Op ed

Eze goes to school

After 47 years, Major Chukwuma Nzeo-gwu Kaduna, stripped of rank, has resurrected as an academic major-domo. Professor Ben Nwabueze, a former minister of education, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a leader of The Patriots, has written a paper on the problem posed to him and others by the Northern Region. The paper is typical of what the Northerner has to put up with in national discourse—the gullibility of a self-proclaimed vanguard and the extent of venom long har-boured for, and now released and ready to be injected into, the brave new region.

It comes with its simple but gravely warped logic and represents a pitiful latter-day Southern discomfiture and outcry at Northern political versatility even at its nadir. Its unstated final solution is the rejection of everything. It began with the Amalgamation, which the Sardauna, for very different reasons, had called ‘the mistake of 1914.’

Professor Nwabueze believes the amalgama-tion was done to divide the country! ‘In other words, the effect of the 1914 Amalgamation, indeed its purpose, is to dichotomise the coun-try from its inception; to keep its northern and southern segments apart by an imaginary, artificially created boundary line, and conse-quently to disunite them in interest, attitude, outlook and vision. That defines the magnitude, the enormity, of the problem bequeathed to us by Lugard and his 1914 Amalgamation.’

But this is clearly illogical. First, how do you draw ‘an imaginary, artificially created boundary line’ between regions that according to the thrust of his own logic are still not one—no nation, no national front! It is not sensible to assume that an amalgamation is the best or right or even sensible way of keeping two parts that are already apart. And if they have to be amalgamated to bring them together, then there is no question of an “artificially created boundary line” to keep them apart, because they were not together before. It is the bringing together that is artificial

Second, if the British, for their own purposes, were more interested in keeping the two separate they would have go on to administer them as two, or even three, separate countries as indeed they had done before the amalgamation, and grant them different independence dates, so that they would have ended up only as neighbouring countries, not just regions within a single country.

According to him, the North-South divide, which, by the way, is not the same as the Northern unity with which Professor Nwabueze has drawn false equivalence and which he has been bashing, is the idea that has become an obstacle to the creation of a nation and a national front. So, why didn’t we see the rudiments of a nation and a front taking shape at the East-West divide separating their patriotic enclaves of the country?

Actually, as we all know, this East-West divide which, presumably, doesn’t have any of the North-South hang-ups and which will therefore help, and not hinder, the achievement of national unity and the creation of the national front, has not been able to date to to achieve even Southern unity or the creation of a Southern front, as Nwabueze himself has lamented, the two objec-tives of those who spearheaded the creation of the Southern Nigeria People’s Assembly last year, as liberally quoted by the professor in his essay. The idea of the nation and national unity are rooted in history.

This Northern togetherness is the result of history—even if at times it is bitter history—and the adroit politics of Sir Ahmadu Bello and his lieutenants. Detractors of the North have, not infrequently, forgotten that the peoples of the North have a history and a pre-colonial culture that have gone beyond village living and its people did not overnight get transformed from hunting-gathering to democratic republicanism.

Professor Ben Nwabueze, whom Moham-med Haruna last week said ‘is arguably Nige-ria’s best constitutional academic lawyer,’ is unfortunately remembered in some places as the most academically-decorated person to occupy the office of the minister of education in Nigeria, but, by the time he left, the least successful minister of all those who sat on that seat. And we can now see why.

In the paper, apparently armed with unassailable facts and, to him, impeccable authority, he gave the nation the benefit of his intervention on the Boko Haram phenomenon. And it is lecture time.

‘A far more grave threat to the unity of the country than the demand for power shift to the North, is the current Boko Haram insurgency which, as is generally believed, is sponsored by some political, traditional and religious leaders from the North in pursuance of an agenda aimed at promoting northern domination and the supremacy of the Moslem religion in the affairs of Nigeria,’ he said.

