I have always admired the Southwest of Nigeria. One of the topics that fascinated me in secondary school history was that of Oyo Empire, particularly the story of Kakanfo, the renegade general, whose rebellious streak gave rise to Ife Kingdom.
I have learnt from history that conformity gives rise to very little. It is not the catalyst to change. If everyone simply belonged and obeyed, no revolution would have taken place in any sphere of human endeavor.
Let’s face it. The Southwest has it; that Kakanfo streak that has made Lagos-Ibadan the nucleus and watershed for everything that is new in Nigeria. The average “Lagosian” does not wait for manna from heaven. He struggles for standing space in a “molue”, so does he jostles for a niche in the socioeconomic space.
That is the character and role of the Southwest in the evolution of Nigeria’s body politics. From the struggle for independence to that of self-assertion, the region has made its bones by shear agitation, to its benefit and the benefit of the nation. Just name it, Lagos is in the thick of it. And look what the Southwest has become in Nigeria’s current democratic dispensation!
That today, the Southwest holds sway, when the North, its historical arch rival is at the helm is not by accident. It is a simple equation: from each according to their capacity, to each according to their need. The North will give anything to produce the President; the Southwest will do anything to control him.
And so, the alliance held to produce as President, the most unlikely person to get the nod of the Southwest: General Muhammadu Buhari. Everyone is reaping from their traditional posture. The North, still in delirium for being President, is, as always, conformist. Being at the very apex is good enough. Buhari is the leader. He can do no wrong, even though he is obviously not the one doing much.
So satisfied, the North makes no demands of this government. Successive budgets for three years record the region as a mere footnote. The North is right now the most perilous part of the country to live, due to insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and ethno-religious bloodshed. But the people are supposed to be contented because their own is President.
Most Northern economic activities have been adversely targeted by economic policies that must be ascribed to President Buhari, as the Chief Executive but he obviously has no inkling of their ravaging impact on the livelihoods of the Northern masses. And as the part of the country suffer the debilitation of the resultant poverty and unemployment, Northerners groan and bear it. It is, after all, a home grown predicament brought upon them by their own. That is simply the difference between suffering before 2015 and suffering now.
When a group gives unconditional support to a leader, he takes them for granted, expecting from them, nothing but allegiance and praise, seeing nothing in them but contentment. The caution of voices in the wilderness is shouted down in a cacophony of adulation, which the leader does nothing but hype up.
The worst kind of oppression is that of the people upon themselves; the exact kind happening to Northern Nigeria, where dissent that is in the general interest is stifled by the people themselves. If there is ever a geopolitical group that honoured a leader with a mandate, only to be ignominiously treated by his administration and yet, their continued loyalty is still expected, it is Northern Nigeria.
An embodiment of ironies is indeed, what the North has become in this Buhari era; an apt depiction of late Fela’s song, “Suffering and Smiling”. If religion is “the opium of the masses”, Karl Marx might as well have referred to this subservience, this impulsive conformity as the drug that intoxicates Northern Nigeria into retrogressive oblivion. No region of Nigeria supports a political interest solely because it satisfies their ethnic whims except the North.
The situation of Northern Nigeria under the Buhari Presidency illustrates how unquestionable supporters of failure become the worst victims of it; whose situation is compounded by not having the faintest idea that their condition is caused by their allegiance to an order that cares little for their fate.
In an ironic twist therefore, supporters of President Buhari in the North create excuses for his failures on the same issues, for which they vilified his predecessor. And when all defences fail, they attribute the serious shortcomings of his administration to Divine will, unwittingly suggesting that Divine will had no effect in the previous dispensation!
Hypocrisy has a high price and it is taking its toll on Northern Nigeria, as a price being paid for injustice and double standards. And as the 2019 elections come so close, the forces of reason are once again, drawing attention to the folly of primordial attitude to matters that concern the survival and destiny of the people.
At this time, when other astute parts of Nigeria are sorting themselves out in the political arena, the North will continue to give in to parochial sentiments only at its own peril. All other zones have through the nation’s political experience, evolved into smart pressure groups, with the acumen to secure for their masses the best bargains. But the North’s only prize is to produce the “oga at the top”, who in the case of President Buhari, is not on top of the situation at all.
Shekara is media aide to Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State