The plethora of arguments centering on the unjust structuring of the Nigerian federation by the British Colonial masters, which has given the north unfair advantages over the south in the distribution of national resources and allocation of political power, have refused to go away several years after the country formally gained political independence. This perceived imbalance in power relations between the north and the south, a primary factor responsible for the constant frictions amongst the country’s indigent groups, is responsible for the age-long agitations by southerners for a redress of the uneven federal arrangement. The shrill calls by the south for a return to fiscal federalism, structural reformation, zoning of political offices are some of the reactions to these alleged disparities.
There is no arguing the fact that the processes that culminated in the creation of the Nigerian State were faulty as the British arbitrarily bequeathed to the country a colossal political liability which had the potential of impeding the country’s unity and development as the resultant geo-political structure of the country left the Northern Region, over half the size of the whole, which meant that with the final devolution of power to Nigerians, the north’s preeminent control over the country’s affairs was guaranteed.
However, despite the quite seductive arguments postulated by a mishmash of both academic and casual analysts, especially the diehard acolytes of restructuring, devolution of power, power shift and secession, about the unfair advantages the north enjoys over the south in power relations, due to the country’s structural incongruities, some of the pertinent questions that should be agitating the minds of dispassionate observers of the country’s political development since independence, are: what have southerners done to improve on the so-called “mistake of 1914” since the exit of the British? What concrete steps have southerners taken to activate the processes of tweaking the system in their favour? Put more succinctly, what have southern leaders done to practically redress their supposed second class status in the Nigerian State system on the few occasions they had opportunities to captain the countries ship of state?
Apart from the heroic, but blunted efforts of founding fathers of southern extraction who agitated for the creation of more regions or boundary adjustments to redress this geo-political imbalance – prelude to independence – the later feeble efforts of the southern intelligentsia, the muted sounds of a sprinkling of activists, alongside other subdued attempts at reform in the past by southern leaders when the reins of federal power was in their hands, no constructive nor concrete steps have ever been taken to redress the gross absurdities in the subsisting federal arrangement.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, in recent memory, are classic cases of southerners who were privileged to serve as substantive, democratically elected political Chief Executive Officers of the Nigerian State, but shockingly did nothing tangible to rectify the historical mistake that have supposedly made the “South the North’s slave”. While Obasnjo failed twice as first, a military Head of State, and later a civilian President, to carry out any concrete structural reformation, Goodluck Jonathan, having conducted a successful National Political Reform Confab, during his tenure as Commander-in-Chief, failed to implement the findings of the conference. These southern rubber stamps simply went through the empty motions of being in office. They lacked the “guts” to make their marks.
Unlike their northern counterparts who come to office with clear-cut blueprints of what they wish to achieve during their stints, southern politicians come to power unprepared. That is what sets northern leaders apart from their southern counterparts, and accounts for their seeming dominance of the country’s political space. It is instructive to note that all the state creation exercises since the country’s independence were executed by northern leaders – General Yakubu Gowon, 12 states; General Murtala Mohammed , 7 states; General Ibrahim Babangida, 11 states; and General Sani Abacha, 6 states.
Rather than unite to forge a common, unbreakable front to countervail the north’s hegemony, southern groups, especially the Igbo and Yoruba, have tended to cancel one another out by allying with the north during political contests. This disharmony among potential southern allies is the chink in the armor the north always exploits to its advantage. The north dominates the political space because it has had willing aiders and abettors from the south, henpecks and fifth columnists who pose as their people’s representatives, but are in fact sniveling traitors and murderous backstabbers. Northern domination would not be possible without the tacit support of southern collaborators. Pure and simple!
The north dominates the country’s politics because its elite understand the dynamics and value of power much better that their southern counterparts who are only interested in the accouterments of power, and not how they can channel power towards allocating values to their chief constituencies. Northern political hegemony will continue until southern politicians put their battered house in other. The northern political class will continue reigning supreme in Nigerian politics until southern politicians go back to the drawing board, if they have any, to hash out feasible strategies to checkmate their dominance. The north will continue having an upper hand, an easy ride, in Nigerian politics until the southern political elite throws off the toga of also-rans who are accustomed to being used and discarded whenever it suits the fancy of their more sophisticated, more objective northern political masters.
As 2023 beckons, the southern political class must look in the mirror and change their ways if they intend to free themselves from northern slavery. The north will not throw them a lifeline, if that’s what they are expecting. Politics does not thrive on morality, especially in these parts. Until southerners get their acts together, they should shut their noisy traps and stop lamenting their pathetic, self-inflicted condition. That is the bitter truth of the matter.
I sign off!
Jude Obuseh, a peace practitioner and public affairs commentator, writes in from Benin City. [email protected]