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Still on northern traditional rulers’ counsel to Tinubu

From Katsina, of all places, came a report the other day of little children protesting against the high rate of banditry and kidnapping in the…

From Katsina, of all places, came a report the other day of little children protesting against the high rate of banditry and kidnapping in the state. The action was in response to the increasing wave of invasion of schools, kidnapping and killing of children, particularly in the North. 

With the seemingly un-abating scenario, we may soon be witnessing replications of the Katsina children’s protests in other parts of the country in times ahead. We have since had the experience of abduction of the breathtaking number of children in Kaduna State and many others in Sokoto barely a week after the unprecedented Katsina children’s protest. 

There have been several reports as well, of protests by adults, against the deepening level of hunger in the land. The incidents have unfolded in Niger, Osun, Adamawa, Lagos, Kogi, Nasarawa and Kwara states, among others. 

Beside the rising incidents of highway robbery, especially targeted at trucks transiting food items and other basic essentials of life, are also the disturbing reports of looting of government stores, warehouses and silos of strategic reserves. 

The President Bola Tinubu’s administration cannot afford to play the proverbial ostrich by burying its head in the sand in the face of the burgeoning infernos. As it is, those who have his ears at the corridors of power, paid aides, spin doctors, palace courtiers and jesters, appear incapable, or are willfully refusing to avail him with the correct pictures of the prevailing situation. 

It is in the very best interest of President Tinubu to be aware that the country is on the cusp of anomie, precariously moving towards the precipice. Anarchy is looming in the firmament, with tremors beneath the country’s foundation getting louder.

President Tinubu should hearken more to those who have the honesty and courage of telling him the truth: the bitter, not-too-palatable truth, not the sonorous, sweet but dangerous whispers of the hypocrites who, like the misguided and the ill- informed, are at best, fair weather friends who cannot be bothered with the consequences of his wrong choices at the end of the day.

Over the span of the trajectory of Nigeria in nationhood, the northern traditional rulers have uniquely, remained among the reliable repositories where political actors have always found candid and patriotic counselling. This fact is no doubt, the result of the unbroken chain of the history, culture and wisdom and experience of governance accumulated through the centuries. This is especially so in the context of northern traditional institutions.

Under democratic and military political dispensations, people of southern Nigerian extractions, have at various times, held the highest political office in the country, either as head of state or president. Prominent examples are presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and now, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.  They have in between them, ruled over the affairs of the country longer than their northern compatriots since the start of the ongoing Fourth Republic.

This is in spite of the North’s superior population, which in turn, confers on the region tremendous leverage in nationally conducted electoral contests. The region has, however, decided at several critical turns in the country’s political history, not to wantonly deploy this portent political advantage. Three of such historical instances will suffice to buttress this point.

In the June 1993 presidential election, the North overwhelmingly voted for late Chief MKO Abiola of the now defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) against one of theirs, the late Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC). That show of magnanimity was repeated in 1999 when Chief Obasanjo ascended to the country’s pinnacle of political power, very largely due to the solid support he had in the cream of the elite and electorate of the North.

With the North giving President Tinubu five million of the eight million votes that earned him victory in the 2023 presidential contest, there is no gainsaying which of the country’s geopolitical divide deserves the garlands for the  feats of Tinubu and  the All Progressives Congress (APC) in that year’s historic elections.

This piece, more or less a rejoinder, was triggered by a recent article titled: “From palace to politics, Fulani emirs mass against Tinubu” by one Francis Ojo.  This article in reference comes across as a voyage in a brazen exercise of hauling unprintable invectives on the highly revered institutions and persons of the Sultan of Sokoto, Dr Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III  and the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero.

In the warped perception of the author, the two royal fathers ought not to have lent their voices to those of the several other well-meaning leaders in the country in drawing the attention, and accordingly admonishing the president on the prevailing poverty and attendant creeping hunger and anger among the people.

Using the auspicious occasion of the visit of the country’s First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu to his palace, Emir Aminu Ado Bayero had made a passionate appeal on the president to adopt more effective and pragmatic solutions to the raging hunger and starvation across the length and breadth of the country.

