Dogarasation Of The 8th Assembly As Northern Nigeria’s Elixir By Abdulmalik ‘KAIZEN’ Ibrahim
“This victory that we celebrate today won’t have been possible without God, the Sultanate and others across the country. For us who are Christian minorities in the North, we should acknowledge that this victory we are celebrating here today was made possible by the intervention of the Sultan and others. We should know that there is a new thinking in the North. We owe it a duty to make sure we unite our own part of the country. My emergence as Speaker is as a result of the support of all major tribes of Nigeria, and all faiths” Rt Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria
From a bitter but closely fought Speakership contest, to some WWF themed rancorous sessions, to a few jabs and punches and brazen attempts at carting away with the House mace; the 8th Assembly of the lower House couldn’t have taken off to a more tumultuous start. Last Wednesday’s fracas in the lower house was a national eye sore to say the least, made even more so by the presence of young students in the chamber at the time our (dis)Honourables were engaged in a free for all bout. But how did we get here? One might be tempted to ask.
I do not intend to rehash the events of the past weeks that saw Hon. Yakubu Dogara from Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa Balewa Constituency, Bauchi state emerge as the Speaker of the 8th Assembly of the Lower House, narrowly defeating Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Surulere I Constituency, Lagos State. But what played out that fateful day on our home screens across the country was a culmination of a tricky and quiet proxy war fought from the serenity of Bola Tinubu’s Bourdillon enclave in Ikoyi, Lagos all the way to the imperial palace of His Eminence, The Sultan of Sokoto. For most of us who followed the political processions quite keenly, we knew right from the APC victory of March 28th that the next political war frontier was the National Assembly Leadership race; though I must admit I didn’t anticipate the magnitude of the spectacle to be this gigantic and gripping. Both young, fine lawyers in their own rights, Femi and Dogara are both protégés of two men highly gifted and versed in the art of political scheming and power play. While Femi is seen as an out and out Tinubu man, Dogara is more or less considered by many a Tambuwal lackey. Both have long before now been fully prepared and pepped up for the Speakership job, that is why the idea of one stepping down for the other never ever came up. In the end, Hon Dogara, on the back of a united PDP front was able to just nick it, a situation reminiscent of how his friend and benefactor Governor Waziri Tambuwal became the Speaker of the 7th Assembly in 2011.
For the record, I did root for Femi Gbajabiamila to become Speaker. I have seen him on the floor of the House as head of the Minority, and more than once, he’s shown great candor, a measured temerity and a cerebral grasp of the issues at hand. I’ve heard not a few people describe him as a humble and natural leader of men. A friend of mine who’s well acquainted with him simply surmised; ‘Femi is really a decent human being’. Asides his personality, I also felt the APC as a party had every right to in a way determine who amongst its legislators becomes the Speaker of the House. This is standard practice in most democracies the world over. Of course how it went about it is subject to debate, but with Femi being officially adopted by the APC as its preferred candidate for the job, I felt there was a need for Hon. Dogara Yakubu and other contending actors to toe the party line and submit to its dictates. I believe for a fledgling democratic party like the APC, party discipline and supremacy ought to be upheld and made sacrosanct in order to achieve some sense of balance and calm. However, the deed is done and Rt Hon. Dogara Yakubu is today the number four citizen of Nigeria and it behooves on the APC leadership, warts and all, to start some getting used to the fact. On his part, Hon. Dogara Yakubu must begin the arduous task of first reconciling with over a hundred lawmaker colleagues of his from the APC who didn’t vote for him and still feel he betrayed the party by striking a deal with the PDP lawmakers; a task I must add he seems already handling quite well. Also he needs to reach out to his party and sort things out because he needs the party as much as the party needs him too.
My reason for today’s epistle is the impending consequences, if any, of Hon. Dogara’s speakership on the socio-political landscape of Northern Nigeria. By way of a premise, contrary to the widely held notion by most Southerners, Northern Nigeria is not a monolithic assemblage of Hausa-Fulani speaking Muslims only. Rather it is a disparate, multi-faith collection of people of different ethnic coloration who have lived together for centuries, in harmony and turmoil both. I find it rather jejune whenever Nigeria is reduced to the simple ‘Christian-South Muslim-North narrative’ by those who ordinarily should know better. That Hausa is the dominant language spoken by over two thirds of the people from Northern Nigeria doesn’t make everyone from that region a Hausa man or woman. In Adamawa State alone, there are well over twenty ethnicities, each having its own distinct identity, culture and norms. It is typical to find a Hausa speaking man from the heartland of Kano state who is a born Christian. Or a Christian Fulani grazer from Kebbi State who was born and brought up that way. These are facts we simply cannot wish away. Northern Nigeria must be understood and appreciated for its complexity and diversity; I believe that is the surest way to begin to solve the myriad of issues it’s contending with.
