The Destruction of the Mythical North and Building of a New Nation
To those who still believe in the continuance of the mythical north-the One North, One Destiny, I report the demise of the myth and the end of its fruits to the singular beneficiaries. Some have spoken in the past about the impossibility of a presidential candidate winning an election without winning the north. This perception had emboldened the champions of zoning to brag and threaten that for the peace of Nigeria, 'power must return to the north.' This politics of divide is what I have consistently condemned. It only reminds us that we are not one people yet when apostles of ethnic politics keep shining the light on those things that separate us.
The results of the 2011 presidential election announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicated the graphic electoral split between the real north on one hand and the real south/Middle Belt regions on the other. President Jonathan lost the election in the whole of the real north (North-West and North-East, except in Adamawa state). President Jonathan won the elections, not just because he scored majority of the votes cast, but also because he was able to secure the mandatory 25 percent in 31 States of the country including the FCT against Gen. Buhari, who was able to secure the required 25 percent in only 17 states, short of the 24 States by 7 States. What if President Jonathan lost in all the states of the Middle Belt region and General Buhari won in all those states? It is clear that the north can no longer carry on the notion that it was generous enough to 'surrender power' in 1999, and so it is its birthright to have it back; and if it does not succeed, then Nigeria will not know peace.
Emphasizing zoning will never serve the north from now going forward. Nigerians will only vote individuals and not regions. When the north insisted on zoning, and made ominous threats, it awakened anger in most Nigerians from other parts of the country. The arrogant disposition of the north must end for its good. The time has come for us Nigerians to seek a new nation where regions and religion do not matter in electoral fortunes. If Gen. Buhari, who presently appears to be the face of the real north, and for whom the post-election wave of violence in the north is triggered, fails to work assiduously to calm his supporters in the north, he will have confirmed to many minds that he was not worthy of the office of president of Nigeria after all, an office he has sought passionately for at least the past eight years. Buhari owes Nigeria this much. He must address his followers in the Hausa language they most understand; he must use the platform of the BBC Hausa service and other media platforms to speak for peace to his people.
The argument of Buhari's party, the CPC, that some software (Excel application) was used by INEC to reduce the number of votes cast for his party by 40 percent is very laughable in this age of information technology. It is very simple to determine if such a thing happened. The CPC must demonstrate how that was achieved, and show, through their polling agents, the hard copies of results at all polling stations (all party polling agents are entitled to have a signed copy of results at their respective polling stations). Buhari, on the day of the election (April, 16, 2011), claimed that some aircrafts had carried already thumb-printed ballot papers to some states in the North-West, including his state, Katsina. Incidentally, the CPC won in all those states. Which should we believe? That a software application was used by INEC to short-change the CPC, or that already thumb-printed ballot papers were used to favour the PDP? Gen. Buhari should let Nigeria be. But if he remains stubborn in his outrageous claims, thus spurring more violence in the north, both he and his north shall lose. Buhari's statements before, during, and after the presidential election have been quite inflammatory. His image as a statesman stands dented. He must call a press conference and apologize to Nigerians for the violence visited on innocent Nigerians by his supporters in the north. He can go to court to challenge the presidential election results if he so wishes, but his supporters have no right to destroy lives they cannot create.
Now is the time for a sovereign national conference. We cannot put new wine in old wineskins. Nigerians must come together to the table of brotherhood and negotiate this union. The North, Middle Belt, South-west, South-east, and South-south peoples must determine on what basis we shall continue to exist as one country, so that we shall without delay commence the task of nation-building. Before May 29, 2011, the stage for this discussion must be set. In framing a new people-driven constitution, the 1963 constitution must be a veritable reference; this is why. That constitution made provision for equity and prudence. That constitution was pre-military. The military, in 1966 came in and suspended that constitution and destroyed our federalism. After 45 years, Nigeria must re-build on a solid foundation. The military-induced 1999 constitution is founded on inequity, waste, and demobilization of the federating units, and must be discarded. The new people-driven constitution should make provision for the operational times for certain official positions so as not to destroy the mandate that Nigerians have given certain people in the country. This provision will at least encourage elected officials who may argue that their mandate cannot be taken away by a sovereign national conference. Self-preservation is a natural reaction, and we must not be ignorant of this or ignore it.
If President Jonathan will make an enduring history for himself and Nigeria, he must shortly after swearing in call for a sovereign national conference. We already have quite a number of draft constitutions that reflect the interests of the people. He has won the hearts and votes of Nigerians already, and has thus secured their unassailable mandate; he should build on that trust by submitting to the people their right to fashion out a working document (constitution) to guide nation-building. He will not be doing Nigerians any favours; rather, he will be doing what is necessary and right. The rainbow national assembly also must join Nigerians in the act of people-driven constitution framing. They have obtained the people's mandate, and we the people must give ourselves a constitution that we can truly say, 'We the people of Nigeria enact, adopt, and give to ourselves the following constitution.'
Nigeria cannot be the same again. We are nations within a country called Nigeria. And no nation within Nigeria must seek to have a second bite before another has had the first bite.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org).