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Democracy-in-Chains—Code of Ethics for Ethnic Gladiators
By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq.  Published October 27th, 2010

  • “Figuratively speaking, every time an Abubakar Atiku, former vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stands behind his ethnic flag to proclaim his run for the nation’s presidency; every time a Kenneth Nnamani, former president of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stands behind his ethnic flag to stake his bid for the nation’s vice-presidency, it chips away at the foundations of nationhood and flies the nation’s flag at half mast.”
  •  “It’s indeed a matter for regret that those who have been honored by the nation in the past to serve at the highest offices in the land have turned their backs on the nation and retreated into ethnic sanctuaries to become virulent ethnic gladiators. Nothing stops Atiku, Nnamani or any other presidential aspirant for that matter from standing behind the Nigerian flag rather than behind Ndigbo or AREWA flag to proclaim his presidential bid. Statesmanship, if it has any meaning at all in Nigeria, demands nothing less”.—Franklin Otorofani, Esq.
  •  “In making that statement, one would want to ask; did he consult the Emir of Zauzau, or the Shehu of Borno, or the Ohinoyi of Ebrialand, or the Gbong Gwon Jos? Aren’t they northerners? Did he consult the north CAN Chairman or the JNI leader in the north? Did he consult the various youth organisations or the women body or the Governors in the North, who are elected representatives of the people? Certainly no, it is very clear that he is driving at a personal agenda.”
  • “From all our researches and enquiries, he has not consulted any of these groups. So, we begin to wonder which north he is talking about. Is it the north of re-cycled leaders who want to keep doing it? He has served as minister; his wife has done same; is it because his son has not been made a minister in this dispensation that he is busy making inflammatory statement?”—Yakubu Dati, former Plateau State Information and Communication Commissioner, reacting to the call by Mallam Adamu Ciroma on Jonathan to resign. (ThisDay 10-21-2010)

Democracy is a system of government that is distinctively and clearly differentiated from authoritarian—military, theocratic, and monarchical systems of government by its permanent and insistent demands for periodic elections into various offices in the largely multi-tier governmental structures presented in the prevailing political environments in place all over the modern, democratic world. By “multi-tier governmental structures” is meant the various levels of government that subsist in given political environments. 

While the governmental structures necessarily vary from one country to another as dictated by their particular political environments, these structures invariably span local administrations superintending over municipal shores, such as for instance; garbage collection, local policing, road maintenance, water and electricity supplies and/or regulations, traffic regulations, birth and death registration, issuance of local permits and licenses for commercial activities, all the way to national administrations presiding over national affairs, such as for instance; defense, security, foreign affairs, post and telecommunication, customs and excise, immigration, border control and the like, that affect the nation as a whole rather than a part or parts thereof.

It must quickly be noted here that the allocation of these functions also varies from one political environment to another and is by no means uniform. Suffice it to state, however, that these functions are contained in the Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative lists in the Nigerian constitution with items in the Exclusive list belonging exclusively to the center and the items in the Concurrent list belonging to both the center and the states, i.e., local administrations.  

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However, these matters, whether they belong to local or national authorities cannot be handled by individuals acting as individuals, but by individuals acting as a governing body, and that’s why they’re referred to as “the government”. In reality, therefore, “government” is no more than a body of individuals empowered by individual members of a society to attend to these matters on their behalf. “Government” is, by this definition, an agent of the people who constituted it, including those who took no part at all in its constitution, but are nonetheless co-opted into the resulting agency relationship.

The means by which “governments” are constituted in a democracy is by periodic elections either to renew the tenure of an existing government or bring in a new set of individuals to constitute another government as individual members of the society may deem fit solely in their judgment or discretion. Thus a functioning democracy is all about the infinite succession of governments at various levels of governmental structures in a political system constituted by individual members of society for a term certain.

Now their decisions to empower certain individuals to constitute a government may or may not be wise and prudent in particular instances, but it’s their decisions, regardless. The wisdom or prudence of their decisions is not a matter to be questioned, but taken as fait accompli. Democracy only requires them to make the decisions, but it’s not concerned about the wisdom and prudence of the decisions so made by the individuals at the polls. Thus for instance, if the individuals in the aggregate decide to elect armed robbery ex-convicts to lead them, it is their business not of democracy. If they choose to elect fraudsters, treasury looters or incompetents to lead them, it is their business not of democracy. And if they choose to elect complete fools to lead them into the kingdom of fools, it is their business not of democracy. What they elect is what they get (WTEIWTG).    

Center of the Universe

However, because democracy is about elections before anything else, it presupposes the primacy of the individual in making democratic choices during elections. It is thus incumbent on the individual member of society to decide who among several candidates put forward in an election is best qualified to secure his freedoms and liberties and material wellbeing to enable him lead a meaningful and worthwhile life along with his fellow citizens in his neck of the woods. This is not rocket science and one would think that anyone with average intelligence would understand this pretty well.

