Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the spokesman for the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), appears to be playing smart. He can pass for a master dissembler. His public avowals, in most cases, are diametrically opposed to his inner convictions. In other words, his real intentions are clearly masked. He wants you to believe what he does not mean. But his dissembling game has a reason. He indulges in it to gain advantage, to penetrate the opposite territory.
One area in which Baba-Ahmed has excelled in this regard is his frequent disapproval of the President Muhammadu Buhari order. He gives the impression, on behalf of the organisation he represents, that the Buhari presidency has failed Nigeria. He has had to say that Nigerians are disappointed by the woeful performance of Mr. President. He has expressed regret that the man whom many thought would turn the country around for the better has become its most wilful and unapologetic destroyer. Only recently, he said that NEF has regretted its endorsement of Buhari for the presidency. A Baba-Ahmed who has stopped at nothing to give vent to Buhari’s embarrassing performance could be taken to be forthright. But is he? A clearer understanding of the man and his disposition will easily reveal that his tactic is diversionary. He wants to lead us by the nose.
In recent weeks, the true state of mind of Baba-Ahmed is beginning to assume the centre stage. He can hardly hold back anymore. From his public utterances, you can easily discern the fact that the man is enjoying the Buhari disposition while trying to sell the opposite impression to the public. If there is anything that has given the man away, it is the ongoing debate and distemper over power shift to the South in 2023. We are aware of the insistence of the South to produce the next President of the country after the stupefying misrule of Buhari. To underline the seriousness of this matter, the Southern Governors’ Forum recently endorsed the clamour for power shift to the South in 2023. Those who have followed the jeremiads of Baba-Ahmed over the Buhari presidency had thought that the NEF spokesman would be sympathetic to that cause. But he is not. Instead, he has had cause to attack this southern position on 2023 presidency. He thought he could intellectualize the matter and divest it of its rawness when he held that the search for who becomes the President of Nigeria should be devoid of ethnicity and religion. He wants the best candidate to emerge. In other words, it is wrong, in his estimation, for any region, person or entity to lay claim to the presidency. He wants the race to be thrown open.
But his position has not been well received.
As the clamour rages, the man has continued to throw in more controversial interjections. He has told those opposed to his position that heaven will not fall if the North retains power after Buhari. He has also argued that the North has numerical advantage over the South and should, therefore, not play second fiddle in matters of who becomes the President of the country. For him, the North can hold on to power in perpetuity, if it so wishes.
This is the true Baba-Ahmed talking. From his latest offerings, we are beginning to see a man who is being goaded on by Buhari’s absolute rule. In Buhari’s Nigeria, the South of the country has become, more or less, a vassal territory to be preyed upon by northern feudal lords. Under this order, might has become right. Gun-toting marauders who enjoy the cover of the state are reigning supreme. The fear of these bloodsuckers has become the beginning of wisdom in the South and parts of the Middle Belt. The Buhari order is meant to cow the South and weaken it to the point of stupor. The ploy and plot is to make the South a mere footstool for the North. The likes of Baba-Ahmed are taking sardonic delight in this vexatious order.
Baba-Ahmed is also claiming that the North has the numbers that can guarantee it the presidency for keeps. Is this really the case? We must recognize that the much-vaunted numerical strength of the North is a recent invention forced upon the country by Attahiru Jega. As chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), part of Jega’s plot was to reduce the voting strength of southern states while increasing that of the North. It was under Jega that we began to see many northern states returning millions of votes while the South goes home with just thousands of votes. The present chairman of INEC, Mahmoud Yakubu, has since borrowed a leaf from the Jega contraption. He employed that formula to give Buhari a second term victory. The Baba-Ahmeds of the North are enjoying this fraudulent order. They want it perpetuated. They believe that the surest way to make it a permanent order is to have another northerner succeed Buhari. They fear that a southern president could torpedo the arrangement that has given the North an advantage over the South.
A clear-eyed look at what Nigeria is going through since Buhari became President presents us with a country that is being reinvented by its new overlords. Before Buhari, Nigerians were trying to build a formidable country where tribe and tongue can only play a tangential role in its affairs. The people were managing the country’s diversity with appreciable dexterity. But all that has changed. Buhari came on the scene and plotted a coup against a section of the country. He saw his ascent to power as an opportunity to give advantage to his Fulani brothers wherever they may come from. His maximum rule is skewed against the South. This state of affairs is being resisted by the oppressed people of the South. They are asking for an equitable and egalitarian Nigeria. But the oppressors, represented by the Baba-Ahmeds of the North, do not want that. They want Nigeria to be run like a fiefdom.
I have said time and time again in this column that the real enemies of Nigeria are those who are defending and explaining away the nepotism that Buhari is working hard to enthrone in our body politic. By suggesting, as Baba-Ahmed is doing, that the presidency should be taken away from zoning and be thrown open is to sacrifice Nigeria to the hawks. It could bring about a rat race that is capable of taking Nigeria to the gallows. Anybody who loves the country will not advocate that.