Ayo Oyoze Baje
“Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English,’ ‘Welsh,’ or ‘French.’ The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.”
– Chief Obafemi Awolowo (of blessed memory)
“Freedom at last?’’, someone responded to the post with the above-stated title on Facebook. “Wow, this is an act of courage, coming at the right time!”,another reader stated.“This is a great move but long overdue” was that of yet another concerned Nigerian. Their reactions of course, trailed the recent piece of news that some prominent leaders from the North-Central geopolitical zone have announced their exit from the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), citing the worsening insecurity conundrum still ravaging several statesin the northern geo-political axis of Nigeria. Furthermore, the leaders announced the formation of the North Central Peoples Forum(NCPF)as a platform to fight insecurity and marginalization in the country.
Coming on the heels of the recurring agitations for the creation of Biafra Republic by the embattled members of IPOB, the call for Oduduwa Republic, as well as the formation of the Amotekun security outfit by the South-Western states all give an indication that all is not well with our country, Nigeria, in terms of unity.But why? That is the question that troubles the minds of patriots.
Addressing journalists in Abuja recently, the NCPF expressed its serious concern that in spite of the abundant mineral and human resources in the zone, the North-Central was bedeviled by sundry crimes and criminality such askidnapping for ransom, brazen banditry and terrorism that has snowballed from the far northern states. The new North-Central group is being led by a former Minister of State for Health, Gabriel Aduku, who is the interim chairman.
Others include Senator Jerry Useni, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, a former Military Administrator of Kwara State, Col. David Bamigboye (retd.), and a former deputy chief of staff to the President, Chief Olusola Akomode. The list also has the names of a flamboyant former politician, Ibrahim Mantu, the publisher of Leadership Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah, a former Nigeria Ambassador to South Africa, Ahmed Ibeto, a media consultant, Alhaji Tajudeen Kareem, a former Deputy Governor of Benue State, Chief Stephen Lawani and Alhaji Alfa Mohammed, among others.
More like the Afenifere(for the South-West) and Ohaneze Ndigbo (for the South-East) geo-political zones , the NCPF has come into existence with the salutary aim to articulate and canvass things of common interest for the North-Central zone. So said Jerry Useni. Similarly, the forum would do all within its powers to unite the good people of Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory in their quest to ensure that peace and stability reign supreme.
Besides, the forum would push forthe rapid industrialization across all nooks and crannies of the zone.And it would pursue policies and processes that would ensure that the massive solid mineral and agricultural endowments were adequately harnessed for the benefits of their people. Members do not want their people to be used as willing tools to facilitate other people’s agenda to their own exclusion.
Should anyone fault their moving mantra and the driving principles in the face of the harsh, socio-economic and political realities facing Nigeria at the moment? None, except the arch-enemies of restructuring that keep driving the nation-state into a state of preventable social unrest and economic quagmire.
In retrospect, it would be recalled that the late Senator Joseph Tarka saw the signs of the relevance of the now formed NCPF decades ago. Even in death he remains one of the most celebrated nationalists in North-Central Nigeria, otherwise referred to as the Middle Belt Region for championing the cause of ethnic minorities in the Middle Belt generally and the Tiv in particular.
He faced a lot of tribulations from the powers that be, but he was undeterred. As rightly noted by Patrick Ukase on August 2, 2018, “through his struggles and agitations, he raised the consciousness, not just among his people, but also drew the attention of the Nigerian Federal Government and other regions to the plight and concerns of his people. This development eventually led to the creation of Benue Plateau State and later Benue State.”
The recent gathering of the political bigwigs from the North-Central zone is therefore, a further step to strengthen a similar one held in Makurdi precisely on Monday, 16th July, 2018. Present amongst the dignitaries then were Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue state and Darius Ishaku of Taraba state. The agenda then, as re-echoed by the NCPF is to “examine the plethora of issues and challenges bedeviling the region and to also drum support for the restructuring of the country”.
It would be recalled that the speakers were unanimous in condemning the incessant attacks on communities within the region by fully armed Fulani herdsmen. Painfully, such attacks have led to the loss of thousands of irreplaceable lives, brutal and wanton destruction of properties as well as the displacement of thousands of innocent and unarmed citizens from their ancestral homes.
Worse still, not one perpetrator of this heinous crime against humanity has been brought to justice! With NCPF the peace-loving people are saying that enough is enough of the cruel culture of recurring impunity! In saner climes, all lives should be equal before the law. But given the insidious superiority complex of those with scarce regard for other people’s lives, we are where we are today!
Perhaps, there is no better time to listen to the root causes of these ethnic-related agitations than now. For instance, the coalition group known as Yoruba Liberation Command (YOLICOM)that met on July 27, 2017, during the World Press Conference Day held in Lagos state felt that the South-Western geo-political zone was being dragged back by the all-controlling federal centre in Abuja.
As far as the leaders of the coalition are concerned, the Yoruba race has the capacity, knowledge, intellect and resources- both human and natural- to transform the proposed republic to a super power in the next 20 years.
Similarly concerned about the insecurity in the country, Chief Kunle Oshodi, the Aare Agbekoya of Yoruba land told reporters that after a thorough assessment of happenings in the country, the Agbekoya was the last hope of the Yoruba people.
All said, the pertinent question keeps recurring-where do we, as a country go from here? There is an urgent need for a revisit of the 2014 CONFAB to institute the principles of the holistic restructuring of Nigeria. The command-and-obey structure reminiscent of feudalism or military dictatorship, as fostered by the 1999 constitution can never move the country forward. Let the geo-political zones control their resources and develop at their own pace. With vast gold deposits in Zamfara state, several minerals, huge agricultural potentials and human capital in both the North-West and North-East zones, restructuring would do them a world of good, just as the NCPF has identified its own economic potentialities.
The chickens have finally come home to roost. The reality before this government is true fiscal federalism and political restructuring. It is a call whose time has come and the earlier taken, the better for us all.
Baje writes from Lagos