By Bola Bolawole
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Today I am yielding this space to a friend and professional colleague who is a veteran journalist, relationships expert, music aficionado (of the “Sound Judgment” fame) and political affairs commentator. His name is Michael Awe aka Michael West. Enjoy it!
“Whoever is still campaigning for restructuring to happen under this Fulanised government is short-sighted and not coming to terms with the reality in Nigeria of today. For obvious reasons, restructuring cannot happen under the retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari-led government. The anchor reason is that restructuring is believed to be inimical to the interests and agenda of the Fulani imperialists. The Buhari administration will rather violate any known moral and legal precepts to keep the status quo than support an arrangement that would ease the vice-like grip of the imperialists on the levers of power in Nigeria. They would prefer to manipulate the system to perpetuate themselves in power than reasonably agree to any mutually-beneficial arrangement that would guarantee equity, fairness, justice and true federalism.
This is why I feel for the Yoruba apex socio-political group, Afenifere, and its allies that are still calling for restructuring that may never come. In its recent communique issued in support of the southern Governors’ position on the ban on open grazing and demand for restructuring, among others, Afenifere revealed that it has been calling for the restructuring of Nigeria to ensure true federalism as far back as 1953. Demanding for a thing for a whole 68 years! Wow! Yet, Afenifere is still unrelenting, even under the leadership of a man who has never hidden his disdain for the agitation. This is a sheer waste of time, energy and resources.
In 2015, Buhari did not mention the word “restructuring” for once during his campaign. He knew he did not like it and he would not promise what he would not do. It was Senator Bola Tinubu and his co-travellers that were saying all manner of things to deceive Nigerians into buying lies as campaign promises. In 2018 when the furore over the issue of restructuring became deafening, Buhari asked the Gov. Nasir el-Rufai committee to look into the restructuring matter and make recommendations for possible implementation. Buhari made the move as a strategy to douse the tension. As of today, El-Rufai’s report is still on the shelf gathering dust.
Everyone knows that this government is largely run by a cabal of unelected people around the president. One of them is the Sharia law graduate who is Buhari’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. Whatever you hear from Malami, just take it to the bank as the authentic opinion or position of the president. When Malami criticized the southern governors for daring to ban open grazing across the region, it was Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu, who has been vocal in recent times in responding to the excesses of Abuja; that returned Garba Shehu’s punches with more devastating salvos. Malami said it was wrong for the governors to say what they said. He actually said the ban was “illegal” but his learned colleagues and seniors at the bar have told him to return to the classroom to re-learn his law. Expectedly, what Malami said was what Garba Shehu eventually released as the official position of the presidency. Likewise, on restructuring, the all-knowing Malami said barely 24 hours after the southern governors’ declaration that Buhari will not have anything to do with it. He tasked the governors to begin restructuring from their own end before asking the President to do similarly. In effect, Malami was telling us that the agitation for restructuring amounts to nothing as far as the Buhari administration is concerned.
Some Sundays ago, the All Progressives Congress, APC, leaders and governors in the South-west met in Lagos over the state of the nation. Without disappointing their critics, nothing tangible emanated from the hyped meeting. It was so disappointing that they tersely mentioned the havoc caused by rampaging Fulani herdsmen and their kidnapper kith and kin in the South-west. They spoke tongue-in-cheek about the invasion of Yoruba homeland by the Fulani in their land-grabbing and ethnic-cleansing onslaughts. Trading off their people’s lives and ancestral land because of political ambition in the name of national unity is sacrilegious. Who does that? The Fulani do not care whose ox is gored when defending their own people as well as their ethnic interests. We are all witnesses to how the presidency has become the defender-in-chief of herdsmen and their cows while Fulani governors and other leaders drop the garb of civility and their oath of office to speak out for their nomadic people even when they do wrong. What has come over the Yoruba people, especially the political class? Why do they talk like slaves or conquered people?
For the Yoruba APC leaders to reiterate the call for restructuring is shameful. If they lack the courage to say what is right, they should not embarrass themselves further. Maybe they thought we had forgotten. The same restructuring was number one in the campaign manifesto of the APC in 2014/15. They promised Nigerians that what the Peoples Democratic Party government lacked the will to do, their party (APC) will do. Six years later, we are still talking about restructuring. It is the same Tinubu caucus that led the campaign at the time. I think Nigerians should be scornful of any politician that will use restructuring as a campaign issue again. They have taken us for a ride for too long.
Back to Afenifere and those mouthing restructuring: Restructuring is an idea whose time has passed. There are compromised leaders in the south who “speak” for their people in the day time but are in bed with the oppressors of the same people at night. They have been mandated to keep their people under control so that things do not go awry. Could that be the reason why some of the elders scare their determined people with tales of war, famine and the so-called power of government to kill as narratives to keep the people in check? Obsolete narrative like restructuring is allowed to dominate national discourse and the media space as diversionary tactics from allowing things to snowball into wild agitation. No wonder the southern governors, Yoruba APC leaders and regional leaders are all on the same page, knowing full well that restructuring will never materialise under this government.
Nnamdi Azikiwe said one cannot be doing the same thing the same way over and over again and expect a different result. If Afenifere has been calling for restructuring for the past 68 years and they do not think it is time to review the position, Afenifere, then, may be preparing a fertile ground for the emergence of another leadership for the Yoruba people whose agitation will be in sync with the yearnings, aspirations and thinking of the vast majority of the people. And this will devastate the calculations of self-serving political leaders whose charity only begins from outside and not at home. Markets went up in flames in Yoruba land but they could only donate to burnt markets in Arewa. Their people are dying of hunger here, across the Niger was their choice of places to feed the poor. Yoruba people now know their real leaders from dealers as the Nigerian unravels.
Afenifere and its allies should embrace the self-determination agitation as a realistic approach to liberating their people. I feel it is better we break the retrogressive yoke of exploitation and forced unity so that we can dwell in the sanctuary of a new nation than remain in the mortuary of Fulani imperialism. Changing tactics is not a sign of weakness or defeat; rather, it may likely bring the imperialists on their knees not according to their terms but in ways that would deliver true federalism to the nation.
More than anything else, I think the Fulani hoopla was not actually about the governors’ pronouncements on the ban on open grazing and restructuring; it is more about the guts that Southerners display that worried them. Otherwise, why should open grazing that was initially banned by northern governors on February 9, 2021 become an issue? I am inclined to believe that their born-to-rule ego is bruised and subdued by whatever southern leaders and their people say or do. This is part of the reason we should go our separate ways. Let those who claim they have invested so much in the Nigerian project go and recover their investments from wherever! Anybody preaching “one Nigeria” at all costs should be ignored. If Britain could quit the European Union when it no longer served her interests, why should we be ready to die to keep Nigeria, which is a creation of Britain?
It is time for Southern elites to confront and resist political subjugation, economic pillage, ethnic cleansing and mental slavery. “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery”, crooned Bob Marley. We should unbundle the dubious national unity sustained by the tiny cabal that holds the rest of the nation down to their medieval mentality”
Well said! The train has left the restructuring station; anyone still waiting there will get stranded and will have to trek to meet the party at the Self-determination destination!