In case the reader has not deciphered it yet, this is the continuation of my preceding instalment ‘Why Babangida may yet win and God help us all if he does’, the earlier title being overtaken by the event of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s adoption by the so-called Northern Political Leaders Forum, as their ‘consensus’ candidate.
In that previous part I made clear that the battle is principally between what President Goodluck Jonathan stands for, as against what Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) represented. I wrote and I quote, “all of these could only mean that unless something extraordinary happens in the polity between now and 2011 … our reasonable choices are reduced to Babangida and Jonathan”.
Now something extraordinary has happened. The Maradona has himself been maradona’d by Mallam Ciroma and Atiku Abubakar, and perhaps the oligarchy machine. The conquest of Ibrahim Babangida is coming from unlikely quarters. With hindsight, all that rigmarole to commit Babangida (and ostensibly the others) to abide by the decision of the NPLF, whatever the outcome, now begin to make sense. They made it a matter of honour for Babangida. It is obvious IBB never thought he could lose.
However, even if the principals change eventually, the principles of our choices in the coming 2011 elections remain.
Something definitely went wrong in Babangida’s scheme to become the oligarchy’s candidate for the 2011 elections but if you believe it is simply the allegedly treachery of the duo of retired General David Jemibewon and former minister Audu Ogbe, as it is being put forward in sponsored media, then you would believe anything. The best indication yet that all was (and probably still) not well in the ‘consensus’ camp, was the inordinate delay, with perennial postponements, in announcing their choice.
One of the abiding features of this Fulani-led oligarchy is their ability to re-strategise. Widespread opposition to Babangida’s candidacy may have given the oligarchy the opportunity, as has been rumoured it is keen, to rid itself of the overbearing menace of retired generals and serving officers. There is suggestion that the oligarchy were simply telling Babangida that he (IBB) had become a tail that was starting to wag the dog. The truth will eventually come out.
If the said secrecy of the ballot is intended to confer some kind of democratic credential on the exercise, then they must think Nigerians are fools. These people were ready to shunt a distinguished soldier and statesman like retired General IBM Haruna aside unceremoniously, simply because, unlike camp-following past leaders of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) as the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi, the highly respected ex-war commander took a principled stand against zoning. Unfazed by attempts to remove him as Chairman of ACF because of this anti-zoning stance he said in an interview in October that there is no one person or one group that can say they are representing the whole of the north.
In the end, the forum achieved nothing in real terms except reconfirm the definition of an oligarchy as a few people sitting down to determine the future, to the exclusion in Nigeria’s case, of a vast and varied majority. That, as I wrote earlier, is Nigeria’s only other choice against the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan in 2011.
I hope that the reports are not true though that after completing their ‘brief’ the forum went further to award the honour to nominate the Ibo vice president candidate, to Babangida. That would suggest breath-taking arrogance and, should it be the case, I can only propose, while they are at it, that they also ask IBB to appoint the next governors of Anambra and Ebonyi and, for good measure, the next Igwe of Onitsha and Enugu.
If the caliphate has actually jettisoned IBB, the next few weeks will show the wisdom or foolhardiness of that decision but one thing is certain—if IBB does not win the crown, there is no doubt he has enormous clout and will want to be kingmaker. Babangida will still make or break Atiku.
Power politics is fascinating and I confess my captivation with Nigeria’s Fulani of the ‘primitive and lazy’ north—the way they have, over time, incorporated the so-called better educated, more entrepreneurial, more industrious, tenacious, larger populated, visionary, progressive south, and other meaningless and self-glorifying platitudes we southerners love to delude ourselves with, into their (Fulani) patrician agenda. What the Fulani have going for them is their sincerity in politics.
The Fulani succeed where others fail because they have never been pretentious about their goal. That goal is conquest of the rest of Nigeria, a policy they have ruthlessly (sometimes brutally) advanced with guts and blood and everything else there is. It is a straightforward uncomplicated agenda. Morally the agenda may be dubious but its sincerity is unquestionable.
Contrast that with the Yoruba in the south-west who pretend their goal is eretz-Nigeria when most of their [true] leaders simply pray now that they could have nothing more to do with a suffocating Fulani-led oligarchy in this British experimentation called Nigeria. It is for this reason that the Yoruba are the most strident of callers for a sovereign national conference.
The present arch-federalist posture of the Yoruba is merely a fall-back position after the failure of an earlier ‘crusade’, targeted at the north’s population, to export Yoruba ‘civilisation’. That missionary effort did not deliver a ‘liberated’ north to the Yoruba. Worse, it incurred the resentment of the north’s leaders.
Relying solely on their famed political sophistication, Yoruba evangelists of mass literacy and grassroots development gradually realised they needed more than an Europeanist socio-cultural panache to win other nations’ political hearts and loyalties. Instead of engaging the recognised leaders of the north to harness their [northern] people, the Action Group had attempted to bypass those leaders as they tried to connect directly with the northern populace. Such a strategy could only work with a highly literate population, hence that crusade was thoroughly frustrated and, gradually, what started as a visionary movement under Obafemi Awolowo eventually became something the other nations of Nigeria now largely regard to be a sham arrogant supremacist Yoruba attitude.
