Unifying ethnic, religious, political, economic, youths, and other social groups in Nigeria – Part 1
A unifier is the person the country needs as president in 2019
Our dear country, Nigeria, is being choked by divisions of a wide extent and intensity never experienced before the inception of the President Buhari Administration on 29 May, 2015. This is an incontrovertible fact, affirmed by several of our most respected and respectable leaders; it is not something conjured up by me just to discredit the Administration.
Why is such devastating division happening since the inception of the Buhari Administration? In what way or ways can it be said that the Administration caused or brought it upon us? But whatever the Administration’s connection with the divisions may be, their ruinous impact on the life of the country is an issue of such critical immediacy as overshadows all other issues. The country must first be salvaged from the ruinous consequences of the divisions before we talk about railway lines to transport people from place to place. And a unifier is needed for the salvaging work.What should concern us now is to probe, identify and address the Administration’s connection with the underlying causes of the divisions in the country.
Underlying causes of the divisions in the country
The underlying causes of the divisions in the country can be subsumed under one factor, namely the alienation of fellow-feeling among large segments of the population caused by President Buhari’s identification with, and his unfair favouritism of, his own ethnic group, the Fulani ethnic group, and his own geographic section of the country, the Northern Region, coupled with unfair discrimination against other groups as if the country belongs to the favoured groups alone, to the exclusion of the others. Inclusiveness, as a principle of democratic governance, is thereby jettisoned, as it became thoroughly jettisoned in strategic appointments, especially in the security sector where nearly all the strategic appointments came from the North, many of them from the President’s village of Daura, making sectionism and nepotism the factor governing the appointments.
Now, fellow-feeling or a sense of belonging is the primal sentiment that bind people to a state or to a cause by making them think and believe that they have a personal stake in it, and that whatever benefits or hurts its interests also benefits or hurts their own personal interest. Accordingly, alienation of fellow-feeling or a sense of belonging usually leads to the alienation of loyalty, a more serious matter, and to disaffection.
Fellow-feeling, a sense of belonging or of togetherness, is a condition in which the individual can feel able to “identify with society, feel at one with it, and accept its rulings.” A state which discriminates unfairly against segments of its population cannot maintain its unity and cohesion, because it cannot arouse in its members a strong enough feeling of loyalty and allegiance. Unfair discrimination not only alienates the individual’s loyalty; what is worse, it also arouses him to disaffection. An individual, more so an ethnic group, unfairly discriminated against by the state or society cannot but feel alienated and disaffected. It is a measure of the seriousness of the divisions in our country under the Buhari Administration that some youth groups have declared that they no longer feel they belong to Nigeria or that they no longer have faith in the Nigerian state project.
The person the country needs as President in 2019 has therefore to be a person committed, as among the immediate acts of his Administration, to bring an end to the feeling of alienation existing among large segments of the population, heal the divisions, create an all-inclusive Administration by bringing every group aboard and thereby unify the country. In short, he has to be a unifier, and he has to do this before the growing feeling of alienation, disloyalty and disaffection becomes unstoppable.
There is an aggravating factor that needs to be mentioned in this connection. The block votes from the groups in the Northern Region that helped President Buhari to win the election in 2015 have created in him the attitude, which is erroneous and misguided, that he has to identify with and favour them specially in order to compensate them and to retain and maintain the support of their block votes in the 2019 election. This is a sad desecration of democratic governance which must not be allowed to continue.
Alienation of fellow-feeling among large segments of the population caused by the President showing undue identification with and unfair unfavouritism for, his ethnic group, the Fulani ethnic group
The issue here is not about President Buhari being a Fulani man. Far from that. Like him, all of us belong to some ethnic group or the other. Far deeper and more critical issues are raised. The issue is whether the utterances, postures and actions of Buhari, as President, identify him in a special way with his Fulani ethnic group, such as portrays him in public perception as a President who is imbued with an ambition and an inclination to advance Fulani political, religious and economic interests in Nigeria. The Fulani are cattle rearing people, but they are also characterised by a desire and a taste for political dominance, as their role and activities in the history of Nigeria demonstrate.
Led by Sheik Othman dan Fodio, the Fulanis conquered Hausaland in 1804 – 1808, and imposed their political hegemony on the conquered Hausa ethnic group, and also took over the control of land that goes with it. They also brought with them and imposed on the conquered people, the religion of Islam with the supremacist pretensions of that religion. Their conquests and further penetration into the communities south of Hausaland were interrupted by the establishment of British colonial rule. The conquest resulted in the establishment of Fulani political hegemony, characterized by a dynastic system of rule, through the medium of Fulani emirs supplanting Hausa traditional rulers, with Othman dan Fodio as the first Sultan of Sokoto.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State corroborates this in a revealing statement published in the Vanguard of 19 February, 2018. According to the Governor :“The killings in Benue State by Fulani herdsmen were actually a continuation of 1804 jihad…….The attacks were an act of vengeance by herders for losing the 1804 jihad…..The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, the people behind the attacks have gone beyond grazing, it is about invading the land and taking over. All the places they have attacked, they have chased the people away and they are using their farmlands’ produce as feed for their cattle.
