The Way We Are Going (2), By Dele Agekameh
When we talk about Nigeria’s sovereignty as not being negotiable, although quite a good number of people have dismissed that as sheer humbug or balderdash, the point is, if we are not to negotiate the sovereignty of Nigeria, then all necessary things should be put in place so that no part of the country is deliberately side-lined, disadvantaged or taken for a ride.
Last week, this column dwelt on the lop-sidedness in the appointments of heads of security agencies and other sensitive positions in the country. It also mentioned how it was initially tough to get the Northerners to agree to join the Southern part of the country for independence in 1960. What really attracted the Northerners was the realignment of the boundaries which gave the total area up the River Niger to the North, while the remaining portion was divided between the East and the West. In other words, the North had 60 percent of the entire land mass while the South, making up the East and the West, was squeezed into a miserable 40 percent. That abnormal arrangement somehow gave the North an advantage over the South. Besides, they were assured that even though the South was visibly ahead in education, power will reside in the hands of the Northerners.
The Igbos actually attempted to concentrate power in the South-East. At a point, the top hierarchy of all the civil service, the police, the army and other relevant organs of government were dominated by the Igbos before the advent of the civil war. It was the civil war that changed all that.
What actually dissuaded the Northerners from seccession was the fact that the British told them that should they secede, Britain will no longer have anything to do with them. In fact, in the counter-coup of 1966, the plan of the Northern coupists was to move their families from Ikeja Cantonment to Kano for safety in the event of an imminent breakup. That was why on coup day, a British Airways DC 10 aircraft that was due to fly passengers from Lagos to London was diverted, after much pleading, to Kano even though the Nigerian air space had been closed to traffic.
The coup leaders had promised that the aircraft would be allowed to fly to Kano, drop its passengers and then return to Lagos to pick its passengers to London. When the pilot asked what will happen to his London passengers, he was assured that they will be kept safe at the Airport Hotel while waiting for his arrival from Kano to pick them. The pilot also complained about unavailability of aviation fuel and he was assured that aviation fuel will be available for his trip to London. The aircraft landed safely in Kano, came back to Lagos, picked its London passengers and was allowed to leave before the airspace was closed again.
The plan by the Northerners to secede was why it took the counter-coup leaders a whole three days to announce a new Head of State in the person of then Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon. In the confusion that followed the counter-coup, Gowon had played the role of a moderator and successfully dissuaded the radicals like Murtala Muhammed and co, who were bent on foisting another agenda to break up the country. Gowon was said to have found an ally in Adeyinka Adebayo in maintaining the stability of the country.
To him, Buhari needs to be advised to drop whatever Northern agenda he might be harbouring so as not to plunge the country into another avoidable bloodbath. He said, perhaps, since both Gowon and Adebayo are still living, they should go and talk to Buhari to embrace the type of wisdom with which they averted a secession by the North in 1966.
Recall that when Buhari took over the reins of government in 1983, he announced that his regime was a continuation of the Murtala Muhammed/Obasanjo military regime. As a result of this pronouncement, the image of the Buhari regime at that time, soared. This was because Murtala Muhammed had enjoyed wide public support during his short-lived regime, even though that regime took a lot of wrong steps from which the country, especially the nation’s civil service, is yet to recover. That position taken by Buhari in 1983, has not changed.
Coincidentally, last week, as I was contemplating on adding my voice to the growing whispers in the country on this Northern domination, I visited my doctor, an old hand in the medical profession, who has spent close to 30 years in America plying his trade before he returned to Nigeria a few years ago. He is now in his early 70s. As you know, some of these doctors like talking and exchanging ideas. As we got talking, he lamented about the deterioration of the standard of living of the average Nigerian, the dying economy, the violence and killings all over the place and warned that if care is not taken, Nigeria could be approaching a pre-1966 situation which eventually led to the 30-month civil war.
To him, Buhari needs to be advised to drop whatever Northern agenda he might be harbouring so as not to plunge the country into another avoidable bloodbath. He said, perhaps, since both Gowon and Adebayo are still living, they should go and talk to Buhari to embrace the type of wisdom with which they averted a secession by the North in 1966. Agreed, Gowon is currently leading some prayer warriors all over the country, but the exigency of today requires that he should do more in order to retrieve this country from the precipice into which it seems to be marooned.
Many people have been complaining openly and silently about Buhari’s style of leadership. Sometimes, reports filtering in from the villa indicate that the president is like a man on a one-man mission. That he hardly listens to advice, no matter how sincere or genuine such advice might be. Such things manifested when it took him a long time to announce members of his cabinet. Some people even said that the president had initially come up with the names of some people who were actually discovered to be so handicapped that they could not function in a normal cabinet. Some had either fallen sick, had strokes or were in a very disadvantaged position so much that they could not even offer themselves for service any longer.
My humble prayer is that this country should never have cause to go to war again. The fact is that in this digital age, nothing is hidden and nothing can be hidden. One bad news or the photograph of a bad incident going viral on the internet these days, is enough gasoline to set the nation on fire.
One thing is that the president might mean well, but the configuration of his cabinet and the lop-sidedness in his appointments which is skewed in favour of Northerners or Northern Muslims, are antithetical to good governance and transparency. Besides, his snobbishness on some burning national issues, especially on the issue of restructuring the country, speaks volumes about his hard heartedness and unpreparedness to listen to any dissenting voice that runs counter to his own opinion.
A few months ago, when his attention was drawn to the report of the 600-member 2014 National Conference Committee, the president simply shrugged and said: “That one, I didn’t read it. I just threw it to my archives”. That comment can only come from a person who is arrogant or who believes he is a repository of knowledge. I do not want to dabble into whether the president is more knowledgeable than any of the men and women who constituted that conference. These are men and women of high intellectual and professional experience who have made their marks in their areas of endeavours in life. To wave aside such people is either stubbornness carried too far or disdain for knowledge and excellence.
Our present crop of leaders should not behave as if they alone possess the answers to all the nagging problems confronting the country. When we talk about Nigeria’s sovereignty as not being negotiable, although quite a good number of people have dismissed that as sheer humbug or balderdash, the point is, if we are not to negotiate the sovereignty of Nigeria, then all necessary things should be put in place so that no part of the country is deliberately side-lined, disadvantaged or taken for a ride.
My humble prayer is that this country should never have cause to go to war again. The fact is that in this digital age, nothing is hidden and nothing can be hidden. One bad news or the photograph of a bad incident going viral on the internet these days, is enough gasoline to set the nation on fire. A word is enough for the wise! (Concluded).
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