Peter Omonua, ThisDay
Iwas talking with a family friend recently. His relative, who is from one of the South-South states, works with a major federal government agency. The person has worked with this organization for about 30 years, during which period, rose to the position of a Deputy General Manager (DGM).
About 4 years ago, the person received instructions, from “above” to employ a certain young graduate, and was mandated to bring the new hire in at the position of an Assistant Manager. Officially, the expected level for a new graduate should be entry level position. Within four short years, this new hire was promoted so rapidly that he attained the same level of DGM, that which took my friend’s relation 30 years to attain. As we speak, I learnt there is a new position that has just opened up for a General Manager within the organization. This young, 4-year experience employee is being considered for the General Manager post. This new hire is Fulani. This is not a made up story, it is real.
This same person, (my friend’s relative), was recently granted approval to hire 20 new staff for their team. The final list that Management approved to hire has 17 Fulani and 3 Yoruba.
This is what is happening throughout all of the Nigerian Federal government run institutions and Agencies as we speak.
During the visit of the World Bank’s President to Nigeria not too long ago, he was specifically instructed by General Buhari to focus his developmental projects in the northern part of the country. As would later be reported by The Punch Newspaper’s Oyetunji Abioye, the World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim was quoted as having said:
“You know, in my very first meeting with President Buhari he said specifically that he would like us to shift our focus to the northern region of Nigeria and we’ve done that. Now, it has been very difficult. The work there has been very difficult”.
Just recently, the Olu of Warri appealed to President Buhari to approve Seaports for South – South and South – East regions. Buhari was reported to have responded that he knows how many votes he got from these regions. Everyone knows Apapa and Tin Can ports are nightmares for users owing to the congestion. Additionally, why should people who live all over Eastern and Mid – Western Nigeria have to travel to Lagos to manage their shipping business when there are potential for similar infrastructure closer to them? Can you imagine the quantum of economic activities that could be ignited if any of Sapele, Burutu, Onitsha, Calabar and the newly conceptualized “Gelegele” Seaport at Benin were operational?
Scenarios like the ones I have highlighted above are not isolated cases. They have been the standard than the exceptions. There have been reports that when General Buhari held sway as the head of the Petroleum Trust Funds (PTF), more than 75% of projects he oversaw their implementation were situated in the north. That report has never been controverted.
Successive Nigerian leaders of northern origin, which unfortunately have been the case for the most part, have ensured that otherwise laudable developmental initiatives, capable of transitioning the southern part of the country to world class and dream habitation, have been frustrated at conception. This is because northern leaders view such initiatives as capable of widening the developmental gaps between the North and the South.
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The anxiety of the north about the developmental gap with the south has been there from the very beginning. At independence, the South was already miles ahead of the north in every parameter. The north has never pretended to like or appreciate that reality. As a consequence, educational and Social policies that have been implemented by successive ‘northern regimes’ have therefore been aimed to stymied or regress the growth path for the south while seeking to elevate that of the north.
Chief Olanihun Ajayi of blessed memory, who himself was a participant in the affairs of the country Pre- and post-independence, understood this better. In one of his last televised interviews, Chief Ajayi said the northern led Military government, at that time took over the administration of the University of Ife because the leadership of the north were threatened by the pace of growth of the Yoruba educational sector and they needed to stop it. Reproduced below were his exact words:
It was part of the plan to retard the progress of Yoruba people – that has been the case during the first Republic. The leaders in the north said the advance of the West was so much that they would do their utmost to make sure that, that advance is ‘Faulted’”
If you mentioned to any of these Northern leaders that there was any remote possibility of extracting water from a rock somewhere in the north, the flood-gate of State Resources are usually unleased at that prospect. A case in point is the Lake Chad Basin. Without making any pretenses about it, this current government has expended mind blowing State Resources with the hope of discovering Oil in the Lake Chad Basin. They would ensure that no expense is spared in that quest.
In its bid to bridge the very wide gap in the educational levels of the north and the south, all available State resources are being diverted northward, while bending the rule to unimaginable levels to accommodate the shortcomings of the northern candidates against their southern counterparts. We are all aware of the number of School Certificates Credit a northerner requires to gain admission into institutions of higher learning and the Cut-Off Marks they need to score in JAMB and other admission requirements.
