Northern elites and Nigeria’s underdevelopment
Nigeria, as currently constituted, is a subject of great worry for all men of good conscience. A nation that not only promotes injustice, but perpetuates ethno-religious bigotry, is only counting her days of existence. No state of injustice can endure perpetually. With her current constitutional architectonic apparently grounded in injustice, the Nigerian state cannot achieve her potentials or divine mandate as the biggest black nation on earth.
It is for this reason that not a few of the country’s best minds have called for its renegotiation, considering that its present putative federal (or rather pseudo-federal) system has failed, and cannot stand the test of time. Ab initio Nigeria was meant to be a nation constituted by semi independent states. The British who birthed the country had from start operated it as a polity made up of semi independent and functional parts.
However, although Nigeria has been characterized as a functional federal state, the fact that every element of growth and development has been in the negative territory for both the individual and the state itself, completely belies this characterization. Furthermore and unfortunately too, Nigeria is a nation in which the least cognitively endowed call the shots. It goes without saying that no nation can achieve her potentials under the present circumstances.
As for the Northern Elites and, of course, their Southern yes-men who are celebrating the so-called fall of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho, considered to be the kingpins of secessionism in Nigeria, one is left to question their contribution to the quest for the enthronement of justice in the country’s body-politic. For it has been argued that broadly speaking, the duo’s secessionism is not for its own sake, as its goal ultimately is to push for fairness, equity and justice which are largely lacking in the Nigerian system. Their agitation, it appears, was orchestrated by the ills of the Nigerian system and meant to arose consciousness, with a view to finding lasting remedies to them.
It is in this sense that the pro-Biafra agitation being led by Kanu or the Yoruba nation independence movement being led by Igboho should be understood and analysed. Biafra is a metaphor for political consciousness, an awakening to a sad history for which closure has yet to be found. More unfortunately, the Nigerian state doesn’t seem to be interested in finding closure to this sad history. Biafra is about a dismal history that opened in 1967 with a fratricidal civil war that lasted 30 months, claiming no less than three million lives of Ndigbo. It however ended with the hypocritical refrain, “No victor, no vanquished.”
In this connection, it suffices to reiterate that Nigeria as currently constituted cannot be sustained without a return to this history, which to all intent and purposes, pushed the limits in interrogating the nation’s claim to federalism as a system in which the component parts are organised as semi independent regions. Indeed this was the system that was originally canvassed and agreed upon by the nation’s leaders and founding fathers at independence, and framed into the 1960 Independence Constitution.
Needless to note, Nigeria’s constitutional order at independence was to a fair degree characterized by justice and equity in its appropriation of federalism as an organising principle. The point is that there cannot be a united Nigeria unless and until there is a veritable demonstration of the entrenchment of true federalism, by way of restructuring and devolution, into the Nigerian system, as is the case in the US. Nigeria can only become the country of our dreams when the North, which appears to hold the veto, ceases to pay lip service to the call for restructuring. There are thus questions that demand honest answers from members of the Northern oligarchy, to wit:
a) Why the deliberate and premeditated connivance with other nationals to have very porous Nigerian borders up north – the borders between Nigeria and Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon – through which belligerents and gangs of criminals come into the country to murder and commit atrocities of all sorts on Nigerians.
b) What explanation does the northern leadership have for the fact that Boko Haram in the last 10 years (as Al-Jazeera Tv in their report about the crisis in the North East revealed) has slaughtered no less than 30,000 innocent Nigerians, excluding officers of the Nigerian Army? Indeed more than 300 innocent civilians are murdered daily in cold blood by the Boko Haram Islamist insurgents.
c) That farmlands are now graveyards, as over 3 million innocent Nigerians have been forcibly dislodged therefrom into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps right in their own motherland on account of the dastardly activities of Fulani herdsmen.
d) That there’s an apparent plan to institutionalize fraud in the country’s electoral system given the disinclination by the northern oligarchs, who currently command the levers of power in the three arms of government, to allow for electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Obviously, this is to give room for manipulation in terms of falsification of results, underage voting, among others.
e) That the Federal Government led by General Muhammadu Buhari seems to prefer rehabilitating so-called repentant Islamic terrorists than restoring to form their victims who are ordinary Nigerians. Despite their unrelenting acts of terror on innocent Nigerians, the Government has continued to pay deaf ears to calls for them to be declared terrorists, with the immediate prescription of their likes — Boko Haram, bandits, ISWAP, Fulani herdsmen, among others.
f) That Nigeria is a secular state pursuant to section 10 of the 1999 Constitution. Yet, in the last 10 years, the country’s constitutional secularism has come under deliberate attacks by the Sharia-mongering of northern leaders. For example, Hisbah police in Kano and Kastina States, as well as other Northern states, have continued to destroy the economic wellbeing of non-Sharia compliant Nigerians in those states in the name of religious submission.
It is however surprising that these Sharia states have refused to reject revenue from VAT which partly accrues from sale of alcoholic drinks from non-Sharia states. According to the 11th November, 2020 edition of The Guardian newspaper, Kano State, in particular, received for each year in the last ten years, N40.6 billion from VAT. In contradistinction, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where Sharia law is also practiced, the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages have hardly been outlawed. It goes without saying that the Northern elites have continued to under-develop their region and indeed Nigeria as a whole with their preference for religious submission over and above pragmatic economic engagements. For instance, it’s on record that former President Goodluck Jonathan built schools in northern Nigeria for vagrant Almajiri youths in order to afford them inclusion in the national educational loop. But Northern governors and their ilk reportedly rejected the scheme, vowing not to continue with it.
According to an Ethiopian proverb, “Every child is a light to the world.” But we must quickly add that a child is light only to the extent that he or she has been cultivated educationally.
Prince Onuakalusi is a Lagos-based legal practitioner and President, Millennium Centre for Training in Leadership.