They are conducting international conferences, issuing press releases and writing on social media and they have come out to say look, in 1804 Jihad, it was Benue people that stopped them from penetrating from Sokoto to the sea.This time around, they are not going to stop. They will make sure that they mobilise all Fulani men across the globe, especially from the West African sub-region to ensure that they acquire arms and come and invade and take over the land.
Because they also said Nigeria is the only land that God has given them, so no other person will supervene on this land except them; that it is their own land, they got this land by conquest and we have no business staying on this land. It is unbelievable. The statement is coming from Miyetti Allah.”
The word “jihad” is italicised to underscore religion as an important factor in the motivation for the invasions and killings.In another statement, published in the Vanguard of May 4, 2018, Governor Ortom again said that the attacks and killings in Benue State, sponsored by Miyetti Allah, are “about jihad; they are not about grazing; they are about occupation, about taking over the land. They have said it and the evidence is there.”
The question is whether Buhari, as President of Nigeria, is implicated in the acts and events alleged in Governor Ortom’s statement, such as to identify him with his Fulani ethnic group and to show him as committed to the advancement of the group’s religious, economic and political interests, with the result of alienating a sense of belonging on the part of other segments in the country. The available evidence, though not conclusive, attests to his identification with Fulani interest in the matter.
There is, first, a Speech he delivered on 2 May, 2015 before an exclusively prominent Northern Moslem leaders at Queen Amina Hall, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in which he, with the fervour of a zealot, charged the audience: “Join me my brothers and sisters and let us finish the work our forefather, Ahmadu Bello, started.” The reference to “the work our forefather, Ahmadu Bello, started” is pregnant with meaning. The reference recalls the ideology propounded by the Sardauna of Sokoto in his Autobiography, where he advocated that Northern Nigeria was to be maintained as a theocracy ruled by a Moslem claiming to be divinely directed, with utter disdain for democracy and with the Sharia as the supreme governing law; and that the minority ethnic groups in the North are to be used as “willing tools”, and the South is to be subjugated and reduced to “a conquered territory”, which is not to be allowed to “have control over their future.” This is the work President Buhari has publicly committed himself to carry to a “finish”.
In the second place, the fact that he contested election for the presidency four consecutive times, winning it on the fourth occasion is suggestive that he was driven by a passion for a mission other than the ordinary ambition to be a servant-leader of the people. He was driven by a passion to become President of Nigeria in order to carry on and finish the work started by his forebear, Sir Ahmadu Bello, including the Sardauna’s fond idea to extend the political dominance of the Fulani ethnic group and supremacist pretensions of the Moslem religion throughout the country by means of a jihad. This is a factor that must be taken into account as we seek explanation for some of his actions, utterances and postures since his assumption of office as President on 29 May, 2015.
Third, his scheme for the establishment of a cattle colony in every State of the Federation, and the zealous commitment with which he pursued its implementation, earmarking some billions of naira for it, betrays his peculiar identification with the advancement of Fulani economic interest. The legal, political, religious and cultural implications of the scheme seem demonstrably designed to advance Fulani interests in the country, which triggered stiff opposition and rejection of it in the South, and in many States of the North.
Fourth, a more or less conclusive evidence of the President’s special identification with, and attachment to, the Fulani economic interest is his relationship with Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, the organisation known, by its actions, and its statements in the media, etc, to be responsible for the killings, destructions and displacement of persons by Fulani herdsmen, which certainly make the Association a terrorist organisation that should have been so declared by the Federal Government of President Buhari.
It is public knowledge, as yet undenied and uncontroverted by evidence to the contrary, that President Buhari, a Fulani as well as a cattle breeder himself, which gives him a pecuniary interest in the matter, is the Patron (or Grand Patron) of Miyetti Allah. The New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language defines a patron as “one who supports or protects a person, institution or cause,” and patronage as “the support, protection or encouragement of a patron, as given to a person, cause or institution” (emphasis supplied). The knowledge or feeling on the part of Miyetti Allah that it has the support and protection of the President, Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as its patron is a factor that encouraged, at any rate, it could not have failed to encourage, Miyetti Allah to sponsor the murderous and maraudering actions by the Fulani herdsmen. The patron – protégé relationship and the support and encouragement it implied created in Miyetti Allah the feeling and assurance that the President would not invoke against it the coercive powers of the state at his disposal; it encouraged in the Association an incredible audacity temerity and bragging with which it went about its sponsorship of the killings and destructions by the Fulani herdsmen.
Nor could it have failed to inhibit the President to take action against the Association or against the herdsmen. Taking action against Miyetti Allah would be like the President taking coercive action against himself. It is therefore not surprising that no action was in fact taken by the Federal Government (FG) against the organization by proscribing it as a terrorist organisation, for example, or against its leadership by arrest or prosecution.
Not only has the FG failed to as much as condemn Miyetti Allah publicly, it has indirectly and tacitly endorsed its activities, thereby implicating itself in those activities by complicity. The endorsement may be inferred from two factors among others; first, the statement by the Minister of Defence, Gen. Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali (rtd). The Minister had said, unabashedly betraying his support and backing for the Fulani herdsmen and their employers, Miyetti Allah :
“Since the nation’s independence, we know there used to be a route which the cattle rearers take…..If these routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen? These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block shoreline, does that make sense to you?”
