Most radical ideas that had shaped Nigeria’s political landscape often originated from the South only to be perfected to the advantage of the North. For instance, while the South championed the struggle for independence, the North acted like it wasn’t ready and would rather remain under British domination. But from when the British lowered the Union Jack, it was the North that had dominated the South and still does.
Another is the idea of a military coup. It was actually Southern officers that executed Nigeria’s first military coup before the North perfected the art of coup plotting and used it to entrench Northern domination. Almost all successful coups in Nigeria were hatched and executed by Northern officers from 1966 to date. Again, Nigeria started well on federalism until some group of Southerners introduce a unitary government.
The North shouted ‘Araba’ the Hausa translation for ‘separation’ and insisted on true federalism. But as soon as it seized power in the counter-coup of 1966, it jettisoned true federalism and perfected unitarianism to her advantage. Today, it is the South who destroyed federalism that is shouting true federalism. Take again the question of constitutional democracy. This is a concept alien to both Islam and the oligarchy.
While the South talks plenty of democracy, the North which only reluctantly embraced democracy perfected the act of shaping democracy to its own advantage. Because the North understands that democracy is a game of numbers they made sure they have the numbers and a population they can easily manipulate and control. They control their population with illiteracy and religion and make no apology for it. One can go on and on to list how the North beat the South at all times in its game.
Whether as a friend or a foe, you must understand your opponent so as to engage properly. The inability of the South to read the North is one of her biggest albatrosses. Fast track to the current issue of restructuring, another idea currently advanced by the South as a remedy to save Nigeria from disintegration. The Southern proponents of restructuring believe that Nigeria is not functioning properly because the centre is saddled with too many responsibilities and powers. Restructuring means devolving more powers to the states.
Despite the clarity of this concept, somehow the North pretends it does not understand what restructuring is all about. To get the South busy with talking, they pretend that restructuring will put her at a disadvantage or, say the least, that it is an agenda to dismember Nigeria. For these reasons, many Southerners have wrongly convinced themselves that the North will never give in to restructuring whereas the North in actual fact is getting ready for restructuring and once again intends to perfect it to their advantage.
The import of this article is to warn the South to get ready and prepare for restructuring. The British who merged the North and South together have not abandoned the reason for the merger. They remain very sympathetic to the North hence western leaders like Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Kerry had at various times tutored the Northern leaders on how to reorganize the region for a post-oil economy.
Between 2015 and 2016, the US Institute for Peace held a series of strategy sessions strictly for Northern leaders on how best to prepare and re-energize the region for a post-oil economy. The sessions agreed that restructuring is inevitable without which even the North will not survive. The sessions harped on what the vulnerabilities of the northern region would be when restructuring occurs and more importantly how to ensure that such vulnerabilities are dealt with well before restructuring. One major vulnerability is the fact that the North is landlocked hence they were advised that the region would need alternative international trade access routes that do not depend on the South.
This explains why President Buhari commenced building the ongoing high-speed railway lines designed to connect with the Niger Republic’s supply and logistics systems. They were also advised that they needed to be independent of the South for petroleum products hence they went ahead with the project of building a completely new modern refinery in Daura, Katsina State. The Daura refinery is purposely built to refine crude oil coming in from the Niger Republic. The choice of Daura as a location is to reduce the cost of pipelines, as piping to the Kaduna refinery would have been very expensive. Daura shares a common border with Niger Republic.
Another major vulnerability is the fact that a significant proportion of Nigeria’s power generation and infrastructure is located in the South. It was suggested that the North would need to rebalance power generation if it was to industrialize. It is therefore not surprising that contracts have been awarded to pipe gas from the South to pass through Ajaokuta to Abuja, Kaduna, and Kano (AKK) where three thermal stations will be built in each of the three cities with the capacity to generate 4,500MW of electricity.
While at the face value, this project may appear good for Nigeria which can now export excess electricity to other African countries, the main objective, however, is to make the North electricity sufficient, and under restructuring will make the South pay charges for passing power from any of the thermal stations. The North is also investing heavily in agriculture with a view to being in a position to not just feed its population but to export food to the South and other African countries. Only the South can solve its problem with regard to food. A lot can be learnt from Israel if it must readdress the food imbalance.
To boost agriculture, President Buhari did what no other government in Nigeria has been able to do. He closed the land borders and presented farmers with a great windfall. Massive incentives were provided to motivate Northern farmers. Northern farmers, who work through cooperatives, were provided with machinery and low-interest loans through the CBN and the Bank of Agriculture to help stabilize the level of growth in agriculture.
I have taken time to reel out these few examples to debunk the laughable notion held by the South that the North will not give in to structuring. That is far from the truth. The North understands restructuring perfectly well and its vulnerabilities in the case of restructuring. The North is light years ahead of the South in their proactive preparations. I support restructuring for the singular reason that it will make Nigeria better than its current form. It will bring the government closer to the people, enhance development and ensure efficient and effective governance.
Rather than being emotional and wasting valuable time on empty rhetoric, the best legacy Southern leaders can leave behind is to put on their thinking caps and get to work. They must use the opportunity of the current time to map out strategies that will rave and drive the economic and social development of the South’s post-oil revenue. The youth who are the future of tomorrow must understand that the future they symbolize and represent is now. The only practical way they can be part of that future is to hold her elected political leaders accountable by making her house every single one of them and their families uncomfortable until the right things are done.
Posted by Deji Ibeh, a Lawyer.
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