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Bloodless Revolution in Nigeria—Fall of the Northern Oligarchs

--Cutting-Edge Analytics--

By: Franklin Otorofani
 Published February 8th, 2011

Bloodless revolution in Nigeria? Where is that coming from? Does it have anything to do with the Tunisian, Egyptian and Yemeni streets? One could imagine the reader wondering what this is all about. Chill out folks! Radical changes do not have to happen in the streets to qualify as revolutions. They could happen in the minds of men as in the Renaissance in Europe; on factory floors as in the industrial revolution in Britain and in the laboratories as in the internet revolution that gave birth to the World Wide Web. It all depends on what type of change or revolution we are talking about in any given instances. And even in the field of politics that is inherently combustible, they don’t all have to be bloody, as for instance, in Mahatma Ghandi’s India; in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s United States; in Yeltsin’s USSR and even in Ukraine’s so-called velvet revolution. Yes, revolutions can be bloodless and silent too and we’ve got one taking place right under our nose unnoticed, unheralded and uncelebrated. I have, however, made it my business to reveal it before fellow citizens and the world.  

It is perhaps unfair to ascribe to the entire north the selfish antics and machinations of a few individuals who happen to belong to that vast territory north of the majestic Niger and Benue rivers. And that’s why it is impolitic and over reaction to condemn or blame an entire religion such as Islam for the criminal and terrorist activities of a few adherents who use and hide under the name of the noble religion to perpetrate heinous crimes against humanity and fellow Moslems. This line of thinking also informed the protests of the government and people of Nigeria against the listing of Nigeria and Nigerians on the US Terror Watch list on account of the alleged attempt of Abdul Muttalab to blow up an American Airline on December 25, 2009.

What this shows is that people and nations alike are acutely aware of the fact that there are individuals, purely on primate missions, who would hide under the name of a collective to carry out nefarious activities in the hope of drawing the sympathies and empathies of memberships of the collective.

That awareness therefore advises us to be a little discriminatory in judging the actions of such individuals and thus resist the natural temptation of even linking the north with the political actions and activities of a few northerners who clearly do not have the mandate of the north to act on its behalf in any material particular. This is in recognition of the fact that in a democracy such as ours where freedom of association and speech are guaranteed and respected, individuals are free to associate for a common purpose and pursue their own political agenda in any manner they desire, provided of course such association and agenda are not against the laws of the land or for that matter infringe on the rights of others in the society.

The activities of Ciroma’s NPLF and AREWA must therefore be viewed against that backdrop. Both AREWA and NPLF do not have the mandate of the north to meddle in the internal activities of political parties including the PDP.  Time and again AREWA had publicly declared that it was a cultural not a political organization and as such would not delve into purely political matters. And AREWA is on record with such public declarations. Its own charter as a cultural organization forbids it from doing so because it is against the laws of the land under which it was registered. Flowing from the above premise and over and above that premise is the fact that at no time did the north as a whole or in part mandate AREWA or the NPLF to inject itself into and interfere in the internal matters of political parties in Nigeria including the PDP. And I stand to be corrected in this assertion by anyone who would come forward publicly to produce and tender such mandate.

I make bold to declare, however, that such a mandate is practically impossible to obtain from the north. And the reasons for that impossibility are pretty obvious to political watchers. Although that vast territory was governed in pre and post independent Nigeria as one monolithic geo-political entity in comparison to the Western, Eastern and later Midwestern regions right up to the 1967 when it was broken up into six states, the region is an amalgam of ethnic enclaves most of which are not at all at ease with one another just as it is in the southern parts of Nigeria. Although it has two dominant ethnic groups of Hausa and Fulani just like the Yoruba and Igbo in the south the territory bristles with a galaxy of minority ethnic groups indicated in several states with different and oftentimes opposing political proclivities. Asking or expecting the north to speak with one voice in political matters therefore is like asking or expecting the south to speak with one voice. It is simply impossible and we see that playing out aplenty in the north even today, because politics is as much a game of individual as it is of collective interests and when both interests clash individual interests tend to prevail.

