NIGERIA: The Kaduna Declaration


With its creative conjugal metaphor, the Nigerian amalgamation story is an interesting one. Conceived as an arranged marriage between “the rich wife of substance and means (the South) which was expected to provide for the “poor husband” (the North), the two were expected to live happily ever after!

This metaphor of wife and husband, respectively rich and poor, has been critically analyzed over the years, with contestations over the reality of the wealth of one versus the poverty of the other. Let us not be distracted by that controversy. Still, one issue continues to amaze. How did Lugard even come about the metaphor of husband and wife? How did he come to conceive of the North as husband and the South as wife? Was it a prophetic utterance about what was to come?

In our various ethnic and religious traditions, being a husband comes with a heavy weight of recognition and enormous rights and responsibilities. Conferring that title on one and wifehood on the other implies a huge responsibility and rights for the husband, i.e. the North, for the progress and development of the family, i.e. Nigeria, even if the wife, i.e. the South, is the wealthy one. Furthermore, following the traditional marriage practice, it also means that, as the family head, the husband determines the terms of the union. As the wedding officiating minister, Lugard not only sealed the new union with this analogy in mind, he also ensured that as the Governor-General, the North remained the dictating husband and senior partner. It has been so since 1914.

As the favorite of the British administration on the ground, the North had an inherited advantage in policy matters. It was officially protected from the educational influence of missionaries and from the nationalist agitation of southerners, thus maintaining a purist indigenous ethical and religious tradition. More importantly, the North also had an inherited advantage politically, being the British favorite in the predetermined outcome of succeeding population census. And since democracy is a game of numbers, the husband North became the King and/or Kingmaker. It has been so since 1959.

As consequential as these inherited advantages are, however, they do not guarantee desirable longevity as husband or as king or kingmaker. Marriages are often broken and dissolved even in our traditional family settings. And a husband must possess good native intelligence to lord it over the wife for such a long time without the threat of divorce. And even when that threat occurs, he must be endowed with indefeasible power and unparalleled wisdom to overcome. The North has shown that quality since 1960.

So aside from the inherited advantages, what have kept the North as the powerful if not loving husband and the South as the subservient wife this long in their relationship?

First, it appears to me that one of the often unappreciated facts about the North is that it knows what it wants and goes after it with considerable energy and tact. And what it doesn’t want, it refuses without mincing words. Recall the 1953 Motion for Independence debacle. Northern leaders in the Federal Legislature knew that they weren’t ready for independence. They asked for more time and when they were rebuffed, they staged a walkout, ensuring that whether the South liked it or not, independence was not going to happen in 1956. Also, federalism didn’t become Nigeria’s system of constitutional governance until the North agreed. And since 1967 a quasi-unitary system has been imposed on Nigeria because it is the new preference of the North.

Second, the North has the advantage of a united front that the South cannot boast of. This advantage is not inherent; it was built up by years of political engineering, especially during the nationalist years into the First Republic with the unparalleled political skills of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the first premier of Northern Region. Granted, with the benefit of religion and Fulani hegemony, Bello could have run roughshod over the North. But he just strategically spread his influence through the entire north including the Middle Belt, educating all and sponsoring many to higher education and military training. Thus now, even with tension over Farmer-Herder conflicts, there’s still an enduring political relationship across the entire north.

Compare the foregoing observation with the South and we may conclude that there’s not really a North/South dichotomy, but a North/Souths dichotomy, there being many Souths as opposed to one North. Recall how a supposed Southern solidarity against the North with a proposal for an Azikwe Prime Ministership in 1959 ended up. It has been so ever since, becoming worse with the outbreak of the civil war. Even when it was perceived as a war instigated by the pogrom of Igbos in the North, the Igbo ended up blaming the Yoruba for their predicament. Mistrust has been the bane of the relationship between the two major Southern nationalities.

Third, the North is particularly focused on the North while many Southern nationalities see Nigeria as a whole as their object of concern. You would ordinarily expect the husband to see the entire family as his responsibility. Here, however, is a husband concerned mostly, if not solely, about himself. That takes an excessive dose of rational egoism. The symbolism of the naming of the first political parties in the country bore this out clearly. While the two parties emerging from the South had such non-sectional names as National Council of Nigerian Citizens and Action Group, emerging from the North was the Northern People’s Congress. (It was later changed to Nigerian People’s Congress.) Note that this is by no means a criticism. It’s just a comment on the difference between the focus of the North vis-a-vis the South and how it has paid off for the North.

This takes us to the latest communique of Northern Leadership meeting on current affairs and what lessons it has for the South. The meeting, held at Arewa House in Kaduna on the historic day of January 15th, with intellectual, business, professional, religious, and political leaders and Northern-based NGOs and CBOs present, centered on the theme “Rebuilding the North”.

Among others, the meeting highlighted the state of insecurity and poverty in the north with an appeal for the prioritization of spending in these areas. It insisted on the equal rights of Northerners to aspire to all offices and political parties to field candidates of their choices across the zones. It advised the Federal Government to postpone the 2022 census because of the challenges of citizen IDPs. It urged voters to prioritize competence and integrity in their choice of candidates. In particular, the communique invited Northerners to recreate the North handed over by Bello, Balewa, Ibrahim and other leaders gone by. Encouragingly, it urged Northern groups to engage with Southern groups to improve understanding and lower tensions.

It’s an impressive array of ideas and suggestions for rebuilding the North from the ruins of educational, economic, and social collapse over the years. Part of what is impressive about it is the realization that despite the North having held on to the levers of power for the better part of the first and second republics and during the military interregnums, the region is in worse shape compared to other regions and zones. If the husband is in control and he’s in such a terrible shape, how do we evaluate his leadership of the household?

Southern groups have also found their condition challenging. But whereas for the South, the culprit is the reversal from federal to a quasi-unitary constitution and the centralization of power, the North leaders have blamed their condition on leadership incompetence and greed. Therefore, while the South has insisted on restructuring as the solution, this did not even feature in the Kaduna declaration.

Two takeaways from the Kaduna declaration. First, let the South also focus on rebuilding the South. Second, with respect to the disagreement over the cause of their unacceptable conditions, the husband North has proposed a North-South engagement. It’s a call for a family meeting, a commendable initiative of the husband. It’s about time to make it happen for the sake of the family’s future. Let the wife respond positively.

----------------THE NATION