Asked whether, assuming such a right, as claimed, exists, the blockage of grazing routes and the enactment of the anti-open grazing laws justify the massacre of 73 people between January 1 – 9, 2018, and over 14,500 since 2015, the minister, obviously trapped, evaded the question by saying that that was not what he came there for, and that the question concerns internal security. The minister thus admits inability or failure by the Federal Government to discharge its essential basic function of providing security for the lives and properties of a sizeable population of its citizens.
President Buhari remained unmoved by the public uproar provoked by the Minister’s statement, and by the demand that he should sack the Minister. The Minister has continued in office till date. The same Minister, emerging from a meeting of the National Security Council on June 5, 2018 presided over by President Buhari, announced to the State House press men that the three States of Benue, Taraba and Ekiti that enacted Anti-Open Grazing Law would be directed to stop implementing the law, implying that that was the decision of the Council. The FG’s endorsement of the activities of the Fulani herdsmen and their employers, the Miyetti Allah, may also be inferred from the President’s plan, which he has tried to impose on the country, to establish a cattle colony in every State of the Federation.
It is true that violent clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in various parts of the country predated the civilian government of President Buhari from May 29, 2015, but such clashes as occurred in the past were sporadic, minor in nature, and may be said to be inherent in a country comprising a great diversity of peoples of different cultures, languages, religions, occupations and other economic interests; they never reached a dimension remotely comparable to the mortifying dimension of an insurgency that they attained since the installation of the Buhari Administration. The naïve theory that afterall the clashes pre-dated that Administration has conveniently failed to proffer an explanation as to why it is under the Buhari civilian regime that the killings and destructions by Fulani herdsmen reached the horrifying dimension of a terroristic insurgency. The Anti-open Grazing Law provides no complete explanation either, since such law has been enacted in three States only – Benue, Taraba and Ekiti – but not in the more than seven other States affected by the killings – Kaduna, Nassarawa, Niger, Plateau, Kogi, Kwara, Adamawa, and others.
The explanation lies in the support and protection provided by President Buhari’s patronage of Miyetti Allah. By reason of such patronage, the President has “put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities” as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, in breach of the provisions of paragraph 1 of the Code of Conduct and his Oath of Office. He is therefore guilty of a grave violation or breach of the aforesaid provisions of the Constitution, which is an impeachable offence under section 143 of the Constitution. The provision of paragraph 1 of the Code of Conduct must be read together with s.172 of the Constitution which casts upon “a person in the public service of the Federation”, such as the President, the duty to “observe and conform to the Code of Conduct .” The National Assembly has threatened and has made moves to impeach the President under section 143 but could not muster the two-thirds majority prescribed for the purpose. It is left to the electorate to act.
The duty laid on the President by section 172 is reinforced by the President’s Oath of Office enshrined in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution by which he swore that “as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will abide by the Code of Conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will; ………., (Section 14(2), relied upon above, is in the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy chapter, chapter 2, of the Constitution).
Alienation of fellow-feeling among large segments of the population caused by president Buhari showing undue identification with, and unfair favouritism of, his own geographic section of the country, the northern region,
1. The quit notice given by the Arewa Youths Coalition to Ndigbo to leave the Northern Nigeria by October 1, 2017, and its sequel, the hate songs and speeches
The quit notice must rank as one of the most amazing events in the history of Nigeria. It is in effect an expulsion or eviction order. The land in the North the Igbos were ordered to leave belongs beneficially to many different ethnic groups and their members – Hausas, Fulanis, Kanuris, Jukuns, Nupes, Igalas, Tivs and many others, who had not mandated the Arewa Youths Coalition to act or represent them for this purpose.
In a move designed perhaps to show up the Arewa Youths’ Quit Notice as an expensive act of rascality, the Niger Delta Avengers, a dreaded armed militant group, was prompted to issue a similar Quit Notice to northerners to leave the South within three months. This unexpected twist of events must have left them (the Arewa Youths) confused and uncertain whether or not to go ahead with their planned expulsion of the Ibos from the North. Eventually, they decided on 25 August, 2017 to suspend the Quit Notice.
It is the height of irresponsibility, recklessness and lawlessness that a group of youths, confined in their operations to one section of the country, the North, should have the audacity and mendacity to give to an entire ethnic nationality composing a large proportion of the population of the country notice to leave the North comprising 75 per cent of the country’s territorial area. It is all the more reckless and mendacious that the notice was given without the consent and approval of the traditional authorities – the communities, villages, families and their members who are the beneficial owners of the land in the North, nor with the consent and approval of the State Governors in whom the title to the land is formally vested on behalf of the beneficial owners under the Land Use Act 1978. It is simply beyond my understanding and imagination that such audacity and mendacity should happen in our country. It suggests that Nigeria ceased on 6 June, 2017 to be a country governed by law and by rationality – by Senator Ben Murray Bruce’s common sense. The whole thing makes absolutely no sense to me. What the Arewa Youths, in their youthful but reckless impetuosity, probably do not realise is that their action has, to all intents and purposes, killed the spirit animating the unity of the entity known as Nigeria.
