By Ridhwanullah Abdullah
The state of emergency recently declared in the three north eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, following the unrelenting insurgence of the dreaded Boko Haram in that region of Nigeria is a manifestation of the open confession by General TY Danjuma earlier this year that the North is the middle of a civil war.
When the former army chieftain raised the concern, it did not come to many of the watchers of Northern politics as a surprise. This is because the pre-independence and the immediate post-independence Northern Nigeria of which the late Sarduana, Sir Ahmadu Bello and AlhajiTafawaBalewa were very visible has since January 15th, 1966 evaporated. What remained had been the broken shells of a once monolithic, cohesive edifice whose inheritors are unable to concretely patch together. So, since then the North had been awaiting a reincarnation of the Gamji, Sir Ahmadu Bello, one of the casualties of the 1966 putsch.
The North has witnessed many sacrileges committed under the cover of some primordial considerations alien to the North of the Gamjis and the Balewas. From the neglect of education to non-appreciation of positive development programmes, the North has seen it all. Now, it is harvesting these sacrileges that are blood chilling, confounding and distracting. There was Matatsine. Now, there is Boko Haram, the emergence of which a worthy personality like the Sultan of Sokoto, His eminence, Alh. Saad Abubakar linked to the negligence of the Northern leadership sometimes earlier this year. Between the Sultan’s confession on the Northern backwardness and the horrendous attacks being witnessed in the region leading to the declaration of the state of emergence is a thin veil of the tragedy of leadership values decline, needing the reincarnation of Sir Ahmadu Bello’s spirit to redeem the North.
Many watchers of the Nigerian polity flimsily categorize power distribution in Nigeria into political, commerce and education with its advantages among the three dominant ethnic groups. In this schemata, The south western zone dominated by the Yoruba is said to be the custodian of education and public service advantage, while the East, the Igbo stock to be specific, are in charge of commerce. Ultimately power it is always argued had been in the custody of the North. This has largely been substantiated by the political history of Nigeria since independence in 1960. Unfortunately the tradeoffs arising from this categorization have not been converted to national development gains. The North suffers the most. The other segments are also accomplices in the desolation of the nation.
Now each of the legs on which Nigeria stands is weak and wobbling waiting for other solid trees to replace them. The Gamji was the tree on which the North stood in the 1st Republic. Asiwaju Awolowo was the Iroko that revolutionized the West. The Zik of Africa and the Owelle of Onitsha was the Araba that provided shade in the East. Dr. NnmadiAzikwe had lasting imprints in the easterners minds. Since these three mighty trees fell in the large compound called Nigeria, the leaves have been withering, their fruits dried, their roots rotting. Now we wait for the rising of new Gamjis, Iroko and Arabas.
Today, I will speak more on the Gamji and its dried fruits. I will write on the successor generation that rose after the Sardauna and ask what has been done with the heritage of Late Ahmadu Bello. I will reflect on when rises another Gamji as the shade of the North, was so pervading that when the coupists struck in 1966, he topped the list of prominent casualties of the coup, even though the putsch was botched. With the elimination of Sarduana and Tafawa Balewa, the North lost its soul.
Even though the most of Nigerian leaders have been produced from the North, none has shoulder to bear the burden of trust he bore. Now many of his heirs only romanticize about him, but lack his charisma. Many adore his frugality, but they jettison his simplicity and piety. Many love his politics but they don’t anchor theirs on his political philosophy of accommodation.
Ask how many houses did Sardauna of Sokoto built in Raba or Wurno or Sokoto or Kaduna where he was shot in the presence of his family members. Ask how fat was his bank account or how rich was his wardrobe. The Sardauna was not celebrated for his wealth but for his worth and his work as the architect of the modern North. He inspired the establishment of GAMJI Bank, the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation, the New Nigerian Newspaper. He worked for the North as an unforgettable icon, because in the politics of the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, he tried to weld the North into one. Under him, the slogan was One North, One destiny. But he also wanted a handshake across the Niger even though it was misconstrued as a subtle northernization. One of his chosen aides was an Okun man from Kabba, in present day Kogi State, Chief Sunday Awoniyi. He was personally responsible for discovering some of future leaders of the North, coaching and mentoring and fixing them where their potentials will be developed to the maximum.
Many were the northerners that the Sardauna personally drafted into the military and the police and the public service from Barewa College. Although the Sarduana had an aristocratic background, he did not despise the lower class, nor did he promote tribal chauvinism within the North. His influence was so strong that most major Northern landmarks are dedicated to his memory, beginning with the Ahmadu Bello University. If this is the esteem with which the Sardauna is held, it is regrettable that not many candidates have emerged to continue in his name.
In the South Western Nigeria too, there is insinuation that there cannot be another Awo just as the East are romanticizing on the life of Owelle of Onitsha and Zik of Africa, and the struggles of Ikemba Nnewi. In some weeks to come, I will dwell further on the other national icons whose politics and philosophy should guide our steps to build a New Nigeria rather than the perilous politicking that we promote and practice in our pursuit of power and vested interests.
Abdullah via firstname.lastname@example.org