Against the backdrop of the trending centrifugal factors which are tearing at the soul of the Nigerian nation with the aim of dismembering it, the expectation of any Nigerian of good will is the de-escalation of whatever tendency that may be so primed against the unity and peaceful coexistence of its disparate ethnic nationalities. This consideration is informed by not only the vision of the founding fathers of the country, but also the tireless efforts of countless Nigerians in various walks of life – some of who have toiled and even paid the supreme price just to ensure that the country stays in one piece rather than having the component ethnic nationalities going their separate ways. Beyond the foregoing is that the unity of the country is justified by the future dividends that outweigh whatever can come from a divided country. In fact, a cardinal feature of the uniqueness of the Nigerian society is the diversity of the people and their ways of life. Indeed, this is the basis of the familiar cliché – ‘unity in diversity’. After all, is it not another cliché that says ‘variety is the sauce of life’?
That is why the concerns including contemplation of secession of the North by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), as expressed by its spokesman and Director of Advocacy Hakeem Baba Ahmed over the outcome of the forthcoming 2023 general polls remain of interest to every Nigerian. Although the gentleman spoke to accentuate the interest of the North he could as well be speaking even unsolicited, the mind of several other Nigerians who are speedily losing interest in the nation. According to him, the North will expect the next President to treat the region better than the Buhari administration treated it, in the absence of which the region could contemplate secession from the country. This statement coming from the NEF, clearly reflects a departure from a discretional position, as should be expected of the respected elders’ body.
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The NEF has a track record of providing welcome stabilization for the country as situations demand. In fact it is on record that the NEF had just recently berated the President over the serial failures of his administration in respect of caging insecurity and providing good governance in other areas of the country’s public space. Indeed, spurred by patriotic passion the NEF had even called for the resignation of the President for which it received tongue lashing by the Presidency and some Northern interest groups. Having served as one of the critical sponsors of the Buhari administration, the circumstances of the forum berating the same administration is note-worthy and vindicates it as broad minded.
However, given the forum’s experience with the Buhari administration which it sponsored and is reaping little beyond disappointment, the build up to the 2023 polls provides the country and the NEF a fresh opportunity to reset the country’s political fortunes through engineering a successor to the Buhari administration that will change the political narrative in the country. And in this respect it remains timely to remind that major factor that blurred the choice of occupancy of the seat of the President was ethnicity. It should not be forgotten easily that one the most critical selling points of Muhamadu Buhari to Nigerians was that he is a northern Fulani, which conferred on him and his political family an entitlement mentality.
Meanwhile the challenges inherent in the functionality of a Nigerian President go beyond the endowment with blue blood. The challenges entail exposure to mental stress, physically challenging tasks, endowment with broadmindedness, respect for rule of law just to mention a few. Considering that the NEF was in the forefront in endorsing and sponsoring Buhari, whatever grouse it has against the administration should in the least impel the forum to be more discretional as it weighs its option for the 2023 polls. The minimum that is expected of it is not to play the ethnic card as it is doing presently, but to expand the threshold for the appraisal of who becomes Nigeria’s next president.
From the bellyache of the NEF it is incontestable that ethnic card did not guarantee the north of any meaningful progress inspite of the humongous expectations the region invested in Buhari. Rather there was even a deepening of the various crises in the region with insecurity and mass poverty trending there more than the rest of the country. It is therefore in the interest of the North whose interest the NEF represents, that a president that will change the narrative holistically should emerge. In the same vein it becomes incumbent on the NEF to extend its gaze for the president beyond the ethnic boundaries of the northern to other parts of the country, to source such a factor.
What should bother the NEF now is how to grow prosperity in the north through exploiting the vast endowment of natural and human resources begging to be tapped. In a more graphical context, it will be more beneficial to the NEF to have a president from any other part of the country who will transform the north along with the rest of the country meaningfully, than to have another northerner who will come with a sense of entitlement only to disappoint the country.
From a patriotic perspective it is difficult to consider the North without reflecting on the visionary enterprise of the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, its first premier and architect that laid it foundations to be a world beater in economic prowess. While many recall him with the political circumstances of his time, it takes a more discretional effort to appreciate that his contributions to the economic development planning of the north actually dwarf his political outings.
For instance if the vision of Ahmadu Bello for the North East had been built upon, that part of the country would have been Africa’s bovine business hub, and other aspects of animal husbandry. The failure to drive his vision has resulted in that zone transforming into the hot bed of insurgency of today. And as it is with the North East so it is with every other part of the North, with respect to Ahmadu Bello’s vision for the North.
It is past the era of sabre rattling and the time for placing money in the pockets of Nigerians in the north and other parts of the country. This is the message for now.