And yet the country still has a President and Commander-in-Chief in office!!
But the quit notice is, not just senseless, it is also singularly brazen both because such a thing has never happened in the country before now and because I have never imagined it ever happening in a country we cherished so much – I never imagined it happening in my life-time, anyway. It make one begin to wonder what really is happening in our beloved country under President Buhari!!
Nigeria being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, inter-ethnic conflicts may be said to be in-built in its social structure, and there has been a series of them, some marked by killings, even killings of genocidal proportions. But an order by a coalition of youth groups based in just one section of the country expelling an ethnic nationality from that Region of the country is something utterly inconceivable to me, something beyond my imagination. The quit order has a significance and implication perhaps not realized by the Youth Organisation that issued it; as earlier stated, it spells death for the spirit animating the unity of the entity known as Nigeria. That is the task facing us as Nigerians – to revive that spirit.
The quit notice issued on 6 June, 2017 cannot have been provoked, as claimed, by the agitation for the revival of the moribund independent state of Biafra by the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASOB) and its off-shoot, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The two organizations have been in existence since September 1999 and June 2009 respectively, i.e. a continuous period of 18 and 8 years respectively. If the agitation for the revival of Biafra was the cause of the quit notice, why did the Arewa Youths wait until 6 June, 2017 to issue it? Why was it only during the Administration of President Buhari that they issued the notice, and not under the Administrations of Jonathan, Yar’Adua or Obasanjo? They were emboldened and encouraged to issue it during Buhari’s Administration because they know that the Northernisation/Islamization Agenda formed a central plank of the Agenda of his Government, and that they will be given all the protection and support they need, as indeed they are getting.
In fairness to him, the Acting President, Prof Osinbajo, lamenting the increasing spate of hate speeches, admonished those behind them “not to misuse their democratic right of freedom of speech to endanger the entire democratic enterprise,” and that failure to draw “this line between freedom that conduces to healthy democracy and that which threatens and endangers the entire democratic enterprise……..will be tragic”. It is also to his credit that he moved round the country talking to people as individuals and groups in an effort to assuage tempers and feelings enraged by the state of things in the country, which went some way in dousing summering tension.
All these ominous events threatening the corporate existence of the country occurred during the 103 days absence of President Buhari in London on medical vacation. On 21 August, 2017 after his return to the country from London, he made a nationwide broadcast which, to the disappointment of Nigerians, said not a word reprimanding, castigating or condemning the Arewa Youths, and gave not a hint of any plan to invoke the sanctions of the law, particularly the Terrorism Act 2011, against them. It said, merely re-echoing section 15(3) of the Constitution, that “every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance”. The identity of the authors of the quit notice and their backers is of course well-known. A group photograph of them with the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, taken during a world press conference on the suspension of the quit notice, appeared on the front page of the Vanguard on 25 August, 2017.
When he (President Buhari) spoke again on 23 December 2017, he dwelt instead on his pet strategy for keeping himself in office – the blame game. One would have thought that the country’s survival in the face of the threat to its continued corporate existence created by the quit notice and the spate of hate speeches by individuals and groups across the nation is a near-miraculous event for which we should all be thankful to God. For the President, however, what ranks as “an act of God” is the country’s survival from the rot left behind by the previous Administration.
“Some of the things I saw here”, he said, “were unbelievable. I still shudder and wonder how a country can survive under such abuses. It is only by an act of God that we survived”. : see the Vanguard 23 December, 2017. This is an incredibly egoistic utterance to come from the President of a country that has just gone through a Quit Notice and a spate of hate speeches that threatened to tear it apart. Perhaps, the admonition of Professor Wole Soyinka that he should “fix the problem, and stop the blame game” (Vanguard, January, 2018) is the most that can be said concerning this particular utterance. Very well said, indeed! Enough of all the messianic pretensions; having failed, after nearly three years in office, to fix the manifold abuses in the administration of government in the country, the President should stop the messianic pretensions.
Commendable as the effort of the Acting President was, it fell short of what the situation created by the Quit Notice called for and requires, i.e. the invocation of the sanctions of the law against the Arewa Youths and their backers. What, then, is the status in law of the Quit Notice?
Sanctions prescribed by law for the action of the Arewa Youths and the inability or unwillingness of the government to invoke the sanctions against them
First, the quit notice is unlawful, because the Arewa Youths have no power, authority or right to issue it; it was issued without the consent or approval of the beneficial owners of the land of Northern Nigeria and without the consent or approval of the State Governors in whom the land is formally vested in trust for the beneficial owners under the Land Use Act 1978.
Second, it is distinctly unconstitutional, being an open, deliberate and undisguised violation or contravention of a specific provision of the Constitution, section 15(3) of which, lays on the state, for the “purpose of promoting national integration, the duty to (a) to provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the Federation; (b) secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation.”
Third, the quit order is unconstitutional not only because it violates or contravenes specific provisions of the Constitution but, more importantly, because it strikes at very basis of the charter of our togetherness “as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign Nation”, to be known as Nigeria which “shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory” : see the preamble and section 2(1) & (2). A federation is a union of different peoples, and the Constitution declares the “consolidation of the Unity of our people” as one of its cardinal purposes. It is this union “solemnly” declared and established by the Constitution that the Arewa Youths seek to undermine and subvert by its order expelling from the North the entire people, Ndigbo, drawn from five of the States that constitute it.
