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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Can a Northerner ever be de-tribalized in Nigeria?



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Nasiru El Rufai, Former FCT ,Minister

By Frisky Larr

Let’s face it. In the present dispensation, northernNigeriahas produced three brilliant Nigerians of the younger generation, on which Nigerians may build their hope for a better tomorrow. You may have guessed right if your mindset works like mine. To be precise though, my mind is set on Nuhu Ribadu, Nasir El-Rufai and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Many may disagree instinctively, but my point will be better understood when this submission is read to the end. As opposed to these three individuals, southernNigeriacurrently has just Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to boast of. In terms of focus and outstanding performance however, we will mention Babatunde Fashola. Unfortunately though, Fashola is not the radical crusader that is created to fight evil. On the contrary, he is more the invisible crusader serving his people quietly and working for the good of his constituency.

For this reason, Babatunde Fashola – not being a rough fighter and an eccentrically voluble self-promoter like Adam Oshiomole – may have a hell of a time managing a Federal government in Aso Rock. I may be right and I may be wrong in my speculations. But something tells me that Babatunde Fashola is the type that will serveNigeriabest in a position similar to Okonjo-Iweala’s. An informal and imperial Prime Minister exercising her powers quietly but decisively. This is absolutely without prejudice to other superior qualities and qualifications that Okonjo-Iweala no doubt has. She has shown during the fuel subsidy crisis that she can also fight back if she is wrongly put in a pillory. She is not afraid of confrontation. On the contrary, Babatunde Fashola comes across as a man who is most comfortable operating smoothly away from the gaze of shine and glamour.

Comparing this attribute to the imposing characters of the three northern musketeers of our present dispensation, it will be easier to understand the point I wish to make. As the Jonathan example is presently showing, quietness and shyness from the limelight seem poisonous for the office of the President of Nigeria. Even worse is the lack of guts to take on rich and powerful exploiters to protect the interest of the nation even if it means ruining one’s own political career. This fear of confrontation and preference for backstage dealings to foster business as usual is one character that Fashola seems to share with President Jonathan. The much publicized dispute between Fashola and Bola Tinubu in the run-up to the last general elections and the manner in which the issue was resolved quietly in the aftermath of obvious horse-trading seems to show Fashola’s glaring lack of appetite for confrontation. Confrontation however is an indispensable variable in the office of President.

On the contrary, we can all imagine how many rich and powerful exploiters will wet their pants in fear and panic if Nuhu Ribadu was suddenly picked to become President of Nigeria today. The Aondoaakas who subverted justice and probably enriched themselves illegally may run to exile overnight in the speed of Hussain Bolt. I do not know where High Court Justices like Marcel Awokunleyin who gave James Ibori a clean bill of health would choose to hide. Panic will definitely greet the rank and file of the powerful and stealing community. James Ibori tried to dare the fangs of President Jonathan but had to bolt helter-skelter when even Jonathan showed his teeth to fight his personal enemy the way he fought Timipre Sylva. Unfortunately the same Jonathan will never fight the enemies of the State. That is the impression Nigerians have of the President at the present moment.

Imagine Nasir El-Rufai being called upon today, to take the reins of leadership in Aso Rock and figure out how many enemies of theNigerianStatewill go on self-imposed exile. Imagine Sanusi Lamido Sanusi mounting the imperial throne that he no doubt, would personally crave and figure out how many people will bolt.

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Now, my motive in this essay is not to assess the overall suitability of these three northern musketeers for the office of President but to highlight the boldness and courage that these men undoubtedly have in the things they do much unlike Goodluck Jonathan the President of the nation. They have shown it abundantly in the discharge of their duties. Coincidentally, boldness and courage are two key attributes that any President of Nigeria needs. Olusegun Obasanjo showed Nigerians how necessary these attributes are and Goodluck Jonathan is confirming it daily by forcing Nigerians to miss precisely these essential attributes of the Obasanjo days.

Northern Nigeriablessed us with these three young patriotic men and I have no doubt that every Nigerian will agree with me that these three musketeers are patriotic to the bone. They are all well read, intelligent and intellectual in their different capacities. The most outstanding quality that they all have in common however, is their love for their country! You heard me right “Their country”!

Even though they all share Nigeria with us all, questions abound as a matter of compulsion if these three outstanding northerners of our present day love Nigeria as we all know it – Nigeria from North to South! I am deliberately refusing to include leading northerners of the older generation such as Ibrahim Babangida, Shehu Shagari, Umaru Dikko, Adamu Ciroma, Muhammadu Buhari or Abdulsalami Abubakar in this analysis. They are the known leaders of yesterday who laid the groundwork for the troubles of today – selfishly and inadvertently. We have therefore cried out loud for generational change and Obasanjo ushered it in – wittingly or unwittingly.

