Prejudices die hard. Since creation, discrimination has always been the bane of human beings and many a people take discrimination too far. “The Lord is with southern Christians more than Northern Christians. Watch Northern Christians, they are not as confident as we, southerners.” A southern Christian made this statement in a restaurant (Climax) near Mater Misericordia Catholic Church in Rumuomasi, Port Harcourt, Rivers State the other day and I couldn’t help but shake my head. It is a fact of life that the average human being is an/a ethnic/racial bigot. Those in the upper class engage in bigotry when it serves their interests. The middle-class deceitfully pretends to be above bigotry in any form but close watchers see streaks rub off quickly, and the lower class carries it as a badge of courage due to poverty, illiteracy or frustration.
In the United States, the deep southern states are regarded with scorn by northern and Mid-western regions of the country, the so-called sophisticated and highly educated regions. In Italy, the Northern part of the country regards the Southern region as mafia hoods. In the UK, the Irish are looked down as drunken louts by the English, Scots and Welsh in turn treat each other in condescending manner. If bigotry can thrive in so called developed nations then one shouldn’t be surprised at the disturbing trend in Nigeria. The average southerner believes that Northerners are a drag on the development of Nigeria. Southerners believe that the unitary system of government was created by northerners for northern ends stifling the economic and political progress of the nation. There is the belief by southerners, many of whom are my friends that the north wants to hold on to power by all means in order to Islamise Nigeria and that Boko Haram and dangerous punks masquerading as herdsmen are foot soldiers who have been commissioned by the northern cabal to carry out the quest of the northern establishment. Many a southerner that I have met believes that northerners are lazy mentally and physically, shifty, parasites, illiterates, poverty stricken beggars, and that the northern cabal decides who people should vote for during electioneering periods. How precise are some of these fingers pointing? Before independence, the northern party situated in the Bornu axis formed an alliance with the NCNC which was watched over by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and voted massively for NCNC in 1959. This action by a northern party dispossessed the NPC of votes, and forced Sir Ahmadu Bello to go into an alliance with the NCNC in order to rule Nigeria.
In 1979, Solomon Lar’s influence saw the people of Plateau State voted immensely for NPP which was overseen by Nnamdi Azikiwe. He was a co-founder of the NPP. In 1993 to the shock of most Nigerians, nine out of 16 northern states voted for M.K.O Abiola who was the presidential candidate of the SDP. It was a David and Goliath contest which saw Abiola defeat Bashir Tofa in his home-zone of Kano State. After the death of General Murtala Ramat Muhammed northern officers literally forced General Olusegun Obasanjo to become Head of State. He had turned the offer down earlier on and offered it to General T.Y. Danjuma who refused it on the ground that he was not the second-in-command to Murtala.
In 2011, the northern oligarchy supported Goodluck Jonathan to defeat Muhammadu Buhari with the condition that he serves only one term. These examples show that the North is not as power hungry as the South projects it to be always. The June 12 presidential elections buried the myth that the North would never support a southern presidential candidate and the sudden death of General Sani Abacha reiterated the fact that a single individual no matter where he comes from cannot bend Nigeria to his will. Ninety per cent of the oil blocs in Nigeria belong to the International Oil Companies and blocs owned by northerners have southerners as major stakeholders. Not counting are many blocs owned by prominent southerners from available research in the public domain. The business investments of most northerners are in the south. Seventy per cent of Nigeria’s economic activities are in southern Nigeria and not in the North. Sixty per cent of Nigeria’s industries are situated in Lagos State alone and the oil and gas which determines Nigeria’s economic fate is situated in the south, which comes to the crux of this piece, would the northern cabal attempt to Islamize Nigeria knowing that such an attempt would plunge Nigeria into a religious war? The diverse tribes in the north have a heavy presence in Nigeria’s security apparatus and history has shown that any attempt to impose a religion on a nation would split the security forces and would the northern oligarchy be ready to endanger their investments in southern Nigeria? Did northerners launch the unitary system of government in Nigeria? The unitary system of government was in the 1961 manifesto of the Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NCNC and both the Sir Ahmadu Bello’s NPC and Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s AG supported confederation. When General Aguiyi Ironsi assumed office after the coup that led to the collapse of the First Republic he set up a committee to recommend to him the direction the country should take, this working group was headed by F.R.A Williams but without waiting for the result of the F.R.A Williams Commission he accepted the report of another team which he set up and included great men such as C.C Mojekwu, Francis Nwokedi and Ben Nwabueze, these three men had been members of the NCNC and were the authors of the unitary system of government. If northerners are that lazy how come they engage in all manner of job in cities in the south? The northerner seems to be more politically aware than most southerners, although the latter lay claim to intelligence, they love betting centres than research on Wikipedia but the so-called daft northerner is informed, what with his small transistor radio which is tuned to BBC and VOA.
Although northern tribes have their issues, and highly antagonistic to one another as seen in many cases, northern governors regularly holding meetings to move the north forward, the main agenda of the north is to maintain the status quo, now ask me, what is the main agenda of the south? The south is divided into three zones all of which have their own schemas. The south-west supports regionalism; the south-east supports restructuring and south-south supports resource control. In spite of the fact that southerners say they are more educated, wealthier, and have more in common amongst themselves, there is no coordination that would enable them set the agenda for the nation.
The South westerners always shout about marginalisation but they have benefitted from every government in Nigeria since independence. The South easterners are at a crossroad, one section calls for an Igbo president and another for a separate country, but can one serve two masters? The South-south mouthed resource control to the Heavens but when Goodluck Jonathan became president the cries became muted. The southern oligarchies do not have a meeting point, we hear of South-east, South-south, and South-west governor’s forum. They all loathe each region and cannot sit on the same table to discuss southern affairs. The Yoruba and Igbo do not trust each other; the South-south despite close filial ties with the Igbo resent them for their perceived arrogance. During the Olusegun Obasanjo’s national conference in 2005 and the Goodluck Jonathan’s of 2014, the three southern zones squandered the opportunity to unite and articulate their various positions which were quite similar. Whilst the northern delegation talked with one voice during the Obasanjo organised national conference, the delegates to the conference from the south-west did not collaborate with their counterparts from the south-east and south-south because a Yoruba was in power.
In 2014, the south-east and south-south paid the south-west in their own coin by refusing to meet with them to determine the way forward, Goodluck Jonathan was president and the south-west which advocated regionalism found their region isolated. The North and the south-south/south-east sang the same tune advocating the maintenance of the status quo. With Jonathan’s term of office over, separatists have begun drumming separate sovereignty, south-south resource control. The south-west in alliance with the north since 2015 may take over the reins of power in 2023 and surprisingly their campaign for regionalism and fiscal federalism isn’t as forceful as it once was. Southerners are the problems of southern Nigeria and not Northern people.
Abah wrote from Abuja.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN