By Lasisi Olagunju Ph.D
“Time is fast running out for all of us. There is no southern state without a huge, growing crowd of separatists. Only the wise would see what that portends and act. The ship of freedom has set sailing for southern Nigeria. Justifiable resistance to the evil of domination is an act of faith.”
Have you asked why every saviour always ends up worse than his bad predecessor? King Dionysius (430 BC—367 BC) was famously called the tyrant of Syracuse. He conquered Sicily and southern Italy and made Syracuse the most powerful Greek city west of mainland Greece. But Dionysius was a very cruel king. Almost every citizen of his kingdom prayed for his death. Curiously, there was an old woman who prayed day and night that the bad king would live long and survive her. King Dionysius came to know of this woman and sent for her. “Why do you so much love me?” The king asked the old lady. She told Dionysius that what evoked her prayers was not love for the king but the fear of what may yet come. She said: “When I was yet a girl, we were oppressed by a tyrant, and I desired his death; he was slain, but he was succeeded by another who oppressed us even more harshly; and again I was greatly pleased to see the end of his reign. But he was succeeded by you, who are an even harsher ruler. So I fear that if you are taken from our midst you will be succeeded by one who is even more terrible.” Muhammadu Buhari has mismanaged Nigeria so much that the much derided Goodluck Jonathan is now smelling so nice. But the current elite north-versus-south battle for the soul of Nigeria is not about 2023 and/or regime change. No. What is at stake is very much more fundamental than replacing cows with camels. It is not about replacing this president with another ethnic supremacist now or in 2023. It is about having a country that would make the emergence of another Buhari impossible. The cries we make are of a battle to end all wars.
But, as usual, the north is misreading the south. A child cannot be birthed and raised in Sango (Zango) and he won’t behave like a cow. We see that often in Nigeria. All the 17 Southern Nigeria governors met last week in Asaba, Delta State and demanded sanity in the running of Nigeria. And, because sanity and fairness are not supposed to have resident permit in Nigeria, the governors’ declaration triggered alarm bell in pervert power circles in the north. One former governor, Adamu Abdullahi accused the governors of betrayal. He said they betrayed Buhari to whom they swore an oath of allegiance. Adamu said, “The recent meeting of the Southern Governors Forum is an act of betrayal of the trust Nigerians reposed in them. Each governor pledged and swore to an oath and they emphasised loyalty to the sovereignty of this country. They also pledged their loyalty to the President of the country. That’s their oath of office.” The man who said this is a former governor and a sitting senator of our federal republic. What kind of bovine statement was that? The Yoruba say a child born and bred in Sango/Zango (Hausa’s transit cattle camp) must reason like a cow. Adamu Abdullahi was governor of Nassarawa State from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. Did he swear and pledge his loyalty to President Olusegun Obasanjo at the beginning of his governorship? Loyalty to the country is a yes. Even then, this is activated on the principle of reciprocity. ‘Give me, I give you’ is what Toad shouts at the river bank.
South West, South South, and South East governors have met twice this month. They held the first meeting virtually on May 4 with all the 17 governors in attendance. To harmonise their positions, the second was held on May 11 as an in-person meeting in Asaba, Delta State. They met, came out and spoke clearly and got applause from their peoples and from the people of the middle belt. They asked Buhari to convene a “national dialogue”; they banned open grazing of cows in southern Nigeria; they “affirmed that the peoples of Southern Nigeria remain committed to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity and oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among its peoples.” The north shouted blue murder because the moribund Southern Nigerian Governors’ Forum (SNGF) is back from the dead. Many thanks to General Muhammadu Buhari and his clan of northern supremacists.
Other people’s wisdom prevents the king from being called a fool. I don’t think the Hausa Fulani elite and their president have heard that proverb before. Despite the howling wind blowing across the land, the north still does not understand what is happening. There is a movement against their misbehavour. A resistance against their slave trade has marched out. You can’t hold your partners down forever with your 19th century thinking and with your very annoying sense of entitlement. A major prayer point among my people is may we not use our noble heads to be load-carriers for anybody. The south has dropped the Nigerian load; their governors joined them openly last week.
