Nigeria: The Illusion of a North Dominated Rule

May 14th, 2012

by Lekan Abayomi

NewsRescue OpEd- I am sure you have recently heard or perhaps said, ‘Nigeria’s Northern rulers are responsible for the problems of the nation,’ or that ‘that Northern Cabal, those Arewa boys and that Northern rule…never again, we must have Southern and Middle Belt rule from now on.’

In February, Nigeria’s notorious MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) militant leader, Mujaheed Dokubo-Asari, while leading a coalition of South South and middle belt youths for condolence to late Ojukwu’s home, expressed a warning that the North should forget about ruling Nigeria next election, adding that the leadership position must go to the South or Middle Belt.

Quoting the Tribune


Sunday, 19 February 2012

Mujaheed Dokubo-Asari, has advised Northerners to forget the Presidency in 2015, insisting that the exalted position will remain in the South or go to the Middle Belt.

Fact is, not the North, but the Middle Belt ruled Nigeria the longest!

The first question we address on this topic of the Illusion of Northern rule is, who are the Middle Belt?

We can get a lot of information on this from an article published on January 29th, 2012:

Middle Belt leader and Southern General decimated Biafra

The South usually blames the North for the decimation of the Biafra dream. But how real is this? Fact-check: It is very untrue. It was another Middle Belt leader, Yakubu Gowon, a Christian who hails from Kanke, Plateau state in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, that, together with his army commander, another Southern Christian from Ogun state, General and two-time president of Nigeria, Obasanjo (OBJ), led the assault of Biafra. In the Northern counter Aguyi Ironsi coup of 1966, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, Christian Gowon from the Middle Belt emerged as the ‘compromise’ head of the new government.

In this Youtube video, at 3 mins and 30 seconds, Gowon clearly acknowledges his being from the Middle Belt of Nigeria.

Indeed, according to NVS, and Wikipedia, the Middle Belt consists of:


Nigeria’s prominent and most ‘remarkable’ leaders, the Babangidas, the Tafawa Balewas, the Abdulsalam Abubakars and the Gowons, blamed for most of the grievance of Nigeria, were all Middle Belt Nigerians.

In truth, the Sharia North has contributed very little to actual leadership of the Nation. And this area remains the most impoverished part of Nigeria, with the poverty level at 70-90%, at the low extreme of the combined 50% average. No surprise violence which is closely related to poverty is prominent in this Northern area.

Related: NewsRescue- Poverty in the North – A “Mayday” Call

The leaders from the ‘Sharia’/ Dan-Fodio North include: Shehu Shagari, Late Musa Yaradua and General Buhari, who is regarded by most Nigerians as having been one of Nigeria’s best and least corrupt leaders. Buhari together with his deputy, late general Tunde Idiagbon rejected IMF-SAP proposals which IBB later accepted, that crippled Nigeria. In like fashion, current president Goodluck Johnathan listened to the IMF and abruptly removed fuel subsidies, to the detriment of Nigeria.

Related: NewsRescue- Summary of Nigeria IMF-SAP debt progression

In a statement by a prominent Middle Belt leader, Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD:

We the peoples of the Middle Belt in particular and non Dan Fodians, in general, must rise up and resist this egregiously inhuman vision with every sense of pride and purpose. You can never be wrong in seeking to be free. Some have derisively asked the clear description of the Middle Belt peoples. Socially speaking, all non-Dan Fodians in the geographical north and central north are Middle Belt people, the oppressed people, deceptively huddled up under the “One North” of Sir Ahmadu Bello. However, geographically, it is generally acceptable to many scholars from the region that the Middle Belt federation consists of people in the present BENUE, NASSARAWA, TARABA, ADAMAWA, PLATEAU, SOUTHERN KEBBI, KOGI, KWARA, NIGER, SOUTHERN KADUNA, FCT, SOUTHERN GOMBE , and the two minority local government areas of TAFAWA BALEWA and BOGORO in southern Bauchi State.

The Powerful Multicolored Belt; is not the North!

We immediately see the areas recognized as the Middle Belt by the Middle Belt itself. This raises two pertinent issues,- Why does the South fail to recognize that it is the large Middle Belt that was responsible for the issues of the past that they hold the ‘Dan-Fodio’/Sharia North responsible for? And secondly, is it possible to ever expect this same Middle Belt will stand against their Northern cousins and support the South?