This is not a new phenomenon. To put it in context, not too long after the country’s independence, the north needed to catch-up the level of Commissioned Military Officers to the numbers from the South. History has it that Northern Officers’ training, which for Southern Officers before them, took about 2+ years to complete, were shortened to 6 months or less. By so doing, the Nigerian military became awash with ‘half-baked’ military officers of northern origin. That was not all. The mandatory High School graduation result which was required for Officer Cadre recruitment were waived for these crops of northern Officers. That is why no one should be surprised that Buhari ‘cannot find his secondary school results’ and neither does the military authority possess it. It was never obtained, because it was never required for him to join the military. That was how the northerners became majority and all other ethnic groups collectively, became minority. That ratio has been jealously maintained and guarded up to this day.
Despite the fact that this race to ‘Catch-Up’, has been pursued vigorously and unabashedly for as far back as after amalgamation, there is a very slim chance that it can be achieved. The reason is because there is an increasing hunger for western education in the average household in the south. It has become more or less a culture. The reverse is the case with the north. Where the South, for the most part has a more cohesive, single unit family systems, the north is replete with homeless, arms seeking vagabonds, children, whom, through no fault of their own have become victims of a rather warped, shambolic but acceptable and thriving feudal system. To paraphrase Femi Fani Kayode, ‘they thrive on a vassal system, where the serfs worship the nobility and pay him homage’. Even though their calamitous social situation were self-inflicted, it has bred a mix of envy, bad blood and concealed annoyance from the northern leadership.
At another level, the northern oligarchs believe that they must remain in power to compensate for their shortfall in educational, industrial and social development. Whatever they could not achieve through a manipulated electoral process, they have always achieved through the barrel of the gun, deploying their advantaged military personnel and apparatuses when that supremacy is threatened.
It needs be pointed out to the northern leadership, that competition, which for all intent is a springboard to excellence, and which is the engine that propels initiative, is clearly absent in their feudal system. This has been further exacerbated due to their indolent over-reliant on the biasedly implemented quota system, a system which in itself promotes mediocrity. It is for the same reasons you will not see the average northern young man nor woman, occupy positions of authority in the private sector; safe for organizations with governmental ownership and for which positions you only need to be appointed than go through rigorous, competitive process. I was not surprised when Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark was quoted as saying: “When you get to Warri Refinery, you start thinking you are in Kaduna” It stands to reason. It needs no telling therefore, why the entire operational systems of federal government establishments, infested with these totally incompetent elements have gone moribund or collapsed altogether.
The average northern youth or young adults have become accustomed to the comfort zone of civil service or government appointments. They know they could get into these positions irrespective of their educational qualification compared to other candidates. This also explains why, despite the efforts of the average Southerner, who strives to measure shoulder to shoulder with other nationalities around the world, the Hausa/Fulani would rather stick around Abuja’s corridor of power, Ministries, Parastatals or Agencies. In a worst-case scenario, he get approval for concessionary exchange rates, buys foreign exchange from the Central Bank and opens a kiosk of Bureau De Change – ventures for which there is little or no application of intellectual capital.
After decades of leeching on the other regions, one would expect the few northern elites to convene an all-stakeholder meeting within their ranks, with a goal to setting a developmental agenda. An agenda that would have measurable and specific timelines, within which to see that reasonable progress is made in lifting their people up educationally and socially. Because there is a free flow of monthly allocation from Abuja, for which no efforts are required, such initiatives would never be contemplated.
I have often pointed out to people within my cycle that the northern leadership (especially the incumbent) don’t necessarily care about the development of Nigeria as a unified entity. Their interest, which any discerning observer of Nigeria’s political evolvement will note, is firstly, utilize their unfettered access to the vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and plunder the resources therein, with a view to close the development gap between the north and the south. Unfortunately for the nation, they have their very pliant lackey and amenable Man – Friday, Godwin Emefiele on the job. As recent leaked audio conversation has shown, he is ready with the keys to the vault at a moment’s notice.
Secondly, as soon as the north has the wherewithal (Human Resources, Infrastructure & Natural Resources), to make the move for secession. That is what they actually hope for. They just have not figured out how best to fast-track the process.
Permit me to digress a little, on Vice President Osinbajo’s current travails.