But this decision he must make himself for himself, not through an agent, intermediary, surrogate or by proxy. And he may even decide not to decide at all. It’s all in his discretion to decide or not to decide, which means staying off the polling booths during polls for whatever reasons. And this is so because the exercise of franchise is not by compulsion but by persuasions and personal convictions. Democracy compels no one to the polls but compels all to live by their decisions either for good or evil. 

However, whether the individual decides to decide or not, his decision has far reaching repercussions in his life and in some cases even the lives of others around him in his community somewhere down the road. But he must live with his decision until such a time that he’s presented with another opportunity to change or reaffirm his decision in a fresh election.

It is fair to conclude therefore that his ballot holds the key to his future and perhaps the future of others in his community. This is what makes elections extremely important; in fact, life changing events on the part of the individual citizen. And it’s the reason why his decisions cannot be outsourced to another individual or group, because he alone will bear the consequences of his decisions down the road even while taking others down with him. He cannot hold another but himself responsible for his decision whether it brings him curse or blessing, pain or joy. In modern times, these choices are usually expressed through paper ballots, actually marked and cast by the voter at any given election.

However, what qualifies a citizen to cast his/her ballot at a given election is his/her prior registration as a voter, which in turn is predicated upon his/her satisfaction of age and citizenship requirements including residency status amongst others.  It is safe to conclude, therefore, that democracy revolves around the individual members of society by enabling them to make democratic choices. It’s the aggregation of the individual votes that determine the winner or loser of a particular election as the case may be.

In this democratic paradigm, therefore, it is the individual, not groups, that is at the center of the electoral universe. Consequently, there are no ballots for individual groups, but the individual voter. There are no ballots for individual ethnic groups, but the individual voter. There are no ballots for professional bodies, unions or trade groups, but the individual voter. He is the one at the center of it all, not the government or political parties. He is the bride for whom all the preparations, ceremonies are rituals are carried out. On no account therefore should he stay at the periphery as an onlooker, but must step forward to claim the stage that has been prepared for him. He must claim what belongs to him and him alone, by law and the constitution.

But how many voters appreciate the power of the ballots they hold in their hands? How many of them understand that they alone and not Ohaneze, AREWA, or Afenifere can fire and hire the government of the day to lead them in the next four years? And how many of them appreciate the fact that they alone, the individuals and not the NBA, NUJ, NLC, ICAN, ASUU or the People’s Club of Nigeria, vocal and active as they may be, can hire and fire the government of the day? How many of them know that CAN and JNI have no vote in an election? I could wager a bet on this: not a whole lot, and that’s due to lack of political education. It’s a shame that everyone knows the value of the banknotes they clutch possessively in their hands, but only a few know the real value of the ballots and that’s why they sell them short!  

Yet the Nigerian voter must be made to appreciate the fact that no other entity is entitled to register, receive and cast a single ballot during election other than the individual voter. Only individual citizens may have their names on voters register and they alone may vote at elections. I have used the word “may” advisedly, because as indicated above voting is not a compulsory but a voluntary undertaking on the part of the individual. Yet he/she alone has the power to vote. The individual voter is the only one empowered by law and the constitution to determine the winner and loser of any given election and therefore to him alone and to no one else must an electoral candidate present his manifesto, direct his message, appeals and persuasions. Thus the entire electoral process is geared toward getting that individual to the polling booth to cast his/her vote for the candidate of his/her choice. The huge investments in elections are meant to achieve this singular objective of bringing the individual to the polls to constitute a new government.

Obviously, this is an awesome power conferred on individual citizens in democratic societies that was in the past denied to certain demographics in certain nations for which many laid down their lives to help secure for the disenfranchised in such societies. It is, therefore, disheartening that many have decided to treat this enormous, life-changing power with levity and total indifference, almost bordering on contempt for the electoral process.

The reality on the ground in Nigeria points to the fact that the individual voter counts for less in the making of democratic choices. In fact, the individual voter has completely been relegated to the background. Or I should say the individual voter has relegated himself to the background and sold himself short in the democratic enterprise. How so? When he’s not busy selling his votes for a pot of porridge, he is using his vote to install known thieves who are out to loot public treasury and further impoverish him and his family while paying lip service to the conditions of existing social infrastructures.

Thus the average voter in Nigeria has sold his future to the highest bidder and his soul to the Devil. He has abdicated his responsibility to himself, his family and his community. The Nigerian voter has elected to place his future in the hands of political contractors instead of placing it in his own hands with the power of the ballot. If the Nigerian voter determines that his ballot is a non-negotiable instrument for his economic and social empowerment no politician can steal it from him through rigging anymore than a thief can steal his hard earned cash from his gritty hands and get away with it. He will protect it with the last drop of his blood as the mother hen protects its chicks from the hawks. He will use his ballot as bargaining chip to secure the greatest social and economic benefits for himself, his family and his community. But all too often he has allowed himself to be hoodwinked, bamboozled and shortchanged, and winds up holding the short end of the stick. 