Nigeria’s Middle Belt, just like any belt does, has historically fastened the South to the rest of Nigeria. Indeed this vast area of mixed tribes, including some who will associate as Northerners and others who will call themselves Southerners. A rich even mix of Muslims and Christians has long been the capital and command and control center of Nigeria. A quiet, hidden giant. Silently operating to foster unity and maintain its quiet dominance. Little surprise the capital of Nigeria is not situated in Lagos anymore and was not moved to the impoverished North, but was rather situated at Abuja, FCT, right beside IBB’s Niger state, in the Middle Belt.

Is a conclusive division of Nigeria possible with this multi-religio-ethnic vast Middle Belt?

Chimaroke Nnnamani, the then governor of Enugu State, in his speech delivered to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Africa Republic Foundation (ARF), in Jos, in 2005, described the Middle Belt as ‘the Glue of the Nation’. Nigeria Central: Middle Belt, Glue of the Nation– Chimaroke Nnamani, Enugu Governor

As Middle Belt has come a long way in history, it has expanded on the political fillip of a feeling of system emasculation and oppression. Indeed, such feeling has drawn more who were not ordinarily, by geography and culture, considered by Middle Belt. Mid way, it was simply those who considered themselves unfortunate to be hemmed into the Northern Nigerian political system. That way, even some of the ethnic groups, evident northeast bound but living on the feeling of alienation, either by the old Northern system or the evolving Northeastern patch-up, had to seek succour under the umbrella of Middle Belt.

Further south, the Yoruba of Kwara and Kogi, Kabba, Ebira, Igala, Idoma, etc, had to be sucked into this emerging political feeling.

It is on account of this that it is currently argued that in terms of geopolitical territory, what may eventually spring up as the Middle Belt would be a behemoth squeezing apart the North and South of Nigeria, but constituting a seeming natural intervention between some alleged dominators and usurpists favoured at the transition of power from colonialism to nation.

It becomes clear that either Dokubo Asari for instance does not realize who the Middle Belt is and what they have represented in Nigeria’s history, or he for purposes best serving his strategic interests, chooses to ignore this.

Nigeria’s most infamous president, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida(IBB) is a true representative and leader from the Middle Belt. Is it the likes of that administration that Dokubo Asari and others who call upon a comradeship with the Middle Belt seek?

Now let us get to the Nitty-gritty of this subject. Nigeria’s leadership, Northern dominated or not?

Two Middle Belt leaders in childhood; Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar and IBB {img:lasgidiboy}

The truth and facts immediately become glaring. The Middle Belt likes of Christian Yakubu Gowon and IBB held the reigns of power and are culpable for the success or clear failure of Nigeria more than any other group.

The western-literate Southern journalists and historians have re-written Nigeria’s history to create an illusion of Northern dominated rule. Perhaps it is time Northerners learned and participated more in journalism.

As noted above, it was under the tenure of Yakubu Gowon, a Christian from the Middle Belt that the Biafra project was decimated, and this decimation was led by his Southern General, soon to become leader, OBJ.

Ok, not leadership but a Northern caucus?

Is it then true perhaps, that it was not actually a Northern dominated leadership, but by a Northern caucus that the North allegedly controlled and destroyed Nigeria? I do not like participating in these types of debates because they do nothing but deepen the lines of ethnic divide. But for the purpose of progress, let us fact-check that too. Indeed Northern caucuses like the Arewa group, have to a large extent preserved and determined Nigerian leadership, but in what way?

Why and How did Yakubu Gowon and OBJ become presidents?

By the Northern caucus. Indeed the word for the behavior of the Northern caucus is ‘compromise’. As described in the Encyclopedia Britannica, after a Northern 1966 countercoup, the North agreed for Yakubu Gowon, a Christian who hailed from the Middle Belt, assume power in good faith and compromise.

Quoting Britannica:

Yakubu Gowon, also known as Jack Gowon   (born October 19, 1934, Pankshin, Nigeria), Nigerian military leader, who served as head of state (1966–75).

