I respect Ambassador John Campbell very well as a US diplomat who has been so passionate about Nigeria’s progress and has kept faith by discussing the country with what he feels is ‘authoritative’ hindsight but on several accounts his over generalization of issues particularly as they concern Northern Nigeria has been full of flaws and all these portray his limited knowledge of the complexities and demography of the North and I seek to explain thus.
Some days back, at a breakfast table after our bitter experience of the post election crisis in Kaduna State, Monsignor Matthew Hassan Kukah and I both gave credit to Campbell for the fact that he earlier alerted us that we may experience violence in the course of the elections and true to his words the presidential elections triggered a bloody reaction even before results were announced. But that aside series of false claims have flooded both domestic and international media.
I read the above titled piece Nigeria: The Morning After, where he began well by saying that the 2011 Nigeria’s election has been widely attributed as most credible, free and fair compared to previous elections which all objective followers of our trend would conform to.
Hear Campbell “The elections have polarized Nigeria and resulted in likely underreported bloodshed in the northern parts of the country. The traditional northern Islamic establishment, which might have moderated the religious and sectarian conflict, has come under attack, and the North’s perceived marginalization from national politics could potentially radicalize an Islamic population that already views the United States as a partisan supporter of southern Christian president Goodluck Jonathan. The predominately Christian South sees the elections as credible. However, many in the North view the presidency and the elections as having been stolen from their region and their candidate, the northern Muslim Muhammadu Buhari. While many northerners believed it would be their “turn to eat” until 2015, Jonathan’s presidential nomination by the governing People’s Democratic Party earlier this year essentially ended the informal powersharing arrangement under which the presidency alternated between the South and the North”.
The election has not in any way polarized Nigeria; rather it has only polarized the Nigerian elite who out of their calculations of victory at the end of the poll teamed up with sides they imagined would come out victorious. Let me prove Campbell wrong.
On General Muhammadu Buhari’s side are the likes of Prince Tony Momoh, Pastor Tunde Bakare,Professor Tam David-West and many other Southerners who believe in Buhari’s presidency and worked assiduously for his success. And as for President Goodluck Jonathan’s side, there are Northerners like Dr.Haliru Bello Mohammed, Dr.Dalhatu Sarki Tafida and people like Alhaji Hassan Adamu, Wakilin Adamawa and other staunch Northerners who are supporters of Jonathan.
How then has the failure or success of handful elite polarized Nigeria? I see elites from the North and South rejoicing with Jonathan and others mourning and lamenting and even going to the courts to challenge Jonathan’s victory with Buhari, how have these agreements or disagreements amounted to the polarization of Nigeria as a country. I am quite aware that in the US, Democrats and Republicans work in unison to ensure that their parties win elections irrespective of their region since politics is about interests, and it is the same case in other parts of the world except for a few countries. This leaves one wondering how Nigerian politics is being viewed as polarized because of usual factors that political scientists referred to as permissible incentive.
I also find it strange where Campbell argued that many Northern Muslims feel that the victory was stolen from them and their region. What is the definition of the North to Campbell? A region consisting of diverse people or a fraction of a particular religion based in the region? Is he saying that all Northerners are Muslims? And is he also saying that there are no Muslims in PDP of the North? Or is he not aware that in Buhari’s CPC there are indigenous Northern Christians and Muslims? There is even a rumor that CPC’s major financier cum supporter is a Northern Christian! He kept on assuming that the entire North is Muslim, while the South is Christian. Where did he keep indigenous Northern Christians? And where did he keep Southern Muslims? Or in another way round is he not aware that there is large number of Northerners residing in the South and vice versa?
Little wonder Monsignor Kukah once raised questions on the definition of the North; Kukah argued “First of all, who is a Northerner? The first very important question we need to ask is, is the North a Region or is it a Religion? We need to ask this question because there is very little evidence to suggest that we can take everything for granted.”, and only recently Kukah replied back a journalist question on the same notion,: The Journalist had asked, “Considering the fact that you are from the Northern part of Nigeria with predominant Muslim population, why did you embrace priesthood? Kukah replied “How did you come about that conclusion? Your conclusion, to me, is not true. Which is your home parish and how many priests do you have there? There are more Christians in my diocese than most of the dioceses in the South West. In my small home parish where I come from we have over 30 catholic priests and that is about the number of priests some dioceses have”.
As if it is not enough Campbell opines that Northerners feel the presidency has been stolen from them, he further slammed Northerners as bunch of corrupt and power drunk fellows whom he said will be waiting for their “turn to eat” in 2015.Is he trying to say that Northerners are not “eating” now? It is a serious insult that Northerners only consider power as a means to “eat” or what is he trying to communicate to the world? I consider this generalization a great academic injustice to Northerners.
I quite agree that we have held power more than any other section of the country, and that corruption perpetrated in the country was not only committed on regional grounds but on individual level and satisfying of diverse economic interests of the elites. It is not fair to label us as power mongers because of the actions of a few power thirsty elites who do not have the interests of the poor masses of the region at heart, only their personal aggrandizements. People who do not represent the wishes of the masses popularly referred to as (Talakawa) or folks. Campbell ought to have studied and understood all these factors before claiming to know the problems of the Northern region and Nigeria as a whole.
Another of Campbell’s opinions I find incorrect is for him to say that the whole Muslim North voted Buhari , while the Christian South voted Jonathan. I seek to explain this because the voting pattern this election took was hinged on so many factors, i.e. manipulation of religion and other sentiments on the minds of those who are politically naïve as regards the Nigerian polity vis-à-vis its intricacies.I know of several Northern Muslims whose houses were burnt for supporting the Jonathan presidential bid, and I also know of Northern Christians who were attacked for supporting Buhari, and so what are we talking about?
