Opinion: Hakeem Baba Ahmed: The Politics Of Numbers And First Class Position
The political configuration of the nation gives Northern Nigeria undue advantage over other regions. This must be stated for emphasis and without fear or contradiction. When it comes to number of states and local governments; the north has majority. So also is the Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituency representation at the National Assembly. In as much as politics is a game of numbers, the Northern political elites are very much aware of this basic truth and are proud to exploit it to their advantage any time; any where with no apologies. They have easily, always utulised it as a weapon to make political statements. When it comes to politicking, northern Nigeria understood when and how to pull the strings. Unlike other regions, they audaciously pursue their political agenda with daring vigour and unity of purpose. The south is very much aware of this development but it seems there is nothing much they could do to balance the trend. Therefore, the entire south has chosen to live with the ugly reality. The genuine demand for restructuring and fiscal federalism has been frustrated by this theory and politics of number. Justice, equity and fairness have been slaughtered as a result. Now, the nation is in its worst state for the reason of numbers. The empty rhetoric of demand for power shift to the south by governors is clouded in the veil of the same elites angling for Vice Presidential position. One will not be surprised to see the two dominant political parties present northern candidates to win simply for the same reason of numbers. Numbers to politicians be they from Enugu or Sokoto; Ijesha or Bayelsa is a tool for wining elections, remaining in power and being relevant. The statement of fact confidently, eloquently, loudly and proudly delivered by Hakeem Baba Ahamed of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has rattled the entire south. At the maiden Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture Series organised by the students wing of Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Baba Ahmed sent a poignant message from his Arewa people. Delivering a keynote address at the event, he said, “The North is not for sale and northerners will surprise those waiting for them to queue up in 2023 and be given money in exchange for their votes. Anyone who does not want a northerner as President should leave the country if one emerges. Continuing he said, “we will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before, whether we are President or Vice President, we will lead Nigeria. We have the majority of the votes and the democracy says vote whom you want. Why should we accept second class position when we know we can buy form and contest for first class and we will win? Why does anybody need to threaten us and intimidate us? We will get that power, but be humble because power comes from God. We inherited leadership, being honest is not being stupid. There are Nigerians who believe that because the economy of the North is being crumbled; we are running away from insecurity, we are politically vulnerable, they think they can buy us for 2023 but they are making a mistake.” This supposed lone voice if you like has echoed the minds of majority if not all northerners. He was not alone in this grand strategic plan. Expectedly, an elite support immediately sprung from the facebook page of former Senator Shehu Sani. In summary, Sani described Baba Ahmed’s commentary as “uncomfortable and inconvenient truth to those allergic to it.” A coalition of Northern Group has again lent their support. In fact, that platform was designed to air this view and Baba Ahmed fits into the character and model that could deliver the sucker punch and generate the media traffic. It worked out as planned. The north always deploy their aggressive position in asserting its views and position on national issues since independence. At the embryonic stage of our nationhood, they demanded for more seats at the Federal House of Representatives and also ‘Araba’ meaning divide Nigeria when it seemed they were losing out. In most cases, it is more of an arrogant threat or bully to other regions to comply with northern dictates. At the National Assembly, they employ the same tactics of numbers to frustrate any policy seen to be at variance with northern interests, beliefs and position. It has become a subterfuge. And they are winning. The north has succeeded in breaking the ranks of the south by planting stooges that always do their binding for personal gains. Needless to name names here. However, nothing stops other regions from having a genuine unifying agenda reflective of their aspirations which they could present as a force. The south have people like Baba Ahmed but it is one thing to say something and another to have overwhelming support of all the south. There is no semblance of unity of purpose. The cultural, political, religious and traditional tendencies in the south is their greatest undoing. The meeting of southern governors forum which birthed in Asaba on an optimistic note has already suffered a big blow with the attitude of some governors to the agenda. The poor attendance of governors of the south east at the last meeting in Enugu was abysmally shameful. The obvious absence of sitting governors in an important meeting in their zone tells more. With the governor of Imo state, Hope Uzodinma pulling out of the Anti-open grazing agreement, it remains to be seen the latest betrayal emanating from the southern leaders. The frustration of the south was echoed by Suyi Ayodele in a piece titled “Between Shehu Sani And Hakeem Baba-Ahmed”. It reads in part, “I write this piece with a very heavy heart because I am more than convinced that the South of Nigeria in particular, should not be where it is today. Whatever misfortune: political, economic or otherwise, we are suffering today is as a result of the burden the mistake of 1914 Amalgamation imposed on us. The inability of the south to stand up to the North politically, is the greatest burden any advanced region can impose on itself. We southerners have put ourselves in a position that makes it possible for characters like Baba-Ahmed to bounce us around like a mere football and for Sani to approve such despicable act. In all honesty, Baba-Ahmed and the group he speaks for are not to be blamed for whatever is the lot of the South in the present political predicament; and by further extension, what will be the lot of the region when the expected year of the Lord 2023, comes to being. What is happening to us now is akin to the analogy of the man who calls his carved calabash a broken one, only for his neighbours to turn it into a dirt-packing implement. Our cock long ago told the North’s fox that what is on its head is mere flesh and not fire that the fox, ab initio, thought it was. Today, the only delicacy the North’s fox relishes is the crown on the southern cock’s head. This is why, it is possible for a character like Baba-Ahmed to tell us that come 2023, the North will not play second fiddle, because it has the capacity to vie for the first position and win any election. And, sadly enough, they are right!”. One disappointing angle of this northern number is evident in the decay of infrastructure in the region. The number of out of school children in Nigeria came mostly from the north. The poverty level ravaging the north is a source of worry. It is on record that even with the number, most northern states except Kaduna can barely survive without federal allocation. Insecurity, diseases and maternal mortality rated are high in the north. Norrhern leaders were never held accountable for using, and dumping the north. The question is what is number without corresponding development? Those brandishing number as a weapon to win elections are the elites who have fed fat and are feeding fat with the said numbers to the detriment of the larger numbers. They erect mansions and cruise in luxury cars in neighhourhoods tarred with poverty and want. They educate their children abroad and position them for next generation leaderships to the detriment of the other numbers. The number of the north like that of China should be a productive number. It should not only serve as a political vehicle to winning elections and place the elites on national and global maps. Meanwhile, after the number had produced the electoral results; that Almahiri roaming the street should be a beneficiary of this number. So also the woman who treks miles to access basic maternal health care.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Communication Specialist writes via [email protected] and could be reached on 08060901201