North vs South


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North vs. South – Meddling in a National Score




Michael O. Oluwagbemi




January 9, 2006


“In business, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

Chester L. Karrass


I am often not an apt commentator on issues of tribalism and its role in Nigerian politics. But given the last week political conferences of the North and South I think some damage has been done; both by the North and South. The North broke convention by speaking loudly and doing nothing to back up the noise and the south made the same political mistake they always make- speaking too damn loud! Knowing fully well that the erudite leader of the south, Dr. Nnamani is an avid reader of political discourse online, I am today offering my free political consultancy for the sake of posterity.


Reading the seething arrogance emanating from the Northern forum was simply disgusting. To see the likes of Rimi, a man that said there was not like power shift in 2003 and contested the nomination of OBJ in PDP, now claiming some kind of sacrosanct agreement is simply buffoonery! On top of it, a thief like Dikko that should be in Kirikiri dare talk as if he is some self appointed leader of the Northern cabal. These disgruntled northerners that cannot even deliver their wards to their respective parties in the last election will do us a favor if they all just shut up.


To their southern counterparts, I will simply urge patience and strategic thinking. If long years of northern rule are synonymous to regional development then it is the southern part of the country that should look like back waters of middle age civilization not the North as it stands today. The mistakes of the London conferences should not be repeated again. Instead the south should strive to achieve a more equitable union by strategizing, doing some deep thinking and playing the northern game against these kinfolks. The language of the southern forum was by any standard not diplomatic. In addition to this, the document can be compared to a general revealing his strategic options to the enemy before the real war. To Governor Nnamani and his counterparts, please next time save your breathe in the court of public opinion. More attention should be rather devoted to achieving key concessions that will ensure a more equitable union the future Nigeria deserves. Indeed, it is always advisable to put all agreements in writing, it should be added at this point that all details of such negotiations should be inked by all leaders or

‘Leaders on parade’ that matters.


Primarily, like any greenhorn negotiator will tell you, you must first dangle the carrot on the negotiating table. What is in this for the North? My simple advice is for the Southern leaders to give the presidency to the north as well as allow them have their stone age Sharia law truly legalized under an amended constitution. These two concessions should be given in exchange for an abiding foundation that will guarantee true equity in the distribution of resources, restore power to the constituent states of the federation and avoid a situation where one region can just hold the rest of the country hostage to underdevelopment. In addition to all these, the south must demand a firm future date when the bedrock of the national federation maybe renegotiated in the interest of all parties.


In the mean time however, the issue of representation among others need to be solved first in return for those juicy concessions enumerated above. My grandparents often say that if you want to hear the truth, listen to a drunk. One of the chief drunks in our land today is a man called Umaru Dikko. Dikko said the hard fact that nothing can pass through the central legislature without some minimal support from the North. And he was right! Today, there are more members from the geopolitical north in both houses of representatives. It is true that the idea of the Senate and House of Representatives is not original to Nigeria; it was an original creation of the founding fathers of America. A little bit of history will reveal that it was a compromise between the small and large states that brought about the bicameral legislature that America practices. While the large states can be assured of more influence in the House, the Senate was the leveling ground for all states since both the small and large states will send in just two senators. The problem with my country is that we are bad copy cats. Nigerian bicameral legislature is not a design to solve our unique national problems of inequity, but rather exists because it will provide job for the boys! A simple suggestion is that the Senate should become a leveling ground between the geopolitical zones. Two options exist in this direction, either each of the geopolitical zones elect an equal number of senators (say 20 each) or additional two states should be created in South to balance the nineteen stats in the North today. That should be the fight of Nnamani!


Furthermore, another issue that political gladiators from the south should concentrate on should be devolution of power. As it is now, the so called Northern leaders are only interested in the Presidency to continue the loot party they have missed for the past eight years. These are a bunch of political nit wits that know nothing but pilfering Nigeria’s resources and building mansions in foreign lands. A reduction of the net national income accruing to the center and the power wielded by the federal government will reduce the interest of every region in the central government. In my humble opinion the power to police, print license plates, maintain street lights, create local governments and fund them, build intra state roads and even maintain federal highways should be vested in the state. This should make the national resources distributed to favor the states three to two, instead of the present top heavy system we operate. The system in place now, encourages corruption and inefficiency! Indeed, this issue cannot be divorced from the question of how the 60% will be diced up among the states. It is only fair that we gradually go back to where we came from. A formula that devotes a sizeable percentage to the derivation of such national revenues (excluding no item by the way) and then some others to population and equality is only fair. For a start I will suggest a formula that treats these parameters equally, and then a gradual graduation to one that favor derivation over equality and equality over population.


Last but not the least, the south must demand a clean up of the electoral process. This certainly includes paying attention to next year census, insisting on electronic registration of voters home and abroad (because I believe a sizeable number of southerner’s residing outside the shores of Nigeria) and use of the biometric information gathered from these exercise as the bedrock of a new democracy. The new electoral system should be fair, clear and efficient. The detractors of biometric based electronic voting should learn that since paper voting has failed us, it is up to Nigeria to try something different. The worst case scenario from electronic voting after all is that we will be where we had been for the past forty five years: with fake elections and fake, corrupt leaders! But why not use technology to solve our problems for once?  And if Nigerians are not so sure they can run an electronic machine even though India with lesser literacy rates did theirs, and then may be we should hire the South Africans or Ghanaians to run our elections. I am sure it will be elevating for our national pride to see our election results announced in Pretoria or Accra!


In the geo-political battle that lies ahead towards 2007, the South need to realize that certain changes have occurred since the last time we did battle along these lines that dates back to the colonial era. The first change the South must realize is that the idea of a monolithic North is dead! Dead, dead and dead! In the North of today, the Middle Belt is open to negotiations and the North East is simply for grabs. If the Southern leaders want to achieve the maximum effect there is need to collaborate with a fifth columnist from the North that feels the same way as they do. The Middle Belt has been neglected and the North East is simply a land of milk and honey flowing with nothing! Secondly, the North as it is now lacks anyone in the mould of Ahmadu Bello. Simply put, the North has no leader. The people parading themselves as leaders of the North are men of yesterday that lack any appreciable education or intellect. The idea of breeding a new Northern leadership that can collaborate with the south should also be paramount to the Southern leadership. This Northern leadership can be bred by instituting scholarship programs to educate a new generation of Northerners at home and abroad.


How many Aboki have you met in the great universities abroad? Very little I posit. There is need to educate the North. We should stop paying lip service to this issue, and the time to act is now. In addition to education and exposure, there is need for us to show the Northern youths what their leaders have been denying them. Bus rides and excursions should be organized for groups of street beggars and poor Northerners to show them how the activism of the southern followership achieved a minimal level of relative development having compelled an equally corrupt elite leadership by all means possible. After these bus rides are completed, the reformed alamajiris (just fresh from a week or two of southern indoctrination) should be dumped on the streets of the North. Let us see, whether the so called Northern leadership will last for another moonlight. The truth is an educated Northern Nigerian is an educated Nigerian, we can easily bridge the gap that has divided us by lighting up the young minds of the North: they are good Nigerians after all, but are only suffering from the seeds of ignorance their leaders have sown.


If the Southern leaders bear the points enumerated above in mind, select their fights and win them one at a time, it is my opinion that Nigeria can achieve a more peaceful and just union in the next decade. There is no need to sentence ourselves to another generation in the wilderness of national question, when other societies like Singapore, India, China, Brazil or even neighboring South Africa, Benin and Ghana have already moved on. Enough is enough of the politics of destruction; let us help ourselves help our future.


Last line:


“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of a diplomat.”


Robert Estabrook






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