Does The North Have A Disintegration Unconscious?

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Having previously identified key impediments to the realization of a truly national essence in Nigeria, I now turn my attention to the role that the old guard in the northern establishment plays in the continuous defoliation of project Nigeria. I grew up knowing the civilian wing of this northern behemoth as the Kaduna mafia, its military wing as the Langtang mafia.

In national lore, the Kaduna and Langtang mafias were a heuristic admixture of myth and reality, admission not necessarily tied to origin in both towns. The marriage of convenience between the two was the national nightmare that defined my generation. We were socialized into what the media called “the north-south dichotomy.”

And it didn't help that my generation lost her formative years to the unbroken continuum of national rape represented by the military wing of the northern establishment. Between them, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, and Abubakar threw almost two decades in the life of a generation of Nigerians to the locusts.

Why focus on the role of the northern establishment in snuffing the life out of every possibility of a truly fair and just pan-Nigeria at this time? After all, the entombed elite in all geo-political zones and ethnic nationalities contribute in various ways – and I daresay equally - to undermining the pan-Nigerian project.

The northern establishment deserves attention because of the ways in which the postcolony called Nigeria mirrors – so completely – the morphology of a colony. Colonial discourse analysis deals with the constant tensions between the Self and the Other.

The Self is imperial, arrogant, monolithic, and deadly. Its existence depends on its ability to produce the Other. The Self must dominate, humiliate, and keep this Other in perpetual bondage. This Self has numerous names: “History”, “Europe”, “the West”, “the metropole”, “the Centre” or even “the white man”. The Other, likewise, has numerous names: “history”, “Africa” “the third world”, “the periphery”, “the rest”, or even “the black man”.

The Self, as I have written elsewhere citing Ranajit Guha, exercises “dominance without hegemony” over the Other. Chinweizu best captures this oppositional dynamic in the title of one of his most engaging books, The West and the Rest of Us.

In many ways, the complex and chequered trajectory of postcolonial Nigeria can be reduced to “the West and the rest” motif in terms of how perfectly it mirrors this colonialist scenario. A Frankenstein that most Nigerians generalize as “the North” – I prefer the more specific “northern establishment” which comprises the political and feudo-religious elite and excludes the ordinary northerner who is also their victim – has always been Nigeria's “postcolonial Self”, aggressively creating “the Other” among all the other geo-ethnic constituents of the polity. The postcolonial behavior of this northern Self (read the tiny cabal in the establishment) has been so atrociously arrogant that the “rest of us” have learnt to reduce this oppressor to certain assumptions, terms, and agendas that I now invite us to rethink and problematize.

Let's briefly recap the 'identity' that this northern establishment has acquired, fairly or unfairly (most southerners will say fairly),in our collective imaginary: arrogant, rapacious, opportunistic, deadly, feudalistic, conservative, retrogressive, anti-modern, parasitic, lecherous, and fanatical in their desire to maintain the huge joke Nigeria calls federalism because it guarantees their stranglehold on the oil wealth of the Niger Delta and other appurtenances of gorging that come with the unfortunate character of our state as a “national cake.”

In essence, while other geo-ethnic stakeholders and entities across the country are always deemed to have a disintegration agenda – Biafra and the Niger Delta being the most obvious cases – because of the discontent that characterizes their place in and relation to the Nigerian state, it is always assumed that the northern establishment is the only entity without an inclination for disintegration because of the oil it plunders so murderously in the Niger Delta.

I am beginning to question this rather neat narrative in view of a discernible pattern of curious investment in the imaginary by representatives and spokespersons of the northern establishment over the years. I have tried in previous efforts to demonstrate the power of the imaginary over the real because every truly national project known in history has taken off as an imaginary strong enough to command the subscription of a people who then will it into being as a concrete geo-political reality.

The imaginary's path to reality passes through speech acts that create symbolic universes of meaning. This explains why I am tempted to read the old guard of the northern establishment through the prism of their investment in socially symbolic speech acts that betray what I believe is a disintegration unconscious they may not even know they have.

I am playing on Fredric Jameson's notion of 'the political unconscious'. The influential American Marxist thinker deploys this concept to account for the always already predetermined political essence of all acts of interpretation of texts, culture, and human experience. The predetermined political nature of the interpretive act implies the non-neutrality of all enunciation; hence they are all “socially symbolic acts.”

