I cannot vouch for its veracity, but I have heard it from several sources; it was said that after the inauguration of the civilian dispensation in 1999, the old despot, Olusegun Obasanjo, commissioned a secret study. It was to understand comprehensively, how Paul Biya, the long-standing dictator of Cameroun, dealt with the people of the Northern part of Cameroun, after the ouster of the founding president of the country, Alhaji Ahmadou Ahidjo. So complete has been the alienation of Northern Cameroun, that statistics show that the North of Cameroun is the most underdeveloped with high illiteracy and infant mortality rates. Since 1982, President Paul Biya has maintained a stranglehold which has seen Northern Cameroun play second fiddle in the affairs of the country. Following his incarceration by General Abacha, Obasanjo came back to power apparently determined to also carry out a humiliation of Northern Nigeria; and in his eight years in power he traveled that route in so many ways. This was the context within which the story about a secret study emerged from.
Pursuit to that agenda Obasanjo initially attempted to become Nigeria’s perpetual dictator through the Third Term Agenda; when that failed, he deliberately imposed a sick Umaru Yar’adua as president, calculating cynically, that his health will not withstand the rigours of presidency. And it did not! In the aftermath power surreptitiously returned to the South, with the ascension of Goodluck Jonathan (this was the long-term plan of the old despot, Obasanjo!). The nonsense that Goodluck’s spin doctors have been spewing about a so-called “divine” origin of their man’s presidency, merely sidesteps the nature of power and its use. Obasanjo’s cynical manipulation of the levers of power remains central to understanding what is taking place in Nigeria today. In recent weeks, he made a public transition from “Do-or-Die politics” to a more sinister variant which he christened “Operation Totality”. The essence remains to deliver a Goodluck Jonathan presidency, in January 2011, by trampling on Northern Nigeria and destroying any extant decencies upon which Nigerian ruling class politics has attempted to construct consensus over the past thirty years.
Unfortunately for Northern Nigeria, the greatest enemies of the region might not even be Obasanjo or Goodluck Jonathan but its self-centered, self-serving governors. The political maneuverings of the past few months have shown beyond doubt, that the governors, with maybe a few exceptions, are in fact the main problem facing our people today. If they are not deepening the underdevelopment of Northern Nigeria, they place their personal interests above the collective. Our governors voted to uphold zoning within the PDP, but in one of those bizarre turns of political self-interest, Gabriel Suswam, Isa Yuguda and Ibrahim Shema chose to trample underfoot the interest of the North, as regional “co-ordinators” for Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign. Suswam had initially prodded former PDP chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, to publicly announce that power was still zoned to the North when Umaru Yar’adua died, and he was promptly sacked by Goodluck Jonathan. Yuguda is the by word for opportunism: disgraced out of the PDP but liberated by the people of Bauchi. We all know the irresponsible turn his political career has taken, including the return to PDP; desperate somersault before Jonathan Goodluck in betrayal of the North. And finally, the unsteady political grasp of Shema in Katsina; Shema is the quintessential political lightweight.
The total abandonment of decency by our governors reached a head this week, when Jonathan pressured Aliyu Babangida, the Niger state governor, to void a meeting of Northern Governors. The chairman of the Northern Governors chose to secure a second term ticket, through kow-towing to the blackmail of the presidency than standing for the interest of the region that he leads. This is vintage political opportunism! These governors are not bothered about the consequences of their actions. What matters is the here and now; retaining personal power for another four years, while on a long term historical scale, taking Northern Nigeria down the route of Northern Cameroun! They are negotiating away political power, because if Goodluck Jonathan is allowed to win PDP’s ticket, he will rig the elections and be in power for two terms, till 2019! That is the simple truth! It is not for nothing that he dismissed the security leadership, to impose his own yes men, as Alhaji Abubakar Tsav highlighted in the media last week. I wrote on this page in 2008, when Umaru Yar’adua was hospitalized in Germany, that Goodluck Jonathan’s handlers brag secretly that they will bide their time and not only end Yar’adua’s term of four years but also do two four-year terms. We have now arrived at that point!
For those who have chosen to forget or do not know, may we remind that historically, the political weight of Northern Nigeria within the Nigerian federation has always been opposed by determined political foes. One of the central issues of our politics since independence in 1960 has been the systematic effort to dismember the North and render it a weak and ineffective part of Nigeria, using its fault lines of religion and ethnicity. For a long time, a highly responsible Northern leadership was able to face down these foes and largely maintain the region’s cohesion and political unity. But its malcontents never stopped actively promoting the forces of division within Northern Nigeria. Since 1999, the weaknesses of the North have become even clearer with a determined foe like Obasanjo and unfortunately, the North’s own irresponsible leadership recruitment process has played a central role in the deepening political humiliation of the region. Our leaders abandoned the Northern tradition of honest and principled politics; greed and self interest overthrew fidelity to collective aspiration; elders traded away the present and future of our people, for as long as they can get access to power which allowed them to continue wasteful personal consumption patterns; while the younger elements have forgotten our recent political history, have lost sense of community and have developed an alarming inferiority complex as well as throwing up characters like Saminu Turaki, who presided over the underdevelopment of his state, just as he handed billions of naira (by his own confession!) to Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Uba, in support of Obasanjo’s Third Term Agenda!
Frankly, the time has come for the people to stand up to be counted. If the North does not want to suffer the fate of Northern Cameroun, it must decisively defeat these opportunists in January’s election. These governors should be thrown out of power along with their PDP. They must be taught a lesson that their personal interest cannot be more important than those of the peoples of Northern Nigeria. If Goodluck Jonathan is not stopped, then Northern Nigeria will be worse than Northern Cameroun, by the time they finish with the region. This is the task which faces the North in the present circumstance: stop the PDP governors and Goodluck Jonathan or earn a fate worse than that of Northern Cameroun! It should also be made clear that the corrupt political elite in the North have been taken hostage but the people must rise to the challenge of averting the fate of Northern Cameroun.