It is not quite difficult to understand the psychology underlying the resurgence of petty anti-north sentiments from a select section of the media in recent times. It started with some spurious claims of marginalisation or perceived lopsidedness in the composition of the Yar’Adua Government in favour of the ‘north’. In responding to these accusations, the Presidential spokesman, Mr. Segun Adeniji not only rolled out the statistics of the current composition of presidential aides but also gave a detailed list of names of key appointees of ‘southern’ extraction most of which were actually inherited from the Obasanjo administration to prove that the allegations were both untrue and mischievous. He observed correctly that these pro-south activists have suddenly realised that Nigeria now has four zones instead of six namely North, South-West, South-South and South-East as if to borrow from a popular advertisement by Mercerdez Benz ‘there are only two zones in Nigeria, North and ‘others’-the said advert says: there are only two cars; Benz and ‘others’.
It is this same categorisation that has placed a ‘middle-belter’ like me in a position where anti-north arrows from intellectual critics of my writings could be hauled at me without apology. Before Obasanjo took over power from the ‘north’ there was a general resentment, essentially orchestrated by the south-western press, against the North which was hinged on perceived political domination by the North. I have had cause in the past to point out the error in this perception and I wish to repeat myself here that this perception, though very faulty, was not without some measure of justification because of the long years of military rule in which the military leaders happened to be dominantly from the north.
Interestingly the embers hate for the north subsided significantly during the eight years in which a prince of Owu, a descendant of Oduduwa held sway at the Villa in Aso indicating that the noise was coming mostly from the south-west (in this article therefore wherever the word south appears, it can be read as south-west). During those gruelling eight years of Obasanjo’s dictatorship the anti-north or pro-south activist redirected their energies into praise singing for the ‘shon of the shoil’. They found every vain reason to applaud their own including the most insignificant achievements like licensing of GSM operators to open the doors of Nigeria to the information gateway. They reasoned that nobody else could have done this even though they knew silently (but wished not to admit it) that the blueprint for the liberalisation of communication in Nigeria was conceived and developed by Abacha before he died. But he deserved no credit for this because he was a northerner and a ‘demon’ in their characterisation.
I make bold to state that it did not take much on the part of the government for GSM to come into the Nigerian market. The private operators got only paper licences to bring in their funds and develop their infrastructure. The government did not use the money they raised through the licensing to upgrade Nitel’s capacity to support the Networks. NTN and Globacom had to build their transmission backbones from scratch. So it did not task the ingenuity of the then president to bring GSM to Nigeria. In fact any dummy could have done this. But ironically this is about the only thing these pundits seem to lay their hands on when searching for a legacy bequeathed to us by that regime. Yet the same people are quick to tell any listening ear how the ‘north’ destroyed Nigeria for three decades. They fail to tell you that the devastation of Nigeria which the ‘north’(military) could not achieve in three decades was easily achieved by their son in just eight years.
I had written the paragraph below in an earlier article on January 15, 2007 titled ‘Census: Blame OBJ and Leave the North Alone’ but I wish to reproduce it here in view of how prophetic the statement has turned out to be.
As May 2007 approaches, we are thus gradually slipping back to the pre-1999 era of negative press against the north simply because it has come to the ‘turn’ of the north to produce their only second executive president since independence. I foresee more of this anti-north propaganda in the next 4-8 years but one thing I can say for sure is that OBJ’s failure should silence his kinsmen’s virulent attacks against the north. OBJ has proved that the Southwest is not superior in wisdom to the north or indeed any other part of the country. Individual leaders must be held accountable for their actions and not the section of the country where they come from. So whoever does not accept the results of the 2006 census should blame OBJ and leave the north alone.
Yes indeed, those seeking for a reason for our backwardness must look beyond this north-south dichotomy. In the absence of any empirical evidence that the south (particularly the south-west) are more intellectually capable to govern the nation than any other section of the country, I am inclined to rely on Obasanjo’s dismal performance to opine that poor governance is more attributable to individual capabilities rather than genetic lineage of the individual in the saddle.
What achievement in terms of excellence in governance have the ‘southern’ Governors attained in their domains over and above their northern counterparts considering the disparity in revenues that accrue to them? Reading from these mischief-makers, you would think those states or federal ministries headed by the southerners have been transformed to some heaven on earth by some magical ingenuity whereas the truth on ground is that most of the thieving former governors are from the ‘south’. Whereas none of the federal ministers from the so-called ‘north’ have been prosecuted for corruption we have the Sunday Afolabis, Adenike Granges and if am permitted to include Fabian Osuji all serving ministers who were removed on corruption charges. We also have a Tafa Balogun who as a Police IG demonstrated no virtue over and above his northern predecessors.
It needs to be pointed out that these anti-north sentiments does not reflect the general mindset of the average Nigerian on the street. Those propagandists are a minority intellectual class that is bent on taking Nigeria back into the abyss of religious fanaticism tribalism and sectional agitation for power for some interest best known to them. Nigerians like a snail have gradually moved out of the tribal and religious shell since Jun12 1992 when without coersion or intimidation they voted overwhelmingly for a southern Muslim for president whose running mate was also a Muslim. From there, they also voted for Obasanjo in 1999(but not in 2003 because the election was rigged). So it does not really matter to the man on the street whether a Mohamed Usman or a Babajide Ayodele or an Emeka Okonkwo occupies Aso Rock Villa as long as he is guaranteed food for his table, a roof over his head, a school for his kids and a road to the market square.
If the federal government is headed by a northerner, does that prevent the southern governors who are supposedly wiser and more intelligent in government business from developing their respective domains? Is it the president that decides how the governors spend the monthly federal allocations to their states? Why can’t these wise men of the south become models for the rest o follow? My dear pro-south activist should answer these questions honestly or hold their peace.
Those who have issues against IBB’s ambition for the presidency should take him on those issues as an individual but desist from roping in the north in a phoney agenda. Perpetual bashing of the north could only serve the purpose of ego fertilisation but add no value to nation building. We need to leave the past behind and move forward.
I read the above article and decided to share it to get other opinion as mine is that the battle for tribal supremacy is at its optimal height. I pray we all start seeing the need to see ourselves as willing tools in the hands of few individual spread across the imaginary division