Hard as the revered then Northern Premier, Ahmadu Bello, tried to weld the various ethnic groups in the region together to form a monolithic entity which he could then use to conquer the rest of the country as he had wished, he was no nearer his goal at death in 1966 than he was at the beginnings in 1960.  And today the ethnic fissures in the northern political landscape that were present at independence have grown wider and deeper into gullies making the very idea of one north rather oxymoronic.

That is why it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever when a group of individuals without prior recognition or authorization as the mouthpiece of the region rise up overnight and purports to speak and act for an entire region without presenting their authority so to do. It is trite both law and commonsense that before a man represents himself to others as speaking for or acting on behalf of another or group, the man should at least present his authority or authorization for so doing otherwise it becomes, at least potentially, a matter of fraudulent misrepresentation which is tortuous and criminal under both the Penal and Criminal Codes, respectively in force in the northern and southern parts of the country. It’s quite unfortunate that some people are getting away literarily with murder in Nigeria in the name of politics due to a rather weak and ineffective criminal justice system that seems to exist only in name.     

That being the case, therefore, the least that is expected of discerning members of the public is to exercise utmost caution when dealing with political imposters masquerading as ethnic champions. This is more so when it is realized that unscrupulous politicians who have nothing to offer their fatherland than what they stand to gain from the system would not hesitate to ride on the backs of ethnic horses to get want they want from the system rather than what they would give to the system. And this they do by pretending or purporting to be fighting to protect their ethnic interests—mind you, not the nation’s interests. You would think that they loved Nigeria with all their hearts and with all their souls. But no, they love themselves and their ethnic groups more than they love their nation even though it was the nation that made them to become whatever they are. 

Again, this is all the more so when other significant voices from the same ethnic group or geographical region with equal claim to the same ethnic group or region had loudly been raised in wholesale condemnation of the antics and machinations of the individuals in question. Such disclaimers and condemnations from such stakeholders should at least warn others that the imposters had no mandate of the region as a whole to embark on the kind of activities in question. Such caution or warning would be similar to the legal maxim, “Buyer Beware!,” because equity does not aid the indolent, the indifferent and the carefree individual who gets himself into injurious transactions that a more careful and diligent individual could have avoided. In politics though, the atmosphere is so clouded that the average citizen has a hard time discerning the dynamics and sift the wheat from the chaff. And to make matters worse politicians wear a lot of camouflage to hide their true identities, motivations and intentions which are easily passed off in altruistic garbs; in other words, wolves in sheep’s clothing. And that’s why many of us have taken to public affairs analysis to beam searchlight in the dark corners and crevices of the political landscape to help individuals make the best of an otherwise murky situation in politics and public affairs. 

The appropriation of the name of an entire ethnic group, region, geopolitical area, race or religion by a few unscrupulous individuals or groups in pursuit of their personal political ambitions or interests is as old as history itself and by no means peculiar to or limited to Nigeria or Africa. Perhaps the most poignant manifestation of this phenomenon reared its head in Germany in the case of the German Chancellor of the Third Reich, Herr Adolf Hitler, who deployed it to devastating effects leading to the 2nd World War who launched a bloody campaign for racial purification by eliminating Jews. In Serbia which was part of the defunct Yugoslavia, the racist rants of the likes of Slobodan Milosevic "the butcher of the Balkans" who died recently while facing trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity led to genocide in the former Serbian province of Kosovo. In Sudan the story is the same leading to ethnic cleansing with million deaths in cold blood and the imminent break up of that country through UN-sponsored referendum.

And in Nigeria as in the Middle East, we have equally witnessed in recent times its manifestations in ethno-religious conflagrations in parts of the country, particularly in the northern parts that have consumed tens of thousands of the lives and properties of innocent citizens that is akin to Hitler’s racial purification campaigns when it is remembered that it also led to the Nigerian Civil War in the late 60s where millions perished. Yes, the machinations of racists and ethnic bigots can and do results in ethnic cleansing. And that’s why all men and women of goodwill must rise up to confront it wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head again including even in the United States where Republican Tea-Party nuts have sought to revive racism in its most pernicious manifestations of the Ku Klux Klan variety.