He was my Lecturer at the University of Lagos. Back then, he was generally perceived as a stern, no nonsense kind of a tutor. When he came to the class, he went straight to the point – no time for banters or frivolities. He did cut the picture of a thoroughbred professional.
It is unfortunate to see such a cerebral and at times, highfalutin personality transmuted into what a certain writer described as “the errand boy of the administration”.
His role as the Vice President would ordinarily be an exalted position, where he should, under normal circumstance, preside over the implementation of people-oriented developmental initiatives. However, situations for him have been anything but normal. The core functions of that office would seem to have been substantially whittled down, with his authority ‘confiscated’ and handed over to Abba Kyari. In its place, Professor Osinbajo seems to have become the point-man for ‘condolence visitations’ and the administrator of the vote buying stipend, disingenuously dubbed Trader Moni Loans. His office is likely to face even further humiliating degradation especially with the sudden elevation of Abba Kyari as the de-facto ‘coordinating minister of the ministers’.
The very act of sharing money to Nigerians, under any guise, is in itself a humiliating exercise. This is not only so for the exalted office of the vice president and pastor; it is even more so for recipients of the stipend. According to scholarly philosophy, “When you give someone something for nothing, you rob them of their dignity and self-worth”.
This is all a no-win situation for Osinbajo. On the one hand, he must do the bidding of his De-facto boss – Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. (It is instructive to not lose sight of the fact the “Jagaban” planted Osinbajo at the Villa to safeguard his 2023 presidential ambition). On the other hand, assuming Osinbajo himself decides he has had enough of the public ridicule and show of shame, to which he has been overly subjected, and then decides – against all odds to quit, It is rumored that “won ti ke nkan si lowo”; meaning he has been entrapped with some potentially scandalous and unsavory dirty dealings that bother on unethical or financial impropriety.
It is further alleged that he would not want the details of the underhand dealings or “hand in the cookies” scandals in public, because of not only his pastoral calling, but also the implication on his wife’s family, the revered sage Obafemi Awolowo. So, Head or Tail – he seems to be on the hook.
I will close off on Professor Osibanjo by reproducing here the admonition of Professor Akin Oyebode, who himself is a teacher to the Vice President. Professor Oyebode said:
“Quite seriously, I don’t know what (Vice-President Yemi) Osinbajo is still doing there. He is far smarter because I know him; he was my student. A brilliant guy like that should distance himself from mediocrity” – ( Punch Newspaper – July 28, 2019)
There are fringe elements who still believe the fault-lines in the amalgamation can be mended. They would rather we remain crawling giant, just for the sake of “being the most populous black nation”. No doubt, these proponents of a unified Nigerian structure are mostly those who have or continue to benefit from the imperfections and misalignment of the system. They prefer our existing failed structure because that is what fuels their engine of wealth. They forget that we have tried this system for over 100 years, and it has seriously set us back and will only continue to go in one direction, downward.
And there are die-hard followers, who despite Buhari government’s colossal failures will say “oh this is all the work of mischief makers and fifth columnists “. They believe anyone opposed to this government are paid agent, hired hatchet-men or agents provocateurs, to wage campaign of calumny and discredit this administration. Each time I have an opportunity to engage with these elements, I request that they point out three values that this administration has added to their lives or the lives of their immediate family members.
The way to redeem the sinking ship called Nigeria is through Decentralization.
It is not expected to be an easy process. If a people have lived off on the generosity of others for such a long time, it would not be relinquished quite so easily. ‘A ki fi oju boro gba omo lowo ekuro”. It is a task that must be pursued through a conscientious but painstaking determination. It should not be by the forces of Arms struggle or military – might but diligent instrumentality of the judicial and diplomatic process.
The two major ethnic groups in the South are the Ibos and the Yoruba. They should form the arrowhead of the struggle. While there are areas of divergences between these two tribes, a common denominator for them is a hunger for a progressive and advancing educational and social systems. Yes, the Ibos may be more monolithic and homogenous by reason of a common lingua and the preponderance of Christianity amongst its people; the Yoruba are not too far behind in the first respect. With religion, there is believed to be an equal split between adherents of Islam and Christianity in Yoruba land.
