Northern governors just raised the political stakes

October 12, 2012
3 mins read

In the lead to the endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan as the PDP’s candidate for the 2011 election, I wrote a piece for my old Daily Trust column, arguing that by supporting Jonathan, Northern Governors were unwittingly, taking the region to Northern Cameroun.

The chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Aliyu Babangida, replied directly at the PDP rally at Eagle Square that they won’t take the North to Northern Cameroun, but ensure the region’s continued relevance in the scheme of things.

Taking the North to Northern Cameroun was a comparison to the fate of Northern Cameroun, after President Ahmadou Ahidjo was conned out of power by French imperialism, and Paul Biya ascended power. Northern governors have become increasingly unpopular and alienated from the aspirations and hope of their people. The problem was not simply because they supported Jonathan, but largely because they were seen as having failed to use the huge resources accruing to better the conditions of the North.

It was, therefore, no surprise that they could no longer converge in Kaduna, for their meetings. It became hostile political territory and they found refuge in the Niger State governor’s lodge in the safe remove of Abuja. More than most, Babangida Aliyu realises their alienation from the people and in recent times has championed the need to move closer to the aspirations and feeling of Northerners.

This background is very interesting given the communiqué of their meeting last week. They had met against the background of plans to amend the nation’s constitution. The standout issues were their rejection of state police; call for the retention of the immunity clause; rejection of recognition of the six geo-political zones; a call for the review of the on shore-off shore legislation; an end to a national minimum wage and the plan to set up a committee to study the Petroleum Industry Bill as well as efforts to step up peace building and reconciliation in the North.

It was predictable that the position of the Northern Governors would elicit the normal anger, insults and threats from circles in the South. This is especially related to the onshore-offshore oil revenue; state police and ‘geo-political zones’. They are emotive issues in the South, with oil-bearing states never going to contemplate reduction of inflows of funds. Some groups have even threatened secession in response to the Northern Governors demand for review of the law. The Ghali Na’abah-led House of Representatives was massively bribed by governors from the Niger Delta to pass the law and today, the North feels short-changed! How they hope to achieve reversal, given willingness in the Niger Delta to unleash violence in response, remains to be seen.

Veritable tool of blackmail

It is equally interesting, that ‘geo-political zones’ seem to mean a lot to the political elite, especially in Eastern Nigeria, where it was conceived and imposed on Nigeria, by Dr. Alex Ekwueme. It has become a veritable tool of blackmail in the hands of the Igbo political elite. They deliberately develop amnesia about the origin of the idea. When Ekwueme conceptualised it, he seemed to have forgotten the number of ‘Igbo states’, created out of the old Eastern Region.

They elite then turn around to protest that “South East” is “disadvantaged” in the number of states in the “zone”. Yet, the truth is that states were not created on the basis of Ekwueme’s “geo-political zones.” In fact, apart from the five “Igbo states,” there are four other states in the old Eastern Region.

This is the fact they desperately twist with loads of emotional blackmail! And on the basis of the “zones”, Igbo bourgeois politicians hope to ride to power, in a ‘turn-by-turn’ manner. It was also the basis of the suggestion for a single term of five years.This platform rejects democratic politics and the related consensus building at its heart.

The Northern Governors position might disable this carefully designed Southern political Humpty Dumpty! It is absurd to ask for the abrogation of national minimum wage, when they have refused to reject the huge salaries and emoluments set for them centrally! It is equally a self-serving demand to shield corruption, in my view, to seek retention of the immunity clause. This mixed bag of demands has certainly raised the stakes.

But the central point is for the Northern Governors to abandon their self-serving opportunism, which Babangida Aliyu recognised, to move closer to the aspirations of the North and of Nigeria, for responsible leadership able to reign-in greed and deliver democratic development!

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