The political community called Northern Nigeria starts a major conference on strategy and sustainable development tomorrow, Thursday in Kaduna. It is an important Summit that will also discuss “the North and the Nigerian Federation”. Since this is what all the other sub-sections of the country are doing, the significance of this one convened by the Arewa House, the Centre for Historical Documentation and Research of the Ahmadu Bello University, should be recognized for its significance.
The Conference is being chaired by the most senior ex-President of Nigeria alive, General Yakubu Gowon and it parades a galaxy of North’s most shinning scholars and thinkers such as Dr. Junaid Mohammed, Dr. Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, Professor J. Yayok, Professor Gidado Tahir and Dr. Nasir Sani Gwarzo.
The Speakers also include the former Army Chief of Staff, General Martin Luther Agwai, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Professor Kyari Mohammed and a former Inspector-General of Police and Sardaunan Katsina, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie. Two very seminal inter-faith scholars, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah and Dr. Usman Bugaje are also among the lead speakers.
If you thought that much of their time will be devoted to the issue of broken North and how to mend it, you have guessed right. But as they attempt to find solution to the criminality parading as inter-ethnic and inter-religious crises bedeviling the North as well as those well-known issues of poverty and underdevelopment, I hope that they find time to address the side issue of the North’s current lukewarm response to the Jonathan Presidency. The perception among many is that the North has been feeling smitten, having been deprived of what is its rightful turn to produce a President for the country for an eight year period. Following the death-in-office of President Umaru Yar’Adua barely two years into office and his succession by the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan and the subsequent manipulation of the ruling party’s zoning principle to outwit the North in last year’s general election, many in the region’s position of leadership and responsibility have retreated to the background in the mistaken belief that this government is not our own government. By this, they seem to be saying that “since the North has lost the Presidency, we are not in power. Let those who have forcefully taken power rule and let us see what they make of the country”. There is something to worry about from the way things are going. The North has many experienced leaders and statesmen – men and women who have proved their mettle keeping this country one through war and peace and ensuring stability and modest progress in spite of the visible odds. It is odd that these wisemen have in a way withheld their wisdom, skills and experience from an ill-prepared and inexperienced leader. As a consequence, the good people have kept their distance from him and the President is left with no option than to fall into the embrace of rogues and demagogues. The country is already paying a price for this. Worse still, Northern leaders are apathetic to offering advice because they are perceived as suspects in terror attacks.
The North complains that the federal government is not applying its full competence in dealing with the religious cum-criminal insurgency in Borno, Yobe, Kano, Kaduna and such places like the FCT and Plateau. There are lingering suspicions that the country’s new rulers have allowed Boko Haram to fester so as to damage the North irretrievably so that the region cannot raise its hand to reclaim power not to mention a repeat of the dominance in that respect that the North once had. Former Anambra State Governor, Chief Emeka Ezeife gave credence to this perception in a newspaper interview in which he said the Igbos should have the Presidency in 2015 because the North is so overwhelmed with security challenges to have the time for power. These notwithstanding, the President needs to be helped, assuming he is open to such assistance so that he succeeds in totally eliminating the insurgency in the region because without doing so, the North will continue its accelerated decline in industry, commerce, education and overall social ranking and well-being.
This country is not Jonathan’s country. It is not an Ijaw colony and it needs coming together of all of us to fight to preserve it. An attitude that says “I am a bystander. I will do nothing to help them” is a negative attitude that does not augur well for the country. This attitude as manifested by the wrongful decision of a former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari to say “I will not negotiate on behalf of either government or Boko Haram”. This is unhelpful to the North and the country as a whole. This attitude will neither hurt President Jonathan nor his Ijaw ruling clan. Jonathan does not personally suffer Boko Haram neither does Diezani Allison – Maduekwe both of whom are in the news for the perfidy in the oil industry. After six or ten years that he apparently aspires to do, Dr. Jonathan will one day leave office. The one who takes over from him, a Northerner or whoever it is would not like to spend his four or eight years fixing Jonathan’s de-development of the nation. Whatever good Jonathan does is for the good of the country. If on the other hand he is given the license to allow terrorism and crude oil theft to prosper and for corruption to become the order of the day, it is the nation, not Jonathan that will languish in suffering. Jonathan, Diezani and their crowd have name, fame and fortune that can guarantee that they live and prosper in this country after leaving office and nothing happens to them. As we saw recently from Borno where a High Court sent a telephone hand-set thief to life in prison, the law in this country is effective dealing with the lower segments of the society. Big men who go to jail do so because they have stolen too little or are tight-fisted to share with others. Additional option is for the President after his term is to flee to any one of the banana republics on the continent that remains untouched by international law. Whatever becomes of Nigeria would then be for his successor in office to deal with.
The North must use this strategic summit to come out with a plan on how to prevent a Jonathan failure. The failure of the President will translate into the failure of the country but the North can, and should stop this happening.
In his book on Sir. Kashim Ibrahim, Professor Adele Jinadu quoted the late Premier of the Northern Region and the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Sir. Ahmadu Bello as saying: “Every community is the best judge of its own situation.” Therefore, as this important Conference goes under way, Northern leaders must accept that the fact that the initiative to save the North must come from its own leaders. They have no reason to abandon themselves to despair and say that they are helpless.