Matter of fact, this is another area where the Fulani tend to instigate mistrust and group animosity even within the Oduduwa Nation; because they know that the Yoruba Muslims pay obeisance to the Sultan on Islamic affairs and are sympathetic to the cause of Fulani Muslims. It also explains why the vast majority of the South West who voted for Buhari in the last election, voted not out of any ideological conviction, past stellar performance nor expectation of future competence on the job. They either voted for him because he is a “Muslim brother” or because of their false sense of hope for a 2023 Tinubu Presidency.
That said, the common interest that the Ibos and Yoruba have should be enough propeller to spur them on. They both value and hope for a thriving society with equal opportunities for its citizen. Harnessing these interests, without continually falling to the divide and conquer tactic of the Fulani is what must be ensured. It reminds me of a clip that I saw trending not too long ago. The caption was: “In our nation, Yoruba is weak, Ibo is selfish, and our master continue to have his way”.
To know and understand why the Hausa/Fulani have been able to manipulate and hold down the South for so long, it comes down to the following quotation, said to be an extracts of a report from Lord Lugard to the United Kingdom Home Office, while he was superintending over the affairs of Nigeria:
On the Yoruba, he was quoted to have stated as follows, inter alia:
“…….. But after some 29 years, and after nearly 12 years as Governor here, I am free to say that the people of Lagos and indeed the westerners are the lowest, the most seditious and disloyal, the most purely prompted by self-seeking money motives of any people I have met’.
Of the Ibos, said: “These people of predominantly Eastern Nigeria are fiercely rebellious with no regard for authority. Though industrious and religious, in deference to the objectives of her majesty and the crown, they are highly dangerous to be trusted with power”.
These are characterization attributed to an outsider who was debriefing his employer about his sentiment on the people he was assigned to oversee. In making these submissions, he was not mindful about offending the sensibilities of the subjects under discussion.
These are not times and seasons of self denials. They are seasons to reflect on how we have all succumbed under the spell of our collective overlord. It should be a time to form an East-West alliance for the emancipation of our people and for the economic, social and industrial advancement that has eluded us for more than 5 decades. We must take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror and come to terms with these assessments. We must also not lose sight of the fact that the British, in setting up the Hausa/Fulani as their proxy to take over the reins of affairs, also sold these sentiments to them. Which may help explain why the North does not trust to deal with the Ibos but would likely use some willing elements within the Yoruba to achieve their domineering agenda. We need not look too far than what we currently have in Abuja even now.
While we are at it, let’s not also forget that the same Lord Lugard said the following of the Hausa/Fulani:
“The Hausa has no ideals; no ambitions save such as sensual in character. He is a fatalist, spendthrift and a gambler. He is gravely immoral and is seriously diseased that he is a menace to any community to which he seeks to attach himself”.
Having read these, is anyone still in doubt as to why we are where we are as a country?
There is so much hunger in the people of the south collectively, to break forth and set the stage for the emancipation of its people and the black race. The black race is looking up to us. There is an evident desperation of these two ‘regional blocks’ to leapfrog into the first world of advancement. The one is willing and ready to make the move while the other, though hoping for its shackles of bondage to be broken, is unsure of its part to liberation. They each seek for regional autonomy, self-determination or better still, a dissolution of the existing structure and the formation of a new alignment.
My professor at the University of Lagos, Professor Ben Oghojafor (popularly called Big Ben) once gave me an analogy with respect to human development. He said the person that wants to move up in life but is struggling to do so, while pulling another person up with him at the same time, will experience one of two things; either he succeeds in pulling everyone up or he himself is kept down by the weight of his load. Southern Nigeria has unfortunately been a victim of the latter and like I always say, you don’t do the same thing and expect a different result. It is time to break forth to soar.
There is a perception that the South West is scared of the Hausa/Fulani because they wrongly believe them to be invincible. It is also perceived that this pusillanimity is usually spurned in a rather dignified, face-saving term, “Using Wisdom” or “Stooping to Conquer”. The Hausa/Fulani, however, can see through the subservience. They therefore stretch the political patience of the South West to its elastic limits. That same school of thought concludes that, if it was not for temerity and the false analogue of trying to keep Nigeria One, this over-extended patience should have long snapped.
