JA Control Panle

Peoples Daily

Home Columnist Monday Columnist South-west: Still the zone to watch (II)

South-west: Still the zone to watch (II)

E-mail Print PDF

Emmanuel Yawe

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The most enduring legacy of military intervention in our politics is the conversion of our federal structure to a unitary system. General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi started it all with the promulgation of Decree 34 which collapsed the federal structure into a unitary state. That singular act accelerated the demise of his government, hastened his death and put the country on a slippery route to a break-up.

Even though the succeeding military governments abolished that infamous decree, “the egg was broken”, in the words of General Hassan Usman Katsina, one of Ironsi’s regional military governors. Each military government after him paid lip service to federalism while running the country in the only tradition that is known to the military system of administration – regimental control and hierarchy of authority. The military governors were nothing but prefects of the man at the centre – appointed and controlled by him. Not even General Ibrahim Babangida (perhaps the most liberal military dictator we have had) who uses every opportunity to remind us that federalism is a non negotiable status of Nigerian life gave his governors the freedom to act as heads of the federating units.

When the country returned to democracy in 1999, a big blow was dealt to federalism with the election of a General who had ruled the country earlier under a unitary system as a military dictator. As an elected President, Olusegun Obasanjo had no time for dissent or independent lines of thinking and action from state governors. The evidence is there in Bayelsa, Oyo, Plateau, Benue, etc. But the South-west remains the biggest casualty of his medieval style of unitary government. The zone roundly rejected him at the polls in 1999. In the 2003 general elections, he served his revenge, sweet and cold. He used ethnic sentiments to sedate his tormentors and as they slept, he launched a swift military action to oust the governors who had humiliated him in 1999.

Amazingly, Lagos survived. Today, thanks to that act of survival, the south-west group that has always loathed Obasanjo has regained its strength. We are now back to the days when the Western Region proudly advertised itself as “the first” in every field of human endeavour in Nigeria. The records of the Lagos state government under Babatunde Fashola are such that no other state in Nigeria can dare compete with. The other ‘liberated states’ in the South-west are moving fast, using Lagos as a selling point to garner support. Only a fool can ignore the tremendous political advances of the South-west in these few months.

In my opinion, the South-west is the zone to watch because they have always placed a high premium on education. Beginning with the free education declaration in 1956 by the then Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, every succeeding government has kept it as a beacon. It has suffered several setbacks but it has remained very popular with the people and God save the politician or the governor who opposes it. It is not just mass education alone. In every field of academic endeavour today, you will find somebody from the South-west who is considered an authority, globally.

Compared with what we have up north, one can understand why the South-west is miles ahead of us. Here in the north, education is considered not a priority and treated with casual indifference. Look at Benue. For the past one year, public primary school teachers have been on strike and it does not bother the government or the governor. The governor, Gabriel Suswam, in fact, is himself in a mess with allegations that he falsified his secondary school certificates. Instead of clearing himself, he has mounted multiple legal obstacles from the customary court to the Supreme Court, blocking every scrutiny into the allegations.

In the north, illiteracy is even celebrated by some state governors. In 2006, there were several newspaper reports that said public funds, federal allocations to be more precise, were being stolen by agents of the Borno state government with links to the state governor, Modu Sherrif. A newspaper reporter confronted him and he quickly retorted that he was not bothered. His reason? Less than one percent of Borno indigenes were literate, he pointed out to the reporter. The newspapers could write what they wanted. Borno people did not know or care about the allegations! With such a mindset of a state governor, are we therefore surprised that Boko Haram started in Borno and Modu Sheriff himself is alleged to be the brain behind the group that is waging a bloody war against western education?

Even in the worst of times, no governor in the South-west will treat education with the benign indifference we have in Benue under the present state government; or the criminal celebration of illiteracy as we had in Borno under Modu Sheriff.

The South-south may not lay so much emphasis on education because there is so much oil there. The politicians and agitators from there have made their people believe that the oil is their own by right and all the wealth accruing from it should be their own. They don’t need to be educated or work before they are wealthy.
The South-easterners are exemplary merchants who make money from trading; just any kind of trade – legal or otherwise - that brings in quick bucks. I was shocked when in 2007 I met my Ibo friend and secondary school classmate who never went above that level. He was a multi-millionaire. When I asked him how business was going, he shocked me with a reply that he had just decided to close down his prosperous supermarket store. When I asked why, he told me bluntly that he was moving into kidnapping because that was what “is moving market now”!

Here are we in the North - left far behind in education, without oil and without the skills in trading or even kidnapping. How can we survive in this federation?

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger



FIFTEEN MINUTES  Umaru Yar’adua: Flashes in the dark

Find & Follows Us