by Alex O.Onukwue
A former Vice Chancellor of a top Nigerian University, Prof Ango Abdullahi, has left very many persons bemused.
Standing not to be corrected, the Kaduna-born elder statesman who was also a Federal Minister of Education, vehemently threw his weight behind a statement that threatened “visible actions” against Nigerians of Igbo extraction who live in all Northern parts of the country. That statement – which has been rejected as repulsive by the elected Chief Security Officers of the 19 Northern States – threatened to begin reclaiming all assets and properties owned or possessed by the Igbos in the North, precisely from Independence Day.
Now, Prof Ango Abdullahi’s backing of the Kaduna Declaration comes, not in his capacity as an individual, but from his esteemed position as the spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum. That is a major problem.
Reviews of his previous statements show that he is a strong believer in dividing Nigeria into distinct states, with repeated claims that since the North had fuelled the economy of Nigeria before Independence, it is still well-equipped to stand on its own. In his opinion, the huge landmass and population will count in the region’s favour in accelerating development, without requiring any cent from “idle money”, his way of describing receipts from crude oil. In light of these, it is not entirely surprising to hear that he has supported the Kaduna Declaration, to the extent that it was also a declaration of Northern secession.
However, Prof Abdullahi did more than accede to a group’s clamour for separation: he tacitly gave credence to their call for “visible actions”, a term so vague yet so chilling that it can only mean something grave, something which could potentially lead to early graves.
It was a reprehensible act, and it was very irresponsible of him to do so on the platter of the Northern Elders Forum. Justifying his dubious act with the assumption that South-Eastern Governors have appeared to sympathize with Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB, is akin to stealing meat from your mother’s pot because she never punishes your brother for having stew on his finger and meat between his teeth. He very well could have shown sympathy for the Youth’s cause, to the degree that his popular ‘divide Nigeria’ campaign aligns with them. But as one whose responsibility it was once to train and nurture, his acts have amounted to value drain and moral puncture.
In a different society, Prof Abdullahi would not speak for the Northern Elders Forum again, on the premise that the forum does not believe in the idea of using any semblance of violence in pursuing any matter, regardless of the ethnic nationalities involved. In our society, given the dynamics of paternalism, it may be too hopeful to expect that he will be asked to step down from that position, if it is an official one. His membership, it can be assumed, is on the merit of his work as a foremost academic in the region. With that in mind, it would not worth much if he proceeds in saying things that will further require the true leaders of the group to claim that he is on his own.
Unless the statement by Elder Paul Unongo already meant the Prof had been asked to not further speak on their behalf, it would become, in the present circumstances, be a point of matter worth considering.