Nigeria: Buhari Versus the North - Matters Arising

29 November 2020

It remains important for the country to note a seeming wave of discordance which is manifesting between the northern elders who are the major determining factor in who gets what - politically speaking in the country, and the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. In spite of the fact that the advent of the Buhari administration is a direct making of the northern establishment, the former may be progressively unhinging itself from the oversight of the latter. Already there is a disturbing tendency whereby agents of the administration routinely assume airs that often run in conflict with the country's Constitution, its growing discordance with the northern establishment now needs to be clarified as a development that is superficial and not a shift of loyalty from its sponsor to new interests which may have displaced the northern establishment to the back burner. Given that there is a big difference between core northern interests and the interests of designated core northerners, it is not every action of the administration that promotes the general interests of the north, in preference to parochial beneficiaries.

Among the instances that question the fidelity of the administration to the interest of the north lies the growing incidence of insecurity in the zone and the seeming reluctance of the former to fall on the same page with the latter in resolving the crises. For instance the north has joined to trending mindset that the country's service chiefs should be replaced to provide a fresh impetus on the fight against insecurity. The reluctance of the President to oblige has not gone down well with the northern establishment which has like other parts of the country are counting on daily basis, avoidable killings of men and women in their ranks.

Another typical instance is the now runaway situation whereby the spate of insecurity has been brought cheekily to the northern elite by the miscreants with the murderous siege on of all locations, the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Road axis. It is on record that the situation along this road has lasted unresolved for long and attracted strong reactions from the Northern establishment. Even recently the northern elite - speaking through their spokesman Hakeem Baba Ahmed, berated the Buhari administration for paying lip service to the state of that road, citing the impetus such offers miscreants to wreak havoc on the public. Even as the road remains just a single project, its strategic importance to the politics of the country and the north especially, cannot be over emphasized. Linking Abuja with the pivotal northern cities of Kaduna, Zaria and Kano, the road constitutes an Appian Way of sorts in the country's political space. In fact the irony is not lost that at a time the administration is fast tracking the development of railway link with neighbouring Niger, it remains quetionable that such a strategic road is left out of the priority list.

This contention stands in bold relief when the fortunes of the north under the Buhari administration are viewed against the backdrop of the legacies of the late great premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the founder of Nigeria's contemporary political north. Ordinarily, profiling the performance of the Buhari led administration on its dalliance with the northern establishment may seem an exercise in parochialism. However, given the role of the north in spawning the advent of the administration, the exercise serves as an indicator for what anybody can expect from the administration on the basis that charity begins at home. Put succinctly, if Buhari's presidency cannot change the story of the north being its sponsor, it remains a mystery where else in the country it can deliver. And talking of the development of the North, any such designated agenda that fails to run on the founding vision of the Ahmadu Bello era remains suspect ab initio. For indeed, as far as any consideration of meaningful development of the north is considered, the visionary enterprise of the Ahmadu Bello era remains the gold standard. Bereft of the advantages of modern day economic development planning endowments such as humongous resource base and any other advantage, the late great leader had simply deployed the circumstance of progressive visioning in the pristine days of the Nigerian nation, to conceive and pursue the launch of his northern region into a fast pace of social transformation.

The connection between Buhari's suspect tendencies towards insecurity in the North and Ahmadu Bello's vision for the region lies in the circumstances of demography. Contrary to Bello's vision of the north emerging as a self-sufficient power bloc, insecurity in the north has rendered the zone as a crisis infested zone with ever growing numbers of its people escaping to seemingly safer locations in the south and even outside the country. It is in the context of the demographic implications of this tendency that the credentials of the Buhari administration to serve as a driver of meaningful and sustainable development even in the north remain suspect. In a more defining perspective, the lack luster management of insecurity in the north by the administration constitutes a betrayal and deconstruction of the legacies of Ahmadu Bello. For, contrary to the vision of the late premier for the north to emerge as an economic power bloc, driven by its innate capabilities and resources, the region - with its traditional economy driven largely by agriculture, is today running with the scary scenario of millions of its populace scurrying southwards to relative safety as refugees in their own country, or condemned to seek succor even outside the country. In the process of forced emigration by the more active components of the population, the agricultural endowments of the region suffer with consequences for social order including the manifestation of anomie that ordinarily remains an anathema, relative to the prevailing social order in the region. For example it is not for nothing that contrary to expectations of the government and many Nigerians, the recent EndSARS upheaval had also spread to even several cities in the north.

Hence while the rest of the country may have been subdued to moderate their expectations from the Buhari administration, leaving the north in the same condition of suspended animation, offers little positive dividends for the administration. Just as even with the spirited reluctance of President Muhamadu Buhari to contemplate such outlandish brainwave, some hawks in the administration would not balk at pressing for it, even if it is only for self-aggrandizement. However if such ever becomes the case, it will only justify a regime change to fast-track, a welcome, post-Buhari dispensation. Over to you then, the northern establishment. This is your turf.

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