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Monday, June 30, 2008

The New Northern agenda

Nigeria is fast receding back into the pre-June 12 political climate of inter-ethnic suspicions and resentments fanned by the Northern political elite who contemptuously aspire to have a permanent grip on the levers of federal political power and leave other Nigerians in a state of persistent agitation for equal political space and opportunities. It is in this light that one can properly situate three recent developments.
One, the heresy by Abdulsalami Abubakar that the nation should forget June 12, which was the subject of this column last week; two, the crude attempt to re-write history through an obviously commissioned work by Humphrey Nwosu, seeking to exculpate Babangida from responsibility over the annulment of the June 12 1993 elections and three, the concerted effort by Babangida, Buhari and Abubakar to sanitize Abacha and free him from the stigma of previously unequalled level of corruption. It is the intention in this column to show that the above three events did not happen coincidentally, that there is a nexus between them.
If the statement absolving Abacha of corruption had been made by just Babangida and Abdulsalami, one would not have been too alarmed. We all know their records on corruption which I need not waste any space on. Even among thieves, there is always the urge for that perverse sense of honour to defend one another. But how does Buhari fit into this? This is a man who has built, perhaps deceptively, a strong reputation as a disciplinarian with a stout aversion for corruption.
This is a man who, on account of his perceived anti-corruption credentials, my own party, the Democratic Peoples Alliance, adopted as its presidential candidate; a man in the promotion of whom I wrote in this column on January 10, 2007, while assessing the three foremost presidential candidates, that he “is without doubt a no nonsense man with regards to corruption and indiscipline, the acknowledged cankerworms of the polity”; a man on whose behalf I even crossed swords with Prof. Wole Soyinka and Ebenezer Babatope in my column of January 24 the same year,, captioned “From Fanatical Conservatism to Liberal Progressivism:
The metamorphosis of Buhari.” If, with all the stolen money traced to Abacha’s foreign accounts and partly repatriated to the nation under the Obasanjo regime, Buhari still believes Abacha was not corrupt, then how does he justify the treatments he meted out to former UPN governors like Onabanjo, Ajasin, Ambrose Alli and even Alhaji Jakande and late Bola Ige, people who were all political angels in comparison with their contemporary governors not to mention any comparison with the unabashed dark-goggled treasury looter?
Buhari’s inconsistency cannot be explained by the simple aphorism of not speaking evil of the dead, an aphorism which like everything else in the country, is being distorted in its application. Not speaking evil of the dead was never intended to permit us to tell lies, for or against the dead. In fact, the opposite was intended, that is, never lie against the dead , for the act of lying is an evil. It is as much of an evil against the dead to turn a scoundrel into a saint post humously as it is to do the reverse. So, the attempt to turn Abacha from a scoundrel to a saint is an evil against him. If the aphorism were to be taken as meaning that we must always tell nice lies about the dead, then future generations will never have proper historical models of virtue and villainy to guide their conduct.
If the crimes of rulers were to be automatically wiped off by their deaths, Roman historians would not have recorded Emperor Severus as the ruler under whose reign the decline of the empire began, or Nero as a ruler who assassinated his wife and mother, prostituted his person and dignity on the theatre and, to cap his atrocities, set his capital on fire while he sang on his lyre. Hitler would equally have been sanitized of the crime of killing six million Jews, and leading his country into a misadventure in World War II, resulting in the division and occupation of Germany . But all these, because they have been accurately recorded, have become useful lessons for posterity. The Jews can now say, with a sense of history, “Never Again!”
Before looking at the greater import of Buhari’s stand on Abacha’s corruption, let us examine its effect on tribalism in our nation and its impact on the anti-corruption war. Now that it is clear that Northern leaders want to sanitize all the past rulers from their region and clear them of all acts of mis-governance, will there not be an automatic reaction from other zones? Will Yorubas who have been pressing for Obasanjo’s trial for the many allegations of corruption against him not now have a rethink? And if every zone is now forced to rise instinctively to the defence of corrupt rulers from its zone, where would that leave the war against corruption? Would we not have further sentenced the masses of Nigerians to an unbroken chain of bad governance by corrupt leaders, each of whom will feel secure in the knowledge that his zone of the country will not allow any effective sanctions to be brought against him? Is that how we shall achieve Vision 2020?
Now to the nexus between the move to sanitize Abacha by the trio of Northern ex-heads of state. Discerning political observers have now seen an evolving, new Northern Agenda, by which power must be retained in the North, regardless of any eventualities, and even possibly beyond the constitutionally stipulated eight years. The current moves are clearly aimed at settling long standing personal grievances among major Northern leaders, and thus laying a foundation for the ready emergence of a consensus around the new agenda, and for a leadership that will be acceptable to all Northerners, and to some extent other Nigerians too.
From this angle, the sanitization of Abacha was simply meant to carry along the people of Kano in this consensus building process, while absolving Babangida of blame over the June 12 annulment was meant to reduce hostilities towards him in very strongly pro June 12 parts of the nation. Babangida, as a prospective beneficiary of the new consensus, is already forcefully projecting himself for the new leadership, which is why he needed an Nwosu to exonerate him on June 12. Why Nwosu agreed to be a willing accomplice is what beats one’s imagination. By his indiscreet act, he has definitely moved from saint to scoundrel on the issue of June 12, while his effort to move Babangida in the opposite direction has achieved very limited results.
Another component of the new Northern agenda is to frustrate any major review of the 1999 Constitution, especially such as would dilute federal power and seek true federalism. Yet another component is the progressive northernisation of key federal positions. They do not pretend to have nationalistic objectives, rather they see the protection of purely Northern interests as the ultimate of nationalism.
The time to counter the sectional northern agenda with a truly patriotic and nationalistic one, aimed at achieving true federalism and weakening the centre is now. The tragedy of Nigerian politics is that political sense seems to go in inverse proportion to formal education. While the North is busy doing all the political fence mending to rally round a common agenda, Southern leaders are engulfed in petty squabbles that prevent them from mapping out an appropriate counter strategy. But the South must wake up from its slumber.
A counter strategy must be built around the reversion to true federalism, as in the 1963 Constitution which was operative until the military replaced it with military unitarism, subsequently civilianised by the 1999 Constitution. The South has done enough of talking and agitating for true federalism. We must now take concrete steps to actualize it. We must construct a coalition of true patriots, within and outside the National Assembly to counter that of the sectional hegemonists. The constitutional battle must be fought once and for all. If we don’t achieve true federalism by this current review or preferably, a re-write of the constitution, all Southern political leaders must consider themselves as failures. Culled from Nigerian Tribune

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i think we are all paranoid about this ethinc stuff

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