And I dare say we have also witnessed its manifestations in the political antics and machinations of AREWA and the self-styled so-called Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) led by the ageing Mallam Adamu Ciroma. Readers would have noticed the word “Northern” prominently appended to the name of this rogue association, which to all intents and purposes, is no more than a group of aggrieved individuals in the PDP, recruited by certain presidential aspirants of northern ethnic extraction in the PDP platform to help them fight the party over the implementation its zoning policy. That is an instance of the appropriation of the collective name and identity of an entire region by a group of individuals in pursuit of private political interests.

It can, therefore, be clearly seen that the NPLF is no more than a mercenary group of political contractors posing as champions of northern political interests. That this is a rouge group is underlined by its total rejection at the PDP primaries. These people couldn’t even mobilize their own people and they called themselves leaders. It is unimaginable to think that the agenda of AREWA and the NPLF would be so utterly rejected at the PDP primaries had both groups received prior mandate of the north to get a northerner on board the PDP gravy train and reject Jonathan. And what is more, the fact that not even their leader, Adamu Ciroma, was able to deliver his own Yobe state delegates to Abubakar Atiku at the PDP presidential primaries as were indeed other members of the forum is clear indication that these self-seeking individuals have little or no political values in their own backyards much less the entire north and the nation at large.

Now, were they acting on behalf of IBB, Atiku, Gusau and Saraki as their principals? You bet they were. But is that the same thing as having the mandate of the entire north? Absolutely not, and not one chance in hell! IBB, Atiku, Gusau and Saraki are not and do not represent the north. They are private individuals not sent by the north in pursuit of their own political ambitions representing themselves. The best that could be said about NPLF members is that they are hollow political drums sounded whenever necessary to browbeat and intimidate political opponents standing in their way. Is that politics, Nigerian style? No, it is politics AREWA and Ciroma style. And it is the brand of politics they have been used to playing since the beginning of time that they have yet to outgrow even in the 21st century. Old habits, they say, die hard. It is unfortunate that this is the type of politics that the old generation is bequeathing to its younger generation in the north that has resulted in the cold blooded murder of a gubernatorial candidate. It’s a shame; a crying shame.

Now, let’s look at the matter a little more closely:  If the NLPF members were acting for IBB, Atiku, Gusau and Saraki as documented in their written consensus candidate agreement, shouldn’t they abide by the decisions of their principals four of whom have thrown in the towel and two of whom have publicly congratulated Jonathan on his victory at the PDP primaries? Who then is NPLF working for when its principals are no longer in the race? Since it has vowed to produce northern president for Nigeria, has it then acquired another principal or set of principals in the north presumably in the persons of General Muhammadu Buhari, Mallams Ibrahim Shekarau and Nuhu Ribadu? If so, are we looking forward to another consensus show or how are they going to choose among Buhari, Shekarau and Ribadu? Will it be through lucky dip or some lotto? I wish them good luck this time around with Ribadu staunchly refusing to step down for Buhari in the aborted political marriage between ACN and CPC. I suppose that Buhari’s running mate who happens to be a man of God, Pastor Tunde Bakare, would be asked to commit it to the hands of God to get Ribadu and Shekarau out of the way fast with power prayers. Watch out for spiritual warfare, folks, with the man of God in the trenches with a battle tested general like Buhari, and don’t forget the Islamic marabouts too!  As a matter of fact they may have started already with the revelation of Pastor Bakare that ordinary folks are already fired up with his candidacy.  Ribadu and Shekarau should beware of “Holy Ghost” fire!