To say Northern Nigeria today is economically paralyzed is simply saying the obvious. With an impoverished and a growing hungry population haunted by an evil, murderous deviant group led by a half-crazed haranguing lunatic, Northern Nigeria is at its darkest and weakest moment ever. This woeful situation is rather paradoxical when one considers the ostentatious and lavish lifestyle lived by its minority political and social elite. Add ethno-religious intolerance to this volatile mix and what you have is a mistrustful and hateful conclave of poor people lacking a central voice and leadership; whom are constantly a hearsay away from maiming one another and razing valued properties in the name of religious riots.
Rt Hon. Yakubu Dogara is a Christian, an avowed one some say, from Bauchi state. He is of the Sayawa ethnic extraction from the Bogoro/Tafawa-Balewa axis of the State, a place notorious for its constant ethno-religious skirmishes and sustained heightened tensions between rival ethnic groups. In Bauchi State, it is true that people from that area by convention and tradition are not fully taken into account in the socio-political equation of the state. They have been relegated to the back burner for years now and are seen as pariahs. I know this for a certainty because being from Bauchi myself, I’ve witnessed firsthand how at the mention of Bogoro LGA, an individual is being looked upon with such disdain. This I must say is indeed quite regrettable and should be addressed if we are to make any head way going forward.
In Northern Nigeria today, subtle and even more outright acts of marginalization is truly well in play in various communities. My good friend, Mark Amaza, a Christian from Borno State is very passionate about minority rights and has written quite extensively on the need for greater tolerance, respect and freedom to be afforded to other ethnicities other than the Hausa-Fulanis. Mark has severally claimed that it is rather seemingly impossible to get State permission to build Churches in certain parts of Borno State. And even the Hausa-Fulani themselves do suffer from this ethno-religious intolerance in certain communities where they find themselves in the minority. For instance, in Plateau State, the Hausa-Fulanis have been forced for years now to take a backseat and watch as affairs in the State are run by their Jukun and Birom ‘brothers’. They feel no sense of belonging or entitlement whatsoever. I have Hausa friends from Plateau State who cannot obtain Indigene certificates from their Local Governments Areas and usually have to cross over to neighboring Bauchi State to obtain one simply because they do not bear the names Dalong, Nwanchok and the likes. Getting an admission into State run educational institutions for the Hausa-Fulani community in Plateau is as impossible as a camel passing through the eye of a needle.
So what does a Yakubu Dogara Speakership mean in all of this? It simply means ‘hope’. The hope that a Northerner can grow to become whatever he or she aspires to be regardless of religion or ethnic background. The hope that the Leadership of the two major religions in the North, the Jama’tu Nasril Islam led by the Sultanate and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) can work together for a common purpose. The hope that this could be the ignition needed to spark off a long journey of soul searching, reaching out and healing of old and new wounds amongst the various ethnicities in Northern Nigeria.
In spite of this all, I am not naïve or oblivious of the great challenges that lie ahead. Hon. Yakubu Dogara becoming Speaker of the Hosue will not suddenly translate to Alhaji Ibrahim from Zamfara State liking and tolerating Mr. Tuluk from Adamawa State or vice versa. It will not suddenly stop these bands of restless young men across various Northern communities from torching the nearest church or mosque at the slightest provocation. It won’t suddenly quell the feeling of animosity and mistrust that has lingered on for centuries now in the hearts of men. However, what it can do in the interim is offer a window of opportunity for true healing and reconciliation. It is up to the relevant stakeholders to see this as what it is and try in every way possible to set the tone for a truly united Northern Nigeria, which shall usher in both economic and social prosperity. So help us God.
PS: The term ‘DOGARASATION’ first appeared in Malam Adamu Adamu’s article of Friday 26th June 2015 in Daily Trust Newspapers.
Abdulmalik ‘KAIZEN’ Ibrahim tweets as @ibmaleeq…