After reading Professor Ben Nwabueze’s treatise on the north – south divide, I began to wonder whether the old man should still have the intellectual morality to use the appellation ‘Professor’ as a prefix to his name.
The crass ignorance, partisanship and opportunism displayed in the presentation couldn’t have been born by a professorial mind – or so I believed. Turn out I was wrong. Every sentence, every paragraph of the discourse was dripping with ignorance and hate for the political and geographical entity known and called ‘northern Nigeria’. The nature of the presentation was windy and incoherent, full of contradictions rendering his effort incomprehensible.
The only thing that was clear to me in all the verbose paper was Nwabueze’s hatred for northern Nigeria camouflaged in his interrogation of the Amalgamation of 1914. My take on the whole thing is that Nwabueze, as one of the people selected by Goodluck Jonathan to midwife his “National Dialogue”, simply presented a template for the advisory committee to work on. Though by selecting him, Tony Nyiam and Tony Uranta a MEND ideologue, Jonathan provided the template. These are known advocates of the break-up of Nigeria.
Nwabueze’s hated north, before the balkanisation of the region in 1967, which was preceded by the formation of a Unitary government by his kinsman, JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi, who himself came to power in the aftermath of the decimation of northern political and military leadership also by his kinsmen – Nzegwu, Ifeajuna, Okafor and co. – has been a self sustaining political entity.
The administrative set-up the British met in the region was at par with what obtains in their country and therefore they found no need to change the administrative set-up. Unlike the east where the British met unorganised communities at war with each other and no central administrative set-up to administer to the needs of the people.
In other words, while pre-1914 north was an organised political entity, Nwabueze’s south – particularly the south east – was grappling with communal clashes and teething problems of trying to live in peace with each other. It was the British for their expediency, who created ‘warrant chiefs’ to assist them in governing an already pacified people. The British had to wage wars all across the north in order to conquer the area and bring it under colonial rule.
What comes out from Nwabueze’s sorry treatise is no different from what has been attempted in the past through innuendos, boos and even murder in order to destroy the cohesiveness among the disparate peoples of the region. Connotations like Hausa-Fulani, middle belt and core north were the old phrases used in the past. Now Nwabueze has introduced a new one – True North. Wherever there is ‘true’, It is automatically assumed there must be false.
We would like the old man to show us the false north. To locate the historical hatred of the region by Nwabueze, one needs to go back to the January 15th, 1966 coup organised and executed by an all Igbo officer corps, when all senior military officers of northern extraction within the country were massacred; same goes for all senior politicians from the region. Not a single military officer or politician from the east was harmed that night. The triumphalist attitude displayed by the Igbos in northern towns and cities like Kano and Kaduna led to the killing of Igbos in Kano and the demand for the dissolution of the country by northerners. The federal government rejected this call.
Ojukwu’s intransigence and other political developments led to a needless thirty-month civil war. Ever since, the north has been at the receiving end of the sharp tongues of the Nwabuezes. The difference between now and then was that what they tried and failed using the barrel of the gun, they believe they can achieve through sophistry dressed in intellectual garb. This can be seen in Achebe’s “There Was a Country” and the sustained assault on the history of the country by trying to rewrite.
Since Jonathan’s Advisory Committee is made up of many more Nwabuezes – recall Tony Nyiam of the failed 1990 coup against Babangida – I suggest we shouldn’t waste time convening a “conversation” just to realise what the panellists’ pedigree portends. Tony Nyiam and his fellow coupists excised what Nwabueze derogatorily refers to as ‘true north’ in 1990. Confluence of interests? Jonathan nominated the gun wielding coupist and the pen wielding one as those to deliver his model Nigeria. What more do you need to comprehend the direction of the Committee?
Why is Nwabueze only now realising that the division between the north and south is real? After spending a lifetime trying to ensure that the divide is ‘real’ by his co-travellers, why is he only now waking up to the reality of the failure of their venture? If his piece is meant to be a template to the Advisory Committee, I wish them good luck. And if it is meant to be a call to arms for those he claimed not to have any affinity with each other, then we wait and see.
Though the likes of Nwabueze have been trying to rewrite history in many ways, this has been the most unscholarly. Nwabueze’s concept of one Nigeria is clearly linked to internal colonialism where the Igbos are given unfettered economic and commercial access to the whole north in the face of the absence of reciprocity in the east. This has been the state of things but I don’t blame the Nwabuezes of this world.
The blame lies squarely with our kindred who have been bending backwards in order that Nigeria remains one. Have we critically ever thought of what we have gotten out of the union? Apart from insults, what has the north gotten from its accommodating deportment? Must we continue on the same destructive path in order to remain in a Nigeria that we are not wanted?
Jonathan has shown his hands by the calibre of people he populated his committee with, are we still blind to the realities staring us in the face? The antecedents of its members already vitiate the impartiality of the committee’s work – particularly Tony Nyiam with Nwabueze withdrawing due to what he said are health issues confronting him.
Despite Lugards best intentions in forging a big and strong country by amalgamating the northern and southern protectorates and the efforts of northerners in ensuring the country remained united, including fighting a war, the Nwabuezes made sure the two divides never gelled into a cohesive country with diverse cultures and people. Gilding his acidic submission in pseudo-intellectual verbosity doesn’t detract from the fact that Nwabueze has proven to be not better than a glorified ethnic irredentist.
The Nigerian media has always lent itself to the likes of Nwabueze and celebrated their caricaturing of a section of the country. Instead of the old man indulging himself in an unstable hodgepodge of ‘unprofessorial’ wishful thinking, he should be well advised to have the courage of his conviction by saying what is on his mind in one sentence – LET US DE-AMALGAMATE – rather than the twelve page banality he put up.
Two of Jonathan’s Committee members have shown their hands. At its meeting with the people in Benin, Tony Nyiam shouted down a governor because the governor wasn’t playing the script and we have seen Nwabueze’s incoherent and inarticulate Nigeria. The rest will as sure as night follows day, will certainly show their hands.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...