2023: The north on a pedestal (1)
On the road to the 2023 elections, the north seems to be running out of aces.
Insecurity manifesting in terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, sectarian violence between and among its ethnic groups have become common place in the three geopolitical zones making up the region.
Economically the livelihood of many in the region which is tied to agriculture has been drastically affected by the above developments with farmers not being able to cultivate their farms for fear of being attacked. Indeed in many places farmers have to pay for ‘’protection’’ in cash and kind to gunmen before they are allowed to go to their farms.
Socially the values and ties that used to bind this vast, diverse region on which its strengths and stability lies is fast disappearing. Nowadays the North is but only a hollow symbol of what it used to be to its people. Increasingly many northerners do not feel nor want to be identified as such in view of the image crises associated with the negative developments in the region.
But the most significant development in all this is the diminishing status of the north as a political behemoth in Nigeria. The North used to be a model of political consensus in Nigeria deploying its modern and traditional assets in effectively resolving the internal conflicts that often come up from time to time among its diverse peoples. That this time honoured template has now become ineffective can be seen in the failure of both the political and traditional power elite to get to grips with the debilitating insecurity in the region which is rooted essentially in the socio-political milieu.
The failure of both the northern political and traditional power elite to resolve the socio-economic crises engulfing the region has resulted in the gradual erosion of the revered status of the northern political elite on the national political stage. The glaring failure of the northern political elite to resolve the socio-economic issues in the north has exposed them to intense, unrelenting withering political fire from the southern political counterparts in the contest for national political leadership. Latching on to these failures the southern political leadership have sought to present the northern political leadership as political misfits whose continued claim and hold on to national political leadership is unmerited and as such should be discontinued.
The southern political elite have made this both the mantra and theme of the 2023 political campaign which has become so effective that the northern political elite have now been well and truly outflanked politically in the race to succeed President Buhari. Not only have the southern political elite been able to scare off potential northern aspirants from the two major political parties the All Progressive Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), they have also worked it out to ensure that the massive northern political voting block will not work for any northern political candidate from any other political party outside of the two. In other words the northern political voting power and structure will only be available to work for the south and not the north in 2023.
It is ironic that the North is experiencing this diminution in political fortune under a president who hails from the north and one as supposedly northern as the come.
President Buhari’s administration rather than strengthen the north politically weakened it further. Although most of the current issues facing the north predated his coming, they however gained accelerated traction under him. Indeed some of them actually first reared their heads under him.
And it is all down to his disposition or lack of it in governance. As we have seen from his handling of issues under his watch, as far as the north is concerned he maintains a short threshold of trust and consideration limited a large extent to his immediate family, clan and ethnicity. In keeping with his ingrained character disposition, he did not set out nor did he see the need to reflect the diversity of the north in his governance template. As far as this consideration goes, his attention was almost always focused on those ethnic groups with whom he shares filial affinity to. He shows scant attention to those who are outside this bracket. Where circumstances compel him to consider other ethnic groups for appointment or projects it is always done grudgingly and care is taken to keep such a person on the fringes of the power loop.
Although he basks in the almost god like adulation the northern masses give him and welcome their huge votes anytime he stands for elections he actually holds them in contempt for being what they are; poor, huddled, provincial and unsophisticated. President Buhari does not waste his empathies on the northern masses for their plight under the Hobbesian conditions they live; he is more attuned to the northern big men with whom he shares many things essentially.
President Buhari’s north is a huge smouldering house of discontent arising from wilful neglect, dysfunctionality and acute sense of hopelessness. Under his administration, the latent fault lines of ethnicity, religion and identity in the north have surfaced sharply as a result of his abysmally poor management of the diversity of the region. He is perceived as president for a certain type of northerners on the ethnic and religious canvas and for another class of northerners on the social divide.
While the north is haemorrhaging badly and losing grip of itself and its preeminent position on the national stage, many northerners have sadly continue to wallow in self-deceit and denial on the desperate conditions facing the region. Most unfortunately too, many northerners not only demur to interrogate President Buhari on the situation in the north, they actually take umbrage at those northerners who dare to do so. Such northerners are accused of being unNorthern and pandering to the applause of southerners.
So rather than do a lot of hard, honest soul searching on the conditions the north currently faces with a view seeking solutions to them, many northerners prefer to look the other way in defence of group interest and in order not to be seen as going rogue.
But the results are clear for everyone to see. While the ramparts of northern power and prestige are slowly and inexorably crumbling, the southern political elite are ruthlessly advancing to cash in and fill the national political vacuum created by a north weakened by its intractable internal contradictions.
Can anything be done by the north to reverse this trend and if so what trajectory should this take?
(To be continued).