Effects on Democracy

And because of this prevailing attitude amongst the citizenry, the unscrupulous politician is able to bulldoze his way through the electoral process to install himself in power with no fear of repercussions only to wreak havoc on the polity. And because of this prevailing attitude the smart politician is able to ignore and bypass the voter and proceed directly to power brokers in his community to strike deals behind the voter that in no way represent the interests and wellbeing of the voter. And because of this prevailing attitude opportunistic organizations masquerading as cultural organizations, which severally go by the names of Arewa Consultative Assembly (ACF), Afenifere and Ohaneze; respectively for the North, West and Eastern parts of the nation have invaded the political landscape to peddle their merchandize of ethnicity in the public space to hoodwink the unwary voter.

Organizations that claim to be cultural in their aims and objectives are anything but cultural in their pronouncements and activities. Since their founding none of them has been associated with any major or even minor cultural events in their domains. No one can count on AREWA, Afenifere or Ohaneze to sponsor a cultural event in their domains. No one can count on any of these organizations to sponsor any major development project in their domains whether related to the preservation of their cultural heritage or not. They absolutely have no record of cultural or other developmental achievement to point to, whatsoever. Instead they have reduced their organizations to un-official regional political parties that arrogate to themselves the right to determine who gets what in the political arena.

Purely political organizations disguised as cultural organizations have bulldozed their way into the political scene and imposed their own agenda on their people by standing on the platforms of ethnicity. And in the process have succeeded in rendering their respective electorates utterly impotent and irrelevant in the schemes of things. These undemocratic bodies have arrogantly and impudently arrogated to themselves the power to dictate to their electorates their political choices and preferences. In other words, they have effectively disenfranchised the voters in their respective regions.

Youths and even elders alike in these regions dominated by ethnic organizations have been made to sit on the fence, wait on and read the lips of these self-seeking elders before they make up their minds on whom to vote for at elections. Their minds have literarily been hijacked and subjected to remote control by their elders who now dictate their political choices. And this they do without as much as reaching out to them first to feel their pulse before imposing their decisions on them, usually through some terse public statement callously tossed at them after their secret, coven-like conclaves. 

These wily politicians purporting to be fighting for their “marginalized” peoples were given ample opportunities in the past to serve and demonstrate their love for their peoples and Nigerians in general, but turned their backs on their peoples. They have only records of shame they cannot run on, which explains why they resort to cheap ethnicity as a crutch to keep them relevant. But people are too caught up with their daily grinds to question their motives and unflattering antecedents.

But it’s hard to blame the unsuspecting voter. These so-called elders are masters of the game and adepts at changing colors. As soon as they’re kicked out of power they transform themselves into ethnic champions seeking to use that platform to get back to power or bounce back into political reckoning. The unfortunate aspect of it all is that no one voted them into power; no one conferred on them the powers they purport to exercise on behalf of their peoples. No one asked them to act as their representatives. They’re totally on their own. Yet they have succeeded in hijacking the common ethnic identity of their people to promote their selfish political ambitions, interests or sympathies as the case may be. This is why their people must be extremely wary of their ethnic posturing because it is not genuine. It is faked for a definite objective. Once achieved, they’re quick to reveal their true colors and turn their backs on their peoples. This they have demonstrated time and again and only a fool would allow himself to be their fall guy.

These are individual politicians seeking political relevance in their domains coming together to exploit the platform of ethnicity to feather their own political nests in the name of their people but would not submit themselves to be vetted by the very people they claim to represent. They’re above their people. They have imposed themselves on their people as their leaders just by saying so. But it’s clear that these individuals are only exploiting the traditional respect for elders to promote their political interests and are responsible to no one but themselves. In a democracy all powers must flow from bottom up and not from top down. Anything contrary to that is fraud.    

Effects on Governance

There is no question that ethno-religious considerations have adversely affected the quality of government and delivery of services to the citizens of the country by government ministries, agencies and developments. Once a top government position is filled by somebody from a particular ethnic group, that department or institution is gradually colonized by his ethnic group from top down. If the head is an Igbo man, that institution or department is turned into an Igbo colony; if he’s Hausa, it becomes an Hausa colony; if he’s from the Yoruba ethnic stock, it’s turned into a Yoruba republic. It doesn’t matter the ethnic group, the same thing happens throughout the bureaucracy, including Nigerian embassies and missions abroad. Federal character, which is provided for in the constitution, is not applied or enforced at the lower levels in the government’s bureaucracy. And this extends to the award of contracts and LPOs for supplies.

The ethnicisation of the public domain has turned public service into islands of ethnic republics that are shuttered from citizens from other ethnic groups in blatant disregard for constitutional provisions mandating a level playing field. No one gets hired if he does not speak the right ethnic language, bears the right ethnic name, or carries the right ethnic facial marks. Certificates and experience count for less. Competence counts for less. Dedication to duty counts for less. This is a huge drag on the nation’s forward march that must be addressed. The nation cannot afford to keep and maintain the ethnic islands that currently exist in the nation’s public service system, right from the presidency on down to the local government.   


