It takes profound insight to appreciate the remarks by the late Premier of Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, that if you do not blow your trumpet, nobody will; as others would be busy blowing theirs. Sardauna dropped the advice more than 55 years ago at the establishment of the New Nigerian Newspapers, an outfit the then Northern Region needed to advertise itself to the outside world and draw attention to its peculiarities and challenges.
This is the context upon which the bold demand by the Southern Governors Forum that the next President of Nigeria should emerge from the region can be understood. In a way, they are assembling the buckets before the rains.
I am, ordinarily, not an advocate of regionalization of the presidency or zoning the governorship of a state to any particular area. I believe in the best emerging from any part of the country or state and rendering service to the people. And I have my reasons. In the Eastern Region, the best that had happened to the area, had not been strictly because of the leader coming from a particular zone. The late Premier, Dr. Michael Iheonukara (M.I.) Okpara, whose legacies are yet to be equaled in the entire region, was from the Umuahia end but his imprints were felt more in such far-flung areas as Aba, Enugu, Onitsha, Calabar and Port Harcourt. The story is similar elsewhere. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Premier of the Western Region, took his human resource and infrastructural development initiative to all corners of the region, beyond his Ikenne community. In the North, the Sardauna lived his philosophy of “One North, One Destiny”, by carrying all peoples and components of the region along.
In the Second Republic, Dr. Sam Mbakwe, Imo State governor, spread development beyond his Obowo (Okigwe senatorial district) and touched other zones of Orlu, Aba, Umuahia, Owerri. Similar experiences resonated in other states of the federation at the time.
These are instances that inform my belief that the best can always come from any part of the country and impact on the people. But the reality of the present-day Nigeria suggests that such may not be the case always. Over time, leadership in Nigeria has been on progressive decline with each succeeding administration appearing worse than the one before it. To worsen matters, the momentum which the national leadership should exude to inspire the citizenry into seeing every part of the country as his, has been whittled considerably.
Professor Chinua Achebe was right in his views that “The trouble with Nigeria is simply a failure of leadership….the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”
In place of purposeful leadership to ginger the people to action, we have been presented with mediocrity, provincialism and parochialism, and the leaders pandering to their faith and regions of birth, in the process, consigning others to the fringes, and exposing the various fault lines in the country. At all strata of governance in the country, this leadership gap manifests exceedingly.
But at no time had Nigeria been exposed to these present dangers occasioned by leadership failure as it is, now. More than any other period in the history of the country, Nigerians are more divided on religious and ethnic lines. The President Muhammadu Buhari administration is not helping matters. It is rather widening the gulf. Agreed, it may have registered some marks in infrastructure development in some instances but the harm and damage it has done to corporate governance and unity of the country, are quite large. The President’s subtle agenda at northernization of the country’s core values and institutions, is one that does not do the nation and the people any good.
Unfortunately, Buhari has always been on this divisive path. As a military head of state, his proclivity to provincialism was large. Celebrated writer, Max Siollun, made a brilliant expose of the lopsided ethnic configuration of General Buhari’s cabinet between 1984 and 1985, in his well-received book, “Soldiers of Fortune”.
He wrote: “The ethnic and religious composition of Buhari’s SMC (Supreme Military Council) also concerned Southerners. Although the SMC’s membership was increased to 21, virtually all of its senior positions were held by Northern Muslims. Only Eight SMC members were from the South. Additionally, there had been always been an unwritten rule that the Nigerian Head of State and his Deputy could not come from the same religion or geographic region. Tradition has always mandated a North-South split between the two most senior posts.
“The Buhari regime broke this unwritten rule with appointment of Tunde Idiagbon as the regime’s number two. Although Tunde Idiagbon (was) a Yoruba name, he was from Ilorin adjacent to the North and also a Muslim.
“Six of the eight most powerful figures in the Buhari regime were Muslims: Buhari (Head of State), Idiagbon (Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters), Babangida (Chief of Army Staff), Rafindadi (Director-General of the NSO), Magoro (Minister of Internal Affairs) and Vatsa (Minister of the Federal Capital Territory). The most prominent Christian in the SMC was Major-General Bali (Defence Minister). Even then, Bali was from the Middle Belt. Only one (Brigadier Oni) of the four GOCs (General Officers Commanding) was southern, meaning that four of the five most senior Army positions were also held by Northern Muslims”.
Buhari has not departed from this clannish track.
Even as a civilian President, most of his key appointments are parceled out to his Northern Muslim kinsmen. Such an arrogant display of disdain is enough to cause concern to other components of the federation. Allowing another Northerner to continue from Buhari, will further alienate other regions.
So, make no mistake about it. The Southern Governors are merely amplifying the thinking of the people from their region in their submission. Their position on the return of the presidency to the region, need for State Police, timeline for promulgation of the anti-open grazing law in all member States; their rejection of the proposed 3% and support for the 5% share of the oil revenue to the host community in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB); their opposition to the proposed 30% share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins; their disagreement with the removal of the electronic transmission of the election result from the Electoral Act, are issues that cut across the states in the South and beyond.
They touch on equity and justice, two critical issues that have been lacking in the country, with dire consequences. There is even more in the resolutions. For the governors to rise beyond partisan lines to articulate and espouse the collective demands of the entire south, is uncommon and quite commendable. All that is required is follow-up and sustaining their cohesion.
Credit: Daily Sun