WHO'S AFRAID OF THE NORTH?
During the Second Republic when a debate arose over revenue allocation formula for the nation, the North rose in unity to state that land mass rather than population should be the criterion for revenue allocation. Their argument almost carried the day. It is noteworthy that the way the North is crying imbalance now over the 2011 presidential race, was the same way it cried imbalance then, threatening fire and brimstone if the collective wishes of its people were not met.
After the idea was roundedly defeated by superior arguments and reasoning and accepted by all well-meaning people of the land, land mass nonetheless, later sneaked its way back into the revenue allocation lexicon crafted by northern Nigerian policy makers who dominated Nigeria's civil service as of then and as of today. They used land mass instead of population, to distribute the wealth of the nation. If it were not so, has any one in his right senses, figured out, why Kano has more local government areas than Lagos?
During the last census exercise, the North came up with the exclusion of ethnicity and religious persuasion as an essential question on a person's bio-data for sake of ascertaining accurate demographic distribution in the land. It carried. It carried against the groveling of the southern toothless bull-dogs who would only resist a move in the media only to capitulate later without a shot fired, particularly if that policy seems to be in the interest of the North. We could go on and on with more examples. The Sharia, the Arabic inscription on the naira note; our membership of OIC, the Petroleum Institute saga; the oil pipeline and the location of refineries, petrochemical and allied industries.
It is becoming a tradition that in Nigeria, when a policy tilts towards northern interest, or tallies with its agenda, there is a loud silence. When some northern elites think a national policy does not fit northern Nigerian interests, they threaten the existence of the nation usually appealing to such base sentiments as northern Nigerian unity and the need for peace to reign. When this happens, it usually, is a veiled threat – a harbinger to commotion in the making. It's that bad.
Now, the North is once again threatening the disintegration of Nigeria should it not produce the next president. Makes one wonder on what solid higher moral authority is the North standing to shout. Is the North protesting because a citizen from the South-South, which section had prevented it from ruling Nigeria, is once more trying to deprive the North? Is the North protesting because it has not produced Nigeria's president in the not too distant past? Is the North protesting because in the not too distant past, its slot of ruling the country had been ruined by a gang-up masterminded by the singular or collective inordinate ambitions of people from the southern part of the country?
When some Northern leaders speak on issues concerning the corporate existence of Nigeria they do it without deference to the feelings and sensibilities of the rest of Nigerians. Why? They talk without reservation. They talk as if the North and other segments of the country are in a partnership, with the North being the senior. They're so brazenly arrogant, repugnantly audacious in their presentation that a visitor from the moon would think that this blessed country of ours belonged to the North and its plethora of ethnic champions and the rest of us, miserable onlookers. It is sad.
When their religious clerics make pronouncements that naturally should be of interest to other Nigerians of same religious persuasion, they condescendingly talk to them or issue instructions with a tone of finality. The north, by their individual and or collective actions, behave as if they are the crowned agenda setters for the rest of the country. When the North sneezes, the rest of the country is expected to catch cold.
The North and some of its agents will without reservation or consideration for others' feelings spew out such annoying phraseologies such as 'Nigeria will break if the south did that'. 'the North is doing this in the interest of unity,' ' for Nigeria to be united' 'Jonathan should watch his utterances,' 'the north will not accept it,' 'We ceded power to the South.' 'We will make sure that any northern governor that supports Jonathan's candidacy will lose re-election.' 'Born to rule.'
For 38 years, the North and its people ruled Nigeria. For 38 years, it was a northern agenda that was shoved down the throat of the obsequious South - with little protest. For 38 years, the North used the resources of this nation (largely derived from the South-South) to develop the North while the south, particularly, the South-South suffered a succession of unmitigated deprivations, some of which were economic, some social and a lot, political.
It was the 38 years of northern Nigerian misrule that prepared Nigeria's present political situation. It was the period that saw the collapse of a once fine educational system that was the pride of every African. Today, it is 6-3-3, next day it's 3-4-4. Today, it's School of Basic Studies, tomorrow, the abolition of A'Levels. It was a period that saw the dismantling of a civil service structure that was the envy of people from other lands. It was the thirty eight years of northern Nigeria misrule that saw our health care system which was some of the best in Africa deteriorate to its present sorry state. It was the years when the North ruled that our university teaching hospitals which were on the steady march to invention and world class research centres, turned into cheating hospitals.
The Nigerian military superstructure, the Police force and the Customs as well as all other similar quasi-government establishments, have been led, mostly by people from the north during the thirty eight years under consideration. It was during the same period that the north straddled the political landscape of this potentially great nation, that the concept of quota system was introduced as a panacea to some perceived imbalance that tilted against the north. As we observed earlier, in this essay, it appears that what quota set out to correct, it has now completely destroyed. Mediocrity has trampled upon merit and Nigeria is paying dearly for it.
Yes, to placate the ever insatiable north, quota was introduced into the nation's universities admissions policy; recruitment policies into the various arms of the armed forces were 'quotarised' during the thirty eight years which the north ruled. During the years, the north ruled, quota system elevated mediocrity over merit in almost every facet of the Nigerian system. It was the idea of mediocrity over merit, which brought the nation into its present sorry economic parse because mediocrity, you know, is the twin brother of supervised failure.
Have we forgotten that it was during the 38 years when the North sat on the pinnacle of power that a segment of the Nigerian geo-political zone- North-west – got seven states while the South east, a comparable zone in size and population, got five? That Nigeria under the command of the North produced the present 36 state structure (in fact every new state creation exercise in Nigeria had been done by the north) with the North superintending over 19 states while the South make do with 17? Throw in Abuja; the North has 20 states leaving the south with 17.
Truth be told, the North had all the opportunities in this wild world to transform its area and by extension the whole of Nigeria when it perpetually zoned the leadership of this nation to self. Unfortunately, its greedy elite blew it. Instead, its leadership became conglomerates unto themselves, business moguls and shameless billionaires. They bought up Nigeria. They allocated oil blocks to themselves. They hawked oil allocation papers on the streets of Abuja and at Five Star Hotel lobbies. They lived one day in Nigeria and four days overseas coming back only to perform Jumat prayers. Meanwhile, the majority of the populace living with infrastructural decay and its concomitant tolls die avoidable, miserable deaths.
It is too late in the day for the North, to therefore cry marginalization or insist on zoning or utter something like 'it's the turn of the North to produce the next president of Nigeria' as if the North has not been ruling all this while. Pray, when the North insists on zoning, what previous injustice done to its people is it trying to correct? This observation is with all sense of humility, bearing in mind that every perceived or real injustice done unto the north, was orchestrated and cooked up there and dished out by selfish northern elites.
Southern like minds should rise up and say it as it ought to be said in order to shake off the grinding/choking grip of the North and its voracious elites on Nigeria. Nobody should be afraid of the North.
Godson Offoaro write from Havensgate Owerri.