Although I have given a rather simplistic account of Jameson's complex formulations, it is important that we isolate patterns of speech behavior and forms of investment in the symbolic that would seem to contradict the national consensus that the northern establishment wants to keep Nigeria one at all costs. Playing on George Orwell, I am going to call this form of northern speech behavior 'Maitama-Speak'.

Although speech acts that can only hasten the path to Nigeria's disintegration predate him, it is to Alhaji Maitama Sule that we must go for the most harebrained version of disintegration unconscious. He it was who announced to Nigerians a biological division of labour and talents that reserved rulership exlusively for the Hausa-Fulani stock, owambe unlimited for the Yoruba stock, buying and selling for the Igbo stock.

Fast forward to Chief Godwin Daboh – who wouldn't even be considered a proper northerner by the “pure” inner caucus of that establishment who merely find him useable - and you get example after example of cantankerous Maitama-Speak. When “power” and, by implication, “the national cake”, are in the south, you hear members of the northern establishment deploying vocabularies of reluctant but temporary relinquishment of what they consider their natural property. “We YIELDED power to the south”; “we GAVE power to the south”; “we SHIFTED power to the south”, “we will not allow this”; “we will not allow that”. Pay attention to who is in the subject position - the “we” - in all these sentences that I have lifted randomly and directly from the speech acts of members of the northern establishment.

Sadly, there are worse examples of Maitama-Speak. Listen to this: “Really, to me, people are saying South-South, South-South, I have not seen anything happening. Who from the South-South, who?” That was Abdulkadir Kure, a former governor of Niger state, reacting to the possibility of the presidency ever going to a certain part of Nigeria. Governor Kure looked at the entire South-South and couldn't possibly find a single material that could occupy a seat that mediocres like Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha had occupied.

By agreeing to be part of the furniture in Aso Rock, Goodluck Jonathan has sadly given considerable meat to Kure's Maitama-Speak. Come closer home to 2009 and you encounter Bala Ibn Na'Allah, one idiot in the Federal House of Representatives, who took Maitama-Speak to new levels. The Nigerian state, he announced foolishly, should be ready to dispense with the lives of twenty million Niger Deltans instead of President Yar'Adua's current strategy of slow and installmental genocide.

Maitama-Speak and the instances of it that I have enumerated above raise interesting questions. Because Maitama-Speak is an investment in the symbolic, we must ask: how does a northern establishment, already perceived by the rest of Nigeria as an internal colonizer, propose to keep Nigeria one through periodic, sustained, and invidious speech acts that do not only constantly aggravate the sense of injury felt by the rest of the country but also contribute to imaginaries of disintegration by creating the conviction in several ethno-national communities that they have no stake in the apparent mirage that is pan-Nigeria? How else to explain Maitama-Speak? An individual with such proclivities would be placed on suicide watch by his shrink; a mechanical device with such tendencies would be suspected of having been programmed to self-destruct.

The idea of a northern disintegration unconscious is made even more compelling by the symbolic body language that accompanies Maitama-Speak. The symbolic body language of the northern establishment to the rest of the country is perhaps the only thing that is worse than Maitama-Speak and legitimizes my call for a re-examination of the thesis of their sacrosanct adherence to the philosophy of one Nigeria.

You know that the rest of the country resents you as an internal colonizer, yet you multiply such egregious acts of symbolic arrogance as: (1) you get a Justice Ibrahim Auta to sentence Ken Saro-Wiwa to death; (2) you arrest Henry Okah and ship him symbolically to the North for trial; (3) your JTF is made up of mostly northern soldiers who are even filming themselves murdering southern civilians; (4) the public face of your JTF is an overfed Colonel Rabe Abubakar whose press conferences are pure acts of provocation; (5) you keep and maintain an army of almajiris in unbelievable poverty and ignorance, ready to be unleashed on southerners in the north every time you need to make a political statement; (6) as a Hausa-Fulani President from the proto-aryanist inner caucus of a resented establishment, and being fully aware of Nigeria's dangerous geo-ethnic fault lines, you do something as unbelievable as ordering air raids on civilian populations in the south, a degree of criminality that Sani Abacha didn't even contemplate.

I refuse to believe that that there is nobody among President Yar'Adua's closest handlers who could translate 'symbolism' to Hausa for him. How could a former University Professor be totally oblivious to the symbolism of the above scenarios in terms of their deadly portents for national cohesion? Does the President really believe that deep down in the psyche of the Nigerian south and the south south, his murderous JTF stands for an apparatus of some legitimate state maintaining law and order within her borders? I have bad news for him.

