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Unifying ethnic, religious, political, economic, youths, and other social groups in Nigeria – Part 2

Benjamin Obiefuna Nwabueze


When he (President Buhari) spoke again on 23 December 2017, he dwelt instead on his pet strategy for keeping himself in office – the blame game. One would have thought that the country’s survival in the face of the threat to its continued corporate existence created by the quit notice and the spate of hate speeches by individuals and groups across the nation is a near-miraculous event for which we should all be thankful to God. For the President, however, what ranks as “an act of God” is the country’s survival from the rot left behind by the previous Administration. “Some of the things I saw here”, he said, “were unbelievable. I still shudder and wonder how a country can survive under such abuses.

It is only by an act of God that we survived”. : see the Vanguard 23 December, 2017. This is an incredibly egoistic utterance to come from the President of a country that has just gone through a Quit Notice and a spate of hate speeches that threatened to tear it apart. Perhaps, the admonition of Professor Wole Soyinka that he should “fix the problem, and stop the blame game” (Vanguard, January, 2018) is the most that can be said concerning this particular utterance. Very well said, indeed! Enough of all the messianic pretensions; having failed, after nearly three years in office, to fix the manifold abuses in the administration of government in the country, the President should stop the messianic pretensions.

Commendable as the effort of the Acting President was, it fell short of what the situation created by the Quit Notice called for and requires, i.e. the invocation of the sanctions of the law against the Arewa Youths and their backers. What, then, is the status in law of the Quit Notice?

Sanctions prescribed by law for the action of the Arewa Youths and the inability or unwillingness of the government to invoke the sanctions against them
First, the quit notice is unlawful, because the Arewa Youths have no power, authority or right to issue it; it was issued without the consent or approval of the beneficial owners of the land of Northern Nigeria and without the consent or approval of the State Governors in whom the land is formally vested in trust for the beneficial owners under the Land Use Act 1978.

Second, it is distinctly unconstitutional, being an open, deliberate and undisguised violation or contravention of a specific provision of the Constitution, section 15(3) of which, lays on the state, for the “purpose of promoting national integration, the duty to (a) to provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the Federation; (b) secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation.”

Third, the quit order is unconstitutional not only because it violates or contravenes specific provisions of the Constitution but, more importantly, because it strikes at very basis of the charter of our togetherness “as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign Nation”, to be known as Nigeria which “shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory” : see the preamble and section 2(1) & (2). A federation is a union of different peoples, and the Constitution declares the “consolidation of the Unity of our people” as one of its cardinal purposes. It is this union “solemnly” declared and established by the Constitution that the Arewa Youths seek to undermine and subvert by its order expelling from the North the entire people, Ndigbo, drawn from five of the States that constitute it.

As an act subversive of the Union established by the Constitution, and clothed with the attributes of indivisibility, indissolubility and unity, the expulsion order is treason against the Constitution, comparable to a declaration of secession, to be distinguished from a mere agitation for it or agitation for the revival of Biafra.

Fourth, the quit notice is an act of terrorism which, as defined by the Acting President, citing the Terrorism Act 2011, is “an act done with malice to intimidate a population,” and create in them the fear of violent attacks leading to killings and other kinds of injury. And according to the Acting President, “all the consequences” attaching to an act of terrorism under the Terrorism Act “will follow.” The notice to quit was an act of intimidation that threatened the lives and properties of Ndigbo in the North. The threat was acknowledged by the statement issued on the matter in the Vanguard of 18 August, 2017, by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) in which it said that “in response to a series of inquiries from some members of the general public following threats to the country’s existence”, it wished to assure Nigerians not to “panic over their security wherever they reside in the country”, and that “it is on top of the nation’s security situation”. So the threat was real. The reality of the threat is undeniably underscored by the words of the recorded hate songs broadcast in Hausa and English from many stations in the North.

But the consequences under the Terrorism Act 2011 did not follow, as announced by the Acting President. Why was the Arewa Youths Coalition not declared a Terrorist Organisation and proscribed, as was done to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on 15 September, 2017 for merely agitating for the revival of Biafra? Is an agitation for something, even something illegal, but unbacked by armed force or violence, not less grievous than the act of terrorism, indeed treason against the Constitution, involved in the threatened expulsion of Ndigbo from the North? Is the failure or the unwillingness of the Buhari Federal Government to proscribe the Arewa Youths and declare it a terrorist organisation, as it did the IPOB for a less grievous act, not a manifest double standard or an unfairly discriminatory treatment of citizens? Is such unfairly discriminatory treatment tolerable in Nigeria of our dreams – a country where Justice and Equity is supposed to reign (see preamble), where “the social order is founded on the principles of Equality and Justice” (section 17(1) Constitution, and where citizens have the right to equal protection and treatment by law without unfair discrimination (section 42)? To cap it all, soldiers of the Nigerian Army, armed to the teeth, were deployed to Umuahia, Aba and other places in Abia State to terrorise and brutalise the people in a bloody show of force mockingly named Operation Python Dance and Operation Crocodile Smile. The soldiers had their dance and their smile alright – at the expense of Ndigbo!! This is all happening in our one Nigeria.