From Plateau state in the middle belt of Nigeria, Gowon’s father was an early convert to Christianity. Gowon was educated in Zaria and later became a career army officer. He was trained in Ghana and in England at Sandhurst and twice served in the Congo region as part of Nigeria’s peacekeeping force there in the early 1960s. After the coup of January 1966, he was appointed chief of staff by Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, the new leader. Northern officers staged a countercoup in July 1966, and Gowon emerged as the compromise head of the new government.

Again, in discussing whether to take Middle Belt Dimka as a Biafran hero, BiafraNigeriaWorld forum demonstrated knowledge not only of the unique role and distinguish-ment of the Middle Belt from the North, but also Yakubu Gowon as a Middle Belt candidate and alleged comrade of General Dimka.

Posted by Ezeka Onu (Advocate # 23) on April 25, 2001 03:30 PM:

Using Nigerian standards, Dimka and co are certainly heroes of the Middle-Belt. But, before I can join the Middle-Belt in celebrating Dimka as a hero, I need to know what atrocities Dimka himself may have committed against NdiIgbo. As you know, When Dimka killed Murtala, Dimka was not thinking about Murtala’s crimes of genocide against NdiIgbo. Dimka was thinking about his Middle-Belt comrad, Gowon. However, I will celebrate Dimka as a hero before I ever celebrate Murtala Muhamed, the well-known mass murderer.


It becomes clear that any effect the North had, caucuses and leadership was diluted with partnership, cooperation and involvement of the South and Middle Belt.  As encyclopedia puts it, with much compromise.

So which caucuses and which Cabal really destroyed Nigeria?

Perhaps the Yoruba’s, a group to which I belong, need a deeper examination.

Abiola, the goon who maimed Nigeria

Which Nigerian financed and promoted the Buhari Military coup that replaced our Shagari civilian government with a military installation?

Again, which Nigerian arranged for the invitation of two of Nigeria’s favorite leaders, Buhari and Idiagbon to Saudi Arabia, to enable a coup he sponsored and the assumption of leadership by his crony, IBB?

That Yoruba man was Abiola.  Indeed in respect to Abiola, Olusegun Obasanjo warned:

“Abiola is “not the Messiah that Nigerians are looking for”.

Maxsiollun, a high repute global blog, has this to say of Abiola, the one man caucus:

Abiola assumed that when President Shagari’s term of office expired, the NPN would zone the presidency to the south, and he would be allowed to run for President. He was wrong. His presidential ambition was rebuffed by the powerful Minister of Transport Umaru Dikko who told him that “the presidency is not for sale to the highest bidder”. Abiola “retired” from politics soon after – totally exasperated with the NPN. He would have his revenge.

President Shagari reported that several frustrated politicians engaged in what he termed “coup baiting” against his government. Abiola had a massive publishing empire was used to launch frequent vitriolic attacks on President Shagari’s government with the intention of discrediting it sufficiently to psychologically prepare the public for its replacement by a military regime.

In his memoirs (“Beckoned to Serve”), President Shagari later obliquely referred to the financing and support given to military conspirators by an unnamed “well known business tycoon”. Although he declined to name this tycoon, contextually it was an obvious reference to Abiola. Babangida went further in unequivocally confirming Abiola’s role in financing a coup plot against Shagari and using his influence to destabilise Shagari’s government. He later revealed that Abiola:

“was also very good in trying to mould the thinking of the media. We relied on him a lot for that. So there was both the media support and the financial support.” (Karl Maier – Midnight in Nigeria)

President Shagari was overthrown in a military coup on December 31, 1983 and replaced by a military government in which Abiola’s friend Babangida was Chief of Army Staff (number 3 in the regime). Less than two years later Abiola was at it again and financed another military coup which eventually led to his friend Babangida becoming Head of State.

Update, August 29th, 2012: Hallmark “Respectful” Bow Yoruba Leader Tinubu Accorded Former President Buhari of Northern Heritage

So we ask, what caucus?

Who orchestrated the first military and ethnic coup, and initiated military rule in Nigeria? Kaduna Nzeogwu.

Who dissolved the regions? Aguiyi Ironsi

Who decimated Biafra? Yakubu Gowon and OBJ.

