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Northern agenda, southern conspiracy: Nigeria’s deepening “Lugard chasm”

September 2, 2009

Last Tuesday, August 25, 2009, DAILY TRUST carried a screaming lead on the imminent shake-up in the Federal Civil Service; the accompanying bullet added that “North loses top permsecs and directors”. The story’s basis was some “documents obtained by DAILY TRUST”. Under a new system approved by President Umaru Yar’adua “at the instance of Head of Service Stephen Oronsaye, permanent secretaries, directors and deputy directors in the federal civil service will have a maximum of eight years in office, irrespective of their ages and years of service”.

As a result “nine of the serving permanent secretaries have already been asked to begin retirement preparations under the new arrangement. ALL THE NINE ARE NORTHERNERS (emphasis is mine)”. Furthermore, “160 of the 223 officers to be affected at director and deputy director level are from the North. This will effectively drag the North 25 years back in the service”. This last bit of red-herring was attributed to a faceless “senior government official”!

This was a shocking pandering to the lowest common denominator by DAILY TRUST. With the story, it joined the deepening of what I call the “Lugard Chasm” of Nigerian life. The story attempted to raise our “patriotic Northern blood” to a fighting pitch, by listing our sons and daughters that have been told to vacate the service: Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Alhaji B.U. Maitambari, Ammuna Lawan Ali, Dr. H.U. Sanusi, S.D. Matankari, Alhaji Garba Buwai, Nu’uman Barau Dambatta, Mrs. S. Muhammad and Dr. Aliyu Abdullahi. The faceless top civil servant in the story sharpened our fighting instincts even further, by revealing that the new arrangement “violates the fundamental laws of the public service….It is also a cruel and illegal way of removing the top civil service and an attempt to decimate the highest level of Northerners in the civil service (I can see all ‘patriotic’ Northerners already huffing and puffing to fight!)”. The insinuation is of a “Southern conspiracy”!

It is even more galling that “our son”, the president is acting “at the instance of Head of Service Stephen Oronsaye”, a Southerner! But did we ask salient questions about the roles played by our rich and comfortable beloved sons and daughters in the formulation and implementation of policies, especially the neo-liberal policies of the Obasanjo and Yar’adua regimes, that deepened the desperation of the peoples of Northern Nigeria, leaving us with the worst social indices; in the same way that 92% of the Nigerian people, North and South, have been reduced to surviving on less than $1 per day! One of these “beloved children of the North”, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who topped the list of our “casualties”, if we recall, was secretary of the INEC of 2003, which facilitated the massive rigging of the Obasanjo elections of that year! Was that done for the “North” then?

 DAILY TRUST copied the reigning attitude in the Southern press since the sack of five bank CEOs in the middle of August, as a result of three principal reasons given by the Central Bank: N1.1 trillion bad loans; liquidity ratio being below minimum and over-reliance on interbank and CBN borrowing. Almost all the Southern newspapers without exception have carried articles, opinion pieces or even asked questions skewed to suggest that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was implementing a “Northern Agenda”! Those who operated within well-oiled Soludo PR loops and lauded his “Consolidation” project as the final act of “ingenuity”, are flustered by piling revelations, and the Debtors, which one analyst described as almost the Who-is-Who of contributors to Obasanjo/PDP Fund-raising occasions; yet, they’ve been more interested in pursuing the “Lugard Chasm” of a “Hidden Northern Agenda”: Northerners lost out during Soludo’s “Consolidation” exercise, therefore, Sanusi Lamido has been appointed to reverse that, and ensure that Northerners buy up some of the banks!

COMPASS newspaper’s columnist, ABA SAHEED even reduced it to a racist profiling of the Fulbe in his frankly ridiculous piece of Monday, August 31, 2009: “In the beginning”, he wrote, “Bros Sege begot Yar’adua. And Yar’adua begot Lamido. And Lamido begot Bank Leaders Liquidation. And Liquidation in turn will beget new owners WHOSE FACES WILL BE NARROW, THEIR BODY FRAMES WILL BE SLIM AND THEIR NOSES WILL BE LONG (emphasis mine!)”.  The VANGUARD newspaper’s March 23, 2009 lead story which was obviously written as part of the jostling for the CBN governorship and with hindsight, might also have been an offensive piece by the sacked CEOs, has shored up the conspiracy theories. The lead talked that “GROUP PLOTS TAKEOVER OF FIVE TOP BANKS” and had accompanying bullet that “NEW CBN GOV… TO EMERGE APRIL”.

 COMPASS of August 26th, carried on its back page an article by a certain Akeem Adebayo, titled SANUSI: THE FULANI WITHOUT APOLOGY. He regularly sees a Fulani “conspiracy” under every political and economic bed in Nigeria. Sanusi, he said “is an unabashedly Fulani nationalist and he has made that clear in many articles he has written since 2000….He has made disparaging remarks about Chief Obafemi Awolowo….He made sure his readers understood him well that he was foremost a Fulani-he even described the term Hausa-Fulani a nonsense nomenclature”. To drive the point home, he added that “Sanusi is following a script. The appointment of Southerners as acting MDs of the five banks is a smokescreen. When the smoke clears, Fulanis would have become the majority shareholders of most Nigerian banks….There is a grand conspiracy by the Yar’adua administration to foster Fulani control over all facets of life in the country…Today it’s the banks. Yesterday, it was the petroleum products importers. Who knows who’s next?” To deepen the “Lugard Chasm” and prepare grounds for war, Akeem Adebayo finally asked “When will Southerners and other marginalized Nigerians begin to resist this blatant process of internal colonialism?”

Not even a highly respect politician like Chief Olu Falae, a former presidential candidate and banker of repute can escape the “Lugard Chasm”. He agreed in Saturday SUN of August 29th that the CBN can remove CEOs responsible for distress in their institutions. But he fell into the carefully dug pit about a subsisting “agenda” in Sanusi’s action. “Do you think the CNB Governor is executing a northern agenda as some accuse?” asked SUN. “I have read that. But, there is no basis for making such assertion”. Fair enough; but later “the impression he is creating is that he has an agenda. It is either his personal agenda OR A GROUP AGENDA”. These from a man who could have been the president of Nigeria!

The excessive politicization of the ethno-regional divide has been the hallmark of post-June 12 Nigeria. The root of course lies deeper; but the implementation of neo-liberal capitalism devastated the lives of people, while the corrupt ruling class used neo-liberalism as excuse to vacate social responsibilities. In response, people returned to ethno-regional and religious identities for survival. The “Lugard Chasm” was re-invented to become a serious danger to national cohesion. Struggles against underdevelopment, injustice and a corrupt ruling class must be national. The Nigerian people collectively need a national democratic project of liberation. We must reject neo-liberal capitalism and its criminal politics. The “Northern Agenda-versus-Southern Conspiracy” platform cannot aid our liberation. The “Lugard Chasm” is a route to nowhere!

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