Ex-governor Adamu was not alone in his unfortunate line of thinking. There are those who were scared of losing their feeding bottle to a restructured Nigeria. They desperately attempted to muddle things up by asking the governors to first restructure governance in their states before making a demand of Buhari, their patron. Those ones are a miserable lot. Whatever is wrong with structures at the state level is simply a symptom of a flawed federation. When we get Nigeria cured of its malignant afflictions, or we cure ourselves of Nigeria, the blisters we see in states will disappear. Even then, we ask the Adamu Abdullahi ensemble how a demand for the reconstruction of the Nigeria house equates a destruction of the edifice?
A professor is a big man/woman with lots of learning and wisdom. And so, there are some things professors must not say. They will be diminished if they say those things that are not wise. There is this Professor Usman Yusuf, a Fulani who also attacked the Southern governors for daring to act without Fulani approval. He said the governors did not consult Fulani leaders before asking his kinsmen to stop invading others’ properties and grazing in farms. Yusuf, a former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) said: “Southern governors must provide land for Fulani bandits to graze their cattle if they want to ban open grazing. Gathering in one hotel and giving a blanket ban is irresponsible.” You needed to watch him on TV as he uttered those words. He spoke as a superior; he waxed paternal as a headmaster. Now, you should ask him: Who are those Fulani leaders the governors should take permission from? Was Yusuf referring to Buhari and his ethnic cardinals?
My very wary people say if you give enough space to Tapa, he will build a house for his Igunnu masquerade. In a federation, the president is not king who is beyond reproach. Governors are not Buhari’s houseboys – although we are seeing some who so act because of the 2023 fura and beef. The president and the governors are expected to collaborate and sing pro-people songs. However, where the president’s nationalist eye is found blinded by narrow ethnic loyalty, any governor with survival sense will excuse himself from that presidential misadventure. That is what southern governors, especially those of the APC, did. They decided to bear their father’s name, leaving the Fulani president to sort himself out – if he cares. Medieval theologian, St Thomas Aquinas exhaustively treated this matter of “unequal relationship between equals.” He professed that obedience is commanded within the limits of due observance. He also noted that those who are wiser and righteous should have command over the rest if the nation would stand. He said authorities that are defective either in their origins or in their exercise should be spurned. That is what is happening between Buhari, his presidency and the governors. Buhari was elected for a purpose, now that his regime represents the opposite of the reason for his authority, he loses the scepter. That gives the contextual foundation for the current southern engagement with the north. So many mistakes have been made; several lessons have been learnt, several have been unlearnt and learned again.
Then came Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the haughty official mouthpiece of the Fulani people. The national secretary of the association, Alhassan Saleh said the Fulani were ready to dare and confront the south. He said: “If the south feels because they have oil, they can show this open hatred to the Fulani, I bet you, they are late. If the agitators want to divide the country today, or this minute, we will help them. We are ready to go. We are more prepared than any other tribe. They (southerners) want to force us to react but we don’t react that way. Compared to what we went through in Guinea and Sudan and we survived, this is even a child’s play.” He added for effects that the governors did what they did because they wanted power-shift back to the south. He got it all wrong just as the tribe he speaks for.
Time is fast running out for all of us. There is no southern state without a huge, growing crowd of separatists. Only the wise would see what that portends and act. The ship of freedom has set sailing for southern Nigeria. Justifiable resistance to the evil of domination is an act of faith. That is the philosophical basis for the repeated demand for the restructuring of Nigeria. And it is foolish to think that those opposed to the perfidy of today’s Nigeria merely seek to suppliant the incumbent. This is not about the bumbling individual complicitly sleeping on duty while his cows eat the barns of his neighbours. This is about defeating the odious unitarism that has wrecked the ship of everybody. The alternative to an immediate truly Federal Nigeria is Czechoslovakia of 1993; or Yugoslavia of 1992; or Somalia of 1991-date; or Myanmar of 2021. The choice is ours to make.