Now, with both IBB and Saraki congratulating Jonathan and Atiku signaling his willingness to meet with Jonathan it is difficult to understand just what the NPLF and AREWA represent when AREWA issued a statement describing Jonathan’s victory as “legally and morally wrong”. And you wonder where was AREWA when its own northern governors and notable politicians led their own delegates to vote for Jonathan at the PDP primaries. Doesn’t that show conclusively that both AREWA and NPLF are toothless bulldogs even in the north? Doesn’t that show also that the northern oligarchs have rendered themselves irrelevant in today’s Nigeria even as they fight tooth and nail to regain political relevance? Doesn’t that in fact show they are living on borrowed time in the 21st century Nigeria? And most importantly, isn’t that an indication of the fall and capitulation of the northern oligarchy? What more evidence does anyone need to come to these conclusions than the crushing defeat handed down to AREWA and NPLF? When dogs refuse to listen to their master what does that tell you of the relationship between the dogs and their master? The dog/master relationship is over! It’s that simple and the earlier Ciroma and his AREWA backed group realize this bitter truth the better for them. They have lost the north to the new generation of detribalized and nationalistic leaders, not ethnic champions, who do not subscribe to the old school notion of born to rule that had been the governing ideology of the northern oligarchy for over 50 years. When a prominent youth like the son of the former president Shehu Shagari in Sokoto comes out openly to declare that “then north is not born to rule,” what does that tell you about the prevailing mindset of the present generation of northerners? When a governor like Sule Lamido of Jigawa state tongue lashes AREWA for describing Jonathan’s victory as morally and legally wrong, what does that tell you about the prevailing sentiments in the north today? It tells you about changing paradigms.

Let me state this loud and clear: A divinely inspired silent revolution is currently sweeping across the north and the entire Nigerian political landscape heralded and spearheaded by the Jonathan presidency. And because it is quiet and bloodless not many Nigerians recognize or even see it. Yet it has poignantly manifested itself in the emergence of Jonathan and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as presidential candidates of the PDP and ACN respectively. When was the last time you saw this happening in Nigeria? When was the last you saw the AG, UPN, AD, AC and the ACN fielding a youth as presidential candidate? And when was the last time you saw a ruling party in Nigeria dominated by old war horses from the majority ethnic groups led by the north fielding a minority as its presidential candidate? Can you remember the time that happened? I bet you’ll be scratching your head to recall the time because there was no such time in the history of the nation. Period! People like IBB who see this revolution at work have wisely stepped aside from its path to avoid getting crushed and that’s why he quickly readjusted his position to congratulate Jonathan on his victory at the PDP primaries. But the not-so-smart elements of the old guards will go down fighting for relevance. And that’s where Ciroma and his AREWA group come in. They want to be the last men standing on the path of a political hurricane in the name of the north. They want to be the ones to salvage a dying oligarchy.  

When an agent purports to overrule his principals it’s an unmistakable signal that the agent has a different agenda altogether other than that of his principals and should thenceforth be treated as such, for, he will be acting on its own and should bear the full consequences of his actions all by himself. And if in so doing Ciroma and his group have elected to quietly shift their political business to Buhari, the presidential candidate of the CPC, who had himself publicly condemned zoning and had called them names, as has been reported in the Tribune 020611, it only goes to confirm their profile as political contractors. As the reader shall see later in this presentation, NPLF is doing this behind the scenes while at the same time reaching out to Jonathan to get a leg up in his coming administration after the elections. If this is in fact the case it exposes the NPLF as a bunch of mercenaries that is out to feather its own nests using the name of the north.

It is true that political contracting and consulting are legitimate forms of business in a democracy. As we have seen, in the US for example, that has become Nigeria’s major role model in democracy, democracy is big business, complete with its own army of contractors, consultants and lobbyists and, what again? Analysts like us! That’s right, analysts like us! We are all in the business of democracy in one capacity or another even as ordinary voters. It doesn’t always have to involve material benefits or angling for political appointments and contracts. One could therefore say with some merit that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with political contracting and consulting in Nigeria as it is a just a species of business like any other business, and that Ciroma and his group are not the only ones in the business in Nigeria, anyway. All of that may be true on the face of it, but only to an extent. That’s right, only to an extent. Ciroma and his group may just be nothing more than political contractors, but here is the difference: No other contractor in this and any other fields of business appropriates the name of an entire region in its business activities.

