Voices are ringing from the “core” North in recent times. And the voices are very strong. Equally powerful are the messages they strive to pass across.
The voices and messages give an indication of an agenda perfected somewhere. Because the messages are obvious reactions to voices from other parts of the country.
Two of such voices particularly rang out ferociously last week. We dare not risk ignoring them to our peril. That is why the voices are still resonating. They are signs of things to come; it is glaringly imminent.
They are two of a kind: Prof. Ango Abdullahi and Senator Rufai Hanga. Abdullahi had been Minister of Education, Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and Special Adviser on Food Security to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. He is a member of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF).
Hanga, once a senator always a senator. He is a founding member of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). That was one of the platforms that brought about the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency.
First to charge at us is Abdullahi. He literally belled the raving cat on Tuesday, August 30, 2016. He prepared the dying month for its burial. It was like the release of pent-up anger.
What a perfect forum to make such outburst! It was in Abuja at the presentation of two books: Boko Haram: The Charade vs Reality and The Life and Times of Umaru Turakin Bauchi. The author is Hadiza Wada, former Diplomatic Editor, Voice of America, now visiting Professor, ABU.
Yes, he agreed, the unity of this entity called Nigeria can be negotiated after all! It came like a bombshell, almost unheard of. He explained it this way:
“If Lord Lugard made a mistake in 1914, let us correct it now. Why not?” And what is the mistake? “If Nigerians cannot live together and allow peace and development to take place, then let’s go our different ways.”
Abdullahi does not give in to emotion and sentiment: “So many countries have gone through that before. I don’t believe that Nigeria is indissoluble. There is nothing like indissolubility in any country.”
He cited a practical example: “Take Britain, they have been a model for 1,000 years of democracy. Then, a year or two ago, Scotland, that had been in the United Kingdom for about 350 years, opted to go for a referendum, same problem with Ireland.” That is not all: “Soviet Union (USSR) was only a superpower many years ago. Today, 12 or 13 countries are there.”
The big question: “So, what is so special about Nigeria? If we find truly that we cannot develop and guarantee the welfare of our people as a nation, and the solution is to go our separate ways, why not?”
That is Abdullahi’s frank, honest and transparent mind. He is never known to have mixed or minced words. Always straightforward and forthright, no matter whose ox is gored or injured.
That is why he came out heavily on the so-called elite. He damned the consequences: “We are hearing about the restructuring of Nigeria; about secession; all sorts of things (sic). Who are the promoters of this rhetoric?”
He did not pretend to deceive himself: “These are elite of the country. They are right to say their minds, but they should also leave me to say my mind when the time is right.”
The time is right now. And you have brilliantly spoken your mind. No ambiguity in your exposition. It is well taken by friends and foes.
Arguably encouraged by Abdullahi, Hanga came calling two days later to kick start the month of September. He made his stern position in an interview with Daily Sun on Thursday, September 1, 2016. He was also direct:
“Even if they want the country divided, I welcome it. True to God, I welcome it. I will rather prefer we separate peacefully to fighting ourselves. One thing I will never support is fighting ourselves especially over religious division.”
He, too, is down-to-earth: “Rather than having internal crisis like religious or ethnic, I will prefer everybody goes his way. It will be better for everybody to go and start afresh.”
Ours won’t be new or an exception: “There are lots of countries that have separated and they are doing fine. I don’t want any crisis. People who are agitating and instigating people don’t know the implication of what they are doing.”
Just then, a third voice barged in. It was that of the elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, chairman, Northern Elders’ Council (NEC). He equally spoke deep from his mind:
“My support for Nigeria is informed by my belief that it is in the interest of every Nigerian for the country to remain united and indivisible.”
His reason: “Two things make a nation to be great, its size and population. The failure of Nigeria is that of leadership not that of Nigeria as a nation.”
He refused to stop at that. He hit hard at Abdullahi & Co: “I wonder if people like Ango Abdullahi have a plan, for example, for the North to reach out to the outsider world.” He asked them:
“What will be the better option for the people of the North? Is it for the North to remain part of the Nigerian federation or as a landlocked separate political entity?” That is the fear of the elder statesman.
Yakassai’s unsolicited intervention notwithstanding. You cannot easily fault Abdullahi and Hanga. They ought to have seen it, experienced it. They might have been informed by their frustrations on their efforts to make Nigeria and Nigerians get it right. That can be seriously sickening.
The duo left nobody in doubt of their disappointments. They actually poured out furiously, especially Abdullahi. They are tired of these threats and agitations.
That is why they chose to provoke the agitators without any fear. It was like a call to battle. The soul of Nigeria is up for grabs. They cared less if the unexpected happens; as long as that will bring peace. Theirs is peace by whatever means.
It has become a singsong: Who is afraid of negotiation? Who says we cannot be negotiated and navigated? We are no longer catching cold. Instead, it is spreading like Harmattan fire, even in the North. Real change is taking place here.
Sure! It is a welcome development; that we can be honest and talk frankly to ourselves. We are getting more serious now. These beats must go on. The tempo must not be slowed down by any means. The melody is good for our existence. Any attempt to derail will be suicidal. This issue should be resolved even now, anyhow, any way.
The battle for a (dis)united Nigeria continues. It must not be aborted. No excuse.