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Economic hardship: Northern leaders in trouble over support for President Tinubu

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Economic hardship: Northern leaders in trouble over support for President Tinubu

– “He has betrayed us” – Northerners; “No, Buhari did worse”- Analysts

The relationship between President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the conservative Northern political establishment, which helped him to become president following overwhelming support during the last presidential election may be tearing at the seams.

Most of the northern leaders, especially the former governors, who were instrumental to Tinubu’s emergence are finding it difficult to face their people on the rationale for such support, as the current economic hardship in the country has had crushing effect on the north, where average poverty rate is twice that of the south.

Senator Shehu Sani last week gave indication of this in his usual sarcastic polemics, when he challenged those supporters to now walk the talk, insisting that he warned the people severally on the danger of voting for Tinubu.

Developments since Tinubu came to power may have been responsible for the strains in the chummy relationship sealed just before the 2023 presidential election. At the core of the snap is a panoply of factors, which have since coalesced together to threaten the region’s support for Mr. Tinubu should he indicate interest in second term of office.

The unprecedented economic crisis, and the attendant suffering and hardships Nigerians are currently experiencing as a result of the Tinubu administration’s removal of subsidy on petrol and the harmonisation of foreign exchange rate, are the root cause. The impact of the twin actions has been felt more in the North, where before the removal itself poverty and hardships had reached dizzying heights.

Northern Nigeria is facing a raft of problems. It is economically disadvantaged compared to the rest of the country, with 87% of poor Nigerians living in the north. There is a limited access to education and basic infrastructure, such as electricity, clean drinking water and sanitation. Job prospects are low. There are also over 2.9 million internally displaced people due to insecurity related to militant groups like Boko Haram and banditry, according to the United Nations.

The hardships have pushed the exodus of many Northern youths to the Southern part of the country in search of greener pastures. About three weeks ago, the Emir of Kano, Ado-Bayero told Oluremi Tinubu, the president’s wife, to extend his message to her husband that Northerners are facing unprecedented severe hardships . The occasion was during her visit to Kano to commission the Sani Abacha university, Kano.

In the same vein, two Wednesdays ago, the Chairman of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar lll, decried the deteriorating socio-economic conditions and the insecurity ravaging the north.

Addressing his colleagues at the sixth executive committee meeting of the Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council, with the theme: ‘Enhanced Security as a panacea for stability and development of the North,’ in Kaduna on Wednesday, Abubakar declared that with the current downturn of the economy, which had inflicted untold hardships on Nigerians, all was not well with Nigeria, especially the north.

He lamented that the twin monsters confronting the nation at the moment were poverty and insecurity, which if not tackled urgently, could spell doom for Nigeria.

But he was quick to exonerate President Tinubu while noting that the sorry state of the nation was the continuation of the last administration of the All Progressives Congress under ex-president Muhammadu Buhari.

“To me, this government is a continuation of the former government; it is the same party. So, what really is the problem? I think that is one of the reasons we are here to talk to ourselves,” Abubakar said.

The seething anger of the North was further given fuel when the administration decided to relocate some departments of the Central Bank and Federal Airport Authority to Lagos for economic and strategic reasons bereft of politics or ethnic sentiments.

Leading the charge against the decision, and coalescing together the firestorm of the Northern anger against the decision was Senator Ali Ndume, who represents Borno South at the Senate. He vociferously condemned the development, vowing that it would have dire political consequences for Tinubu, a subtle, veiled threat against the president’s reelection come 2027.

On the matter, there appears to be a groundswell of opinions against the relocation as recently the Katsina State Elders Forum warned President Bola Tinubu to as a matter of urgency reverse the planned decision to relocate some departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), warning that he might lose the support of northern Nigeria unless the move is halted. It also asked him to stop the scheduled relocation of the ongoing expansion project of the Umaru Musa Yar’adua International Airport in the best interest of Nigeria. The Secretary of the Forum Aliyu Mohammed in a press conference held recently in the state capital, described the decision as unwarranted and unconstitutional.

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Another touchy issue that has pitted the Northern political establishment against the president was the way the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which Tinubu is the chairman, treated Niger Republic following the coup last year. The North has cultural and social ties with Niger, which date back to centuries, many Northerners felt that Tinubu did not consider the sensitivity of the issues and the geopolitical impacts of the ECOWAS action. Closing the borders along seven northern states was big blow to both their economy and social relations.

Professor Ousman Yusuf, former Executive Secretary of NHIF and a leading Northern intellectual, condemned the way ECOWAS under Tinubu leadership handled the Niger affairs, he has also criticized the growing frustrations and hardships in the land.

Also a social political group, Arewa New Agenda has voiced its opposition to the administration of Bola Tiinubu, citing as one of its reasons the alleged marginalisation of the North.

Addressing journalists on the new move, the president of the group, Senator Ahmad Abubakar Moallayidi, alleged that Northern Nigeria was short-changed by the Tinubu administration, despite its numerical strength to determine the political direction and the leadership of the country.

ANA, last Thursday in Yola, the Adamawa state capital, declared its opposing stance on the rotational presidency, alluding to President Bola Tinubu’s “it is my turn” comment before the 2023 election.

According to him, President Tinubu had abandoned the North, which gave him the bulk of the ballots that brought him to power.

ANA was formed by notable northerners, consisting of the political elite and technocrats in the ranks of the former Head of Service of the Federation, Yayale Ahmed, Senator Jonathan Silas Zwingina, among others.

As it is now, unless President Tinubu builds a counterbalancing new power base in the North by empowering loyalists, who can rally his cause in the 2027 battle to whittle down the influence of elements opposed to him, his administration may face strong opposition from the north for the rest of his term and will have real challenge for reelection.

Even at that a lot depends on how he tackles growing restiveness, hunger, hardships and frustration.

Many Northerners are not happy about the growing insecurity, and are getting frustrated that nine months after coming to power Tinubu has not been able to tame the demon.

On the anger of the North against Tinubu, Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, told Business Hallmark that “there is an element of arrogant entitlement mentality on the part of those making noise over alleged subtle marginalisation. “Compared to Buhari, Tinubu has not marginalized the North. Buhari did 100 percent. They are merely making political statement for relevance. I’m not a fan of Tinubu but on this score I disagree with that position.”

Dr. Ajibade Adesoji, a social historian said “What are they saying? That Tinubu marginalized the North is a gratuitous insult on the mentality of the South. What has Tinubu done, that Buhari did not do it seven folds. I think it’s high time these ethnic chauvinists be told the truth that Nigeria belongs to everybody, and not the exclusive preserve of any one ethnic group. There are more Northerners in Tinubu’s administration than South easterners”.

Seyi Odetola, a London-based Nigerian lawyer and business man, told Business Hallmark that “Northerners crying wolf are people seeking relevance in that region.

On his own, Dr. Olufemi Omoyele, a public affairs analyst said “Tinubu may have put more Yorubas in his administration than Northerners but he has not marginalized the North. He has given them strategic ministries”.

 

 

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