As indicated even by its name, the NPLF does. 99.9% of the criticisms, attacks and condemnations of Ciroma and his group even from the north is hinged on their appropriation of the name of the north for their personal political undertakings. And that is not fair to other northerners, to put it mildly. That is identity theft. No one would care about them had they not appropriated the name of the north in pursuit of their selfish political interests. But they did and folks are not happy with that because it is misleading and patently fraudulent. In short, they are impostors, for crying loud!  Not merely misleading and fraudulent, their activities go beyond the call of politics and border on treasonable and seditious felonies.

While not outwardly violent in their activities per se although there have been quite a few moments of unguarded outbursts, there is no doubt that the antics and machinations of AREWA and its NPLF political wing have helped in no small measures in whipping up sentiments against certain ethnic groups in the north and unnecessarily overheating the polity leading to or exacerbating violent disturbances witnessed recently in parts of the north that are capable of tearing the nation apart. That was how a hitherto unknown Hitler started his campaign against the Jews in Germany before the pogrom began.

And now it gets even more interesting: Having been roundly defeated in their own turfs, these shameless groups are now reported to be scheming to reap where they did not sew. The Nigerian Tribune 020511 edition reported that Ciroma and his group have gone back to the drawing board, drawing up a list of plum ministerial positions that the incoming Jonathan government should reserve for them, again in the name of the north. Hmm!

The report states that the NPLF wants the office of Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG), Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Petroleum, Defense, and ambassadorial postings to the US and Britain among other plum positions reserved for the north. At the same time this report came out, Atiku has declared himself open to negotiation with Jonathan even as he is yet to concede victory to the man publicly. There is no question that Atiku is coordinating his strategies with Ciroma and his group and his so-called “open to discussion” offer is no more than what the Ciroma group is demanding, which is the sharing of the spoils of office presumptively in  the next Jonathan administration.

Could you imagine that? How does that sound to you as citizen? These people could not even disguise their selfish interests which they hawk under the banner of northern interests. They are already negotiating plum ministerial and ambassadorial positions for themselves and their hangers on ahead of the elections because they cannot survive even for a day outside of government. Denying them political power is tantamount to slamming death sentence on them and they will fight like prisoners on death row. A higher minded patriotic group could not have been discussing the spoils of office for its members and lackeys this early in the day before the elections. Is anybody in that group even thinking of how to move the nation forward? Is Ciroma and AREWA concerned about civil war in the north between Islamic fundamentalists and the natives in Plateau, Bauchi and elsewhere in the north? Why have AREWA and the NPLF kept mum over the activities of Boko Haram and other fringe groups wreaking havoc in the north in the name of religion? Could it be they are quietly or tacitly in support of their murderous activities? Does their loud silence not amount to acquiescence? Speak out AREWA and NPLF! The nation wants to know your stance in these matters not just about Jonathan and the presidency.  

While the rapproachment between Jonathan and the Ciroma group is a most welcome development and therefore one that should be encouraged by all well meaning individuals, it nevertheless represents the final capitulation of the northern oligarchy in the face of superior political forces that it is up against in today’s Nigeria.

Let us be clear about this: the reported move to work with President Jonathan is not borne out of the desire to work together to move Nigeria forward. I can tell you that straight up. On the contrary, it signals swift but shameless attempts on the part of AREWA and the NPLF aimed at the conversion of their crushing defeat and capitulation into political and, therefore material benefits, come May 29, 2011. And they are going about it as though they were operating from a position of strength rather than from a position of weakness. AREWA and NPLF must, however, be made to come to terms with the fact that having been routed in the political battlefields and capitulated to superior forces they are no longer operating from a position of strength as they might have been before the PDP primaries but from a position of weakness as they are after the primaries. They must come to terms with the fact that the war has been fought, won and lost and the vanquished are not in a position to dictate terms to the victor.  Battlefield losers do not dictate but accept terms imposed on them by the victorious parties. That is the reality of war. On no account therefore should AREWA and Ciroma’s NPLF purport to dictate to Jonathan what ministerial and ambassadorial or other positions should be reserved for its members in the name of the north. Mba! Leave north out of this.

