“In the long run, if we are not careful, this conference will flop. God forbid. If it flops, the resultant effect will not be imaginable. If anything happens and the country disintegrates, God forbid, many of us who are shouting their heads off may not have anywhere to go. “My people and the people of Adamawa have got somewhere to go. I am the Lamido Adamawa and my kingdom extends to Cameroun. The larger part of my kingdom is in Cameroun. Part of that kingdom is today called Adamawa State in Cameroun. You see, if I run to that place, I will easily assimilate.” – Lamido Adamawa on the floor of the National Conference, 25th March, 2014.
I am still at loss as to why many delegates at the 2014 National Conference were shocked when Alhaji Barkindo Mustapha, the Lamido of Adamawa made these obvious and truthful confessions, though in anger, on the floor of that assembly. Maybe those who were scandalised by the remarks did not know of the truism that the ‘drunkén’ voice, what was hidden in his spirit that he would not have been said without intoxication.
Worse still, it may be that they do not understand the history of their own country or they are trying to build a tent in the village of denial.They do not want to accept the fact that the various nationalities within Nigeria were brought together by circumstances and that we have made no conscious effort to make a salad bowl out of our lettuce, carrot, tomato, egg and other distinct ingredients.
I still don’t know till date what is that strong link between I and the Lamido and a Yoruba man in Benin Republic than that Lord Lugard found a “northern suitor” for the “southern lady of means” and decided to amalgamate North and South into the geographical expression called Nigeria. While I can trace my genealogy to hundreds of years within this space, the likes of Lamido may already be out of the Nigerian space by the time they are giving a description of their grandfathers.
This is at the root of the clash of civilisations in Nigeria which we have pretended to overlook for as long as we were sharing oil money. We kept on shouting a deception called “One Nigeria” for as long as the party was on but relieving who we truly are in moments of stress. The collapse of the oil economy has, however, brought the damn lie to a cold end.
Cold end to a damn lie
And nothing typifies that reality than a report in The Nation Newspaper of January, 31 2016 under the caption, “Rebuilding: Northern Governors Begin Talks With Saudi Bank”. The Saudi meeting coming up weeks after the crackdown on Shi’ites Muslims is quite instructive. I reproduce the story below:
“A fresh initiative by northern governors to address the turbulent developmental challenges in the region gets underway today in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where the governors are commencing talks with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
“Leading the governors’ delegation at the three -day talks is Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State who doubles as Chairman of the Northern States Governors ‘ Forum (NSGF).
“The decision to seek critical development partnership with the IDB was taken at the governors’ meeting last September in Kaduna.
“Governor Shettima’s spokesman, Malam Isa Gusau, confirmed that the Nigerian delegation arrived Jeddah yesterday. He said they will hold discussion with the IDB President, Ahmad Mohamed Ali and the bank’s Vice President, Operations on a wide range of possible areas of collaboration.
“They are also scheduled to meet with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD); International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC); Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment & Export Credit (ICIEC); Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD). Focus will be on agriculture, poverty eradication, education, maternal mortality and other problems most prevalent in the north.
“Also on the delegation are Governors Tanko Almakura of Nassarawa; Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State and Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State. Others are top officials of the New Nigerian Development Company owned by the 19 northern States, selected Commissioners of Agriculture, Education, Post Insurgency Reconstructions, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Home Affairs, Economic Planning, former Presidential Chief Economic Adviser Dr. Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, some technical resource consultants and facilitators engaged by the NSGF.”
It is interesting how “one nation, one destiny” has given way to regional initiative based on civilisation with the crash of the oil economy. Now that the North has gone to Saudi to start its rebuild, where should the south go? One would have thought that the northern governors should have remembered those who were waiving the broom with them from the south eight months ago-after all, many of them also face the same direction pray!
A country within a country
It is not the first time the governors of the North are telling the rest of us they are a country within the country. The White House website had a report on March 19, 2014 with the caption “Susan Rice Meets Governors from Nigeria”:
“Yesterday, National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice welcomed 12 governors and one deputy-governor from Nigeria to the White House to discuss areas of strategic importance to both the United States and Nigeria.
“Ambassador Rice and the governors discussed the need to bring an end to the violence and insurgency in northern Nigeria; create broad-based economic opportunity in the north and throughout Nigeria; protect and respect human rights; strengthen democratic governance; and ensure that the 2015 elections in Nigeria are free and fair.
“The meeting was an important opportunity to underscore the U.S. partnership with the government — at both the federal and state levels — and people of Nigeria. The visiting officials represented Nigeria’s north and middle belt, which face numerous security, development, and socio-economic challenges.
“The leaders shared their concerns about the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency that has indiscriminately killed hundreds of innocent Nigerians this year. She and the governors agreed on the need for comprehensive approaches to counter-insurgency that couple security measures with deepened investment to promote opportunity and development across the country.
“Ambassador Rice drew special attention to the importance of Nigeria’s 2015 elections; the role that governors can play in countering corruption; and how the United States remains committed to partnering with Nigeria to address shared challenges.”
Of all the items discussed at this meeting it was only Boko Haram that was partially a northern Nigeria affair. I pray for the day the southern governors will have testicular fortitude to step out of this country as a group to hold this kind of meeting.
Meanwhile, I want to see if the Northern governors will come back from Saudi and say whatever they bring should go to the Federation account for us to handle it the way we have done with oil proceeds from Niger Delta and the VAT from Lagos and other southern states.
Now that the North is brazenly showing that it is falling back on its civilisation to rebuild is the time to push for autonomy for the different regions of Nigeria. The South -South seems to have harmonised just as well as the South East, it is only my Yorubaland that is still presently confused playing useless politics while others are playing region in spite of “Kogi harvest.”
If the South will apply itself, only oil has become useless but you have 1001 other things to develop that you don’t have to take a bowl outside this country. Nations will come trooping here to ask for these stuff.
The lie called Nigeria
The founding fathers of Nigeria said it in different ways and they have not been countermanded till date:
“Since 1914 the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite … Nigerian unity is only a British invention” – Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, 1948.
“Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English,’ ‘Welsh,’ or ‘French,’ The word ‘Nigeria’ is a mere distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not” – Chief Obafemi Awolowo, 1947.
“It is better for us and many admirers abroad that we should disintegrate in peace and not in pieces. Should the politicians fail to heed the warning, then I will venture the prediction that the experience of the Democratic Republic of Congo will be a child’s play if it ever comes to our turn to play such a tragic role” – Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, 1964.
The Nigerian idea still remains a lie. It is either we make a conscious effort to let it be true by constructing a “salad bowl” country or let each group migrate into its own civilisation.
Yinka Odumakin is the publicity secretary of Pan-Yoruba Socio-Cultural group, Afenifere
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.