Vultures and Hornbills of the North

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From Suyi Ayodele

In my place, we say one vegetable does not chase another out of the plate. South-South’s Edikang ikong soup is a practical illustration of that saying on inclusiveness. Has northern Nigeria ever heard of this other saying among the Yoruba?: Should Ogedengbe (Ijesha war General) be tending his ware of beads while Aduloju (Ado Ekiti war leader) is exhibiting his guns and bullets at same time? (Sé é ye kí Ògèdèngbé maà pa àte ìlèkè, kí Adúlójú maá pa àte ìbon ní Adó Èwí?). This caution speaks to war-baiting and the two warriors’ capacities to inflict maximum damages if war breaks out. Almost all of northern Nigeria is facing existential problems today. That should be enough soup on their plate there, but no. Their hunter, with an elephant on his head, is busy digging for crickets of agencies and departments. Security should be of prime importance to the leaders of the region instead of knocking their heads on the wall over inconsequential issues of relocation of some government agencies and parastatals from Abuja to Lagos.

The North is angry with the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The region’s anger, misplaced and infantile as it is, should not be treated with levity, especially by an ambitious person like President Tinubu. It is certain that the North will not wean itself of its perilous selfishness easily, and anytime soon! That is embarrassing, given the level of poverty in the region. By now, it should be common knowledge to southern Nigerians that the last nationalist lives down South. In all the northern elite’s calculations, Nigeria is secondary whenever northern interest or agenda is concerned. For an average leader of the North, the ‘region’ comes first before the entity known as Nigeria. But that has not translated to the economic or social development of the zone. The North still remains a region where the majority live in abject poverty and deprivation, and a very few live in affluence. That is the contrast of the north and in the north. So, who do the north’s elite speak for whenever they mouth “marginalisation of the north?”

Anytime the North is out of power at the centre, it sings songs of war. The only thriving business of the region is the government. The poverty in the zone takes the back seat as long as the power equation is concerned. The leaders up there have started singing the usual war song. Led by its new day ‘commander-in-chief of northern interest, Senator Alli Ndume of Borno State, the north has warned President Tinubu that his decision to relocate some departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) from Abuja to Lagos, would have “political consequences.” Tinubu is a politician. Most politicians, especially in this season of the locusts, are greedy. They hardly finish their breakfast before asking what will be served for lunch and dinner. It is obvious to the blind that President Tinubu has his eyes fixed on his second term. It doesn’t matter if he has not even completed the first year of his first four-year term. Or, if his first eight months in office have been rudderless and disastrous on virtually all fronts. It is useless advising the president to focus on governance first and leave second term.

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The North knows this, and that is why it has come out with the threat. How does one advise President Tinubu at this period? The counsel of our elders in this regard is that no one advises his relation not to aspire to inherit his father’s chieftaincy title. So, President Tinubu has every reason to be worried about the “political consequences” of his decisions on CBN and FAAN. Ndume is like the proverbial tadpole dancing on the surface of the water. We all know that its drummers are beneath. This time around, the drummers are obvious and audacious. The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), and the Arewa Youth Forum (AYF) are all out with their proverbs of war. If you ask me what my reaction is, I will tell you straight on that Ndume and his gang are like the goat that scratches the ground with its hoofs. It cannot, and will not devour its owner.

If there is any time President Tinubu has my support 100 per cent in the last eight months, it is on the decision to move those CBN and FAAN departments to Lagos. The threat from the North becomes irrelevant here, for me. Whatever fear anyone down South may be nursing over the threat by the North over the relocation of those departments in the CBN and the FAAN is because the rest of the country has over-indulged the North. The region, expectedly, has become like a spoilt brat that needs to be placated anytime it cries for candies. If I were President Tinubu, I would go ahead and relocate those departments to Lagos and move others to other different locations where they will give the nation more economic advantages. Tinubu should look into the NNPCL and move some of its departments to Port Harcourt, Calabar, Uyo, Warri, or Yenagoa, where they can operate optimally Nigeria does not explore a single barrel of crude from Abuja. Why then should we have all the departments of the NNPC in Abuja? President Tinubu should go ahead and dare the Ndumes of this world. If I were him, I would challenge the ACF and its appendage, the NEF, and also give the gloves to the AYF to come to the ring. I assure the president that nothing will happen, as we say on the streets! Any policy that will serve public interest should be implemented without batting an eyelid. The “consequences” of the decisions will be borne by all. In case President Tinubu is becoming scared, let me encourage him with this folk song: Tinubu dakun má mikàn, a p’agbo yí o ká (2ce) (Tinubu, please don’t be perturbed; we have formed a ring around you). Gbogbo ènìyàn rere únbe léhìn re ò (All men of goodwill are behind you). Tinubu dakun má mikàn, a pagbo yí o ká (Tinubu, please don’t be perturbed; we have formed a ring around you).