As an act subversive of the Union established by the Constitution, and clothed with the attributes of indivisibility, indissolubility and unity, the expulsion order is treason against the Constitution, comparable to a declaration of secession, to be distinguished from a mere agitation for it or agitation for the revival of Biafra.
Fourth, the quit notice is an act of terrorism which, as defined by the Acting President, citing the Terrorism Act 2011, is “an act done with malice to intimidate a population,” and create in them the fear of violent attacks leading to killings and other kinds of injury. And according to the Acting President, “all the consequences” attaching to an act of terrorism under the Terrorism Act “will follow.” The notice to quit was an act of intimidation that threatened the lives and properties of Ndigbo in the North. The threat was acknowledged by the statement issued on the matter in the Vanguard of 18 August, 2017, by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) in which it said that “in response to a series of inquiries from some members of the general public following threats to the country’s existence”, it wished to assure Nigerians not to “panic over their security wherever they reside in the country”, and that “it is on top of the nation’s security situation”. So the threat was real. The reality of the threat is undeniably underscored by the words of the recorded hate songs broadcast in Hausa and English from many stations in the North.
But the consequences under the Terrorism Act 2011 did not follow, as announced by the Acting President. Why was the Arewa Youths Coalition not declared a Terrorist Organisation and proscribed, as was done to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on 15 September, 2017 for merely agitating for the revival of Biafra? Is an agitation for something, even something illegal, but unbacked by armed force or violence, not less grievous than the act of terrorism, indeed treason against the Constitution, involved in the threatened expulsion of Ndigbo from the North? Is the failure or the unwillingness of the Buhari Federal Government to proscribe the Arewa Youths and declare it a terrorist organisation, as it did the IPOB for a less grievous act, not a manifest double standard or an unfairly discriminatory treatment of citizens? Is such unfairly discriminatory treatment tolerable in Nigeria of our dreams – a country where Justice and Equity is supposed to reign (see preamble), where “the social order is founded on the principles of Equality and Justice” (section 17(1) Constitution, and where citizens have the right to equal protection and treatment by law without unfair discrimination (section 42)? To cap it all, soldiers of the Nigerian Army, armed to the teeth, were deployed to Umuahia, Aba and other places in Abia State to terrorise and brutalise the people in a bloody show of force mockingly named Operation Python Dance and Operation Crocodile Smile. The soldiers had their dance and their smile alright – at the expense of Ndigbo!! This is all happening in our one Nigeria.
2.Alienation of fellow-feeling among large segments of the population caused by President Buhari identifying with and showing support for groups advocating the unity of the North against the South
Viewed simply as a physical entity encompassing 75 per cent of the territorial area of the state called Nigeria and 60 per cent of its population, a united Northern Nigeria poses no necessary incompatibility with the unity of the country. The incompatibility lies not so much in the physical characteristics of the entity known as Northern Nigeria, with its massive territorial area and population; it lies more essentially in what the entity has come to signify. It signifies a segment of the country that is separated and disunited in interest, attitude, outlook and vision from the rest of the country by an arbitrary, artificially created boundary line erected by British colonialism. The effect, indeed the purpose, of the British Government’s 1914 Amalgamation of its Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria is to keep the northern segment apart from the south as a people with separate identity – separate interests, attitude, outlook and vision, and to nurture in its inhabitants a sense or feeling of such separateness by deliberate policy and actions. And so has the entity “Northern Nigeria” come, over the years from 1914, to have such a powerful hold on the thoughts, attitudes and vision of people in the area, and to inculcate in them a desire for the preservation of its unity against the southern peoples.
Northern Nigeria ceased to be a single governmental unit after it was split into six autonomous States, later increased to the present nineteen States, as a result of the states creation exercise by the military government in 1967. But, strangely enough, the idea of a “united” Northern Nigeria has persisted as an entrenched fact of life, even after it (i.e. Northern Nigeria) has ceased to be a single governmental unit, and – the point deserving to be specially stressed and noted as the really significant aspect of the matter – has continued to exercise a firm hold on the thinking, mentality and vocabulary of the ruling and political class in that part of the country.
Regrettably, the entity, “Northern Nigeria,” after it ceased to be a governmental unit, has been kept alive, in part, by the formation and activities of certain non-governmental or civil society organisations; these organisations have been deliberately and consciously created and nurtured as instruments of power politics in the country’s affairs. The entire territory and peoples in the northern part of Nigeria are embraced within the domain of these organisations. Such are the Arewa (meaning Northern Peoples) Consultative Forum (ACF) of which a man of Yoruba extraction from Kwara State, Sunday Awoniyi, was Chairman for some years; Northern Elders Forum (NEF) comprising in its present membership some notable people from the minority ethnic groups in the Middle Belt area, among whom is Paul Unongo, a Tiv man and a Christian from Benue State, now the Forum’s Chairman after the death recently of Alhaji Maitama Sule; the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, with the Sultan of Sokoto as Chairman; the Northern Governors Forum; the Northern Delegates Forum; Arewa Reawakening; the Arewa Youths; the Northern Senators Forum, among others.