Effects on Nationhood

It must be emphasized, however, that the centrifugal forces represented by these selfish organizations have wrought immense havoc on nationhood. They’re responsible for Nigeria’s inability to forge a nation out of its mini-nations. And they’re responsible for Nigeria’s fragile unity and nationhood.  They’re the biggest roadblocks to Nigeria’s attainment of nationhood and might very well doom the nation’s young democracy more than anything else including electoral malpractices. AREWA, Ohaneze, and Afenifere pose the greatest threat to Nigeria’s democracy than all other things put together!

These are the groups pulling the nation apart rather than pulling it together. The only way Nigeria can forge ahead in nation building is to whittle down these centrifugal forces to be replaced with centripetal forces. Sustainable democracy cannot be constructed on the faulty foundations of ethnicity as the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan has made abundantly clear. Up till date Iraq is unable to form a national government months after its general elections due to ethnic wrangling. We will therefore be deceiving ourselves by building our democracy on the foundations of ethnicity and expecting it to last.

All the signs of a troublous future are writ large in the Nigeria polity. It is therefore imperative on the part of the Nigerian authorities to subsume ethnic loyalties under national loyalties for the simple fact that ethnic loyalties cannot co-exist with national loyalties.

A nation with divided loyalties is like a house divided against itself and therefore cannot stand as the Holy Book tells us. To pretend that both loyalties can co-exist is to court disaster in the now and in the future. To hope that the one will voluntarily give way to the other is to luxuriate in wishful thinking.

Ethnicity is stronger than nationalism, and if one will give way to the other, it is nationalism that will buck first and that spells nothing but disaster for the polity. It’s the beginning of the end. The fact that no deliberate efforts are being made in this direction makes one shudder at the prospects of the continued existence of the nation as one indivisible and indissoluble entity. So far providence has been doing the job of keeping the nation together for us. But we cannot continue to count on God to preserve the union without doing our part as a people in the direction of nation building. At a time God might get tired of doing it for us as happened in other nations like the Soviet Union and Somalia.

And the way to foster national loyalties and allegiances is by creating a level playing field for all constituent units of the union of nationalities by ensuring that every unit has equal stake in the union. In the United States this is called “equal opportunities” for all citizens regardless of the color, religion, sex or geographical region made possible by anti-discrimination laws that are vigorously enforced and breaches sanctioned as a matter of duty.

The Nigerian constitution has similar provisions in section 42(1) & (2), which I would crave the indulgence of the reader to reproduce below, because they are so important and germane to this discourse:

42. (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-

(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or

(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.

(2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.

(3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes restrictions with respect to the appointment of any person to any office under the State or as a member of the armed forces of the Federation or member of the Nigeria Police Forces or to an office in the service of a body, corporate established directly by any law in force in Nigeria.

This is what the supreme law of the land commands the Nigerian nation and its governments and authorities to observe and enforce at all levels of government in the land including private organizations as well, not just governments only. That being so, it comes as a surprise that some politicians from a section of the country are seeking to prevent other citizens from another section of the country from vying for the position of president of the nation in utter disregard and contempt for these clear and unambiguous provisions of the Nigerian constitution by citing a so-called unwritten bogus zoning agreement, which to them is superior to the nation’s constitution. And it comes as a surprise therefore that the Nigerian press has been complicit in promoting discrimination against a Nigerian from certain parts of the country by harping on zoning rather than questioning its constitutionality and legality in the first place. When a nation’s press indulges in the inanities inherent in a bogus extra-constitutional contraptions to promote discrimination against a fellow citizens from certain parts of the country our fundamental constitutional rights are in danger. I have yet to see a Nigerian reporter questioning any of those ethnic champions championing zoning why the constitutional provisions reproduced above should give way to a party agreement in our constitutional order?


Is the Nigerian constitution supreme or not? Does it have binding force on all authorities in the land or not? These are the only questions that need to be asked and answered, not party provisions that are inconsistent with its provisions, and therefore rendered null and void by the force of the constitution itself as provided in section in section 1(1) thereof to-wit:


This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”


What planet is the Nigerian press living on? Does it read the Nigerian constitution at all or it’s reading AREWA constitution drawn up by Mallam Adamu Ciroma and his ethnic jingoists in AREWA House in Kaduna?


It would appear that the Nigerian press is more interested in sensationalism than the enforcement of the constitutional rights of the citizens. I have yet to have a reporter ask the question why a citizen should give up his fundamental right guaranteed in the constitution to please ethnic jingoists from any part of the country.

This is a far cry from what obtains in the United States where the press is at the forefront of promoting defending the civil rights of citizens for which many fought for and died for in the past. In giving vents and wide latitude to arch-tribalists and sectionalists the Nigerian press is complicit in whittling down national allegiances and promoting ethnic and sectional allegiances. The Nigerian press can do better in drawing the line between the constitution and extra-constitutional shenanigans that are being hauled in our faces. The Nigerian press can do better than turning itself into the megaphone of megalomaniacs trying to force themselves on us all.

