The North and its Many Spokesmen,By Garba Shehu
Anyone who wants to understand the undertone of confusion in the Northern Nigerian political landscape needs only to pay cursory attention to the array of cacophonous spokespersons, each claiming that they are speaking for the region. What has gone wrong with them, but more importantly, who sent them?
A quick glance at two recent incidents will underscore the point I am making. One, how did it happen that the North represented by their elders, religious groups, the intelligentsia and youth associations got dragged into a shouting match with a South – South thug, Alhaji Asari Dokubo?
How did otherwise titanic men such as Professor Ango Abdullahi, former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU find themselves in the gutter engaging in a fight with an Alhaji Dokubo? I thought Ango’s group, and him particular, a leader of the Yar’Adua group, scholar and gentleman were above this kind of fray. But what is even more appalling is that Jama’atul Nasril Islam,JNI the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN at some level and the mushrooming youth groups, Arewa this and that, lowered themselves getting involved in a street fight with Dokubo and their spiritual leader, Edwin Clark. In their own statement indirectly responding to these South-South outposts, even the Northern States Governors Forum could not apparently resist the temptation to join issues with these hatchet men.
What has gone wrong with the North’s leaders, often composed and well-reasoned in their response to similar provocations when it came to national issues that they now chose to make themselves a laughing stock? They used to say that if a mad man removes your clothes while bathing in a stream, you don’t jump out to go after him without anything on your body. People will think you are the one who is mad.
I think this is what the late sage, Chief Sunday Bolarinwa Awoniyi foresaw in 2006 in the heat of Southern antagonization of the North. The height of this provocation came in the face of the stiff Northern opposition to the tenure elongation plot by former President Obasanjo. In Enugu sometime that year, the Southern Leaders Forum (or a name like that) which Secretary is a Dejo Raimi convened for a meeting at which a poisonous anti-Northern venom was concocted. Chief Bode George, then a powerful figure in the Obasanjo administration was a star speaker at the event. He minced no words in saying that the North should get out of the way of Obasanjo’s third term. At that meeting were leaders like Chief Alex Ekwueme, Bishop Gbonigi and Chief Olu Falae. In the resolutions that ensued, the North was asked to get ready to be stripped naked in the market square. They said this disgrace will come with the population census figures just about being released. You Northerners, who all the time in the past has rigged population census figures have been caged. you will no longer use false census figures as a ploy to steal away federal allocations.
In reaction to these, Awoniyi as the Chairman of the Board of the Board of Governors and a leader much respected across the region sent words down the line that all Northern leaders keep quiet on this matter and they did. When the census results were published, the figures spoke for the north louder than anyone could have done for it.
Are the Northern leaders running out of ideas? Have they lost the capacity to think afresh? Has the North lost sight of the big picture? Have they no clue about how to turn things around for the region and the country?
I just picked the information that General Yakubu Gowon, Chief Awoniyi’s successor in that position has handed down a similar instruction. Gowon should be heeded. The North is far too important for the unity and continued well-being of Nigeria allow themselves to be dragged into altercations with base-level groups. I have learnt an important lesson from a colleague in the office who warns all the time that old men should be feared because they are dangerous. Whenever he reads the eighty-something-old Clark threatening to bring down the roof on the heads of everyone, he never fails to say that “old men are dangerous because they don’t care what happens to themselves.”
As for Asari Dokubo, my sense is that senior Northerners, the Governors Forum and the religious groups should not just tango with him. Hausa people say nobody wants a madman in the family but there are times when you wish you had your own. This is clearly one of such times. When I see what Dino Melaye and Farouk Adamu Aliyu say and do in reaction to the South-South thugs, I puzzle over the needless responses of leaders and elders of the North.
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