Nigeria: Buhari and Northern Elders' Awakening

opinion

It is the height of delusional optimism if northern elders expected to crawl out of their cocoon of safety and complicity in the troubles of their region unscathed. They are as guilty as their past and present leaders whom they have blamed for the depravations of their region. They cannot convincingly give up their decades-old role of chorus leaders for bad governance for that of beacons of development signposted by the plenitude of security.

The tragedy of their region that they have whined about is compounded by the fact of their obliviousness that they are too late in realising that President Muhammadu Buhari lacks the capacity to guarantee security. Without almost the entire swathe of the north including Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Benue, Niger, Plateau and Taraba states being rendered a wasteland by bandits, these northern elders would not have experienced this epiphany. These blood-hungry bandits have been abducting, killing both citizens and foreigners and destroying their means of livelihood. The northern elders bemoan how ruination has become the lot of agriculture as banditry has kept farmers in the north from their farms.

In almost four years now, the only capacity Buhari has demonstrated is in smashing the hopes of the citizens that he can provide solutions to their problems. The land is strewn with the tragic consequences of his failure to tame insecurity. Boko Haram has been unrelenting in either kidnapping or blowing up citizens and property. Worse, the citizens have been scarred by economic blights resulting in mass job loss and suicide. Yet, it is now that the northern elders are just realising that Buhari is not the person they thought he was. They are now only realising that leaders from the past to the present have failed to provide jobs and educational opportunities to the youths of the northern parts of the country as a means of guarding against their cooptation into a terrorist ring that has ruthlessly immiserated that part of the country.

It is because the northern elders have been living under the illusion that their region enjoys immunity to the troubles of other parts of the country that they have not bothered if others are suffering. That is why they cavalierly brand as less patriotic other citizens who have been bothered about the killings and destruction being inflicted by Fulani herdsmen. The common riposte from these northern elders is that these lunatic herdsmen are like other citizens who can live and do business in any part of the country. They are impenetrable to the need to arrive at mutually beneficial ways through which the herdsmen can graze their cattle and the farmers can keep their crops safe. Thus, in the northern elders is the anchorage for the religious and ethnic polarisation of the nation.

As long as it is the citizens in other parts of the country that are the victims of the religious bigotry of their compatriots in the north, they do not see the need to join the rest part of the country to condemn such lunacy. When it was Benue State that was a cauldron of Fulani herdsmen's killings, the northern elders did not bristle with rage and express a vote of no confidence in Buhari as they have done now. When there are protests for equity in the south-east and south-south, these northern elders do not deem it necessary to understand the merit of these agitations. Rather, they cheer on their champion of ethnic hatred when he threatens to wipe the agitators off the face of the earth. For almost four years now, the northern elders have not seen anything wrong with the policy of Buhari northernising and Islamising all national appointments. If the outrage becomes deafening, they sear their conscience with a reference to a time that a president from the south did the same thing. If the violence and criminality in the north today had happened under a president from the south, these northern elders would have regarded the perpetrators not as villains but as the heroes of the north that a southern president must not bring to the path of sanity. This was the case with Boko Haram. When the then President Goodluck Jonathan tried to tame these Boko Haram members, it was the same northern elders who resisted the move. They were the ones who also resisted the move to declare them terrorists.

In a political season, the northern elders do not see one Nigeria for which a leader should be elected. Rather, they are hell-bent on producing a northern president. In the last election, even though the two main presidential candidates came from the north, these northern elders became a site for the proliferation of a northern animus against Atiku Abubakar because he was allegedly identified with a liberalism that would not brook discrimination against fellow citizens whether from the south or north. If the other parts of the country go to the right, northern elders consider it a duty to go to the left. Or why has there not been an agreement on the petroleum industry bill and other ideas to develop the country? The argument that they are not in the National Assembly is far from tenable. Their representatives only express the stance of these northern elders when they take certain positions. It is this penchant for religious and ethnic compartmentalisations that has also made the northern elders not to consider the merit of restructuring being canvassed by the elders in the southern part of the country. Yet, the problems they are now asking the Federal Government which is far from them to solve could have been effectively responded to locally in a well-structured federation.

Clearly, the disillusioned northern elders are looking for help in the wrong place if they think that Buhari is the person who can solve the problems of the north. No, Buhari cannot offer them security where other leaders from that region have failed. By now, the northern elders should realise that having the president from their region is by no means the talisman they need to turn their part of the country into a secluded Eldorado. They have been producing national leaders, 10 out of the 16 leaders of the nation, since independence yet while the entire country is the capital of the world, the north holds the infamous record of being the capital of misery in Nigeria. What have the northern elders done to ensure that poor children in the north do not end up being almajiris who are only useful to politicians for electoral perversion? Why has this social excrescence been perpetuated if the northern elders were not complicit in the emasculation of these poor children?

If the northern elders want their problems to be solved, they have to abandon their ethnic blinkers and develop a pan-Nigerian vision. They should come to the realisation that it is only the oppressed and traumatised citizens from all the different parts of the country who can solve their problems. The political leaders who regard their offices as their fiefdoms would not be the ones to rouse the rest of the citizens to think of how to vitiate their privileges. The northern elders should join other elders from other parts of the country to find solutions to the problems of the nation. If the elders of other parts of the country have been rhapsodising about restructuring as the elixir for the development of the nation, the northern elders should seek to understand the perspective of these advocates. It is through this that genuine fear can be allayed and mutually agreed templates for enduring resolutions to the nation's problems could be achieved .

But if the northern elders remain stuck to their provincialism and the delusion that they belong to an ethnic stock that is destined to rule the rest of Nigeria, the search for the solutions to the problems of their region would be in vain. Ultimately, when these regional problems degenerate into national crises, they like other citizens from other parts of the country would be consumed by the apocalyptic fallouts that they would spawn.

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