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Northern leaders: Politics without nerves

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Garba Shehu


A senior member of the legal     profession from the South-         western part of Nigeria told me two things about Northern political leaders.



“Two things you must be sure about. One, there is a system of dictatorship in the country and you must stand up to fight for your rights. You don’t appease the oppressor or dictator but you fight him.

"Two, political leaders in the North must learn a thing or two from those of us in the South-west. We don’t suffer the under-dog. Look at what Asiwaju (Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu) is doing to defend himself. Your leaders in the North must be ready to suffer deprivation. That is the only way they (can) protect themselves from the type of humiliation they suffer”.

The gentleman had called in reaction to the Column “Goje Arrives His Hated Destination” and described to me how “cowards” will continue to suffer selective trial and detention in this country so long as they remain unprepared to rise up to defend their rights. He was careful to make exception to the former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar who had 28 court cases going for and against him in various courts in a period of six months between 2007 and 2007. To be counsel to a man like that at that time itself took a lot of courage because lawyers who took sides with him suffered deprivation and were constantly mindful of their security in order not to fall prey to attacks from government quarters.

Our governors today have a powerful lobby in Abuja – in the National Assembly and the Party and for some time now, they are the ones running the country and so if anyone has power to change the unwanted situation in which the ICPC and EFCC descend on governors selectively, they know what to do. The system of government in the country is itself not far different from what government was in the Roman times whence provinces were farmed out to governors who paid for their jobs and then recompensed themselves by looting at will.

The difference this country makes to Rome is that after having paid their dues, as Goje, Akala, and Doma had done at the primary and general elections, the one calling the shots will still not halt the hatchet man going after them.

Now going by this experience, what then these leaders need to do is to adopt a far more seeing political policy. You can’t be a leader of a country which political geography you do not understand. Goje and other leaders must talk to political science lecturers to get their understanding right. A country where two of six geo-political regions - the North-west and the South-west - alone have 53% of the population and representation in parliament at the centre should not lend itself to the kinds of shenanigans and latent provincialism that we are witnessing today.

What Northern leaders have always failed to realize is that docility does not inspire respect; it produces contempt instead. In 2007, former President Obasanjo single-handedly imposed a sick Yar’adua on the nation to suit his malicious private agenda and only a few Northern leaders dared to oppose him. Obasanjo imposed power shift on his own terms in 2007; the late Yar’adua was not the choice of Northerners who had stronger candidates to do the job. Obasanjo was looking for the sickest candidate from the North and the late Yar’adua fitted his agenda. Yar’adua himself rose to the bait out of sheer ambition, despite the knowledge that his choice by Obasanjo was intended to ridicule and weaken the North. It didn’t matter to Yar’adua that sickness is like poverty – it cannot be disguised for too long!

It was evident that Obasanjo had a longstanding agenda to kill zoning after being its beneficiary for eight years. As a result, he had to look for a candidate who was severely hobbled by ill-health. This conspiracy against the North was obvious to its leaders but most of them lacked the moral courage to stand up to Obasanjo and reject his decision to impose a candidate on the country.

As English statesman, Edmund Burke, said “the concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear.” Despite their misgivings about Yar’adua’s state of health to perform effectively in office, Northern leaders succumbed to Obasanjo’s blackmail. The EFCC was his willing and ready tool to force dissidents into line. Northern leaders forgot, however, that it is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees! The moral hypocrisy of Obasanjo is enough ammo to stand up to him. Alas, Northern leaders overlooked the ultimate consequences of cowardice.

It is highly unthinkable if Obasanjo would have imposed a presidential candidate on the South-west as he did on the North without encountering stout resistance. Look at how the people of Oyo state rose to the challenge posed by this type of imposition. The state of Oyo is inhabited by 1,800,000 people. Of this number, 1,700,000 consider themselves as native to Ibadan and the rest 100,000 Ogbomosho. The former President tried out his imposition on them by instituting a reign of Ogbomosho over the rest but he could barely sustain it for a single term of four years. The Ibadan took it in their stride, of course, with a lot of pain. The election early this year gave them an opportunity to sack the unwanted order and put in its place one that they wanted.

Former Foreign Minister, Dr. Ojo Maduekwe, was Obasanjo’s candidate for appointment in the Jonathan administration but the Igbos courageously resisted his imposition by the former President. That was how former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, emerged as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Can the North defend their dignity when their leaders behave like chocolate soldiers at the feet of oppressors? Political leaders of the South-west and South-east waste no time whenever they perceive any instances or cases of marginalization of their people in public appointments. Northern leaders, however, usually maintain credible indifference or passivity to the interest of their people in the political affairs of the country.

How can leaders command respect when they lack the courage to stand up to protect the interest of their people? Surely, Northern leaders must open their eyes and throw away their supine posture in the face of challenges affecting their people within the context of new political realities.

Comments (2)Add Comment
written by Mustapha, November 01, 2011
Malam Garba,
what do you expect from people that do not know what justice is all about? All these bunches parading themselves as northern leaders go and check out how they rule their house (unjusticely) talkless of the society in general. Provided they are not fair and just in dealing with their subjects, I assured you the worse will come to them. When they will see apparently see their wives voting from candidates from south eas or south west during the forth coming election in 2015. Just remember the 2011 post election violence, than you will understand what I mean. How dare do you imagine people going to emirs palace to burn them in Northern Nigeria, so, you know it completely out of control. And 2015 will be worse, becouse of the motivation from the Arabs. As they said, a word is enough for the wise
All the leaders are docile
written by DanTal, November 02, 2011
Malam Garba, I don't agree much with you today. There are docile leaders in all parts of the country. Is it not the same northern leaders that forced Obasanjo on the country even though the same south-westerners rejected him? South-easterners did not vote for people like Andy Uba, but he is now a senator, and they can hardly come together to 'demand' for the presidency of the country, because every south-easterner wants to be president. We've seen how their senate presidents were used and dumped by OBJ. If the 2011 post-election violence is anythng to go by, then northern talaka will defend himself in any way. The only hitch is that politicians will make sure it is reverse into ethno-religious crisis, as they instigated in 2011 election.

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