It is trite to say that Adamu Ciroma is a heavyweight in Nigerian politics. He cannot be any less having been a technocrat’s technocrat, a journalist’s journalist, a banker’s banker and even the politician’s politician. Given this pedigree, he is one of the very few whose words carry authority on the strength of analysis rather than on the strength of brutality or wads of naira. In fact, Ciroma’s powers rest on statements such as when he said that as Governor of the Central Bank he was “in danger of making money” and had to fight that danger in a series of ways which he enumerated to late Chris Okolie’s magazine, Newbreed. It is just like Rotimi Amaechi saying sometimes back that after Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed, Karl Marx is his next hero. Only very few people are educated enough to make such statements on record and they are very rare nowadays since Nigeria jettisoned the more qualitative British educational arrangement for what is neither British, American nor even Nigerian now.
This contextual preface is all the more reason for angst over the disappointing and misleading agenda Mallam Adamu Ciroma put forward last week to the effect that the contradiction today in Nigeria is General Obasanjo goading President Jonathan to what may be called a Third term agenda. For, the point is that at every point in time, there will be contradictions. Some of these will be primary while others will be secondary. For the purpose of moving the nation forward in order that it does not move backward, it is mainly on primary contradictions that attention, especially of statesmen, are concentrated. One such example penultimate week was Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s claim that Obasanjo was a disaster as a president. He was harping on non performance as a factor in democratic failure so far. I fail to see the same weight in Ciroma’s notion that Obasanjo is engineering Goodluck’s Third term ambition. What was Ciroma himself doing in 1998 when he had already settled on Obasanjo even before the PDP was formed to facilitate Obasanjo presidency? It shows that at every one time, somebody is goading someone to something.
In that sense, there is nothing anyone can do or needs to do about Obasanjo’s dreams and game plans. In any case, a man of Obasanjo’s involvement must have over a million game plans, many of which he can never hope to realize. Unless we are admitting superiority of his plans over ours, it is not worth a minute bothering about whom he plans to support or crush.
What is important is developing counter-offensives. Knowing that Obasanjo will not be deterred by media exposure from promoting Jonathan if it is true he is on to that, Ciroma’s ‘expose’ becomes even more confusing. What exactly is the point in him saying it? Doesn’t this divert attention from what could be more urgent and crucial? Or is Ciroma, in fact, not helping Obasanjo by drawing the battle line between those with him and those against him as far as GEJ and 2015 are concerned? Why didn’t Ciroma think it is more tactful to remind Obasanjo of what he said during the presentation of Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 to the effect that Jonathan had made a sacrifice of serving only one term? Why encouraging Obasanjo to contradict himself and go free as it were? It does amount to encouraging Obasanjo to contradict himself by a heavy weight like Ciroma lending his voice to mere speculation, thereby giving it authority of the fact.
Adamu Ciroma’s worry is understandable and proper. His analogy is that if a caterpillar like Obasanjo is behind a project, it is nearly as good as accomplished. Since Jonathan’s continuation in power beyond 2015 will rob the North of its own regional share of the immensely popular zoning arrangement, a sure source of instability, an alarm raised early in the day must be in order. But is Obasanjo the problem of the North and its blockage from power in 2011? Obasanjo might be one of the explanations but certainly not the most important one. What is becoming like the problem for the North in accessing power has very little to do with anybody outside the North. And I crave the indulgence of the reader to cite just two instances.
According to Alhaji Balarabe Musa, there is a clique in the North which is so experienced, so ruthless that it could easily secure, align states in the North and elsewhere more successfully than its Southern counterpart could align states in the South and for that reason, they always prevailed over what the rest of Nigerians think or thought. This clique is another name for what the ABU, Zaria based PRP scholars had called the Northern oligarchy. No matter what anyone said or says about the Northern oligarchy, it was adept in inclusiveness, even if it was more for the symbolism. Its handling of the Niger Delta is illustrative. Elder statesman Sani Zangon Daura has just reminded everyone how the South-South of today is but a creation of the Northern oligarchy and no historian has challenged him yet. This is an illustration of the adeptness Balarabe Musa attributed to this clique.