While many southerners of the younger generation excelled in thievery (see Lucky Igbinedion and James Ibori) Nasir El-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu worked themselves into the hearts and minds of discerning observers. I personally became a die-hard fan of Nuhu Ribadu. Indeed, words could not describe how I felt when I heard that the ACN had nominated him for the presidential race in 2011. I mobilized very close and intelligent friends in my German abode and we all agreed to watch the situation very closely. We were ready to launch a vocal movement for Ribadu if we were sure that the game was genuine. We were very soon disillusioned when Nuhu Ribadu ran a very poorly managed campaign with what we considered to be a very inferior mode of strategizing. Nuhu Ribadu began to flirt with the self-declared committee of northern elders led by the infamous Adamu Ciroma. He was virtually begging to be named the northern consensus candidate after the demise of Abubakar Atiku. His focus was the north.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who has spoken himself into the hearts and minds of Nigerians, who love any semblance of intelligence, emerged from nowhere thanks to the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Many of us opposed his appointment as Governor of the Central Bank when it was obvious that the late President was running a strategic course of northernizing leadership inNigeria. We all began to have a rethink however as soon as we heard the man speak English. It sounds too simplistic and stupid but it is the plain truth. He didn’t only speak sound and clear English, he was also talking a whole lot of sense. We all became proud of him particularly when he courageously voiced out long overdue concerns about the legislative looting ofNigeria’s treasury. He didn’t care that he could lose his job. That was courageous.

Nasir El-Rufai stepped on toes as the Special Minister of the Capital territory. Till today he is paying the price for those patriotic deeds in an ungrateful society. He was courageous.

Unfortunately however, the mere mention of the word “North” is enough to mark the end of courage, patriotism and neutrality for our three northern musketeers. In a manner symbolic and perhaps characteristic of a seemingly pervasive northern psyche, none of the three has the will or courage to mention some objective and courageous home truths when it comes to the north. Till the present day, I am yet to hear a single northern Nigerian with political leadership function coming out openly to show a little understanding for the complaints and suspicions of the south.

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While the Northerners are absolutely correct in condemning the behavior of the ruling PDP in flouting its own zoning regulation to smuggle Goodluck Jonathan into the presidency, no single northerner has ever flipped the coin to see or even try to understand the other side of the debate. While the propaganda machine of the north makes haste to tell the Americans that the Boko Haram killers are no terrorists but merely economically deprived bunch of innocent young lads, no single northerner summons the courage to shout out loud and clear that northern leaders who ruled this country for almost three-quarter of the years since independence are responsible for the marginalization that a southern President should tolerate bombings for.

Neither Nuhu Ribadu nor El-Rufai stood up for one single day to say “Come to think of it northern siblings, to some extent, I can understand the south.” The axiomatic and inevitable reality that the south will get up one day and say “Come on buddy, we also have a right to rule this country” was not factored into any intellectual reasoning whatsoever. The simple need to appreciate this basic fact before proceeding to pillory the PDP for flouting its own zoning policy was simply lost on the north in a collective and seemingly conspiratorial manner. This single courageous move alone would have made Nuhu Ribadu an immortal creature whose de-tribalized spirit would have hovered visibly above any serving presidential material until he is moved onto the throne of supremacy alive or as an unsung hero in the future history of the country.

While El-Rufai is busy blowing the trumpet of negotiations with Boko Haram, Sanusi Lamido is leaving no one in doubt that his constituency is first and foremost, northernNigeria. I therefore ask myself a few crucial questions: “Will there ever be a de-tribalized northern Nigerian in this country to look across the borders of the northern states?” “Do northern leaders not have an obligation to pacify the rest of the country and chart a new peaceful path forward?” “IsNigerianot for us all or is there a separate country for the Northerners?” “Are northern Nigerians truly immersed in the illusion thatNigeriais theirs to rule and theirs alone?”

If the realization dawns on our northern brothers and sisters that they have ruled this country for such a long period of time and are therefore largely responsible for most of the fundamental problems that we suffer, will they not understand that they owe a duty to restore peace and pacify the rest of the country rather than rejoicing quietly over Boko Haram’s atrocities? There is indeed nothing wrong in adopting the enticing carrot approach to convince justifiably aggrieved southerners to sheath their sword and letNigeriabegin afresh. Instead, the northerners are aggressively beating the drums of war in a battle that no one stands to win but will ultimately end in the destruction of a promisingNigeria. It is so unfortunate that the foremost elites prefer to play the religious card to win the hearts and minds of ordinary northerners knowing fully well that the spread of Islam by the force of arms is absolutely impossible in today’s world order of aggressive globalization.

Frisky Larr (M. A.) Radio/Television Journalist/Communication Scientist Govt.-accredited Translator/Interpreter of the English language Germany Email: FriskyLarr@aol.com

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