The North has so many diversities and it has an established history of manipulation of religion for the achievement of political gains, this has been well documented. And for those that know it very well it is just a ploy to aid a political advantage. It can also be argued that there are other forms of political manipulation being advanced in the South as well though it’s basically aimed at attracting sympathy thus making room for her political ambition.
On all these accounts, it will be very unfair to conclude that Nigeria has been polarized and is heading towards the unknown. Rather like I said, the division amongst the upper political class ought not to be used as a medium for making a generalized assessment because outside the political class, there are other stakeholders who also have a say in the country’s affairs. I can argue that all the sentiments being advanced by our politicians are geared towards satisfying their political ego and nothing more than that. There is no one that wants the stability of Nigeria than even the elites, why? Because they still want a peaceful atmosphere to really enjoy their ill gotten wealth as well as to continue heating up the polity so as to be involved in the ‘settlement’. This has been a tradition that many overzealous Nigerians do not know having been brainwashed and made to believe some perfected political strategies. The youths that involved in the violence did that too for their own economic interests, at least they loot and carted away properties in millions of naira.
There is something very important that Campbell has failed to note. The post election violence is multi faceted and as such should not be given a shallow judgment based on individual perception or previous knowledge. It has brought face to face with several realities beyond what we used to know.
It has religious face, this is simple because the perpetrators were brainwashed along religious lines. However when it became clear that another failure was at hand, they became infuriated on the mere fact that their lives and religion will now be in a state of uncertainty having earlier being tutored that for the sake of consolidating their religious beliefs it was important they massively supported their perceived friendly candidate, and that they had all it takes to win. It then becomes certain that even a perceived failure was an automatic ticket for violence. As if that is not enough, the mere perception that their candidate has suffered injustice in the process ignited a wicked passion which led to a transfer of aggression.
Its political face is hinged on some political disagreements between some politicians sharing the same faith and political party affiliation but due to some political differences have found enough reasons to decamp to other political parties. They resorted to all forms of political squabbles between themselves via cheap blackmail, backbiting and other nefarious activities followed. All these tribes of sentiment became gun powder.
And lastly, thousands of youths most of whom lack the basic knowledge that will enable them understand the intricacies of political mobilization, what is more, the unemployment rate and abject poverty is on the increase daily and has made youths vulnerable and gullible to mild manipulations not minding the consequences.
If they were well learned and groomed on the polity they will have understood that they were just being used as a smoke screen to the advantage of elites. They will also have realized that General Muhammadu Buhari is a charismatic but a bunch of his close allies are not different from those that have ruined their ambitions, more so that virtually all candidates idolizing Buhari were only doing that as a means of realizing their political dreams. Same can be said of many other candidates who stood with President Goodluck Jonathan.
They would have also understood that there is just a very thin line separating the actions of the few characters controlling both the PDP and the CPC or the ANPP, whereas those elected on the platform of these different parties have told us that they will put parties aside and work for the betterment of the people. We knew many of them are not competent and sound to deliver but have just become victors on the altar of sentiments and confusion that has hit the electorates. As for their promises of working for the masses, it’s just a matter of time and they will begin to ‘collaborate’, and become friends while those who spilled innocent blood will continue to wallow in poverty and servitude as their elite’ progress economically and accumulate wealth for their generations. This has been the under laying aim of our politicians that Campbell failed to understand rather he kept on generalizing it.
I have personally heard series of complains that a certain elected parliamentarian is a drunkard and owns a hotel, and this to some electorates goes contrary to some moral consideration, yet he was elected because of his political party. This proves the point that Buhari became a ticket to the actualization of certain dreams which ordinarily would have been a mirage. Furthermore even those who don’t believe in his principles and leadership ideologies found it convenient to attain their goals via his political party.
Campbell also said that “The subsequent announcement of his (Jonathan) victory two days after the election set off widespread violence in the North against those perceived to be supporters of the P.D.P., including Christians”, he is very incorrect here because the crisis started on Sunday night running through Monday and a greater part of the day. Hence he also stated that private houses of the Sultan of Sokoto, Emirs of Kano and Zazzau were burnt. Only that of Kano is true, and the Kaduna official residence of the Emir of Zazzau was burnt but no private residence of the Sultan was burnt in Sokoto or elsewhere in the North.
His argument that Jonathan himself has showed a tin ear to the North’s concerns is also controversial and lacks clarity, am not holding brief for the presidency but I don’t view Jonathan’s “Enough is Enough” as ‘notorious’ and I don’t understand the basis that made it poorly received thereby demonstrating Jonathan’s lack of sensitivity to northern concerns as Campbell did state.
On the whole I think it would have been better for Ambassador John Campbell to just concentrate in helping the US strengthen its ties with Nigeria like he suggested the opening of a Consulate in Kano, other than creating unnecessary tension for Nigerians in Nigeria because we have seen notable scholars like Jean Herskovits, Murray Last, John N.Paden, PYD Peel, Patrick Wilmot, Richard Joseph and others who had studied and are still researching Nigeria doing it with accuracy and with soundness. For one to find strong flaws in his analyses of this country is a pathetic issue and calls for rapt attention and an investigation as to the reason behind it.
He deliberately misrepresents the North as a religious bloc ignoring other significant attributes; he further compounded his studies on Nigeria with secondary sources that are political in nature and are aimed at some personal political goals best known to him.
Finally, it is true that Nigeria has a myriad of challenges threatening the corporate existence of the country, but it is good to note that Nigerians irrespective of their religion, region, ethnicity and political affiliations wants nothing but positive CHANGE whoever that will bring the CHANGE. And what Nigeria needs for redemption is nothing but sound and credible LEADERSHIP and not predictions that Nigeria will break up.
Aruwan, writes from Kaduna, Nigeria and can be reached via [email protected]