This was the situation before the military coup in 1985. Hitherto, even though the North was not as developed as the South, it could monopolize power at the centre because it was playing ruling class politics, moving its paradigms in response to the changing rhythm of accumulation. Some sharp political scientist has reckoned the difference between the Northern People’s Party, (NPC) and the National Party of Nigeria, (NPN) in terms of this. According to Jibrin Ibrahim, a student of Nigerian political parties with the exception of ‘our great party, (the PDP) which he has refused to study up till now, while NPC’s was primitive accumulation of power, NPN’s was primitive accumulation of capital. In all cases, these two parties aggregated the leading lights from their ethnic homelands to capture power at the centre and share the benefits of power equitably. Hence, the presence of the Akinjides, Akinloyes, Ekwuemes, Wayas, Okadigbos, Tarka in the NPN.
Then came the coup of 1985 which opened the floodgate to money making by all and sundry. Since political power almost always reflects economic power, people who made money smartly from the rentier system were bound to, sooner than later, assert themselves politically. Since the rentier racket naturally favours the South in terms of the evolution of the Nigerian economy, the political coming of the South was a foregone conclusion by the decade of the 1990s. So, it is beyond Obasanjo who might have merely understood this point better and earlier than many of his fellow members of the power elite. The point is that since the head of the junta which opened the floodgate for uncoordinated accumulation is a Northerner, the Northerners have no one to blame but themselves, perhaps for ‘permitting’ one of their own to use state power without class analysis.
My second thesis is that the North’s case is aggravated by divisions internal to the North, which are being opportunistically further aggravated by forces outside the North because of what such opportunists see themselves as standing to profit from such chaos. And this is where Adamu Ciroma is complicit by his handling of a particular situation that could have had a settling effect on identity politics in Northern Nigeria today.
When I go into the failure of Professor Andrew Nok to become Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria not too long ago, I do so not as a Middle Belt chauvinist but from the most possible radical ideological interpretation of it. I have never met the Professor and I cannot even attest to his professorial integrity or otherwise. What is important about him as far as recent identity politics in the North, however, is the perception that he was blocked from becoming the Vice-Chancellor because he is a Christian from Southern Kaduna. This could be the wrongest of interpretation of what actually happened. Whether it is true or not, many people were not interested. I, for one was not interested because when I asked some very senior professors of Christian identity, I didn’t get the impression that hell should be let loose because Professor Nok did not become the Vice-Chancellor at that time.
But many were not interested because they felt that as long as Adamu Ciroma was the Chairman of Council, justice and fairness would prevail. To the greatest surprise of almost everyone, Adamu Ciroma was to meekly throw in the towel, refusing to take a position or publicly do so and, therefore, paving the way for what subsequently happened and which is believed to be so flagrant violation of how to select OR appoint a Vice-Chancellor anywhere in Nigeria.
As I mentioned before, the perception that Andrew Nok was blocked from becoming VC of ABU, Zaria might as well be just nonsensical but it is the perception out there today. And an Adamu Ciroma who could have been the single most important individual to have handled this sort of situation, being a direct student of the late Sardauna, flatly failed to do so. That is the crisis in the North which is being exploited by outsiders now. Again, it has more to do with an Adamu Ciroma than with an Obasanjo who might also have found it a convenient reality. Because what Adamu Ciroma failed to do contrasts very sharply with, say what a Sule Lamido has done in maintaining a non-Muslim, non-native as a media aide right from when he was minister through his governorship of Jigawa State in the last five or so years. It is probably wrong for me, the beneficiary of that gesture, to use this example but it is the best example of such symbolic gestures that I can count immediately because, today, it will be difficult for me to go to Benue State and say that Sule Lamido is anything else but good after having worked under him for nine years, almost unbroken.
All said and done, the North needs to be careful or be prepared to play second fiddle in Nigeria. This will not be on account of anybody like Obasanjo plotting against it but because the world itself is becoming more and more difficult and an ‘ungoverned space’ like Northern Nigeria could lose out terribly, Obasanjo or no Obasanjo. Of course, the North is an ungoverned space, though not in the sense in which the American intelligence community use the phrase but in the sense of its difficulty in coming to terms with modernity, demonstrated in the incomprehensible destruction of all the institutions that could have railroaded it to modernity – NNDC, ABU, Zaria; the textile industry; Radio Kaduna; New Nigerian Newspapers; BON. I do not understand Northern Nigeria as a counter to Southern Nigeria but Southern Nigeria has a value reference point in western education and ‘CNN’, problematic as this formulation may look at this point.
But even then, there is an answer to the Northern Question in Nigerian politics which, I am afraid, will soon be appropriated and used against the North for the purpose of 2015 because the North is now merely responding to extra-regional agenda instead of its own.