Published on Jan 04, 2018 Greenbarge Reporters
I would like rely on some ancient words of a wise king who once said, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven”. Yes, there is a time to be quiet. There is a time to be loud; a time to be politically correct in the interest of peace. And there is a time to refrain from political correctness and speak truth to power in public interest. And this should include a time to tell our best friends the truth and nothing but the truth, especially the one to set them free from unnecessary fear. I am therefore fully persuaded that it is time to tell our friends, especially in the far North, some plain truth about Nigeria. Yes, Nigeria whose destiny all of us are gambling with at the moment.
For the record, I have more friends in the North. I have had some personal relationship with the North that spanned about three decades. My professional profile was remarkably shaped in December 1990 when the premier newspaper in Abuja owned by investors from the North appointed me Editor of their newspaper, The Abuja Newsday. I once narrated part of the remarkable story of the first newspaper in the nation’s capital here. I had then noted that Alhaji Bukar Zarma, former editor of New Nigerian who hails from Borno state, set up the newspaper and appointed all the editors without consideration for religion and ethnicity. The Chairman of the Board of Directors was Alhaji Hassan Adamu, Wakilin Adamawa.
The title Editor, Nick Dazang, is a Christian from Plateau State. The News Editor was Jackson Ekwugum, a Christian from Delta State. The Chief Sub-Editor, Dennis Mordi hails from Delta State too. The Features Editor, Clement Wasah, is a Christian from the Federal Capital Territory. The Sports Editor then was Samuel (Samm) Audu, who hails from Zaria, Kaduna State. There were others. In December 1990, there was a cabinet shake-up and yours sincerely was appointed Editor from Lagos Bureau chieftaincy title.
My life as a journalist has since been significantly affected by my stint with the capital’s premier newspaper that the Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) regime closed down in the wake of June 12 election crisis in 1993! And this beat has taken me to every nook and cranny in the North since 1988.
This is just a modest way of saying that there is a sense in which I can claim that I am quite familiar with events and developments in the northern region. Most of my best friends and mentors are from the North. Some of the most remarkable sources and resources I have had in my professional life, are from there. What is more, I have done more journalistic legworks in the North and Abuja than any other parts of the country. So, there is also a sense in which I can claim that I am a friend of the North.
That exactly is the reason I have to devote this piece (of advice) to the power elite in the significant region, who will be in the eye of Nigeria’s political storm again sooner than later because the bells are beginning to toll already for 2019 elections. The northern elite are like their counterparts in any parts of the country: they don’t vote. They may not register as members of any political party. But they wield enormous powers in coordinating the poor masses to register and vote for candidates of their (elite’s) choice.
Power elite, as conceptualised by a sociologist C.Wright Mills in 1956, is used in loose sense here to depict the elite corps members in the North who continue to wield powers, who mobilise the wretched their strange politics has massively created.
All told, this is not a time for intellectual masturbation we always indulge in, especially in the media. It is indeed a time to see the elite ‘theory’, in this context, as explaining the power relationships in contemporary northern society. The ‘theory’ posits that a small minority, consisting of members of the economic elite and policy-planning networks, holds the most power and that this power (is not so) independent of a state’s democratic elections process.
According to Mills, the eponymous “power elite” are those that occupy the dominant positions, in the dominant institutions (military, economic and political) of a dominant country, and their decisions (or lack of decisions) have enormous consequences, not only for a country (such as U.S) population but, “the underlying populations of the world.”
We need to understand that the elites have intellectual, moral, and material superiority that is highly esteemed and influential in organized societies. In 2013, I had some useful discussion with Dr. Wale Babalakin on the role of the elite in a society and the implications of their docility. He promised to do an article on it for me as editor… He has been ‘too elitist’ to deliver on his promise, though he has been delivering other services as he built and is operating Nigeria’s best local airport, MMA2 through his purpose-driven B1-Courtney.
There is no debating the fact that most members of the Nigerian elite corps have been very greedy and complicit in the conspiracies and politicking that have kept the country under-developed. Most of the public intellectuals among them have been, above all things, desperately dishonest. They most often deny that they are part of the ruling class. They want to pose as part of those ruled. They don’t get interested in organising even non-governmental organizations to examine the problems of societies and build active citizenry. They don’t even register to vote. But when, according to my brother, Fela Durotoye, their complacency allows the unelectable, incompetent to be elected through the ignorant, uneducated poor, they step forward for spoils of office, notably appointments accepted from mediocrities in power.
