For a very long time, we had been hoodwinked by the political class. Perhaps cajoled or coerced to assume rightly or wrongly that the North as it is presently constituted is one cohesive, united and indivisible homogeneous entity. A ruthless lie?
Yes, it may have been so in time past, when the Mallam Tafawa Balewas and the Sir Ahmadu Bellos of this world strode the surface of the earth and held sway dictating the political dynamics at the centre stage. That was the formative years of this geographic conglomerate styled Nigeria.
They, it were who propagated the gospel of unity and assemblage of northern brotherhood irrespective of tribe or creed. Consequently, everyone else of means or peasant queued behind them with certitude. Religion and other primordial sentiments were shelved for the good of all. They all wore smiling faces bellying their misgivings.
These two dynamic and visionary leaders, thorough bred gentle men and their disciples needled together the fabrics of northern ideology as a cosmic consciousness as well as fingerprint for generations unborn.
That patriotism and zeal and fervour is traceable to every true Northerner. Their (the two gladiators) overwhelming influence and charm and charisma kept everyone in line and in check. No one dared the apostles of old by voicing contrary opinions or detachment from the brotherhood. Everybody keyed into the discipleship of oneness.
The bond was strong and unassailable, squarely cemented for their common good. And of course every section of the North was made to feel the impact of governance. Indeed, Tafawa Balewa and Ahmadu Bello are the twin oracles venerated and almost worshipped as the founding fathers of modern politics of Arewaism. I should know better because a part of my umbilical cord was buried there. I am Nupe by reason of association.
That tradition, to some extent is gradually fading into the annals of history. But now we know better. The North is as cumbrous, as fragmented and as polarised as the South. Here in the South, unity is spoken only by a few discernable patrons. Babel is better understood in this clime. We are as divided as day and night or sun and moon.
Unfortunately the North is equally exhibiting similar deviance as a result of recent socio-political and economic realities. Therefore, forging a common front is an herculean task. It is not surprising that different nationalities are creatively trying to reconstruct a new narrative of inclusiveness and absolutism.
May be these tendencies are floated as a result of the dysfunctional political polemics inherited from our heroes past. Tongues are wagging and heads are leaping above the calmness of our sleepy waters.
This is the new narrative, the new euphemism for regional cleavages. Rightly tendered in the pressure cookers of regional politics. There is growing awareness, if you like enlightenment about individualism and self-worth. People are beginning to aggregate to champion common interests. Why?
Because the wider blanket of Arewaism is not able, as it were to capture the peculiar challenges thrown up by modern day Nigeria. Besides, the blanket is getting old, weak and unwieldy. In today’s politics, there is a greater desire to gravitate towards smaller units or atomization. That way, you can confront your troubles and challenges more effectively and efficiently.
The word is atomisation of political molecules. To the best of my mind this is what underscores the formation of the North- East Governors’ Forum, spearheaded by a no less cerebral revolutionary, in the person of Governor Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno State.
The idea was mooted in March when his convoy was brutally attacked in Bagar, an area in Borno State infested by Boko Haram insurgents. Zulum, who is not given to frivolous talks, ascribed the attack to men of the Nigerian military. The military has since denied the allegation.
The men almost arogantly nicked his life. They would have denied the region of a vociferous voice. In solidarity, his brothers and cousins, governors from the same region, the North-East – Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi and Gombe – thought it wise to join forces to chart a new path for the zone.
They decided to disengage from the larger blanket of Northern Governors’ Forum ably led by Mr. Simon Lalung of Plateau State. Though not a peremptory declaration, the governors are, however, unwavering in their remonstration and determination to abide together.
They are unmindful of the volley of tirades the move will attract from fundamentalists who think their action was unwise. They believe that the governors are setting a negative precedent for the disintegration of the North. In time past, it would have been considered an act of hara-kiri for any individual or group of persons to lead the way out of the common path. They would have been abused, traduced and their reputations slaughtered by their brethren in the fold.
This is blue murder, the fundamentalists would have cried to high heaven. But the times have changed, so there’s room now to accommodate divergent views no matter how tenuous. And that I suppose is what is playing out today in the North. Zulum and his men believe they have been acutely shortchanged by the other sections of the North for too long.
For instance, they will tell anyone that cares to listen that they – the North-East – have never been given a shot at the presidency. That is true. And that the zone is battling hard with poverty and insurgency. That is also true. The Federal Government, they observe is so close yet far away from them. To them, the central government seems to have taken its eyes off the sub human conditions of the area. That may not be absolute truth.
The governors are tired of running in semi-circles as though they are dancing in a musical chair. The governors appreciate what their counterparts are doing in the South-West and elsewhere.
They also want to partake in zonal acculturation process as it is enjoyed in other zones by establishing a kindred spirit of Amotekun to combat crime and criminality in the zone. I want to believe that this is a propitious aggregation hence, Prof. Zulum and his brothers should be supported for whatever it is worth. The men should be encouraged for their outof- the-box initiative as well as their resolute determination to carve a niche for themselves and the North- East.
This is a legitimate desire, based on the realities confronting the zone. It should not be seen as an ingredient for destabilisation. The zone deserves equal political patronage as the rest of the North. It is time, the leadership of the North open its doors to let in fresh breathe instead of stultifying and deprecating avant garde ideas and initiatives.
The dynamics of politics is better appreciated under the prism of divergent views. After all it is said that he who wears the shoes knows where it pinches the most. Let’s join hands to support our brothers groaning under the fiendish attack by Boko Haram and other degrading conditions that perpetually pins them to the ground. This is my stand.
Peretu is a public affairs commentator and social critic