango Abdullahi whose contributions to the development of the north and Nigeria all the Uba Sanis, past and future generations, can never equal let alone surpass. There is no more Kaduna Mafia, as it has been defanged and even demystified, but Kaduna is key to the solution of northern and indeed Nigeria’s dilemma.
Kaduna was the state of residence of President Buhari; Mallam Mamman Daura, Buhari’s influential nephew; as well as Mallam Abba Kyari, Buhari’s powerful chief of staff; but Kaduna is the most insecure state in Nigeria today. The road from Abuja to Kaduna is just 180km but not even government officials feel free to take the road at any time of the day or night. The villagers had volunteered information on those kidnapping on these roads but they were in turn killed by the kidnappers. This is a shame and a disgrace.
History is on the side of the oppressed.