Who betrayed and sold the South? Azikiwe.

Who was behind, financing and establishing coups upon coups in Nigeria, installing the worst leaders to destroy our history? Abiola.

All, not that typical Muslim or North/Northerner that we choose to blame for all our woes.

Related: Genesis: The Beginning Of North-South / Hausa-Igbo Beef in Nigeria

Terror in A North, neglected, dilapidated, poor and denuded

So what happened to the core North while the Yoruba’s and Middle Belt leaders played games with Nigeria’s administration and finance?

The North decayed in the annals of underdevelopment, poverty and chaos. I schooled in the North and I saw and lived with the abject poverty there. Nigeria as a whole is at the 50% poverty level, but the Northern states with the most violence are at the 70-80% poverty level. The reasons for the poverty up North are many, this article linked does justice to that {Poverty in the North – A “Mayday” Call}.

Abuja Capital

In the article the Northern poverty level is on par with nations like Somalia and Eritrea, little coincidence the violence levels also bear semblance. While the Southern economy, with 90% of bank loans and deposits occurring in Southern Nigeria, correlates with the economies of Korea and China.

If indeed the North held the reigns of power, why was the only international airport in the North so poorly maintained, the Kano airport, a worlds worst? I landed there once in the 80s, the buildings were like a class room.

Why was the Northern link to the south and to the world, the rail road system allowed to rust and collapse?

Why was all business and trade in the North relocated out of the North, the likes of Abiola, and not a Northerner becoming the richest man in Nigeria and opening industry across the South.

Finally, why did the project to relocate the capital of Nigeria from Lagos, headed by late Justice Akinola Aguda, including members like late Tai Solarin, place this in the Middle Belt and not the North that ‘dominated’ Nigeria?

Updated July, 2013 to current time data
Updated July, 2013 to current time data

Related: NewsRescue- Religious Violence In Nigeria: Boko Haram As A Tool Of Religious, Political & Foreign Interests

‘Tribe/Tribalism’ is a colonial word utilized to divide and destroy Africa

Not too long ago, I sat with a distinguished senior colleague, who passionately recanted his discourse with another black African in Grenada. The black man had asked him what tribe he was from, and he responded, ‘we do not have tribes in Africa’. This had led to an argument.

It is the truth. ‘Tribe’ is a vocabulary utilized by the colonialist to degrade African’s and Indians and lead to our constant internal battle. Tribe creates a false consanguineous association of primitiveness and barbarism, delineating closed-ness, homogeneity and intra-marriages, which is not representative of Africa with its rich history of cultural integration, heterogeneity, acculturation and assimilation.

Indeed this term is the real issue that plagues and creates the confusion seen in this article, and the cycle of hate, distrust and violence.

We have no tribes. We only have ethnic groups. ‘Why,’ my colleague had asked, ‘do we not hear of any ‘tribe’ in Europe?’

The only tribes that come to mind are in the Bible, the 12 tribes of Israel, which depicted a religious intra-marrying lineage.

The Middle Belt, The North and the South are all Nigeria. We need to get over this sickness and seek the best leader, rather than keep fighting for tribal colonial quests that lead to one regional domination over the other. State-of-origin must be removed from Nigerian official application.

An article was recently written about the Bayelsanisation of Nigeria under the Jonathan administration. It expressed that the top positions in Nigeria are now being filled by people with Bayelsa roots and affiliations.

Is this what we Nigerians wish to keep witnessing and repeating, region by region, or do we at last wish to come together and select a smart leader from wherever who is brave enough to tackle corruption and exploitation, both internally and externally and develop Nigeria as it deserves?

Nigeria is not a pie to be shared, it is a baby to be restored and raised. It’s not about who and where is he from, it is about how and what does he know. What is his intellectual and moral capacity.

Nigeria’s past leaders play together in school

Yoruba, Igbo, Northern, Middle Belter and Southerner cabal alike have worked together to destroy our Nation. Rather than seeing beyond this, we the masses allow ourselves be used as pawns to the cabal’s ultimate, eternal advantage. It is time we broke off the colonial shackles of tribal connotation. We have no tribes!

Nigerians, it is time to reflect.

*Lekan Abayomi writes from New York; Article credit to NVS