In the field of symbolism, his JTF is a Force of Occupation owned by the northern establishment and deployed in the Niger Delta in furtherance of Nigeria's internal colonialism; the Niger Delta is an Occupied Territory, no different from Gaza; to the extent that they shipped tactlessly to the north, Henry Okah is not a prisoner of the Nigerian state, he is a symbolic war booty for the northern conquerors in Nigeria's colonial drama; what happened to Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 was a symbolic colonial hanging by the northern establishment, no different from colonialist Italy's hanging of Omar al-Mukhtar, Libya's national hero and leader of the anti-colonial resistance in 1931.

Disintegration unconscious is the only explanation I have for the symbolic behavior of the northern establishment. You do not behave constantly invidiously to keep Nigeria one.

For those of us who refuse to give up on the possibility of pan-Nigeria and who still define our humanism by not being dead to the humanity of Nigerians outside of our ethnic group, it should be clear that we cannot do business with the old guard in the northern establishment.

Their antiquated philosophies and invidious ways of inhabiting the symbolic is a continuous threat to the Nigeria of our dreams. The Nigeria of our dreams is a deadly threat to the Nigeria they seek to maintain and perpetuate.

By Pius Adesanmi
The cultivation of relationships and pan-Nigerian agendas with a new breed of northern humanists not festooned with the dual deficit of Maitama-Speak and invidious investments in the symbolic is crucial. I already identified Lamido Sanusi Lamido as one such pan-Nigerian humanist based on more than a decade of continuous assessment of his mind.

The mostly ill-informed recriminations poured on my person by puny internet gutterlecters is indicative of the enormous challenges that will continue to undermine the formation of true pan-Nigerian coalitions that are united in their unconditional rejection of the retrogressive version of Nigeria currently represented by President Yar'Adua.

It had to take Lamido Sanusi's senate confirmation hearing to surprise the gutterlecters and blunt the sharp edges of their pre-programmed prejudices. Little did they know that Lamido Sanusi has a long history of ideological confrontations and clashes with the retrogressive old guard in the northern establishment. Yet there are more pan-Nigerian northern humanists of the new generation out there.

Some you already know because they have served nationally and are currently being praised or excoriated in the public sphere as their place in posterity is being assessed by the Nigerian public. I am thinking of Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir El-Rufai. For some their place is already settled as national heroes; some are still critically assessing them; and some have concluded that they are villains.

Wherever you fall, it would take extreme bad faith to deny the pan-Nigerian purview of their ideas, agendas, inclinations, and immediate past service. It would border on surreal wickedness to lump them with the retrogressive forces in the northern establishment who do Maitama-Speak and assault the rest of Nigeria with tactless investments in the symbolic.

Lamido Sanusi, Nuhu Ribadu, and Nasir El-Rufai are just the ones you know. Every day, you meet northerners of this generation in your own personal and professional spheres. I meet them all the time as I circulate in conferences and lectures in academia. Like you, they look at the north and see an awful concentration of every known index of underdevelopment–poverty, disease, illiteracy, etc – among the people. They know that the north's disproportionate and unbelievable backwardness in relation to the rest of the country (Charles Soludo recently supplied a frightening picture), despite decades of gorging and stranglehold on the “national cake”, is the handiwork of the retrogressive, conservative, greedy, and wicked old guard of which President Yar'Adua is now a tragic, taciturn, and somnambulistic extension.

They share your progressive ideologies and invest cerebrally like you in the forging of a pan-Nigerian humanism.

Unlike the puny Maitama-Speakers in the old guard, this new progressive generation of northerners can read Iran between the lines in terms of what the heartening developments in Tehran portend for the wicked order that the status quo hopes to run for another sixty years in Nigeria.

In essence, as I circulate in circuitries of the mind, I meet a restless, resurgent pan-Nigeria out there, working and collaborating quietly, just beneath the surface of our fault lines of ethnic, religious, and other bigotries.

I work and collaborate in the Change Nigeria Project (CNP) with such stellar minds from every geo-political zone and ethnicity, united by our unalloyed love for Nigeria and a total determination to reclaim her from the locusts. Such collaborations – my friend Abdulmumin Yinka Ajia recently published a beautiful essay on taking Nigeria back – will ultimately take Nigeria back from the oppressor. I do not envision that new Nigeria without the north. I also do not envision her with a northern cabal still behaving like a colonial conqueror.

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