Simon Kolawole, publisher of The Cable online newspaper, wrote, “I hate to imagine what… public office holders who end up as ethnic champions must have quietly done against other regions (of Nigeria) while in (sensitive and powerful federal public) service (positions).”
Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, now Director of Publicity of Northern Elders’ Forum, worked in the Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation and as Secretary to Independent National Electoral Commission.
Kolawole’s theory triggered a tangential thought that public servants (political office holders, civil servants, parastatal staff and officers in security agencies) of Southern Nigerian origin somewhat act in awe of their Northern Nigerian colleagues.
They kowtow, even genuflect, apparently in fear of some bogeyman who could adversely affect their careers or hold back their dues, like promotions, preferential postings, juicy transfers, or even job tenures.
The publisher of Ovation, the social-register magazine, Dele Momodu, suggests that Southern Nigerian politicians “are so scared and frightened, of the illusionary Northern might, that they make no attempt to probe or challenge it, but rather accept it as a truism. (And) Northern politicians are only too happy to exploit and manipulate them as they wallow in their folly.”
Recently, some civil servants of Southern Nigerian origin were heard complaining bitterly about how less qualified Northern Nigerian officers were placed above them and they couldn’t do anything about it.
They added that even their Southern Nigerian bosses ignored their plight, because they owed their positions and perks to Northern Nigerian power brokers. Unfortunately, they didn’t tell what government agency they worked with before everyone disembarked from the public transport that temporarily brought everyone together.
It looks as if Northern Nigerian public servants in Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies assume a superiority complex, nurtured by some orientation that encourages them to always act brash and autocratic with their Southern Nigerian colleagues.
You could even observe the same attitude in Northerners of the lower class, who quickly resort to violence whenever they have any disagreement with their Southern Nigerian compatriots. Sometimes one thinks they have been schooled to act in such intimidating (and off-putting) manner, in order to have their way.
The imperious manner in which herdsmen, (apparently) of Northern Nigerian stock, lead their cattle to feed on farm crops of Southern Nigerian (and sometimes Middle Belt) farmers, and attack the farmers who protest, convinces one of the appearance of dominance of the Federal Government bureaucracy and security agencies by Nigerians of Northern extraction.
Low-level workers, like drivers, gatekeepers, cooks and housekeepers, who work for Indians, will tell you that they are socialised to address their bosses as, “Master.” And the Indian bosses act in ways that suggest that they expect to be addressed in a manner fitting for a Sahib.
Some suggest that Governor Dave Umahi’s disagreement with the Southern Governors’ Forum’s resolve against open grazing is the knee-jerk reaction of a “House Nigga,” who suffers from the Stockholm Syndrome –of a victim identifying with his oppressor– and is acting out of fear.
Maybe, he fears that either the Independent National Electoral Commission may be used to deny him of future elective positions as a senator, or the Department of State Services may be used to prevent a ministerial appointment.
A candidate in the forthcoming November 6 Anambra State governorship election is reported to have said that he found nothing wrong in open-grazing of cattle (in 21st Century Nigeria) and would therefore support the practice if he became governor.
The fear of being denied access to elective or political offices is emblematic of the conspiracy of Nigeria’s political elite (of whatever region or religion) against the poor, downtrodden, masses of Nigeria.
The Northern Nigerian political elite are quick to bandy the so-called numerical strength of the North, which they claim will always guarantee them electoral victory in federal elections, as a weapon to intimate their Southern compatriots.
This is how Baba-Ahmed boasts about the numbers: “We will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before. Whether we are President or Vice President, we will lead Nigeria… We have the numbers.”
Baba-Ahmed, it was, who arrogantly said, in a manner that some consider insensitive, that the heavens will not fall if a Northerner succeeds President Buhari in 2023. He seems to have forgotten that the North had insisted that the presidency must return to the North in 2015.
Some Southern Nigerians have started asking that the Northern numerical strength should be subjected to scientific verification. And, in any case, Northern Nigerians should note that there are other parameters in the making of a nation.
Arguments by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike that a region that claims to have higher population should at least be able to generate higher personal income and value added taxes is a way of saying that the source of funding is as important as population.
Some grumble, albeit without confirmed data, that Northern Nigerians hold more than 60 per cent of oil blocs in private hands. They wonder if Northern Nigerian powermongers should not be thinking of deploying the advantage of their numerical strength to the advantage of all Nigerians and not only to their region.
Those who argue this way think Northern Nigerians should take judicious notice of other interests and tendencies in a plural nation like Nigeria. But more importantly, they should not always insist that they must win all the time.
Thankfully, Baba-Ahmed recognises that no region can singlehandedly elect Nigeria’s President, though Section 134(5) of the 1999 Constitution allows that a simple majority may produce a President if the conditions of at least one-quarter of votes in at least two-thirds of the 36 states of Nigeria are not met after two inconclusive elections.
A Southern Nigerian friend, who has spent most of his adult life in the North, asserts that Southern Nigerians may have inherited an inferiority complex that makes them always think that the average Northern Nigerian is endowed with some strange prowess.
Some mutual friends however, counter that many years of military rule, dominated by Northern Nigerians, may be responsible for the siege mentality of Southern Nigerians as they interact with their Northern Nigerian compatriots.
If indeed Northern Nigerians have a superiority complex and Southern Nigerians have inferiority complex, there may be a need to invite psychologists, sociologists, political scientists and philosophers, to study the situation and come up with suitable remedies, to heal Nigeria.
It is very dangerous that no one is thinking “Nigeria,” but rather nearly everyone is paranoid and stressing selfish primordial interests. This mindset informs the unhealthy clamour for power shift and rotational presidency for a country that needs an astute manager, instead of an incompetent beholden only to cave sentiments.
This is important for the political survival of Nigeria. It should certainly save the country from what looks like certain implosion, as all can see from separatist agitations of the Igbo and Yoruba. Even the Middle Belt region has started talking about a separate country.
It is also the reason that moderates, like the Yoruba Afenifere, propose restructuring of the political and economic systems of Nigeria. Marginalisation, or the sense of being marginalised, fuels dissent.
The next President of Nigeria must have a pan-Nigerian outlook, like former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He must not be an ethnic champion.
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