We have just had June 12 on Friday, it lacked verve. It was bound to be so. The northern politicians who have dominated power since we got independence in 1960 know how to kill an idea that doesn’t suit their fancy. Whatever they want they add pep but when it is not in line with their core interest, they develop subtle but very efficient way to water down the effects or kill it outright.
If you want examples I will give you few since this is not the focus of our intervention today. See the matter of constitutional conference to strengthen out rough edges and set the country on the path of progressive development. It has become like a journey in the wilderness, going round familiar terrain several times. Right now on this very vital matter we are permanently encamped round the mountain with leaders of the north telling us they don’t understand the concept let alone what it holds for the country.
The other is the Petroleum Industry Bill. We have been on it without a head way. We are still on it. The north came up with the North East Development Commission Bill, got it debated and passed into law in a record time. South East Development Commission Bill is still in the legislative pipeline; that is, if it has not been abandoned. Last week, leader of the Miyetti Allah Haute Kore association said they have started establishing vigilante groups across all parts of the country. As you read this we are yet to get a response from the authorities; not even those in charge of security saw reason to issue a statement. Imagine for one minute, if it the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) had made the statement. See what Northern leaders have made of the Amnesty Program and Niger Delta Development Commission, which were initially designed to be under presidential supervision. The way things are now, those two may soon run aground, particularly the NDDC, where the supervisory minister is turning into the Minister of the NDDC instead of the Niger Delta Affairs.
The June-12 celebration would have been left at the level of Abiola Freedom Day. Now it has to compete with May 29 and October 1 the authentic National Day. What has happened is that none of the three dates commands high level attention any more. Who loses? The country and her people, of course. Bottom line of the June 12 is electoral victory and its annulment by the powers that be at the time. Riding roughshod over people’s desire has never been an easy game or adventure under any circumstances, civil or dictatorship. It is a fact the truncation of that electoral process was done by the military, yet the truth is, it was a military set up overwhelmingly dominated by persons from Moslem north. The military from what we know is a branch of the political class, they have root in politics, and play politics, otherwise revenge coup would not have been and perhaps the very brutal nature it assumed would also not have been.
Those who stopped Abiola, were his friends and fellow collaborators. They have told us part of reasons they did so was “because they feared “their people” were not ready for a president of southern extraction.” Who are “their people” since ordinary northerners voted for Abiola? Getting to decode that would help us know if what we have been up against is a systematic challenge or whims and caprices of few demented beings. Isa Funtua in a chat with ARISE television let us into the mindset of the core conservative northerner establishment when he spoke on the Abiola matter: “He was close to us, every of our ceremony he would be there and give money.” He didn’t say why Abiola saw the throne and couldn’t sit on it. He spoke about Ndigbo and late Dr Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President of the country of Igbo origin.
“We advised President Shehu Shagari to pick Ekwueme as his deputy. He was very good and loyal. We loved him for that. He was a gentleman. He nursed the ambition to succeed his boss, and then the military struck and changed everything. Ekwueme and Shagari were arrested, Ekwueme was kept in prison and President Shagari was kept under house arrest in Lagos. I knew the place. Ekwueme was very angry; he thought Shagari was allowed to go home to Sokoto while he remained in prison. From that point he became angry with the North. At the Constitutional Conference we northerners wanted to hold meeting in his hotel room, he said no. By then he wanted only his people. He had changed. He was no longer the Ekwueme we knew. We said okay we will wait for him. When he wanted to be president we said no.”
Can someone see basis for national leadership choices? One has to lose his sense of identity, undergo total transfiguration to be qualified. Ekwueme had no right to be traumatized by preferential treatment since he was of a lower race of the conquered people, with apologies to the George Flodys of this world.
Who in the east did Shagari visit to become President of Nigeria? How many groups and persons did Buhari know intimately from the East or West before he became President? Funtua said an Igbo can’t be the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress: “They are not in; if they want they should come in.” In a sense he could be correct but in what he is correct may not be politically expedient. If you desire to build a whole, the vision should be encompassing. North was not ready for independence in 1956, others had to wait. The Westerners were not in People Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999, the country left correctness to choose Obasanjo as presidential candidate and subsequently president.
Talking down on a people or subjugating them may look good to the oppressors but in the end every one emerges a loser. Our experience confirms this, and the American case is another. For oppressed groups in the country my advice is a simple but potent one: “There is no end to slavery without bravery.” No man leaves advantage just because it is morally right to do, in most he is forced to do so and to realize later why things had to go the way they did.