Enough of this nonsense from AREWA and Ciroma gang! No part of the country is entitled to the presidency and the Nigerian electorate has just delivered that message loud and clear in the PDP primaries. AREWA and NPLF could be playing deaf or laboring under selective amnesia, but they need to be told also in no uncertain terms that just like the presidency, Nigeria’s ministerial and ambassadorial positions belong to all Nigerians and all of its constituent parts in equal terms, and no part is entitled to particular ministerial or ambassadorial positions under any guise whatsoever. And that was why Jonathan made an Iboman Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to drive home that point, the first such appointment in over 40 years. Yes, the old order changeth!  And more to the point: They should be made to understand the dynamics currently at play, which point directly and unmistakably to the unfurling of a silent revolution in which the old order changeth. Yes indeed.

And here is the bottom line: Anyone who is truly interested in serving his or her country should be willing to serve her in whatever capacity if and when given the opportunity. It bespeaks some hidden agenda or ulterior motives for anyone to demand the allocation of certain ambassadorial and ministerial portfolios to his ethnic group or geographical region. It is not only unethical but reeks of corrupt motives. These are the kinds of things that have conspired to drag us behind that the nation should put behind her completely. We cannot be crying about change only to hold on to the very things that have been holding us back. It makes absolutely no sense at all. And only a class of political degenerates whose collective malfeasances had held the nation back could even think in terms of business as usual where certain positions are reserved for certain geo-political groups to the total exclusion of other groups. These folks are in denial of the emerging new order. What planet are the Ciroma group and AREWA on? No disrespect but I would like to caution Mr. President here not to succumb to the machinations of the AREWA and NPLF renegades who have clearly outlived their usefulness. He now has the knife and the yam and cannot therefore accept dictation from the vanquished and compromise on the principles of change that is driving his administration. That is the bottom line because when he promised us change, it shouldn’t be theoretical change but change that, in the words of Obama, we can believe in not change in the abstract. As the Egyptian streets have demonstrated people want real change and not business as usual. Anyone reading this in Nigeria should help pass on this message unadulterated to the corridors of power because in this very message lies the political and therefore economic salvation of the nation.

Arrogance and Structural Liberation

But why are the NPLF and AREWA still carrying on as though they could still ace Jonathan in the presidential election in--spite of their crushing defeat? What trump card do they have left to play after the failure of the consensus gambit? The answer to this question may be found, if you don’t mind, in the Otorofani Theory of Power, which holds that a people who are used to the custody and control of the levers political power would soon develop attributes of political superiority and supreme confidence and the vice versa, which inevitably respectively comes with arrogance and timidity as the case may be.

The oligarchy in the north to which Ciroma belongs, had unquestionably up and until 1999, been in that position of the custodians and wielders of the levers of political power in Nigeria. The north is used to dictating the terms of political intercourse and where necessary imposing its will on the rest of the country. Most northern political actors of the old school were brought up that way. The departing colonial masters under Lord Luggard had made certain that the north would become the new political masters in Nigeria by deliberately skewing the federal structure in favor of the north which would make it possible for their successors to deploy divide and rule tactics against the south. I guess he must have done this to punish the southern politicians, who were impatiently demanding independence from him as against their northern counterparts, who were not in a hurry for independence and therefore never gave Luggard a hard time.

Don't forget that demanding independence from a colonial administrator was tantamount to serving him a sack letter and putting him out of job of administering a nation three to four times bigger than Britain, his home country. Yes, Luggard was administering a country far larger than his own King was ruling over, and the south wanted him out immediately. The price for that impudence was a skewed federation in favor of the north. Badly needing independence with Ghana already ahead of the pack, both Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Rt. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe had no choice but to go along with a skewed federation that deliberately shortchanged the south.

