By RICHARD MAMMAH
For those who have eyes to see, the Nigerian polity has finally waltzed its way into a bind. Years of papering over the cracks and averting the discussion of the deep issues of identity and structure are now giving way to a more open demonstration of what the challenges are. ‘It is time to have that conversation.’
And in talking about the conversation, this writer is not first concerned about forms and processes. No, it is rather that as a nation we have to move over to that place where we accept as openly as we can that there is indeed a discussion that we should have had for many years now, and which indeed, we must now have.
We were going to get to this day. It was all clear from the onset. But somehow, we made a habit of skirting around its outlines. Now we can no longer do that without attracting somewhat more indeterminate and clearly unhelpful conclusions. So we have to do what surgeons do: now that we are there, we have to frontally confront the issues, review our options, navigate the contours, and carry out that surgery.
While some would say, how we got to this point is not important, it is the view of this writer that without going to its beginnings, we would yet be shooting blanks. So we have to return to the point where; to borrow from Achebe, ‘the rain began to beat us.’
And historical notes would be quite important here if we are to get it right. For example, when the invading British troops were intent on taking over Kano, Sokoto and the other centres of power that had already been established in what was later to be congregated and organized around the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, one of the leaders who resisted the invasion had been reported to have pointedly told the leaders of the invading British colonisers that even if they succeeded in subduing his people on the field, it would in all reality only be a Pyrrhic Victory as there is indeed nothing that would bring about real convergence ‘between your people and my people,’ or to put it in today’s expanded terms somewhat, between the North and the South. But then a headstrong Lugard proceeded with his plan to conquer all of the territories in the path of his field of sight and go on to amalgamate the then crystallized Northern and Southern Protectorates, with succeeding British colonial administrations following in the path of sustaining the Lugardian construct as had been established.
Even when things came to a head at the Lancaster House Conference of 1958 with evidence pointing to the fact that there were serious differences of philosophy and praxis amongst the coterie of emergent leaders that were at the talks and which needed addressing if sustainable results were to be achieved from the National Independence Project,
the British papered the cracks, set up the Willinks Commission to make remedial proposals on one of the thorny but most critical points that had been identified and then went on with the business of transferring neo-colonial power to bickering regional behemoths, while leaving them to fight it out among themselves for who would take the top prize in the unfolding neo-colonial structure and arrangement that had been put together. However, given the balance of tension that was even then all so very noticeable, could the British not have seen even then that the better interests of the emergent nation would have been better served by more stridently interrogating the possibility that the scramble for the top spot would invariably come to be and continue to be an almost permanent point of discomfiture in the emergent nation? In all honesty, did the British, that yet held a lot of the aces at this time, not see this? Were they that helpless as to not have helped in the crystallization and emergence of an alternative and properly grounded framework that would address the now continuing challenge of ferocious bickering and struggling for the top spot?
Anyway, they did not and the land has simply not rested since then.
Going forward since then, it has been the lot of Nigerians to remain hobbled by this fundamental error of construct. And it is a challenge that has not been helped by elite manipulation of this unviable status quo and a hypocritical refusal to rise to the challenge of comprehensively resetting the national structure fabric in such a way as to permit even greater and more substantial benefits for all.
Under this state of the yoke, successive bands of military and civilian rulers have emerged on the scene, feathered their nests, ‘empowered’ a few friends, relatives and kinsmen within their primary line of sight, but left the bulk of the citizenry and the ordinarily gargantuan potential of the nation unexplored and developed.
Today, as we commence the slow but steady descent into the twilight of the Muhammadu Buhari years, and with identity politics now being so fully ingrained in our body politic, the challenge is being seen and posed in terms of how to provide some veneer of comfort to firstly, the Northern elite. Should things follow what many see as its logical course within the bourgeois Nigerian context of ‘turn by turn’ leadership – within that relatively now established elite framework where emergent rulers tend to see and cater to those within their primary line of sight – and power shifts to the South, how would ‘Northern interests’ best be served? And then, what are these interests?
To answer that, we have gone ahead to isolate from the range of popular developments currently in the field of political play, what looks like the Top Ten 2023 ‘conditions’ that the North may have already put on the table as negotiating points for the one who wants to fly the Southern President card to respond to.
Indeed, and as things stand now, the reality is that the Northern elite have already seemingly defined what they want and it is not hidden.
These include and are not limited to, retaining political and public service appointments leverage, retaining dominant projects leverage, retaining national cultural values leverage, a strong place for Sharia and the Islamic in the national ethic, the continued establishment of Ruga colonies countrywide, along with free room for the ‘Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ to graze their cattle and do their business in any part of the country.
Others are soft landing for Boko Haram and other northern-linked insurgent formations, should they be apprehended by the security services, the right to the settlement of Northerners everywhere in the country, continued membership of OPEC, the OIC and other Global Islamic Power constructs that Nigeria is presently aligned with, continued provision of economic subsidies for economic variables like fuel, power and agriculture that heavily impact on the economic lives of the people of the north, rebuilding and expanding the northern industrial base, and continuing with infrastructure and economic linkage projects to the Northern-linked nations of Niger, Chad and also North Africa.
So, who does the cap fit, Mr Southern president contender? How do you want to play?