But specifically, let’s leave the national council of the Nigerian elite and speak eloquently to the ruling and the ruled elite in the North who are again perfecting strategy to return President Muhammadu Buhari to power in 2019. Most of us, especially their friends in the sphere of amateur political risk analysis need to tell them now that this 2019 is the last chance they have to redeem their image.
When it is time to insist on the turn of the North to fill quota, they insist so strategically that no one can stand in their way. This is being done within a very complex diversity we always fail to recognise as some sensitivity. One is not too sure of whether they (the elite) retain political risk analysts within their fold to tell them the implications of their actions within the (nation’s) polity. There have been so many contentious issues. But let’s examine some of the most critical ones that have formed some complex perception index in other parts of the country that political correctness has prevented from the mainstream media.
A counter elite corps is emerging in the country because most members believe in some inconvenient truth that the North has been unable to help itself out of its political cocoon. Another side of the uncomfortable degree of truth is that the far North is against even sustainable development in the region, no thanks to the elite that have failed and refused to develop quantitative and qualitative education in the area. Thus, there is a large pool of illiterate citizens, useful only for elections of who-ever they want in power. There was a recent credible publication to the effect that N15 billion worth of Almajiri integrated model schools built during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan had deteriorated. The model schools were built then to tackle the high rate of illiteracy in the northern region. But the project has failed according to an exclusive report by Daily Trust (November 27, 2017). This is part of the issues that under-develop the region while the rapacious elite quietly send their children to the best schools abroad.
Another inconvenient truth that makes this discussion timely is that the far north has so far failed to bring out its best for election to the highest office in the federation. Now the coast is clear and we can see that they(northern elite) are not interested in the development of the region, they are enthusiastic only about who can win election in 2019. This is intriguing. And so it is tragic to note that there are very educated, knowledgeable and organised members of the elite that the ruthless establishment would always like to destroy instead of supporting them for national leadership from the region. They always don’t encourage youth leadership development and succession arrangement. The corrupt elements in the region’s elite corps have failed to develop their best brains for national public offices.
Alas, a few competent ones, who have shown interest and have been tested, have sadly been demonised by a dangerous cabal within the ruling elite. They have failed to encourage their best including the Abubakar Umars, the Sanusi Lamido Sanusis, the Nuhu Ribadus. There have been more promising leaders that their cabals have always demonised instead of supporting (them) as their brand ambassadors in the federation.
Now, let’s agree that the north deserves a second term in 2019. But why should the candidate be General Buhari who was Petroleum Resources Minister 40 years ago and Head of State 34 years ago?
Therefore, the powerful elite in the north should note that the reason agitation for restructuring has become a recurrent issue is frustration with the way the current leadership has been wasteful and lethargic about national integration and development issues. What is worse, it is frustrating that the North cannot confront its frontline leaders and powers including president Buhari now: that they have to step aside. Apparently, President Buhari has some integrity and charisma that the north used in enticing us in 2015. But it is now clear that he is too frail and too old to run again. But the ‘tragedy of the present ambush is that nobody in the region has the courage to confront General Buhari about his frailty nurtured by failing health and old age. The ruling elite in the North are aware that the president is too old to run but they too need his name, his connection to the ignorant and poverty-ridden voters to remain in power. And the audacity of this grand deceit within the northern elite is that they don’t have electable people anymore in the region.
Yes, there may not be too many prominent candidates that can easily garner the Buhari’s 12 million votes but there are far more significant leaders in the region that can be supported to run Nigeria better than President Buhari. Clearly, the last two and half years have shown that President Buhari’s integrity has been massively overrated. Besides, he lacks dynamic capabilities to plan and develop a team for operational efficiency. And if the north would like the rest stakeholders to continue with one Nigeria, as the glimmer of hope of the black race, they should step into the rain and look at other stakeholders who are weeping (in the rain) so that their tears cannot be seen at the moment. Yes, tears in the rain that some people are already planning another four years for a man who at 75 now, is clearly too frail and too old to run Nigeria that is failing in his hand at the moment. We will (by His grace) continue these discussion points next week! I would like to wish all followers of Inside Stuff column a prosperous and fear-free 2018.
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