Patriotism, which is simply the love of country, cannot be decreed but internalized by the citizenry. Ultimately, it is borne out of individual belief and conviction. However, the state and the press can help to foster the spirit of patriotism and nationalism in the citizenry and public office holders and the press should lead the way.

Figuratively speaking, every time an Abubakar Atiku, former vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stands behind his ethnic flag to proclaim his run for the nation’s presidency; every time a Kenneth Nnamani, former president of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stands behind his ethnic flag to stake his bid for the nation’s vice-presidency, it chips away at the foundations of nationhood and flies the nation’s flag at half mast.

It’s indeed a matter for regret that those who have been honored by the nation in the past to serve at the highest offices in the nation have turned their backs on the nation and retreated into ethnic sanctuaries to become virulent ethnic gladiators. Nothing stops Atiku, Nnamani or any other presidential aspirant for that matter from standing behind the Nigerian flag rather than behind Ndigbo or AREWA flag to proclaim his presidential bid. Statesmanship, if it has any meaning at all in Nigeria, demands nothing less. 

The AREWA Challenge

While all these groups are guilty as charged, AREWA in particular has taken this proclivity to ridiculous and dangerous lengths in the North. It has left no one in doubt that it is firmly anchored in the political and not cultural business. Presently, AREWA is unabashedly engaged in the process of producing a so-called “consensus candidate” for the so-called North in the

forthcoming presidential election on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

In a move that belies its cultural pretensions AREWA rolled out its political drums in this report by the Nation newspaper in its 20/03/2010 edition:

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has constituted the biggest committee in its 10-year’ history and given it a sole mandate to prepare and execute a political agenda that would yield results in the 2011 elections and governance issues thereafter.”

“Findings by our correspondent indicate that the committee’s inaugural meeting and its election of a pioneer leadership took place at the ACF headquarters in Kaduna between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday when the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Maurice Iwu, was presenting INEC’s timetable for 2011 elections in Abuja.”

“On Wednesday, the ACF Political Committee elected former Minister of State in the Power and Steel Development Ministry, Alhaji Mohammed Ahmed Gusau, as its chairman, while the former governor of Borno State, Alhaji Mohammadu Goni, declined the job, insisting that he wanted a younger person to take the position.”

The above report shows conclusively that AREWA’s activities are anything but cultural, and it’s all politics all the time. That was way back in March, 2010. AREWA has since made good its plans and has been barring its fangs at President Jonathan. AREWA is the only ethnic organization in the nation that has taken it upon its self to pick a political fight with a democratically elected, sitting president totally unprovoked and unsolicited.

Pray, is the nomination of a presidential candidate a cultural matter that AREWA claims to represent? Who in the North contracted AREWA to carry out that consensus business for the North? And who appointed AREWA judge in the matter of vetting presidential or any other candidates for elective positions in the nation?

Reports have it that the AREWA’s other ad-hoc committee, the so-called Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) headed by the fast degenerating Mallam Adamu Ciroma, has even gone as far as not only deciding who the consensus candidate should be, but who amongst the runners-up will decide the next vice president, Senate president, speaker of the House of Reps and even Secretary to the Federal Government as “consolation prizes”.

Can you imagine the arrogance and impudence of Adamu Ciroma and AREWA gang deciding who the next president, vice president, senate president, speaker of the House of Reps and secretary to the Federal Government should be! AREWA might as well take over the Federal Government, for crying out loud! At a time Nigerians are yearning for the broadening and deepening of democracy at all levels a gang of ethnic throwbacks led by one old man are gathered in the bedroom of their leader to impose a presidential aspirant on the entire north without reference to the northern publics. And they expect the disqualified aspirants to walk away without fighting back and give up their presidential ambitions because the Almighty Mallam Adama Ciroma has decreed it. It is democracy Ciroma style!

How about giving the people of the north a say in who will represent them in the PDP primaries? How about some democracy, Mallam Ciroma? How about subjecting the presidential aspirants in the north under the PDP platform to regional primaries to enable the people themselves decide who flies the flag for the north? Why should a handful of elders be allowed to hijack the people’s right to determine their fate in a democracy?

But AREWA is not done. In its desperation to produce the next president for the north AREWA has gone for broke by discarding its cultural pretensions and disguises and openly coming out to campaign for northern candidates in the ruling PDP. It has waged a relentless war against the sitting president, Goodluck Jonathan who is perceived as an obstacle to the realization of its ethnic dream of producing the next president. AREWA has reduced itself to the unofficial political party of the north, threatening fire and brimstones should the north fail to produce the next president. And one begins to wonder: when was AREWA registered as a political party of the north? These people have thrown overboard good, old fashioned diplomacy, prudence and exercise of utmost discretion in their political activities as they relate to other regions in the nation.

In other well regulated climes, organizations other than political parties are not allowed to directly campaign on behalf of political parties, aspirants or candidates, and can only give their support in a discreet manner, not in the in-your–face manner that AREWA has resorted to in Nigeria to pursue its inglorious and illegal political objectives. 

