The north in desperate search of direction By Maijama'a Sule Tankakar

Ambassador MBG Dogonyaro, of blessed memory, once said that in the north, there are no mediocre. You are either very good or very bad, but not an average simpleton. Another attribute of an average northerner is that he or she produces his or her best when under pressure. That must have been the reason why there was never any Pan-Northern organization until around 2000 when the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) was formed, largely as a result of the direct assault on northerners in the Southwest by Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) militia.

When the OPC attacks subsided, the ACF started losing steam. This lull in agenda-setting activity ended recently with the current challenges facing the north. It is promising to be the third challenge that has ever faced the north since the establishment of the pre-colonial kingdoms, empires and caliphates of the northern states. The first challenge was direct British colonial rule when the colonial troops led by Lord Lugard entered Sokoto on March 15, 1903.

The second challenge was the first military intervention in Nigeria’s history which took place on January 15, 1966. The military, led by Major Nzeogwu, killed not only the northern political leaders and some of their southern allies who were in charge of Nigeria at that time but also virtually eliminated all senior military officers of northern extraction whose only crime was that they were northerners.

The third challenge is what is happening now, just over a century after the first major challenge. The difference between what is currently taking place and the previous ones is that there is total lack of cohesion, there is no single core group to direct affairs, and there is no clearly identifiable leadership, clearly articulated agenda and a clearly focused direction. This is what makes the current challenge very complex and the way out very complicated.

There have been a lot of attempts by some concerned citizens of the north to address the emerging and established challenges facing the region. When the elders seem to be preoccupied with health and other personal challenges, some younger generations consisting of ex-government officials, politicians and businessmen came together to rub minds on what is happening and the way forward. This group was what turned out to be called the Coalition for Democracy (CODE) Group.

CODE Group apparently wasted so much time planning and articulating positions behind the scene. Another group, of some patriotic professionals, academics and politicians, suddenly came out and made public its deliberations and positions on the state of the north in contemporary Nigeria. This group, which became known as the Coalition of Concerned Northerners (CCN) is led by firebrand Second Republic federal legislator, Dr. Junaidu Mohammed.

Soon after the CCN issued its communiqué in which it tried to call the bluff of those clamoring for a Sovereign National Conference and went ahead to set up some committees to look into specific challenges facing the north, some northern elders, including former heads of state, vice president and other older generation politicians came together under the umbrella of Arewa Coalition Action for Change (ACAC) in Abuja for the same purpose as the two previous recent attempts to address these challenges. Last Monday, there was yet another gathering at Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, called Arewa Elders Forum under the chairmanship of Justice Mamman Nasir for the same reasons as these previous ones.

What comes out of all these is the fact that there is a realization of the fact that there are serious challenges facing the north, which go down to the very basis of the existence and survival of the region, which require very urgent attention and cogent solutions. Another thing that comes out of all these attempts is the fact that the memberships of these groups keep overlapping, leading to duplication of efforts.

From all these formal gathering and so many informal ones, many people are raising some fundamental questions that go to the very roots of all these problems. These include: what have these leaders done when they got their chances in the past? Why didn’t they mentor younger ones as the great Sardauna did to them? If the north is insisting on getting the presidency at the end of the tenure of this administration, is there any clear agenda on how to develop the region and the nation to avoid the squandering of opportunities of the past? What really does the north stand for and what does it really want and for what?

I have been having meetings with some friends at our lower level. And I have been invited to a couple of informal ones as well. But my response has always been the same! Let us clearly articulate what we want; then identify the strategies on how to get what we want; before trying to see who to put forward. And let no northerner delude himself or herself into thinking that the world is stagnant or Nigeria as a nation is static.

Nigeria has since been moving forward, and the world is very dynamic. The north must come to the realization that it must build necessary alliances and sufficient networks based on mutual respect to achieve anything. Northerners must know that no group keeps playing the same card over and over again and expect to succeed. Nigeria is very complex now. The integration process since 1914 has not only deepened but indeed widened.

Seventy percent of the population of the country are below thirty years, as such, it will be very suicidal to put forward those who may think mouse is a big rat instead of a part of a computer. The older generation must also know that the best thing they have to do now is to retire into the background to give advice and guidance as well as blessings and prayers while the younger elements take charge.

The north must begin to think strategically. No area is immuned to global influences now. The north cannot live in isolation and it cannot achieve anything alone. As such there is need to treat all components within the north fairly and equitably for peace and unity as well as accommodate and welcome those who live within or are neighbors justly and hospitably. The north, like Nigeria is never the same and everyone must come to this reality.


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