Words by Yinka Odumakin
The headline above is a line you sent to me on WhatsApp in what has become our ritual of daily dialogues about our country over the years. This has been a carryover of our passion from our days at the “Ife fortress “(apology to Prof. Jubril Aminu) where we learned when there was still a learning culture in Nigeria. I can say without any fear of contradiction that we were the last but one generation that went to proper school in real school that this country offered before it “died”.
We had the great ambience to learn.We did not have to look for fees to be in school.The highest we paid for a bed space was N90 a session. Our Library was stuffed with latest books and journals.We had teachers who taught us both what they were paid to teach and went on to infuse in us what they were “not paid to teach”. We tasked our teachers as there was intellectual ferment. We were not the “handout” generation.
Just as we glowed in the true academic tradition, our cultural outlook was essentially cosmopolitan. People like you and I took a quality decision that we were not going to join any association where our membership qualification would solely be where we were born, how much money we had and our mode of worshipping God.
You relocated to America after we left Ife and we did not meet for over two decades when I came to your corner of the globe a few years back. During our contact, subsequent phone calls and exchange of mails; the impression you made on me is that you remain the quintessential Larrry. Like I do with a large section of Yoruba politicians , you are very critical of many members of Igbo political elite and you take no prisoners with them.
This is why when I got the line “Na only Fulani waka come?” from you, I knew it was not a line too short to ignore.You were prodded to ask the question over the compilation by unauthorised statisticians of the appointments our new President has made in one month in the saddle. Out of the nine appointees, eight were from the Northern part of the country and only one from the South:INEC Ag.Chairman, Amina Zakari (North); Head of Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mordecai Ladan (North); Accountant-General of Federation, Ahmed Idris (North); Chief Security Officer, Abduraham Mani (North); ADC, Mohammed Abubakar (North); DG SSS, Lawal Daura (North), SSA Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu (North) and SA,Media and Publicity, Femi Adenisina, (South).
Perhaps the compilation is being done because of the consciousness that we already have a situation where all the three arms of government are headed by northerners .
Shortly before your question came my way,I have read a letter written by the former protem chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande where he made some lamentations on happenings within their “recking platform”.
The Ila Chief said a lot of things in his letter but what caught my fancy most was his declaration that the outright demolition of the ACN tendency within the party ,”…a large section of the South-west see the rebellion as a conspiracy of the north against the Yoruba”. I ordinarily would have ignored this were it not coming from the only one who should know better among the “leadership” of APC South west with no sense of history, ideological clarity and intellectual depth to navigate the Nigerian polity.
I’m sure Chief Akande must have read most of Awo’s books because I know his capacity to read and write good stuff in the days that we saw him as a possible rallying point for the Yoruba nation(not a “tribe” as ACF wrongly classified in its response to Chief Akande”). He should have come across Awo’s account of how no place could be found for him to sit at the dinner marking Nigeria’s independence in 1960 except among the ex-servicemen in a dingy corner. A departing colonial officer had to flash his torch at his face to be sure it was Obafemi Awolowo whose party moved the motion for independence in 1953 that was now among those whose services are no longer needed by those who opposed the move for independence.
If there was good scholarship to their politicking, the South west APC should not have thrown away the Yoruba cutting edge (true Federalism) before parting with the 25% from one of the three zones of the south without which a candidate from the North cannot be validly elected even with 100% of northern votes.
It is interesting to see how some Arewa spokespersons have reduced their contribution to “mere 500 votes not up to what Kebbi alone delivered” as against the qualification delivery. I guess this is some adult education class in power politics .
To now begin to cloak the crash of crass opportunism with Yorubaness is somehow disingenuous!
Back to who “waka come” and their identity. There is no scintilla of doubt that it would not have mattered much if Nigeria were properly constituted in the manner about the greatest thinker among the founding fathers of Nigeria, Oloye Obafemi Awolowo posited.
The sage on June 12,1967 from CELL DUP2,CALABAR PRISON signed off his book “Thoughts On The Nigerian Constitution” where he warned us about the juncture where we are presently stranded in our non-journey to nationhood . Awo wrote on page 56 of the book:
“Besides, it is not difficult to forecast that the work of government in Nigeria under a unitary constitution is bound to become unduly complex, inextricably tangled, extremely unwieldy and wasteful,and productive of disunity and discontent amongst the people.Unless we have veritable supermen at the helm of affairs,the administrative machinery would eventually disintegrate and break down under the crushing weight of ‘bureaucratic centralism “.
The last governor-general of Nigeria, Sir James Wilson Robertson also wrote about the clash of civilizations in Nigeria in his book “Transition In Africa” on page 223:
“The general outlook of the people (North) is so different from those in Southern Nigeria as to give them practically nothing in common. There is less difference between an Englishman and Italian, both of whom have a common civilization based on Greek and Roman foundations and on Christianity, than between a Muslim village in Sokoto, Kano or Katsina,and an Ibo,Ijaw or a Kalabari.
Purpose of nationality
How can any feeling of common purpose of nationality be built up between people whose culture, religion and mode of living is so completely different? When the British go, what will keep these diverse peoples together within the artificial boundaries drawn on the maps in the 1880s and 1890s”.
Robertson’s comments still ring true with the utterances of former Kano State Governor and now Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso in an interview he granted Vanguard Newspaper on April 26,2015 . He lambasted the wife of former President of Nigeria for “insulting” the north over the menace of Almajiri children which he considered a thing of “pride:
“Look at what the wife of the President said about us-northerners. She was just castigating the North almost at every opportunity. You cannot insult us and think that you can get away with it. This democracy is a game of numbers, and that is why we went back and put almajiris together to get about two million votes.
“The issue of almajiris have been open to abuse in this country and turned into insults for us. Almajiri here is a positive word but the way they see it is that we are beggars, that we produce so many children that we cannot take care of, and that is what the First Lady was saying and we kept quiet because we had our own way of answering her and we did exactly that on the 28th of March”.