Thus while the north had one regional government under one geo-political unit called Northern Region the south was split into two regional units under two separate and antagonistic regional governments of Western and Eastern Nigeria in order to permanently divide their peoples. And as if that was not enough the south was further split into three regional units in 1963 in the Republican Constitution not to strengthen it but to further weaken and divide their peoples. And all the while Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and Premier Ahmadu Bello bluntly refused the splitting of the north into at least two regions even though it is geographically larger than the south and even though minorities in the north, just like their counterparts in the south, were stridently demanding to have their own region carved out for them from the northern region. Both leading politicians wanted the idea of One North ossified and they got what they wanted notwithstanding agitations to the contrary in the north spearheaded by Joseph Tarka in alliance with AG.

Am I getting into a bit of history here? You bet I am and for good reasons too. You cannot adequately understand the present unless you knew the past. Knowledge of the past provides the guideposts to navigate the present and the future and that’s why history is so important because it is the compass guiding our ship of state and therefore our national destiny. Don’t ever mess with your history because it defines who and what you are both as an individual and as a nation. And that is why I’m getting into this because it offers a clear perspective on the matters at hand otherwise I have written more than enough in this Mother of all Articles to warrant adding this historical portion to it. This is the most important part of this article and that’s why it was reserved for last. So I would respectfully urge the reader to stick around a while longer because it gets even better with cutting edge analytics.

Now, here is the deal and get this clear particularly for the younger folks: But for the civil war and General Gowon's political masterstroke of splitting the country into twelve states in 1967, the north would have remained one huge monolith and thus retain the power to dictate political outcomes to the rest of the regions. That power was lost forever with the twelve state structure and it was one of the first casualties of the Nigerian civil war. While regretting the deaths of millions of Nigerians who gave up their lives for the unity of this great African nation and the pride of the black race, we must nevertheless tarry awhile to express our profound gratitude to the Nkemba of Nnewi, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu for starting the liberation struggle from the northern oligarchy, and more directly, to General Yakubu Gowon for splitting the country into twelve states with six in the north and six in the south to balance the federal structure and level the playing field.

It is not for nothing that Gowon’s action was dubbed political masterstroke. Some might think it was directed at breaking Ojukwu’s back by yanking off Rivers and Calabar peoples from the former Eastern region. True, but I’m here to tell you that it went beyond that to liberate the south and the minorities in the north from the stranglehold of a monolithic and bearish north that had remained unbreakable under Tafawa Balewa and Ahmadu Bello.

It could be seen clearly that the Nigerian Civil War was the true beginnings of the liberation of the south from the Luggardian political shackles. However the resultant political benefits that would naturally have derived from that liberation were arrested by the imposition of military rule which ironically began not with the north but with the south specifically the east with the General Agui Ironsi regime which itself predated the Nigerian civil war. As students of history would readily appreciate one of the reasons for the reprisal coup against the Ironsi regime by northern military elements was the alleged plan of the Ironsi regime to abolish regionalism and federalism and replacing same with unitary system of government, which the north rightly saw as a threat not only to its monolithic stranglehold on the rest of the country, but a sign of its looming domination by the south particularly the Ibos. I don’t have to go into details here but suffice it to state that given the poisoned political atmosphere at the time such fears were not entirely unfounded. With the ouster of the Ironsi regime, however, the north was able to quickly regain the political power it had lost momentarily in the Major Nzeogu coup that brought in Ironsi to power, with Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon in power obviously for the north. And as they say, the rest is history.

Readers might ask, why Gowon a Christian and a man from the Middle Belt that had been fighting to break away from the northern region? Good question? The answer is simple: Gowon happened to be the most senior northern military officer in the Nigerian army then as northerners of the Hausa/Fulani ethnic stocks shunned enlistments in the military back then that was considered inferior to political leadership positions. The north was simply not cut out for military rule due to its healthy disdain for military careers. Military rule was forced upon it by the Nzeogu coup that eliminated its prized political leadership. The top echelon of the military was occupied by the Yorubas and the Ibos and southern minorities with the Middle Belt tagging along.