The so-called common destiny claimed for the peoples in northern Nigeria is something tendentiously invented to serve the purpose of political domination, control and manipulation by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, and his exclusively northern political party, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC). His consolidation and perpetuation of the idea of Northern Nigeria, we are told by Sheikh Gumi, “was not borne out of political consideration only”, but was also conceived as “a personal mission” handed down to him by a his forbear, Sheikh dan Fodio. According to Gumi, the Sardauna had “pledged and dedicated himself to work untiringly for the progress and happiness of the North”, thereby creating in the different peoples of the North and inculcating in them, the binding sense of solidarity and unity of the North as one entity with one destiny. The sense of solidarity and unity thus created and studiously nurtured in the different peoples of the North was his distinctive legacy, the effect of which was to deepen the North-South Divide resulting from Lugard’s 1914 amalgamation. His legacy gave impetus and vitality to the persistence of the idea of “Northern Nigeria” as one entity, which (i.e. his legacy) inspired the formation and activities of the non-governmental or civil society organisations mentioned above.
The detrimental impact on the unity of Nigeria created by the actions of these organisations is well attested by the reaction of the Northern Senators Forum at its meeting in Katsina, Katsina State, on 12 December, 2017 to a resolution by its southern counterpart at its own meeting in Calabar, Cross River State, in November 2017 calling on President Buhari to implement the 2014 National Conference Report. The Northern Senators Forum is entitled to react to the call to the President by its southern counterpart. Its reaction is amazing because of the reasons given for it by its chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, former Governor of Zamfara State, in his Opening Address at the Katsina meeting. He said : “It is unfair to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to implement a report to which he was not a party. He was not privy to its underlying philosophy or its primary objectives.”
President Buhari is certainly at liberty to refuse to implement the 2014 Conference Report, but not for the reason that “he was not a party to it….. or privy to its underlying philosophy or primary objectives.” The call was not made to General Buhari as an individual, but to him as successor to the government in office when the conference held and issued its report. The continuity of government or its endurance for an indefinitude of time is a basic principle of public administration. Individual presidents come and go but their decisions and actions while in office remain in existence as acts of state, leaving those in control of the government for the time being to act or not to act on them within the framework of the rule of law. Senator Abdullahi Adamu, as a two-time State Governor and a refined, knowlegible gentleman, is supposed to be familiar with this basic principle of public administration. He could only have made the statement quoted above, not out of ignorance, but from a desire to support a President who belongs to the same Moslem North as himself and who is imbued with the same desire to support and promote the idea of a united Northern Nigeria and its interests.
The language of the communiqué issued by the Forum at the end of its Katsina Meeting betrays, perhaps unwittingly, a certain confrontational stance. It affirmed that the “North is not afraid of restructuring”, and that “there is need for the North to stand united, irrespective of political, ethnic or religious differences,” and then goes on to accuse the southern political elites of “intimidating the North with the term restructuring” and of “painting the region as a weak link, parasitic and unproductive region that brings nothing to the table.”
The activities and utterances of these organisations thus establish the incompatibility of a “united” Northern Nigeria with the unity of Nigeria. The incompatibility results, as earlier stated, not so much from the mere existence of Northern Nigeria as a physical entity encompassing 75 per cent of the territorial area of Nigeria and 60 per cent of its population, as from the erection of the North as an entity inhabited by peoples marked apart from those in the South by differences in interests, attitude, outlook, vision and even destiny and in whom sentiments based on their separateness from the South have been nurtured in the years since the 1914 Amalgamation. The incompatibility is made more evident when a “united” Northern Nigeria forms an agenda in the programme of an incumbent President of Nigeria, and is implemented by concentrating a great majority of the strategic and other key appointments in the North and other acts of unfair favouritism done with unabashed disdain. The glaring incompatibility makes the much-vaunted talk about the unity of Nigeria not being negotiable and about nation-building generally sound more like a farce. Unity may continue to elude us and become an unattainable object unless and until the idea of a united Northern Nigeria is exorcised from our minds, thought and vocabulary.
One last evil consequence of a united Northern Nigeria for the unity of the country remains to be noted. It has trigged the formation in July 2012 of a countervailing pan-Southern Nigeria civil society organisation by the name the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA), which held its third General Conference in Lagos on May 20, 2012 attended by a South-East delegation led by former Vice-President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, a South-West delegation led by Rt. Rev. Emmanual Bolanle Gbomigi, while the South-South delegation was led by Chief Edwin Clark. (The earlier General Conferences were held in Uyo and Enugu).
The formation of the SNPA is significant because it was triggered by the existence and activities of the pan-Northern Nigerian organisations mentioned above, and was meant to serve as a counterpoise, a counter-vailing platform, to them, as emerges from the speeches by the three delegations. The creation of a pan-southern organisation to match those in the North is a threat to Nigerian unity because of the conflict-laden polarisation of the country into two antagonistic camps of North versus South, which is implied in the statements of SNPA’s objectives, as declared in speeches delivered at the Lagos General Conference. In his opening speech, Chief Edwin Clark said:“We are convinced that if our political leaders and forebears had invested some of their energies, exceptional brilliance and wits in fostering a united Southern Nigeria, the challenges of fragmentation and distrust which have been very clearly exploited by the North to supplant us in virtually all aspects of our political lives would have been avoided.
