Published On: Tue, Jun 16th, 2015

Now, how will he govern? (1)

… Threats & dangers to the Jonathan Presidency

The conventional wisdom is that the result of the last presidential election was simply a matter of an unpopular president Goodluck Jonathan losing to a more popular candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Well, it’s not really as simple as that. Over three years ago – indeed, shortly after his election in 2011 – I had done a-3-part series, which eerily predicted the outcome of Jonathan’s administration and his eventual electoral fate.
I am reproducing the article here for you, dear readers, to see for yourself how history often repeats itself. And how right I was three years ago…

There is an Igbo proverb that if you tell a child that life is deep and mysterious he will gaze into the atmosphere as if to check it out. But life is truly deep and definitely mysterious. However, it is not something that can be measured at a glance. Even more mysterious and deeper is power. Many classical political theorists have called it a never ending war fought by other means, apart from guns and bombs. Even then, most wars have been products of politics and struggles for power. Of course, politics is the core issue in life. The legitimate control of the instruments of coercion and the official control of the ability to determine the parameters for the allocation of resources, are the most motivating imperatives of life. Most wars in history have been as a result of the perennial contest for power. Kingdoms have risen and fallen according to the dynamPrince Emeka Obasi's photo.ics of the power struggle. The history of the modern world used to be an almost unpunctuated rendition of wars. However, the advent of democracy as a viable system of governance and perhaps more effectively, the devastating consequences of the two world wars have tempered man’s eager inclination to resort to the force of arms in pursuit of political ends. Obviously of course, wars have not been totally stopped as the ultimate weapons for political quest. The multiple crises raging in many countries of the world today is a telling lesson.
The contest for power in Nigeria has been as severe and as combustible as it is in various other countries. Nigeria’s multiplicity has merely complicated the problem.

The colonial legacy and the realities of independence created a distorted country, where the three major ethnic nationalities of Igbo, Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba, dominated the country, muscling out the minority groups and promoting mutually suspicious visions of Nigeria. From the outset, the North was totally disadvantaged in the contest. Its historical and cultural burden made it unable to compete against the South, consisting of the enterprising Igbos and the sophisticated Yoruba whose geography and early embrace of Western education had made formidable contestants. To make up for its disadvantages, the North insisted on a contentious numerical strength, aided and abetted by the British, and struck a pose of indifference to the whole concept of Nigerian nationalism. Whether the tactics was real or not did not quite matter. It worked, because the Igbo led by the Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who was enamoured by the vision of a big Nigerian nation, opted to pacify the North and pursued the independence struggle on its terms. As a result, from the time the country won independence in 1960, the North as geographically defined, assumed the control and leadership of the country. It was clearly an anomalous situation because by 1960, the North was the least prepared of all the regions to lead the country. It lacked the human capital to build and transform a newly independent nation into true greatness. What was worse, its vision of the country was nebulous and its belief in the notion of Nigeria was at best suspect and at worst, cynical. To the Northern political elite, Nigeria was Lagos and certainly Lagos was inferior to Kaduna. So the Northern political titan, Sir Ahmadu Bello opted to stay back in Kaduna and sent his side kick, Sir Tafawa Balewa to Lagos instead.

It is interesting to compare his attitude with Awo and Zik’s responses to the same issue. Zik left the Eastern region in the hands of his own side kick, M.I. Okpara and headed to Lagos to occupy a ceremonial presidency. Awo left the Western region in the hands of his lieutenant, S.L. Akintola and headed to Lagos to become leader of the opposition.

So what the North offered Nigeria in 1960 was a second string leadership. A decent gentleman, Balewa nevertheless lacked the intellectual strength, vision and original conviction to lead. Curiously, contemporary history has never really examined the issue properly. But the reality is that Balewa was really a regent. The real power lay in Kaduna where Ahmadu Bello reigned in all of his regal splendour. For a newly independent country with such a diverse history, the arrangement was grossly inadequate. Awo’s dynamism and electrifying vision, Zik’s charisma, inspirational leadership, reinforced by the Igbo enterprise showed up Balewa’s weaknesses. But it was not just Balewa, it was the full structure of the Northern world view and socio-political character that failed to measure up.

The Northern response to Nigeria in 1960 was driven by two realities — the North was the most backward, the poorest, the least developed and the least naturally endowed of all the regions; these challenges created a permissive fear of the South within the Northern psyche and engendered a deep seated inferiority complex.

So the Northern elite was not in a hurry to demand independence since it felt independence would only favour the South — Igbos and Yorubas. In the same vein, they did not feel the same depth of concern for rapid social transformation of the country for the some reasons. Obviously, all these are debatable. But a dispassionate reading of Nigeria’s contemporary history will surely validate this position.

The political disturbances of the mid 60s and the eventual civil war were logical consequences of the internal contradictions of the anomalous situation. Any perceptive student of history, in fact, anyone deeply interested in power and its dynamics, would easily have foreseen the civil war and the eventual entrance of the military into politics. I must admit that I have not done enough research on the issue, but I find it curious that Awo, ordinarily thorough, did not do so. But Ahmadu Bello clearly did. An adroit manager of men, a shaper of history and an astute exploiter of circumstances, Ahmadu Bello clearly foresaw the advent of the military as the major determinant of political power.

History records him as having engineered the emergence of a generation of young Northern military officers at the commanding heights of the Nigerian military. So within a decade of independence, the Nigerian Army had become the Northern Army and from the moment Ironsi was killed, the Nigerian Government became the Northern Government even during the Olusegun Obasanjo years as military Head of State. Obasanjo was so enamoured of the Northern power and influence, that he operated a collegiate system of governance in which he shared power with his immediate lieutenants, T.Y. Danjuma and the Fulani Prince, Shehu Yar’adua. In his book, former permanent secretary Philip Asiodu has testified to that unique arrangement.

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