AREWA has mounted more personal attacks on President Jonathan than all the presidential aspirants in the north combined. It constituted itself into the mouthpiece and campaign organization of PDP’s northern presidential aspirants, who simply sit back and have some expired, old ethnic gladiators do their jobs for them. They want to ride to power on the back of an ethnic horse to become Nigeria president. It’s impossible! They can only become president of the north, not of Nigeria. Nigeria and Nigerians are looking to have a Nigerian president, not northern president. At best the Ciroma gang can only succeed in producing an aspirant for the presidency of the north, not of Nigeria. And those who have lent themselves to the Ciroma plot have tacitly and unwittingly disqualified themselves from becoming a Nigerian president. They have revealed themselves as sectionalists and ethnic champions. Nigerians are not looking for ethnic champions but nationalists to rule over them.

Anyone looking to the nation’s presidency must demonstrate his statesmanship in real time when it matters most. I don’t see anyone in the AREWA backed pack doing so at this moment. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated greater degree of statesmanship that I had least expected given his bitter experience in previous elections that he lost. He has been demonstrating his democratic metamorphosis since the Yar’Adua illness saga all through the PDP zoning imbroglio. He deserves some credit for that and for distancing himself from AREWA shenanigans, if for nothing else.

AREWA tactics are dangerous not only to the unity of the nation, but also present serious danger to the nation’s budding democracy. This is an ethnic organization representing a region that has ruled the nation for 38 out of its 50 years of existence threatening fire and brimstones if it is not allowed to produce the next president in 2010. The way it’s going about it, one would think it has never tasted power at all in Nigeria like the South/South, or to some extent, the South/East. But this is the North that had permanently occupied the nation’s presidency to the total exclusion of other geo-political regions except by default, for crying out loud!

And now, AREWA had the temerity to call out Jonathan on the nation’s security. What a sick joke! It’s an organization that had several of its own sons presiding over the affairs of this nation sitting idly by when religious militia wantonly destroyed tens of thousands of lives and properties of other Nigerians resident in the north in addition to torching police stations. How in the world would a people with such a damnable record be heard issuing insane ultimatums for Jonathan to resign his office because of a terrorist bomb that claimed what, 12 or 14 lives, when tens of thousands perished under their watch?

Sure, every life is important and I’m not in anyway minimizing the loss of lives in the terrorist bombing near the Eagle Square during the nation’s jubilee celebrations even if it’s just one life lost, but to put matters in perspective. General Ibrahim Babangida presided over the first ever terrorist attack in the nation through a letter bomb and AREWA was muted in its reaction. His tenure witnessed several religions riots in the north that caught security agencies napping.

Even in this dispensation MEND struck at the heart of the nation’s income stream at Atlas Cove in 2009 destroying parts of the facility and killing a senior navy officer and others under the watch of late President Musa Yar’Adua, a northerner, and AREWA did not call for the resignation of Yar’Adua for his inability to prevent the attacks. Under the same Yar’Adua herdsmen unleashed mayhem on innocent citizens in Plateau state sending thousands to their early graves even with the security having foreknowledge of the impending attacks.  No one from the so-called AREWA raised any eyebrows let alone calling for Yar’Adua’s resignation.

Many nations have similarly witnessed spectacular terrorist attacks claiming hundreds if not thousands of lives at a go without anybody calling for the resignation of the sitting president or prime minister as the case may be. But here was AREWA throwing all caution to the winds demanding the resignation of Jonathan because of an attack that at best was more symbolic than damaging in comparison to other attacks in more developed countries with much better security surveillance systems than Nigeria.

To AREWA issuing ultimatums to Jonathan was more important than consoling the families of those who lost their lives and condemning the terrorists who wrecked havoc on the nation during her golden jubilee celebrations. AREWA is issuing ultimatums to even the National Assembly to impeach President Jonathan. What a sick joke! What will it do if the National Assembly treats his ultimatum as a piece of garbage that it is fit only for the trash can? Will AREWA bring the heavens down? Aren’t Nigerians right then in treating Ciroma as a clown and comedian deserving of no serious consideration in national affairs with his insane or at best clownish ultimatums?

AREWA was more interested in playing politics with the nation’s security and pointing fingers at the president than condemning those who were responsible for the attacks. Most probably, AREWA might have been quite happy if the terrorist had inflicted more damage than they did. In particular, AREWA would have been in its own celebratory mood had any serious harm befallen President Jonathan in the attacks. What better way to clear the road for the north to produce the next president?

Thus while the nation was gathered in Abuja to celebrate her 50th birthday some people apparently with foreknowledge of some evil happenstance coming the nation’s way, deliberately kept away from the venue ostensibly, because of the cost of the celebrations; and patiently waiting for some bad news from car bombs to go off to enable them have their own sick celebrations in their evil chambers. But flimsy and suspicious as this excuse is, it provides a window into the minds of Jonathan’s enemies in the political field within the ranks of the PDP presidential hopefuls and AREWA. This is as wicked and diabolical as politics gets anywhere in the world.