2 Alienation of fellow-feeling among large segments of the population caused by President Buhari identifying with and showing support for groups advocating the unity of the North against the South
Viewed simply as a physical entity encompassing 75 per cent of the territorial area of the state called Nigeria and 60 per cent of its population, a united Northern Nigeria poses no necessary incompatibility with the unity of the country. The incompatibility lies not so much in the physical characteristics of the entity known as Northern Nigeria, with its massive territorial area and population; it lies more essentially in what the entity has come to signify. It signifies a segment of the country that is separated and disunited in interest, attitude, outlook and vision from the rest of the country by an arbitrary, artificially created boundary line erected by British colonialism. The effect, indeed the purpose, of the British Government’s 1914 Amalgamation of its Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria is to keep the northern segment apart from the south as a people with separate identity – separate interests, attitude, outlook and vision, and to nurture in its inhabitants a sense or feeling of such separateness by deliberate policy and actions. And so has the entity “Northern Nigeria” come, over the years from 1914, to have such a powerful hold on the thoughts, attitudes and vision of people in the area, and to inculcate in them a desire for the preservation of its unity against the southern peoples.

Northern Nigeria ceased to be a single governmental unit after it was split into six autonomous States, later increased to the present nineteen States, as a result of the states creation exercise by the military government in 1967. But, strangely enough, the idea of a “united” Northern Nigeria has persisted as an entrenched fact of life, even after it (i.e. Northern Nigeria) has ceased to be a single governmental unit, and – the point deserving to be specially stressed and noted as the really significant aspect of the matter – has continued to exercise a firm hold on the thinking, mentality and vocabulary of the ruling and political class in that part of the country.

Regrettably, the entity, “Northern Nigeria,” after it ceased to be a governmental unit, has been kept alive, in part, by the formation and activities of certain non-governmental or civil society organisations; these organisations have been deliberately and consciously created and nurtured as instruments of power politics in the country’s affairs. The entire territory and peoples in the northern part of Nigeria are embraced within the domain of these organisations. Such are the Arewa (meaning Northern Peoples) Consultative Forum (ACF) of which a man of Yoruba extraction from Kwara State, Sunday Awoniyi, was Chairman for some years; Northern Elders Forum (NEF) comprising in its present membership some notable people from the minority ethnic groups in the Middle Belt area, among whom is Paul Unongo, a Tiv man and a Christian from Benue State, now the Forum’s Chairman after the death recently of Alhaji Maitama Sule; the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, with the Sultan of Sokoto as Chairman; the Northern Governors Forum; the Northern Delegates Forum; Arewa Reawakening; the Arewa Youths; the Northern Senators Forum, among others.

The so-called common destiny claimed for the peoples in northern Nigeria is something tendentiously invented to serve the purpose of political domination, control and manipulation by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, and his exclusively northern political party, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC). His consolidation and perpetuation of the idea of Northern Nigeria, we are told by Sheikh Gumi, “was not borne out of political consideration only”, but was also conceived as “a personal mission” handed down to him by a his forbear, Sheikh dan Fodio.

According to Gumi, the Sardauna had “pledged and dedicated himself to work untiringly for the progress and happiness of the North”, thereby creating in the different peoples of the North and inculcating in them, the binding sense of solidarity and unity of the North as one entity with one destiny. The sense of solidarity and unity thus created and studiously nurtured in the different peoples of the North was his distinctive legacy, the effect of which was to deepen the North-South Divide resulting from Lugard’s 1914 amalgamation. His legacy gave impetus and vitality to the persistence of the idea of “Northern Nigeria” as one entity, which (i.e. his legacy) inspired the formation and activities of the non-governmental or civil society organisations mentioned above.

The detrimental impact on the unity of Nigeria created by the actions of these organisations is well attested by the reaction of the Northern Senators Forum at its meeting in Katsina, Katsina State, on 12 December, 2017 to a resolution by its southern counterpart at its own meeting in Calabar, Cross River State, in November 2017 calling on President Buhari to implement the 2014 National Conference Report. The Northern Senators Forum is entitled to react to the call to the President by its southern counterpart. Its reaction is amazing because of the reasons given for it by its chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, former Governor of Zamfara State, in his Opening Address at the Katsina meeting. He said : “It is unfair to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to implement a report to which he was not a party. He was not privy to its underlying philosophy or its primary objectives.”

President Buhari is certainly at liberty to refuse to implement the 2014 Conference Report, but not for the reason that “he was not a party to it….. or privy to its underlying philosophy or primary objectives.” The call was not made to General Buhari as an individual, but to him as successor to the government in office when the conference held and issued its report. The continuity of government or its endurance for an indefinitude of time is a basic principle of public administration. Individual presidents come and go but their decisions and actions while in office remain in existence as acts of state, leaving those in control of the government for the time being to act or not to act on them within the framework of the rule of law.

Senator Abdullahi Adamu, as a two-time State Governor and a refined, knowlegible gentleman, is supposed to be familiar with this basic principle of public administration. He could only have made the statement quoted above, not out of ignorance, but from a desire to support a President who belongs to the same Moslem North as himself and who is imbued with the same desire to support and promote the idea of a united Northern Nigeria and its interests.

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