Chief Justice Tanko Mohammed’s game of numbers

Politics is a game. As a game, it is played by interested persons and in some respects by disinterested parties. Politics can be active and inactive. Any living person plays it because like copulation, speech, feeding, crying, smiling, sneezing, and many other natural and physio-biological processes of life, they are reflexive qualities of man. And politics being no more than the art of living and organizing human society for governance, every living being is a politician and could ply this art at several levels such as the family, village, community, and at the apex levels of the national and international arena.

It is for this reason that every human being is called a “political animal.” He is a political animal because he is naturally wired to play politics at any or each level earlier listed for his own good and the good of others. There is politics in all human activities and endeavours and each player plays the game largely by calculating and taking ‘accurate’ steps to actualize what would be most advantageous to him. It is this calculation that makes politics a “game of numbers.” It is a game of numbers because in most cases the principles of mathematics being an exact science as well as an art are deployed to achieve the desired results by analysing the options to choices available from a range of actions. It is due to this deployment of mathematics that the “game theory” becomes relevant as it is consciously applied in decision-making and execution. Thus, in commerce, economics, law, sports, religion, warfare, governance, academics, etc. the principles of “game theory” apply. In Solitaire, that is, games played by one person such as board, dice for the elimination of pegs or dice, game of numbers applies. In dual game, played by two or more persons, such as lawn tennis, football, cricket, etc., the object is a zero-sum win or lose, that is it. It cannot be otherwise.

But in politics, the zero-sum effect is tempered by several imponderables that define human affairs so that where two nations are locked in mortal combat called war, the parties may find to their chagrins that they are of equal strength and none can actually prevail over the other and so they would be forced to call a truce which may lead to a peaceful settlement of the quarrel. But in most cases, dual games are zero-sum game, a “game of numbers” where a party to the contest either scores to maximize his “numbers” to win or otherwise lose the game. It was Von Neuman that popularized this game of numbers which he expressed in his thesis called “minimax theorem.” It is in the light of this theorem that one can interrogate Chief Justice Tanko Mohammed’s unabashed declaration that the North are entitled to practice sharia in Nigeria but are limited by 1999 Constitution which they have the “numbers” to change to accommodate full-blown sharia system. Politics in Nigeria is a zero-sum game. It has always been. Only political ‘fools’ or pretenders deny this reality. This theorem is practicalised in the daily life of Nigeria. In the constitutional structuring of Nigeria; Lugard deployed a solitaire game theory by imposing the Indirect Rule System cloned from Sokoto Caliphate on more advanced political communities like the Yoruba states of Oyo, Abeokuta, etc., Benin Empire, Igbo village Republics, Niger Delta City States, etc. This imposition was condemned by his successor, Sir Hugh Clifford who declared that Indirect Rule System was “untrammelled autocracy” which amounted to conquest and subjugation of the more progressive and prosperous South under the North. Constitutional development of Nigeria continued with this structure which Southern politicians especially Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo did not recognize as a game of numbers with its consequences when they accepted the 50% electoral representation conceded to the North but opposed by Awolowo’s AG’s proposal of equal electoral representation for the three regions as they were equal geographic entities bringing to the union their respective strengths and weaknesses. It was a Zero-sum-game and the North had it. The census infrastructure has been repeatedly worked to confer the North with demographics equal and justifiable with the electoral delineation but the falsity or even fraudulence of it as asserted by Eze Festus Odimegwu has been established when he headed National Population Commission. So when Chief Justice Tanko Mohammed, contrary to his standing as a reigning Chief Justice of Nigeria openly called for an amendment of the 1999 Constitution to make Sharia fully applicable in Nigeria since according to him, North has the “Number” to change the Constitution.

There is something I admire in an average Northerner, meaning the Hausa/Fulani Muslim and that is the quality of being himself, not pretending to be what he is not or fearing to declare his genuine intentions regardless of whose ox is gored. Which Southern Chief Justice or Justices of the Supreme Court in Nigeria can have the temerity while sitting qua that office to make the sort of declaration the CJN made on Sharia in Nigeria? Every day in daily life of this country, Northerners declare their intentions but Southerners pretend thinking the North is deceived. They know Southerners as insincere/corrupt politicians who can compromise, sold whatever to realize the objects of their transactional politics which is fifthly lucre and at the end they are dealt with, rubbished and discarded. Read any standard history books and note how Azikiwe destroyed himself politically and became a plaything in the hands of his less educated Northern compatriots. When I read the biography of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa written by Trevor Clark, I was astonished at the kind of statements made by Sardauna Ahmadu Bello and Balewa about their intentions for Nigeria. Bello was reported to have declared that he “will divide this country between my two trustworthy lieutenants when the current political battle (my Jihad) is over.” At a political rally at Kaduna in celebration of the NPC victory at the 1959 general election and the selection of Balewa as the Prime Minister, an NPC stalwart had at the rostrum posed the question, “when will this thing be taken from us” meaning political power, Sir Balewa had taken the microphone and responded in Hausa: “…it will be taken from us when we leave the path of God…, truth and justice, and become corrupt and unjust and oppressive.”

One would think that a country that has endured the pangs of birth, pains of civil war and countless violent crises should be guided by common sense and good conscience to toe the path of rectitude to build a just society where no man is oppressed but the reverse seems to be the case as the declaration of Chief Justice Mohammed suggests. You cannot be thinking of dominating your fellow citizen or the being the master of joint deliberation and expect peace. It is not possible because justice is the bedrock of peace. All these bellicose political grand standing may push the South in the near future to achieve the great feat feared most by the North and that is, unity and understanding between the Southern tribes especially the Yoruba and the Igbo and that day will mark the end of these political taunts and insults. For Balewa had anticipated such development when he said, “if it should come about that the South did unite with one voice, then, we are in trouble”. Let’s avoid that “trouble” by eschewing parochialism, tribalism and perpetual quest for domination.

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