It would appear that AREWA was out to instigate the military to move against Jonathan ostensibly for not doing his job of protecting the nation. That must be the true objective of the attacks. Unfortunately for AREWA, the attacks did little damage. Unfortunately for AREWA, the military is no longer dominated by Northerners, who could be ordered to put down a democratically elected government by northern oligarchs. Unfortunately for AREWA the military has been professionalized under the previous Obasanjo administration to submit to civilian control and it’s now minding its own business. Unfortunately for AREWA, coup making has gone out of fashion and anachronistic in the modern world.

Therefore, AREWA and Ciroma can no longer count on the military to do their bidding as was the case in the past.  All that howling from Ciroma and AREWA is explicable in terms of the frustration they’re suffering since there is no military to carry out their bidding anymore. In the past they would not utter a word publicly to voice their disapproval of any government in power. All the nation would have heard would have been martial music blaring out of the radios early in the morning. The call by Ciroma and AREWA on the National Assembly to impeach Jonathan is the equivalent of military coup they’re used to instigating in the past, which option has been denied them in this dispensation. One can only imagine the frustration and exasperation that these old men have inflicted on themselves in their diabolical designs.   

And unfortunately for AREWA also, Alhaji Aliyu Muhammed Gusau, one of the presidential aspirants from the North that AREWA is fighting to crown as the nation’s president was the immediate past National Security Adviser, who resigned just about a month ago and must therefore account for the intelligence relating to the attacks. These attacks were not planned on the day they were carried out but long before then under his watch as national security adviser. And the ones that happened when he was in the same position as Security advisor under the Obasanjo administration he should account for as well, because the pot will not be allowed to call the kettle black and get away with it. What does he know about the attacks before his resignation? For him to have kept quiet when delusional Ciroma was vomiting his trash in his name shows him as not fit for the office he is aspiring to. He has not shown that he is a man of principle who would not sacrifice the nation’s security on the altar of ethnic interests. A more principled politician would have quickly dissociated himself from Ciroma’s senile gaffe.   

Gusau is not a stranger to terrorism in his former position as the nation’s security top dog. And he owes us an answer to this question since his mentor has obviously gone senile: Where in the world has a sitting president been asked to resign from office because of a terrorist attack? Is it in India, United States, Britain, Kenya, or Spain? Or, is it in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, or Israel? The answer is simple and direct: nowhere but in the demented minds of Mallam Adamu Ciroma and his co-travelers in ethnic bigotry in the reactionary AREWA political organization.

As against Jonathan who was barely five months old in office at the time of the Abuja bombings, President GW Bush was about nine months old in office when Al-Qeda struck the twin towers and the very heart of the US military establishment, the Pentagon. Although the Bush administration had intelligence about the impending attacks, it was impossible to connect the dots and piece the intelligence together to foil the attacks. We all know what the reactions of the political class were in the US. Both Democrats and Republicans, and indeed all Americans rose up and one voice condemned the attacks and vowed to take the war to the fortress of the Talibans and Al-Qeda in Afghanistan. And that was why the US Congress swiftly authorized the US war in Afghanistan with a near unanimous vote.

The important point to note, however, is that no one indulged in blame game by pointing fingers at the president for not preventing the attacks even if the intelligence was there. No one sought to make political capital of a national tragedy. No American politician would descend so low as to make political capital out of the deaths of over two thousand fellow citizens, who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon at the crashed airliner over the state of Virginia. The same goes for the Indians and Britons in similar tragedies. What planet are AREWA and Mallam Ciroma living on?

In Nigeria anything goes. Unscrupulous politicians in Nigeria have no qualms playing politics with a national tragedy and deaths of fellow citizens because they don’t care about the welfare of fellow citizens in the first place. They care only about themselves and their families while pretending to be fighting for their ethnic groups in order to gain political advantages. Does AREWA really care so much about the plight of northerners? If so all would have been well in the north in the past 38 years the north has been in power in the nation, including Balewa, IBB, Murtala, Buhari and Atiku being at the helm of affairs. But we know what their legacies are in the north. Their legacy is the beggars’ republic that is the north. Their legacy is the mass poverty and illiteracy that’s the north. Their legacy is the Boko Harams of the north. Their legacy is the economically dependent status of the north that cannot survive on its own without being in power at the center.

It’s a shame that desperate politicians in Nigeria sought to make political capital over the Abuja bombings. Ciroma and his ethnic gladiators ought to bury their heads in shame for their despicable and unpatriotic conduct. Imagine these people uttering not a single word in condemnation of the Abuja bombing; and not a single word of succor to the families of the victims of the attacks. How much lower can anybody go?

They want to pin the blame for the security lapses on Jonathan who just got to power less than six months ago? Whatever security lapses that exist in Nigeria today were inherited from the Yar’Adua under whose administration MEND became a real monster and the pogrom that took place in Plateau state. Where was AREWA then? Where was Ciroma then? He didn’t know how to issue ultimatums for resignations then? He just learnt how to write ultimatums when Jonathan declared to run for the presidency in 2011? Someone has got to have his head examined for mental degeneration.    