“The unfortunate result was the lack of unity, cohesion and solidarity among their people. Because we could not speak with one voice in matters of common interest, the South became easily manipulated and preyed upon by our detractors whose tactics has always been to divide and rule. Despite their political differences, the North is always united in matters of common interest. This unarguably has remained our albatross.”
The creation of SNPA with the unity of the South as its objective raises the question whether the unity of the North against the South, and the unity of the South against the North, translate to the unity of Nigeria or to a drag on it. The question is discomforting. Borrowing Sir Frederick Maitland’s famous aphorism about the continuing dominating influence of the forms of action in English law notwithstanding their abolition and demise, we may say that we have buried Northern and Southern Nigeria as governmental entities, but they still continue to rule us, to dominate our thinking and attitude, from their graves. This is a great tragedy indeed. What should engage our concern and concerted effort is how to bridge the chasm resulting from the North-South Divide created by the 1914 Amalgamation of the Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria. The matter calls for the creation of a national front for the activist pursuit of the National Integration Agenda.
It is more discomforting to note that the proliferation of Arewa (i.e. Northern) Associations or Groups has continued unabated. The latest is the emergence on February 2018, of a group calling itself by the name Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG). Its emergence was marked by a statement, published in The Guardian of 14 February 2018, in which it warned that the North –
“would no longer put up with deliberate and sustained attacks on its unity, integrity and dignity……; that detractors coming from outside the North to foment trouble and escalate tension among our people……..will no longer go unnoticed and in the fullness of time, they will be held accountable for their instigation to violence and killings of innocent people on both sides involved in the herders and farmers conflicts”; that the region’s “noble dispositions” must not be perceived as “weaknesses,”; that the North is no longer going to turn the other cheek”; that “if the mutual respect” and peace which have evaded us throughout this country’s independent existence cannot be achieved at this point, we would all be left with no choice but to support the suggestion for the conduct of a referendum so that each component can peacefully decide its fate.”
This all seems disheartening, and demands that the question asked earlier, be re-opened and seriously addressed namely, whether the unity of the North against the South and the unity of the South against the North translates to the unity of Nigeria. The idea of the unity of the North or the unity of the South needs to be exorcised from our thinking if we are ever to have the unity of Nigeria.
CLOSING REMARKS : PRESIDENT BUHARI’S ADMINISTRATION IS THE RUIN OF NIGERIAN UNITY
The foregoing account shows that the undermining and ruin of Nigerian unity during the rule of the President Buhari administration is caused by one main factor, namely the President’s utterances, postures and acts of undue or unfair favouritism that identify him specially with his Fulani ethnic group and his geographic section of the country, the Northern Region, as if the presidency belongs to them alone, to the exclusion of others, thereby alienating large segments of the population, in fellow-feeling, loyalty and interest, from the Nigerian state – what is usually referred to as his Northernisation/Islamisation Agenda. The manifold problems tearing the country apart under President Buhari – insecurity, as manifested particularly in the Fulani herdsmen marauding attacks and killings and displacement of thousands of people and destruction of farms and other properties, the quit notice given by Arewa Youths Coalition to Ndigbo to leave the North, the hate speeches accompanying it, the lop-sided strategic appointments, especially in the security agencies etc – all revolve around this one main factor.
Perhaps, the act with the most undermining and ruinous impact on Nigerian unity, which deserves to be singled out for special mention, is the President’s undisguised favouritism and solicitude for a united Northern Nigeria which arouses in him and his fellow northerners a renewed sense of solidarity in defence of whatever they perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be its interest, and inclines them to adopt antagonistic, even confrontational, stance towards southerners in discussions of national affairs, thereby disabling them from approaching national issues in the spirit of what the interest of the nation as a whole demands, even issues such as re-structuring, Fulani herdsmen insurgency, and other national issues.
Second, his bias for the Fulani herdsmen and their masters, the Cattle Breeders Association (Miyetti Allah) is another aspect of his lack of impartiality that compromises his position as leader of the nation. This is manifested in his inability or unwillingness to take firm, decisive actions against the herdsmen’s killings in Benue, Taraba and Zamfara States in particular, and against Miyetti Allah’s blunt, anarchic refusal to abide and be bound by the Anti-Open Grazing Law of those States, which is the governing law there until declared unconstitutional, null and void by the courts. The President should not condone anarchy by anyone, the Miyetti Allah people not exempted.
The truth of the matter, as earlier stated – it would be sheer hypocrisy on the part of all of us to refuse to accept this – is that President Buhari cannot take strong, coercive action against an Association (Miyetti Allah) of which he is the patron, and in which he has pecuniary interest as cattle owner/breeder. This would amount to him taking strong, coercive action against himself. By remaining patron of the Miyetti Allah after his installation as President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria, he has involved himself in a palpably irreconcilable conflict of interests.
