Why the North Must not Hanker After Power Just for the Heck of It

Why the North Must not Hanker After Power Just for the Heck of It


Crispin Oduobuk



Whereas in principle no person or group should be peremptorily schemed out of the power equation, there is a sense in which it bodes ill for all if the North decides to hanker after power just for the heck of it. Albeit rooted in a complex and problematic condition, the most obvious foundation that grounds this assertion is that power at the centre has simply not served the region well, and by extension the rest of the country has faired no better. Another way of putting this admittedly simple premise is that, in the historical context of its romance with power, it would appear the North has often not known what to do with the bride after bringing her home.

Before the hoopla begins, let it be clear that despite the simple and problematic nature of the foregoing, it would be wrong to dismiss it as simplistic. This is because even when allowances are made for the varied limitations of expected advantages that should accrue to a region for wielding power at the centre in a federation like Nigeria, the North, in very real terms, has still little to show for all the years it has led the country.

Lest this be taken as one of those sweeping generalisations that are spouted somewhat carelessly, let the matter be reduced to specifics. Those who are wont to chant the late Sir Ahmadu Bello’s name as some sort of magic mantra in aid of their political schemes should at least recall the late gentleman’s recorded concern in seeing the North catch up with the rest of the country particularly in the area of education. In spite of the inroads made in his day, where is the North today in this vital area, despite having held sway at the centre for decades?

Last year, the Registrar/Chief Executive of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Professor Bello Ahmed Salim, told the nation that of 838,051 candidates who formally applied for the 2004 Universities Matriculation Examination, the six states that had the lowest number of applications were: Kebbi – 2,601; Bauchi – 2,557; Sokoto – 2,193; Zamafra – 1,810; Jigawa – 1,525 and Yobe – 1,438; all in the North. Conversely, the top six states were: Imo – 91,982; Delta – 70,496; Anambra – 52,468; Edo – 52,280; Ogun – 47,180 and Akwa Ibom – 46,232; all in the South.

Professor Salim also made the point that these figures were not peculiar to the 2004 UME. According to him, 400,194 candidates wrote the examination in 1999. Of this number, he said the combined states of Borno, Katsina, Taraba, Sokoto, Kebbi and Yobe had only 5,619 candidates, or 1.32 per cent of the total sum. Indeed, of the total figure for that year, Professor Salim noted that the 19 northern states fielded 65,000 candidates in all, just 20,726 higher than the 44,274 candidates fielded by Imo State alone.

Moving away from education, and bearing in mind that the economic mainstay of the North remains agriculture, what level of technological advancement has been attained in this sector in the region? Another question that must be posed here bothers on social welfare. What did many years of hanging on to power at the centre do for the North in this category?

There being no sense in beating a dead horse, let the here and now concentrate the mind. If the North secures power in 2007, what exactly will be the benefit to the region? With no disrespect meant to anybody, this writer submits that, in the persons from the region currently positioning themselves for a shot at the presidency in 2007, the North isn’t exactly putting her best foot forward.

Indeed, in the light of recent happenings, specifically the declared presidential aspiration of a leading Northerner with immense political baggage, there is the possibility that the region may be slowly boxing itself into a tight political corner. Moreover, with the negation of the values of selfless service and strategic planning that were the hallmark traits of the late Sardauna, the North has unwittingly found itself in a position where power at the centre is apparently a burden that it can neither shoulder well nor make judicious use of.

This is not to say that there’s any section of the country that can significantly outperform the region, because in the likes of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, for instance, the North has capable folk who, with proper guidance, can make very positive contributions to this country at the very top . Indeed, if anything, as the reign of President Olusegun Obasanjo has shown, any section of the country in power at the centre, if not checked, would likely go on the same sort of power-drunk binge of excesses and abuses that the North itself was guilty of in the years it held power. And all these to no meaningful gain, whether to those in the power-wielder’s area or the country at large. As such, it is imperative for every section, but most especially the North because of its power antecedents, to recognise that the rules of engagement, in the matter of governing this country, must change.

What exactly can the North do to–as we all like to say–move this nation forward? The region can show leadership. In this context, showing leadership should not be read as directly taking over the baton of power. No, instead it should be seen more along the lines of serving as a pillar of strength, not necessarily from the top, but in a partnering of strategic interests to the benefit of all. Think of a gentle giant standing shoulder to shoulder with a less imposing compatriot.

It is important to understand that this is one radically patriotic platform that would allow the North the leeway she needs to set a mutually-beneficial development agenda both for itself and the country at large. The North knows from experience that managing power to a gainful outcome is no child’s play. The region has learned under President Obasanjo that monitoring and checking the deeds or misdeeds of whoever is in power is not something to be left to the so-called institutions of democracy alone. So what does that make the North? A natural watchdog of sorts.

As such, the region, just like every other section of the country, must be thoroughly involved in the process of enthroning a new leadership for Nigeria. However, this need not be seen in the sense of a power-bloc deploying its amalgamated forces in unison because the monolithic North of yore, as this writer has demonstrated in an earlier essay, is history, and rightly so for the greater good of the North itself.

As a pragmatic friend of the North, your correspondent believes the best path for the region is strategic positioning. Why should this concern a non-northerner? Because an economically healthy and progressing North not only spurs an economically healthy and progressing Nigeria, it helps build a more stable Nigeria.

It may seem odd to some but it is a strategically and economically sound position that a certain level of competition helps advancement more than obtuse convergence. For many years the North operated as one. This unity had its advantages it the past but the dynamics of today require a different approach. And whether on its own or by the help of external forces, Northern unity has collapsed. Again, this is beneficial to the region because rather than merely competing against other sections of the country, the North can compete against her component units.

For example, as 2007 approaches, one of the logical questions that Northerners should be asking is; which of the two parties governing the states in the North has fared better than the other? In addition, rather than give blind loyalty to old political warhorses who have sold them dummies in the past, candidates aspiring for elective posts should be quizzed to determine if they have a grasp of the issues of the day or whether they just want to be handed power just for the heck of it.

What, for instance, does a gubernatorial candidate know about the education statistics of the state he wants to govern and what are his plans to solve the problems in the sector? Does such an aspirant know how many farmers are in the state and their peculiar seasonal needs? What about health issues? Is he conversant with the figures for VVF patients and their medical requirements? And the children on the streets, what are his plans for them?

These are some of the concrete issues that should be raised rather than dancing to old platitudes and slogans. In this way, the North would fix itself and, having in essence learned what to do with power, the region would be ready, with the right candidate, to take on leading Nigeria again.


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