And I don’t say this with a cavalier attitude because I was brought up to respect elders. Elders are supposed to be repositories of wisdom and prudence in Africa and indeed all parts of the world perhaps more so in Africa. Their life experiences are supposed to have imbued in them wisdom, prudence and moderation in their private and public utterances more so in a volatile and combustible political climate like Nigeria. And for that they’re in turn supposed to be accorded respect and regard by society.

And it is even more so for an elder who has served as both Central Bank Governor and as Federal Minister, who is supposed to exhibit some level of statesmanship in his utterances. However, when a region allows itself to be represented by an elder who exhibits symptoms of senility in his public utterances concerning the nation’s security in the name of pursuing parochial ethnic interests, such an elder has lost all his privileges and entitlements to respect by reasonable members of the society. As such, he deserves to be called to order. Dirty as it may seem, even politics has its own moral and ethical boundaries too. Nigerian politicians can do with some code of ethics before they set our house on fire with their unguarded utterances.

However, it is clear that Ciroma was not speaking for the entire north, but for himself and fellow ethnic champions in the north. But the north is bigger than Ciroma and his ethnic and sectional gladiators. Did he make any consultations with all the relevant stakeholders in the north before purporting to speak on behalf of the entire north? The answer appears to be in the negative. And that is in tune with the basic premise of this article that some expired politicians have hijacked their ethnic identities to promote their own political interests in the name of their ethnic groups. How did I know that?

Below is a statement by a fellow northerner, Mr. Yakubu Dati, former Plateau State Commissioner for Information and Communications repudiating Ciroma’s dangerous antics, and for whom Ciroma was certainly not speaking:

“In making that statement, one would want to ask; did he consult the Emir of Zauzau, or the Shehu of Borno, or the Ohinoyi of Ebrialand, or the Gbong Gwon Jos? Aren’t they northerners? Did he consult the north CAN Chairman or the JNI leader in the north? Did he consult the various youth organisations or the women body or the Governors in the North, who are elected representatives of the people? Certainly no, it is very clear that he is driving at a personal agenda.

“From all our researches and enquiries, he has not consulted any of these groups. So, we begin to wonder which north he is talking about. Is it the north of re-cycled leaders who want to keep doing it? He has served as minister; his wife has done same; is it because his son has not been made a minister in this dispensation that he is busy making inflammatory statement?”  (ThisDay 10-21-2010).

Ciroma has constituted himself into a present danger to the present democratic experiment in the nation with his unabashed ethnic crusade. What would happen if other ethnic organizations in the nation begin to behave unruly like AREWA by issuing threats to presidential aspirants from the north? What happens if Ohaneze, SSPA and Afenifere go political full blast by attacking other presidential aspirants from other ethnic groups? What happens if these other ethnic organizations begin to assert the “right” of their regions to produce the next president of the nation in the 2011 elections? And where does the voter fit in, in these scenarios? And who says they’re not entitled to do so? What makes the AREWA entitled to it?

Is the nation’s next president going to be decided by organizations of ethnic champions or by the Nigerian voter who is the constitutionally and statutorily recognized authority in making electoral decisions? Are we going to replace him with ethnic organizations in the next and future elections?

If the answer is in the affirmative, then we must proceed immediately to amend the constitution and the Electoral Act to confer voting rights on ethnic organizations rather than on the individual citizens as is presently the case. There is nothing wrong if Nigeria changes the rules to constitute ethnic organizations into the nation’s electorate for the purpose of electing the president or governor of a state as the case may be. Who knows, it could turn out to be the greatest innovation in democracy or “ethno-cracy”, if you like.

And there could huge economic benefits too for this model. The nation could save itself all the headaches and billions of naira in revising the voter’s register and acquiring DDC machines; huge logistical problems and all that, if the nation’s ethnic organizations such as AREWA, Afenifere, Ohaneze, and others are simply enfranchised to determine the next president and next governors in their respective regions.

If, however, the answer is in the negative, then somebody in the position of authority should immediately call these senile characters to order before greater and permanent harm is done to the nation’s democracy and the fragile unity of the nation.

This is why this writer is encouraged by the reported move by the PDP hierarchy to institute a code of conduct for the party’s presidential aspirants to base their campaigns on issues rather than on ethnicity and personal attacks. If every other profession has a code of ethics, why not politics? A code of ethics might turn out to be the savior of Nigeria’s democracy and by necessary extension, the Nigerian nation itself. It is that crucially important.

But it should not stop with the PDP. INEC should follow suit in order to cover the field. Perhaps the National Assembly should put it in the Electoral Act. There absolutely has got to be some code of ethics for the political class on how they should conduct their campaigns. Ethnic and religious jingoisms have no place at all in the public space. It’s getting past time—to arrest this ugly trend and bring some sanity to the politics.

Nigerians have no shortage of real issues to engage the political class all year round, but ethnicity and religion are not welcome to the table!


Franklin Otorofani, Esq.—Attorney & Public Affairs’ Analyst


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