Although the emir acknowledged that the “crisis preceded this government,” he said, “The situation has, however, become more alarming and needs urgent attention. The government should come clean on this matter and talk to Nigerians in the language they would understand.”

Also speaking earlier at a forum of northern emirs and chiefs, Sultan Abubakar similarly drew attention of the President Tinubu administration to the stark reality and potential grim backlash of the heightening level of poverty and hunger.

The Sultan noted that the prevailing air of restraint and quietness amongst the citizens was in a large measure due to the fact that “people have been talking to them.” He added, “We have been talking to them. I pray to the Almighty Allah that they would not wake up one day and say, ‘We no longer believe in you.’ That would be the biggest problem.”  

In a show of appreciation for their courageous and wise commentary on the state of the nation, the Sultan and Emir Bayero have been extolled and celebrated by a broad-spectrum of enlightened, well-meaning citizens in all parts of the country. The encomiums are in appreciation of their bringing the respected and weighty moral authority to bear at such a crucial and trying time such as the country is presently going through.

On the other hand, in the warped, hate-tainted logic of Mr Ojo, the matter-of-fact and fatherly counselling of the Sultan and the Emir were nothing but the “politics of the massing of Fulani Emirs against Tinubu.” To him, while the views of Emir Aminu Bayero translated to his “sending insults to Tinubu,” the Sultan, on his part, was merely “sending his threats” to the president.

An enlightened and urbane leader that he is, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would not, of course, be bought on such bunkum and balderdash. The President should have seen through the insidious veneer behind which lurks a sinister agenda of creating unnecessary enmity, bad blood and mistrust between him and the two most revered traditional rulers of the North. 

To the extent that President Tinubu’s epic victory at the 2023 presidential poll was largely due to the votes of the northern electorate will he appreciate the salient but crucial place of the Sultan of Sokoto, the Emir of Kano and the other establishment leaders in the region.

In the course of his treacherous fabrications and twisting of facts, Francis Ojo alleged that “northerners fanatically defended President Muhammadu Buhari all through his eight disastrous years in office.” In his view, the northerners, especially their leaders, do not, therefore, have the “moral justification to be criticising the President Tinubu administration, which is barely eight months in office.” Nothing can be further from the truth.

More than any other group and individuals, the likes of Professor Ango Abdullahi and Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed, on the platform of the Northern Elders Forum, the fiery clerics, Sheikh Ahmed Abubakar Gumi and Bishop Mathew Kuka of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese, were simply the most vociferous voices of criticism against unpopular government’s policies and programmes throughout the tenure of President Buhari.

Also, northern traditional leaders, the Sultan, and significantly, the Emirs of Katsina and Daura, were unrelenting in calling attention of President Buhari to the abysmal state of insecurity and otter negative fallouts of the policies and programmes of his administration. 

On many grounds, the North feels morally justified in decrying bad governance under Tinubu. First, having suffered more than their southern counterparts under Buhari, people of the region, had anticipated a better deal with Tinubu. Given his antecedents, northerners had adjudged the then candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu  as possessing the best  capacity of leading the country away from the precipice.

Just as they opted for MKO against Alhaji Tofa based on the former’s demonstrated traits of a philanthropist, his capacity and credentials as a pan Nigerian leader, the North, in 2023 tilted toward Tinubu. Their going against his main challenger, a fellow northerner, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku was essentially because Tinubu was seen as a much capable candidate. 

Those now claiming the Tinubu presidency as their exclusive preserve have conveniently, so soon in the day, forgotten that he lost the 2023 presidential poll in Lagos and Osun states, which are the two states where, for very strong symbolic reasons, he should have had his best showing.

On the whole, it is obvious that Francis Ojo and his cohorts are merely serving as pawns in the manipulative hands of the fifth columnists. The ultimate goal of the masquerades behind the masks is a vicious and cynical agenda aimed at the very heart of the president. The year 2027 is the visible object of their schemes, machinations and poisoned darts.

President Tinubu should be grateful to Sultan Abubakar and Emir Bayero for telling him the truth that his aides will not avail him with. Very importantly, he should be wary of fifth columnists, Janus-faced people who only profess loyalty and affection but are in truth, his very worst enemies.

Ahmad is a Kaduna-based public affairs commentator.


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