Compare that with the Igbo who pretend they want to stand on their own when what they really want is to supplant the Fulani as the lords of Nigeria. Lacking the political astuteness of the North, or the finesse of Western region’s leaders, the Igbo sought to use the infamous unification decree to convert their then numerical dominance of the lower and middle cadre of the federal civil and public services and agencies, into hegemony. (The same device later repackaged successfully by the Fulani to serve their own conquest agenda)
It is instructive that, following failure of that effort to supplant, and brutally pushed to the wall by a vengeful North, Igbo antithetical response was to coerce reluctant nations of the southeast into the ill-conceived contraption of Biafra. Their unrelenting cry of marginalisation since then, even at such times as during Obasanjo’s presidency when the Igbo were decidedly in firm control of Nigeria’s political economy, only reinforces the feeling that the Igbo, more than inclusion, want to dominate.
Compare that to the nations of Nigeria’s middle belt who want to ‘run with the hare and hunt with the hound’. They collaborate with military coups d’état and political alliances to further entrench northern domination. They share fully of the spoils of government and military appointments and promotions and contracts, and oil blocs and allocations, and billions of dollars, only to cry oppression each time their Fulani Emir rules in favour of a nomad that tramples their crops with his cowherd. Ever happy to be Hausa [speakers] for preferential consideration in employment and to climb promotion ladders, they also want to claim solidarity with the south when children of the caliphate start to talk of the core-north.
Compare that to the pseudo-Yoruba of Kogi and Kwara who are quick to be northerners when that social engineering tool—national character—gives them an edge, only to be unsure what side of the border they would rather be in the event of a delineated north-south divide. They usually are willing tools for the oligarchy who, ever disposed to marginalise the audacious south-west, cover up with tokenist appointments of Kwara-Kogi Yoruba names. Yet the same people will protest the imposition and perpetuation of the [Fulani] Saraki dynasty.
Compare that to President Jonathan’s Ijaw and the south-south, whose roll of leaders—Clement Isong, Diette-Spiff, Melford Okilo, Tam David-West, even Edwin Clark, and others—consistently played the decider to defeat Awolowo ’s (naturally seen as Yoruba’s) ambition, only to turn round now to take south-west’s support for granted, obviously mistaking it as equitable to Obasanjo’s. Need I go on?
The forces of political progress in Nigeria owe a debt of gratitude to Olusegun Obasanjo for bulldozing gaps into the oligarchy fence through which, admittedly with considerable providential help, Goodluck Jonathan squeezed into Nigeria’s presidency. As I wrote in the first part of this article, Nigeria’s top political priority now is to establish that any Nigerian from any part can aspire to and become President. Obasanjo has taken us some of the way to that goal. Jonathan’s presidency in 2011 will take us much further.
That aspiration, I hasten to make clear, is not a simplistic argument for southerners to rule Nigeria.
It is an inclusive principle, which will establish that any ‘talakawa’ from Kano, or his son, shall be encouraged and shall have all access to education and opportunity to reach their God-given potential. It is the principle that a barber from Nnewi, a farmer from Dambatta, or a butcher from Abeokuta will be free to go about to articulate his manifesto for seeking political office and not be harassed off the road by paid thugs of some rich thief. It is the principle that brilliant children of a Tiv army corporal shall not be denied a job, in favour of barely qualified children of a general. It is the principle that ensures the sons and daughters of a Yoruba petty trader can become doctors, engineers, lawyers, if they are so talented and willing, but not debarred artificially because they are too poor to pay the fees.
However, we need a sincere commitment and true dedication of all progressives—leaders and the led, north and south, east and west, rich and poor, Moslem, Christian and animist—to achieve this.
Champions of a game get to dictate the rules by which challengers, hoping to beat the champions at their own game, must play. Nigeria’s political lords have played the scene for over fifty years and mastered its elements, albeit to the detriment of economic development and social justice. If, currently, they (oligarchy) are unable to dictate the entire rules as they used to do, it is because of the audacity of two men—Obasanjo who singlehandedly beset a previously unassailable garrison of absolute political power, and President Goodluck Jonathan who, allegedly at Obasanjo’s behest, dared to eyeball the caliphate.
It is ironic that these two people, from amongst a very few, grudgingly adopted by the oligarchy to give it semblance of a countrywide spread, are the same ones to expose the intolerant underbelly of Nigeria’s ultimate rulers. As a result, the northern establishment now hate Obasanjo with the passion of a scorned former lover. It is also the reason they keep trying to drive a wedge between Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan.
In life, clarity and consistency win ultimately. That clarity of purpose enables the Fulani (without stating it in so many words as Olusegun Obasanjo) get away with a do-or-die winner-takes-all policy in Nigeria’s politics. This clarity ensures they continue to win while, for lack of the same clarity, the rest of us—progressives, the talakawa, the youth, real businesspersons, true nationalists, honest workers, social critics, etc—consistently lose.
It should not be wrong to declare we do not want this cabal to continue to rule us, given their record. Their absolute power over us must be completely smashed. Our aspirations must not be lost in meaningless economic notions and bogus liberalism. Ethnic accommodation is not the same as self-imposed timidity. We need a peaceful country where innocent young men are not used as cannon fodder in the hands of leaders using religion for selfish political ends. We need a country where rich criminals are answerable, not where we rely on foreign police and courts to bring them to any semblance of justice.
We need a country where people like Nuhu Ribadu, given his record, will have a fair chance of becoming president. We do not need criminals to occupy state government houses fraudulently for three years stealing our money and mismanaging our land, only for equally fraudulent judges to award them blissful retirements. We need a country where election riggers irrespective of which party they belong to, know they risk jail. In 2011, we will be at freedom crossroads.
COMING NEXT: The oligarchy has been winning battles. Will the people win the war?