Are Nigeria’s Northern elites truly jittery about Southern pacts?

It is becoming a case of cause and reaction. Whenever there is a meeting of the Southern leaders, especially the governors, what follows is a chain of reactions from the Northern elites bothering on uneasiness, if not more.

The situation of the country, from whatever perspective you view it from, demands urgent action and intervention. Virtually every sector of the economy has an ailment that it is battling as insecurity has become the chord that is used to tie together every challenge Nigeria faces.

No citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (at least until Jokotoye’s proposal to change to United African Republic is considered by the government) should be surprised that governors are proactive, especially when it seems that the government at the centre is more rattled by actions of separationists than terrorists and bandits.

Insurgency has long been a plague in the North, with Boko Haram reportedly starting out in the North East but like wildfire, it is fast enveloping the Southern part of the country. While much of the blame has been laid at the feet of the government at the centre, Southern governors have decided to abandon the strategy which only appeared to embolden insurgents and come up with ideas within the ambit of the law that allows them to control their fate.

At the Asaba Accord barely three months ago, it was agreed that open grazing would be banned in the South, after scores of farmers had lost their lives at the hands of ferocious herders.

In a reaction by the Kebbi-born Attorney general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, he compared grazing, an act which attracted allegations of overrunning farms and farm produce, with selling spare parts.

“It is about constitutionality within the context of the freedoms expressed in our constitution. Can you deny the rights of a Nigerian? For example, it is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the Northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the north,” Malami stated.

Unsurprisingly, he came under fire for his comments with Senate spokesperson, Ajibola Basiru calling for his removal from office and accusing Malami of pursuing a parochial, ethnic agenda.

A fellow Senior Advocate of Nigeria and governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, couldn’t hide his disappointment with Malami and stated that:

“It is most unfortunate that the AGF is unable to distil issues as expected of a Senior Advocate. Nothing can be more disconcerting. Clinging to an anachronistic model of animal husbandry, which is evidently injurious to the harmonious relationship between the herders and the farmers as well as the local populace, is wicked and arrogant.”

Again, following the Lagos Declaration on Monday with a host of resolutions including setting a date to the enforcement of anti-grazing, pushing for state police and rejecting the removal of the electronic transmission of electoral results, Northern bigwigs took turns to express their disappointment with the decisions of the Southern governors, with some claiming that their acts threaten Nigeria’s unity.

Notable among them was the chairman of Action Democratic Party, Sani Yabagi who spoke at length on Channels TV about how the South was ganging up against the North.

“I think the coming together of the governors of southern extraction is the very wrong way to go about the issues of politics that affect the nation. All the things listed in that communique from their meeting seems to be a kind of ganging up against the North,” Yabagi stated.

Yabagi was supported by some Northerners on social media and it brings up the question that what is it specifically that the North seems afraid of whenever there is an agreement among Southerners?

For starters, certain parts of the North appear to dread secession. This is indicated in not just the body language but the swift action with which the Buhari government acts whenever separationists rear their heads as analysed by political watchers. It would explain why a reminder is needed for the FG to solve insecurity with such vigour.

A quick glance at the IGR statistics for the year 2020 and how states ranked would show that only 6 Northern states, excluding the FCT, appeared in the top 20, despite the Northern region being the most populous. The bottom five are all Northern states. By economic indices, they certainly have a lot to lose.

Critics have also opined that Northerners have an inherent sense of domination and entitlement while some cynicists have expressed fears that there may not be handing over of power in 2023, among other reasons.

Whatever the reasons may be, with much to expect from the Southern governors, the fears of the North may not end anytime soon.

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