And his authority for such a weighty pro-nouncement was because a ‘stark revelation of this was given in an interview with the Sunday Vanguard newspaper by Chief Tobias Michael Idika, President of Kano State Chapter of Ohanaeze Ndigbo who is also President-General of the leaders of the ethnic communities resident in Kano… [and who blamed] northern politicians as well as the northern traditional and religious leaders for the Boko Haram crisis’. This is supposed to be an informed analysis by a professor of constitutional law.

And from such a pedestrian treatment of Boko Haram even for a non-professor, he jumped straight into the issue of the control of the nation’s security apparatus under General Sani Abacha, hoping, no doubt, to conflate the two in readers’ mind and prove an Islamic agenda.

He quoted extensively from His Holiness Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah’s Witness to Justice to buttress his argument: “The General had, in furtherance of that design, appointed Major Hamza Al-Mustapha as the Chief Security Officer to the Head of State; Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, as the National Security Adviser; Brigadier Gen. Sabo as the Director of Military Intelligence; AVM Idi Musa as Chief of Defence Intelligence; Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie as the Inspector-General of Police; and Alhaji Zakari Biu as the head of the newly created Counter Terrorism Agency, which was assigned “the responsibility of keeping watch over enemies within who might be collaborating with enemies without to destabilize the nation.”

While clearly, this cast has, by whatever measure, flouted the nation’s federal character and even the Northern character, but it cannot be used to prove the Islamisation thesis, which is actually only a figment of the imagination of some people who think, because they read newspapers, they are also good analysts. From their names, you will assume they are all Muslims; but AVM Idi Musa, the chief of defence intelligence for General Abacha and the lynchpin of his security network is a Christian.

And in any case if, under Abacha, Nor-therners had dominated the leadership of the nation’s security service, did they, by any chance, give the nation an admission list into the nation’s security training institutions like the one we saw recently, which failed to respect any kind of character? 

And the professor seemed to be interested in installing negative quota system in regional political and social development. He doesn’t just want to empower the South, he wishes to dispossess the North. If the North has ACF and the South has no similar forum, ACF becomes an instrument of national disunity that has to be countervailed.

‘Before July 2012, the South as a single entity had no organisations corresponding to those existing in the North – no one pan-southern organisation to countervail those in the North,’ the professor said…‘The formation of the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA) in July 2012 is thus a significant development.’ It is therefore quite clear that what he called a significant development is not at all about bring national unity or the national closer to a front: it is, in his own words, ‘to countervail…the North.’

Nwabueze is not happy that non-Hausa people in the North speak the Hausa language, which he took pains to remind them is not indigenous to them—and, by now, it is almost turning and settling into full-fledged ethno phobia. Of course the Hausa language is not indigenous to many Northern tribes, but it is the most-widely spoken language in the country today, because of the accommodation and assimilative nature of the Hausas and the simplicity and user-friendliness of their tongue. The professor is apparently unhappy about this and about the fact that though tribe and tongue have differed in the North and in spite of the greatly trying times the region is going through, people in the North still stand in tortured brotherhood.

If the professor and others like him are really interested in forging national unity, as they always say, the fact of Northern unity should have been a welcome development. All they needed do was to replicate it in the South and lo! you are all there. But, no, they have to break up the North in order to unite Nigeria, and what this means is beyond administrative state creation; what they want is to break all the ties that bind—cultural, social, sociological, linguistic and religious. And you cannot but stand in respectful awe of their vacuousness.

Nwabueze is apparently also unhappy that ‘the idea of one “Northern Nigeria” has persisted as an entrenched fact of life, even after it (i.e. Northern Nigeria) has ceased to be a governmental entity, with a firm hold on the thinking and vocabulary of the ruling elite and political class in that part of the country, conditioning their attitudes and views in the matter of the management of the social, political and even economic relations between the two segments of the country.’

But if the fiat with which the regions were created is not acceptable to Nwabueze, because it was one act of gerrymandering by British colonialism, he should have proceeded to the logical end of that argument—that Nigeria itself is an act of gerrymandering by British colonialism, which should now, therefore, be dismantled. QED. 


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Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websits. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.

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