Therefore, in the face of towering generals like Ironsi and Ogundipe and others from the south the north was forced to look for similar officers. And the highest military officer the north could find to head the military government after the overthrow and killing of Ironsi was a Middle Beltan and a Christian for that matter with the rank of Lt. Colonel. That was how Gowon became Head of State and age 28 or so. And using the civil war as a convenient excuse, Gowon proceeded to break up the north into six states and in so doing liberated not only his own people but the more importantly the south as a whole. Now, Gowon may or may not have thought of it that way and I could be reading this motive into his action in splitting the north into six states gratuitously. But what does it matter anyway if the resulting liberation of his people and the south was advertent or inadvertent?  It matters not if his actions produced unintended but salutary consequences for the polity as a whole. Liberation is always a good thing however it came. As would be expected, however, he was to become the first and the last military Head of State and Christian leader from the minority ethnic groups in the north. The succession of both civilian and military rulers from the north since Gowon; starting from Murtala Muhammed, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Badamasi Babsngida, Sanni Abacha, Abdulsalam Abubakar and Musa Yar'Adua are all non-Christians and from the Hausa/Fulani stock. Is that a coincidence or what? I’ll leave that for the reader to figure out. But having succeeded in dominating the Armed Forces by weeding out officers from other parts of the country through premature retirements and dismissals, they no longer have need for the Middle Belt minority officers like Gowon. They now had both the civilian leadership and the military muscle as a fallback position.

Political Liberation

If the advent of the Nigerian Civil War led to structural or systemic liberation of both the south and the Middle Belt minorities as indicated above, the advent of democracy in 1999 heralded the political liberation of the south. It is instructive to note in this regard that this political liberation would have occurred much earlier in 1993 had the same north not moved to annul the 1993 presidential election won hands down by late Chief MKO Abiola. The political turmoil that greeted that annulment and the resulting deaths of Abiola and Abacha was to force the hand of the north to concede leadership to Olusegun Obasanjo—a loyal and trusted hand who had earlier succeeded the late Murtala Muhammed killed in the abortive Dimka coup in 1975, and had promptly and faithfully handed over power back to the north in the person of Shehu Shagari over and above his own kinsman, Obafemi Awolowo, in a stoutly disputed election. Remember, OBJ was totally opposed to Abiola’s political ascendancy in 1993, much to the relief of the north. But not for long as the hand of history moved inexorably. 

Unknown to northern power brokers, however, the Obasanjo of 1975 was not the same Obasanjo of 1999 and the OBJ of 1999 was not the same OBJ of 2003, and the OBJ of 2003 was not the same OBJ of 2007, and the OBJ of 2007 was, for that matter, not the same OBJ of 2010. The north had a different animal in its hand with OBJ. Egged on by divine inspiration of sorts, OBJ has, against all expectations, completely transformed himself from being an errand boy of the north to become critical part of, indeed the very heart, of the national movement for the complete re-engineering of the Nigerian political union on more equitable terms even as the old order crumbles. The result is Jonathan at the helm of national affairs—and due to make history come April in the next presidential election—an unthinkable proposition barely a year ago. And that has sounded the death knell for the Northern Oligarchy and the rebirth of a New Nigeria where all constituent units and citizens have equal stakes in their national affairs.

I don’t know about you, but I have two words for it: Bloodless Revolution!

It takes away nothing from the north. It only levels the playing field for all, for a more perfect union and that is a good thing! When Ndigbo lines up behind Jonathan that is the message they are sending. When Oduduwa sons and daughters line up behind Jonathan that is the message they are sending. When Middle Beltans line up behind Jonathan that, of course, is the message they are sending. When progressive northerners line up behind Jonathan that is the message they are sending to the old guards. And when Niger Deltans line up behind Jonathan that is the message they are sending loud and clear. It’s a message that will reverberate through the nooks and crannies of the nation. Finally, that is the message citizen Otorofani is sending out here. Who has a problem with that? The old guards in the north, of course!  Too bad they may wind up casualties of the bloodless revolution. It might be bloodless but it will still produce casualties all the same. I can’t wish for more…

From the stable of –Cutting-Edge Analytics— More than a blog—It’s a learning experience!

Franklin Otorofani is an Attorney and Public Affairs Analyst.


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