In the last few days the following contributions from two eminent personalities have inflamed passions and been the topic of heated debate all over the country. The first came from Alhaji Lawal Kaita, a respected elder-statesman and a former Governor of the old Kaduna state on the platform of the defunct NPN. He was quoted as saying that “a northerner… must emerge President in 2015 or we will divide”.
The second came from Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a Second Republic legislator and a man that has held himself out as the unabashed spokesman of a small group of anti-southern and rabidly hardline conservative northerners over the last few years. He was quoted as saying that “there will be bloodshed if Jonathan runs in 2015”.
In as much as I have consistently and vigorously opposed the Jonathan Presidency over the last two years, there is only one thing that I abhor even more than the sheer ineptitude that I believe that the Jonathan administration represents and that is the sheer arrogance of some of those from the north whose opposition to Jonathan is not borne out of any desire for better governance but rather simply out of a deep desire for power to return to the north simply because they believe that that is where it was always meant to be and that that is where it rightly belongs.
Alhaji Lawal Kaita and Dr. Junaid Mohammed, who were both very vocal in their support of the annulment of Abiola’s June 12th 1993 election on the same grounds of ”northern rights and Fulani supremacy”, belong to that group and wholly espouse that school of thought. Their latest contributions to national issues are reflected in the two quotations that I have cited above and frankly all I can say is that these two gentlemen have really got a nerve. The arrogance of their words remind me of an assertion by another well-known northern elder who, just a few weeks ago when I paid him a visit in his home, said, in my presence and that of a number of others, that the ”northern christians are nothing” and that ”if push comes to shove and an election is fought their numbers count for far less than those of we northern muslims”.
Needless to say I, together with a number of others that were in that room, were utterly shocked by his submission. Clearly this elderstatesman, for whom I still have tremendous respect and affection, is living in the past. For the record let it be clearly understood and let no one be under any illusion about it- a rejection of or opposition to the Jonathan Presidency does NOT in any way mean that we will accept a return to the days of southern slaves and northern masters.
The sweet truth is that the days of the slave and the slave-master, the horse and the horse-rider, the master and the groveling servant and the ”poor husband of the north and rich wife of the south” (as Lord Lugard so aptly put it in 1914) are long over in Nigeria. They ended in 1999 with the ascension of President Olusegun Obasanjo to the throne and they shall NEVER return again. If Obasanjo did nothing else in the eyes of even his worst detractors he at least put a nail in that coffin.
He also managed to do the following- he kept Nigeria together despite the fact that at that time the country was on the brink of disintegration as a consequence of the deep alienation of the Yoruba, the aftermath of the June 12th 1993 annulment and the terrible hand that General Abacha dealt the Yoruba. He created a level playing field and ensured that ALL Nigerians, regardless of their religious faith or where they came from, were treated as equals. He broke the hold and power of the north over the military and established the basis for a truly Nigerian Armed Forces as opposed to a northern one.
He ensured that a Niger Deltan became Vice President and later President of the Federal Republic. He ensured that an Igbo man became a General Officer Commanding in the Nigerian Army (which was something that had not happened since 1966 after General Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed and since the civil war). He broke the power of the north over the oil sector, the public sector and the economy and he ensured that merit, rather than nepotism or ethnic bias, was the theme and life-blood of governance.
Under Obasanjo the north stopped being dependent on Federal Government appointments, contracts, largess and goodies and they stopped being indolent and parasitic. They were weaned off Federal government dependency and their addiction to Federal Government patronage and they were forced to work hard and to be productive like everyone else.
This worked beautifully for the north itself and for Nigeria generally and it was under this strict regime of hard work, merit, productivity and discipline that a new generation of northern leaders, most of whom were young, articulate, well-educated, well-informed, zealous, liberal-minded and capable reformers, were spawned and introduced to public office in the country.
These were all pluses for Obasanjo but today, with the sort of sentiments being expressed by a few people in the north, it appears that some want to take us back to the dark old days of ”I must have an Alhaji on my board of directors before I can get anything”. And God forbid that that should ever happen again. As the Americans would say ”we just ain’t going there”.
The two comments that have been attributed to Kaita and Mohammed, both of whom are prominent and respected northerners with immense influence, are not only deeply offensive and provocative to every southerner worth his or her salt, the Yoruba included, but they are also most unhelpful.
They remind me of some of the sort of things that some of our northern brothers were saying just after the annulment of the June 12th election in 1993 and throughout the period of the struggle against Abacha and the northern-controlled Nigerian military as it then was.
Let no one be in any doubt about one thing- The fastest way to unite the south and the Middle Belt and rally support for Goodluck Jonathan, no matter how bad he may be, is for northerners to talk like Kaita and Mohammed have done here. They must stop it forthwith. Love him or hate him, Jonathan has the right to run and we have the right to either support him or not to support him.
The suggestion that there will be bloodshed if he runs simply because he is a southerner or that the country will divide if he happens to win fairly and squarely simply because, in the minds of some, a northerner MUST rule at all costs in 2015 is completely unacceptable. It is also perfidious, intellectually dishonest, racist, shameful and utterly disgusting. Such sentiments will spark off a major conflict in this country if care is not taken and the issue will no longer be a Jonathan Presidency but rather a battle for southern rights.
If it ever comes to that some of us will have no choice but to stand with our people and damn the consequences. Hear me loud and clear- no matter what we will never allow this country to go back to the days of ”born to rule” and rather than allow that to happen we will simply scuttle Nigeria and divide her into two or more pieces before we all end up killing one another. A northerner can rule, not simply because he is a northerner, but because he is the best man for the job and because the majority of Nigerians from both north and south want him as their President. Ditto a southerner.
That is the only acceptable formula. They can take it or leave it. As long as I live the Yoruba nation particularly will no longer be slaves to anyone again, whether it be northerner, Igbo, Ijaw or anything else. The days of compromise and sleeping with the enemy are long over. The south has had a raw deal in the last 53 years of our national existence when compared to the north and even a calamitous Jonathan Presidency does not derogate from that fact.
The last people to be issuing threats to southerners, and I mean ANY southerners including the Jonathan crowd, are the core northern muslims who have held sway over the affairs of this country longer than anyone else in the last 53 years. If there is an alliance against Jonathan let it be based on the principle of equality of all peoples and the rights of all to equal opportunities including the right to rule Nigeria.
Any absurd notion about the so-called right of the north to dominate and perpetually rule and enslave others is rejected. That issue was settled long ago and not even a million Lawal Kaitas or Junaid Mohammeds can resurrect or restore such an intellectually barren and primitive philosophy.
Worst still if they try to do so no southerner worth his or her salt will align themselves with them. Fighting Jonathan is one thing but attempting to take on the whole of the south or denigrate her people is another.
If the north is serious about taking power back in 2015 they need to do three things. Firstly they need to silence and muffle the voices of the irredentists and Fulani supremacist dinosaurs in their ranks who still believe that Nigeria is an extenstion of Usman Dan Fodio’s heritage and property. Secondly they need to strongly condemn and disassociate themselves from the activities of Boko Haram and not ask for amnesty for such people. And thirdly they need to field a candidate that is either a liberal-minded northern muslim who is known and acceptable to the south or a northern christian that is trusted and acceptable to not only the south but also to the core muslim north.
Anything short of these three will spell doom for the aspiration of the north to regain the presidency in 2015 and it will result in another victory for President Goodluck Jonathan. A word is enough for the wise.
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