This is not about the ethnicity of the president. Even at that, I owe the North or whoever no apology for speaking this way. A time will come when enough will be enough. The North must come to that realisation one day that Nigerians need one another. Nobody has the monopoly of threat. What is at stake? 2027? May God keep us together beyond that date. Ndume and his northern leaders should know by now that Nigeria is like the proverbial calabash, which is turned upside down. If it cannot be opened, it can be broken. That is how far the north and its over-indulged elders and leaders have pushed the rest of the country. And if I may ask, which North are Ndume and Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, Chairman, Board of Trustees of ACF talking about? Does it include Benue and Plateau States, Taraba, and Nasarawa? Those states have, in the last eight years, become the killing fields of the same North. Incidentally, the massacre in those states started when a ‘core northerner’, the most lethargic General Muhammadu Buhari, became president. Go to Benue and Plateau States today and ask the people there, which one they prefer, between their lives and the relocation of some CBN and FAAN departments to Lagos. They will ask you to take away Abuja itself and give them back their lives that are being daily snuffed out by the same untrained children of the North! Maybe we should tell Ndume and Dalhatu and others in their mould to wake up and smell the coffee. The North of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, is gone.

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I challenge the leadership of ACF to organise a referendum today and see how many states across the River Niger would opt to remain in the North. There is a saying in my place that three years after the community has ceased from following one, one will still be hearing the sounds of footsteps! That is the illusion that is making Ndume talk about “consequences.” The Borno senator should look back and count the number of the people that are behind him in this his northern agenda. The North and its leaders, I will advise, need to reassure the people of Plateau, Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States that their lives count before they can convince them that they are being ‘marginalised’ by a Yoruba man.

And come to think about Abuja and its headship of Nigeria as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Whatever Abuja is today, these weeping northern leaders have the South, nay, the South-West, to thank for it. It is bad to have people who are either not good students of history or forgetful students of history to speak for a people. That is exactly what Ndume and his gang are. In the alternative, they could deliberately be mischievous because of their self-serving tendencies; and pretend not to have read, or heard that the Yoruba nation, which they are accusing of marginalising Abuja and the North, made Abuja happen in the first place. How could an otherwise brilliant Senator Ndume have forgotten the 1953 Constitutional Conference in London, where the Avatar, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in his best advocacy, called for a centralised and neutral capital for Nigeria outside Lagos? Awolowo’s Action Group (AG) backed up the advocacy with several publications, the most notable of them being the pamphlet: “Lagos Belongs to the West”. In that piece, the AG and its leaders argued thus: “A large area of land should be acquired by the Federal Government near Kafanchan, which is almost central geographically, and strategically safe comparatively, for the purpose of building a new and neutral capital. The new capital should be built on a site entirely separate from an existing town so that its absolute neutrality may be assured. Being the property of the federal government, it would automatically be administered by it in the same way as Washington, D.C. in the USA or Canberra in Australia. Such a capital would be a neutral place indeed.”

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There are libraries and archives, including the British Council in Kaduna, where the north and its leaders can get copies of the material. Incidentally, the political forebears of the same North that is shouting today fought Awolowo and others who proposed the new federal capital then to a standstill! Is it not ironic that the ones who helped in sharpening the teeth of the north are the first victims of the north’s bite?

I think, and I am being sincere about this: the Borth is pushing its luck too far. It is not every time the region will be threatening the rest of us at the slightest provocation. Most unfortunate, in this case, is the fact that the North’s threat over the relocation of those departments of parastatals is unwarranted. It saddens one to note that the North keeps putting its dagger at the tiny, fragile rope that binds the nation together. The region keeps on acting as if it is the air the rest of the country breathes. If, for instance, 2027 comes and the rest of the country feels that the North wants to undermine them, what do the Ndumes and Dalhatus of the North think will happen?

In case the North decides to continue with its recalcitrance and insists that President Tinubu would suffer “political consequences” over the CBN and FAAN issue, permit me to impose on the region’s leaders, the wisdom in this saying of my elders: “Igun balè ó hún f’orin pòwe (The vulture lands and turns every song to a proverb). Àkàlàmàgbò balè ó únsòrò ìjà (The ground hornbill lands and it is talking about fighting). Bó bá dì’jà tán Igún á wulè pà lórí (When the fight breaks out, the vulture will simply go bald-headed). Gòngò Àkàlàmàgbò á yo léhìn orùn, gbogbo ayé á rí (The goitre scar of the ground hornbill will show at the back of its neck for the entire world to behold). Give or take, if anything happens to the tender oneness of this nation, the north has everything to lose. The North and its leaders will be exposed for who they are because the region suffers more in a disunited Nigeria. Should that happen, the elite of the North will have no Abuja to run to when their masses come after them to ask daring questions! By then, “The Lady of Means” would no longer bring her wealth to service the extravagance of the north and its leaders. The implications will be too grave for them. The real “consequences” will be felt up north. Like Prophet Micah says in the Holy Writ, (Micah 6:8), we have shown you, o man, what is good and what is bad; choose and choose well!

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