The South east, on the other hand have been shown to be much more daring of the Hausa/Fulani. They have seen the Hausa/Fulani at their best, on the battlefield. The Ibos know Biafra would have easily pulverized the ‘allied force’ were it not for the British that propped up and supported the Hausa/Fulani. The South East also knows that whatever the valor attributed to the Federal Side in the Biafran War was essentially to the glory of the Tactical command under the control of Gen Obasanjo, Alabi Isama, Alani Akinrinade, Benjamin Adekunle and other southern commanders. Recall also that we have mentioned that the crop of Northern Military Officers was half – baked and hence did not possess the requisite competence to record the feat that has been chronicled. The Hausa/Fulani knows this. They also know that the Ibos know it. Therein lies their distaste but agitation about the Ibos.
Two things are clear.
If the South West continue to cower under the bravado of the Hausa/Fulani, the treatment that Abacha meted out to Gen. Oladipo Diya, (which is also looking imminent for Vice-President Osibanjo), will remain a recurring experience. They will remain subdued under the Hausa/Fulani oligarch.
Secondly, the South West and South East need to let go of their mutual distrust. They need to form an alliance, with a possible Middle-Belt Coalition. The fact that Zik and Awo could not work together should not be a stumbling block to the current crop of leaders from these two regions. The two regions have a common interest, the emancipation of its people from domination, strangulation and a blockade of an incipient second slavery.
When Aliyu Gwarzo was quoted to have said:
“Every Fulani, whether from Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Niger, Chad, Cameroon or anywhere else is our brother and has a right to be here with us. We are Fulani before Nigerian and our allegiance are to our Fulani brothers all over West Africa more than you.
Now we will conquer south and we do it in the name of “one Nigeria”. In that “one Nigeria” we shall remain the masters and you shall remain the slaves!
None of you are going anywhere. Nigeria will never break. We will not allow it”
Some people who still choose to live in denial, laugh it away as the blab of a lunatic. They take these proclamations figuratively and at face value, but NO. These are simply the verbalization of the thinking of the northern powerhouse. They are putting into our consciousness the oft denied reality of Nigerian political equation. The South can either choose to remain slaves as he has so rightly said or choose a path of redemption.
This is a pivotal moment. The Hausa/Fulani historical Kingmaker, the British, who propped them up in the first place, are dealing with their own soul of survival. The Brexit cacophony, as we see it now and even Post – its final implementation has ensured that they would have more than enough to deal with than interfere with the sovereignty of another nation, albeit a creation of their experiment.
United States, under Donald J. Trump is not in the mood for playing World Political oversight currently. He is dealing with his own Political future, his country’s trade imbalance with China (and by the way, there are more headaches for him with Iran, North Korea and the aftermath of his phone call with Ukrainian President).
This is the time for the South to present a common front. It is the time to regain that independence that we thought we had in 1960 but never really had. Southern Nigeria can become the linchpin for the growth & Development in Sub-Saharan Africa. To achieve this, it must first detach itself from the baggage of the Northern appendages. You cannot afford to continue the path of being a globalist in an increasingly nationalistic universe.
While the bulk of the southerners who support Buhari are from the southwest, the vast majority of those who have borne the brunt of his misrule and who may yet be the victim of the planned Caliphate are also from the same axis. The degradation of the south-west economy, which has led and continues to fuel mass migration of highly skilled professionals from the South-West was orchestrated in furtherance of the plan to systematically gridlock southern economic interest. It is intended to halt the region’s capacity for industrial growth and development.
The chief image makers of the administration, themselves Yoruba, do not seem to care about the lots of and existential threat to the inhabitants of the region, as long as their individual positions and luxurious standards are assured. It goes back to the attribution quoted above – “…. the most purely prompted by self-seeking money motives of any people I have met’.
It would be a great tragedy for Yoruba history if the agitation for Biafran emancipation and independence is realized, as I am afraid it finally would and the Oduduwa area become the focal point of Fulani domination and enslavement. Oduduwa Nation needs to take a leaf from the Biafran Playbook.
To round off, permit me to again quote from the closing statements from Chief Olanihun Ajayi’s interview. When he was asked what he suggest as the solution to the fall in our educational, Health and Agricultural sectors, he said:
“Today we have 6 geo-political zones in the country. The best thing for this country is to concretize those six geopolitical regions. Let each Nationality, the Ibos, the people of North Central, Northwest, North-East, South-South and South West; each region to manage its own affairs, with little nexus with the Federal. Nigeria is not a country where we should have a Monarch as we now do”
––Peter Omonua, who lives in Ontario Canada, can be reached at [email protected]