Third, the President’s favouritism for the North in pursuance of his Northernisation Agenda is again betrayed in a markedly unabashed manner by his reinstatement of the Director-General of the National Insurance Health Scheme (NIHS), Professor Usman Yusuf, a northerner, suspended for alleged financial impropriety by the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole whose ministry has supervisory authority over the scheme. Work at the workplace of the NIHS has been paralysed by workers’ industrial action caused by controversy over the President’s action. The reinstatement betrays favouritism for the DG in two main ways. The DG’s statement that he is answerable only to the President as the authority that appointed him, but not to the minister, is an unpardonable act of insubordination, deserving to be severely reprimanded, not condoned.
The executive power of the federal government is vested in the President and may be exercised by him either directly or by him through ministers and other public officers authorised by him; section 5(1), Constitution. A minister exercising any executive function assigned to him by the President does so as his agent, and his (the minister’s) “official acts, promulgated in the regular course of business, are presumptively his acts” – so held by the U.S. Supreme Court in Rankle v. United States 122 U.S. 543 at p. 557 (1886). So the suspension of the DG by the minister is presumptively the act of the President. And whilst the President has the power to override the decision or act of the minister, the maintenance of the minister’s integrity, respect and usefulness demands that he should not do so in a haste but only after considering all the facts and after consultation with the minister. Since the financial impropriety alleged against the DG is under investigation by the EFCC, his reinstatement should not have been made before the completion of the EFCC investigation.
Apart from the D.G’s statement being an act of insubordination, it seriously undermines the principle of the unity of the executive branch on which the concept of the single executive of the presidential system is built, and on which its effectiveness and credibility largely depends. From the lowest cadre of officials to the middle cadre, to the directors, to the director-general/permanent secretary, to the minister and finally to the President as chief executive, the concept underlying the system is that of the hierarchy of authority and command. The President should not degrade the minister as an act of favouritism for the director-general, just because of his commitment to his Northernisation Agenda.
The President’s pursuit of the Northernisation/Islamisation Agenda has ruinously undermined our dream of Nigeria as one nation. His constant talk about the unity of the country not being negotiable no longer inspires belief; the general belief among many people is that he talks about the unity of Nigeria only in terms of a country –if possible an islamised country – ruled by a northern moslem. That is the mission he has set out to pursue and to try to accomplish. How could his talk about one Nigeria be squared with the fact that the National Security Council, charged with the crucial function of superintending over our internal security, has been turned into a sectional security agency composed exclusively of northern members (with one exception)?
The provision of the Constitution, the “federal character” provision, as it is called, specially designed to ensure, nurture and sustain the country’s unity has, in the process, been perverted and rendered largely nugatory. The provision deserves to be quoted in extenso : section 14(3):
“The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies” (emphasis supplied).
To reinforce the provision in section14(3) and ensure its due implementation in the actual administration of government, the Constitution establishes a Federal Character Commission, and empowered it to:
(1) “(a) work out an equitable formula subject to the approval of the National Assembly for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the Federation and of the States, the armed forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force and other government security agencies, government owned companies and parastatals of the States;
(b) promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government;
(c) take such legal measures, including the prosecution of the head or staff of any Ministry or government body or agency which fails to comply with any federal character principle or formula prescribed or adopted by the Commission; and
(d) carry out such other functions as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly.
(2) The posts mentioned in sub-paragraph (1)(a) and (b) of this paragraph shall include those of the Permanent Secretaries, Directors-General in Extra-Ministerial Departments and parastatals, Directors in Ministries and Extra-Ministerial Departments, senior military officers, senior diplomatic posts and managerial cadres in the Federal and State parastatals, bodies, agencies and institutions”
How can the President’s lop-sided strategic appointments, especially appointments in the security agencies, be squared with the federal character provisions of the Constitution? How can they be justified in the face of those provisions? The administration of government by the President in defiance or violation of relevant provisions of the Constitution is a gross misconduct under section 143 of the Constitution. Interestingly, the person, Mohammed Bello Tukur, a northerner and a moslem, the President appointed Secretary of the Federal Character Commission is the Legal Adviser of the Cattle Breeders Association, the Miyetti Allah.
And yet whenever the issue of this gross misconduct is raised we are fobbed off with the deceitful story of 175 appointments that are irrelevant to the issue of strategic appointments; also irrelevant is the appointment of at least one minister from each State which is a specific command of the Constitution entirely outside his discretion. And so the deceit continues – an element of self deceit is also discernable. Deceit is of course a strategy of rule. Dr Joseph Goebbel, Hitler’s Minister of Information, has perfected it into an art, and our own affable-looking Lie Mohammed is trying to out-Goebble Goebble in 21st century Nigeria.
It is possible to run a government based on false manipulation of facts, but you cannot build an enduring nation upon a foundation of deceit, for, when the deceit is exposed, the foundation will collapse, taking with it the entire edifice. The truth of this is inescapable.Thus, the issue for us in 2019 election is clear. The person the country needs as President has to be a unifier, a leader capable of unifying the various ethnic, religious, political, and other social groups in the country, of reviving fellow-feeling or a sense of belonging, together as citizens of one country, and above all, rekindling the old spirit of Nigerianism.
Professor Ben Nwabueze Lagos,3rd December, 2018