Abdullahi and his conditions for 2023

By Emmanuel Oladesu

It appears that politicians, particularly the ethnic champions, are in a hurry. They are eager to sow seeds of discord and deepen the division among the diverse social formations, ahead of future polls.

Although President Muhammadu Buhari has barely spent nine months of his four year second term, impatient tribal warlords are already anticipating the end of an era. Some of them have lost hope. They do not believe the government can satisfy their egocentric yearnings.They are looking for another messiah for personal reasons, but using tribal groups as platforms for interest articulation.

They are scheming for a new opportunity for their tribes to gain power. They are positioning themselves so they could anoint President Buhari’s successor.

Since zoning, rotational principle and power shift appear to be non-negotiable, the six regions have returned to the drawing board.

Individuals, organisations and groups are peeping into 2023, some with anxiety, others with utmost fear. The bone of contention, as usual, is the presidency, which has never become a uniting force and rallying point, but whose occupant is perceived from the prism of antagonistic ethnic or regional squabbles.

Curiously, it seems that ethnic jingoists are not in search of a leader with a national outlook in post-Buhati period.

The presidency is largely seen as a core benefit to the region producing the number one citizen, despite the transience of power. This feeling or perception may be underscored by the regression to parochial attitude by the power-loaded president at any given time, particularly the tendency towards uncanny nepotism.

Past prime minister and presidents, like the fledgling nation-state they had ruled, had battled with the subsisting identity crisis. They have not been perceived as ‘President of All Nigeria,’ but as Hausa/Fulani president, Yoruba president and Ijaw/Southsouth president. No region appears to be particularly satisfied, unless the Commander-In-Chief is of its stock.

Prof. Ango Abdullahi’s outburst on the anticipated 2023 power struggle is consistent with contrasting regional strategies and reactions to the socio-political milieu in a highly heterogeneous and fragile federal country characterised by mutual distrust, antagonism and regional competition for products of power.

The former Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) vice chancellor and Presidential Adviser on Agriculture was exercising his human right as a Northern patriot.

He may not be too different from some Igbo leaders who are calling for presidential zoning to the Southeast, some minority Yoruba leaders rooting for Ndigbo presidency, some Southsouth opinion leaders advocating power shift so that the region could complete Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s second term, some Middlebelt activists who are saying it is their turn and some Southwest progressive leaders who are also gazing at Aso Rock.

But, the points of departure are the conditions reeled out by the acclaimed leader of Northern Elders Forum, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sympathiser, which implies a push for political negotiation with his small tribal group.

It could not be ascertained whether the eminent scholar and great friend of Atiku Abubakar is clearing the ground for the Waziri Adamawa ahead of 2023 or he is sending a signal that his tiny group is not disposed to power shift to the South.

He sent his audience into confusion when he alleged that the political manoeuvres around the 2023 elections were targeting the North as a region available for exploitation. It is doubtful if he spoke on behalf of the entire North, including the Middlebelt, and particularly the marginalised Yoruba northerners in Kwara and Kogi who are permanently targetted within his projected monolithic North for exploitation and oppression.

Abdullahi said he wanted to make it clear that the people of the North will be very careful in committing to persons seeking their support on the basis of their region or wealth.

The limitation of the former university don has been pointed out by the president’s media aide, Femi Adesina,  who berated him to equating his one-man forum to an umbrella that commands mass following and representative of his imaginary ‘One North’.

Abdullahi’s remarks have thrown up some issues. The PDM chieftain conveyed the impression that the destiny of the North is permanently tied with the Federal Government and that the region cannot survive without controlling it. This means that when Northerners do not dominate the so-called juicy portfolios and the president is not operating from the armpit of certain leaders of yore, the North is left in the cold.

It is typical of leaders who do not reflect on how the resources are generated, but how the politics of distribution is resolved to their zone’s advantage.

It is strange that as the elder statesman canvassed what he aptly described as the Northern position, he said those seeking support on the basis of their own region should be either be resisted or not taken serious.

What is discernable from that expression is that the Northern Elders’ Forum is opposed to zoning or power shift as the agitations are rooted in the regions outside the vast North. Neither should a balance be maintained between Northern interest and the legitimate concerns of other component units.

But, he may need to offer more explanations to Nigerians so they can also know those who are seeking the North’s support on the basis of their “wealth.”

To Abdullahi, the North knows its interest and will stand together to elect only persons who meet the standards and interests of the people of the North.

What matters to him exclusively is the interest of the North, and not the interest of other regions and and the interest of Nigeria as a whole. Neither is merit, capability or national acceptance a criterion inasmuch as the interest of the North is satisfied during the presidential selection and general election.

While it may not be too hard to comprehend the interest of the North, which mainly is the desire for permanent political control, more explanations are  required on what Abdullahi meant by the “standard” of the North.

Many Southerners have objectively or subjectively argued that the North has profited from lopsided federalism. Its population is huge, and since federal military governments led by Northerners

The only valid aspect of his statement was that the North has problems. Many are self-imposed. Others are forced by circumstances beyond its control. These problems include terrorism by the Boko Haram sect, which has ravaged many parts of the region, and poverty, which is still soaring in the region in geometric proportion.

There is the unresolved argument that  if Northerners who have held forte for so long had fostered good governance, perhaps,  the situation in the North would have been different.

Many Southerners have objectively or subjectively argued that the North has profited from lopsided federalism. Its population is huge, and since federal military governments led by Northerners assumed that it should be the major basis, the region had benefitted from the politics of state and local government creation.

The North has always benefitted from major federal appointments and distribution of infrastructure.

But, the North has continually bred public  figures who believe they are powerful on account of their ability to accumulate four wives who have given birth to 27 children and  they are still counting.

While the South is always paying attention to birth control and serious family planning, the enlightenment along these lines is still low. Teenage marriage has remained a challenge.

It is the North that is breeding Almajirins on the streets, whose parents have not taken advantage of schooling. The apathy to girl-child education is more prevalent in the region. Now, former Lagos-based okada riders of Northern origin are returning home.