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Opinion: Don’t Ignore The Arewa Youth Voices



By Gbogungboro

A week ago, hundreds of members of Arewa Youth Development Foundation went on a peaceful protest demonstration in Kano. They took their demonstration to a most eminent Nigerian leader – Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi ll, Emir of Kano. A couple of days later, they took it to one of Nigeria’s most respected elderly statesmen, Alhaji Maitama Sule, former federal minister, former Chairman of the National Antiquities Commission, former Nigerian Permanent Representative at the United Nations.

These young people are doing a good job of making Nigeria and the world hear their message. They are conducting themselves in the most respectable manner imaginable – in a manner calculated to make Nigeria and the world listen. According to all reports, they have been perfectly peaceful. They do not speak the language of violence, and they do not act in ways that can promote violence. Peaceful and self-respecting, they are nevertheless persistent in pushing their message. They do not look like ones who can be easily discouraged, or who may give up and quit. In this country in which violence is a common mode of venting group discontentment, these youths of the Arewa Youths Development Foundation deserve to be rated as a model of sensible democratic youth action.

Finally, these youths are not children; they are not some bleary eyed school kids rioting against their teachers. No. They are responsible young adults. From even the little we can glean about them from the press reports, they are well educated people, university graduates and professionals. The president of their group is a legal practitioner. In short, these are voices that Nigeria and Nigerians must listen to with respect.

What then is their message? Principally, they demand that Nigeria should be dissolved. In their group’s prepared speech which they read during their demonstration, they urged all Northerners to “rise and support agitation for peaceful dissolution of this union called Nigeria for every region to go its own way.”

And they want the dissolution to happen right now. To prepare the ground for the dissolution, they are urging all Northerners resident in the South, and all Southerners resident in the North, “all artisans, students, public and private sector servants, traders, business holders currently operating, residing or intending to do so in any part of Nigeria” to return to their respective home regions within the next two weeks.

What reasons are they giving for their demand that Nigeria should be dissolved? They say that Nigeria is not working; that Northerners need to terminate their relationship with Nigeria; that Northerners have been suffering “continued intimidation” in the hands of the Federal Government; that Northerners are being insultingly regarded by Southerners as economic parasites in Nigeria; that Northerners are generally discriminated against in Nigeria and treated like non-citizens in the South. They say “Southerners are not welcome in the North”, and that “Southerners must go”.

What should the rest of us, Nigerians, make of all this? First and foremost, if I were a Southerner living in the North or a Northerner living in the South, I would start packing now.

Secondly, these youthful voices represent a very vital part of Northern Nigeria’s elite. They have the credentials to speak authoritatively for the Arewa North. Also, we need to note the kinds of responses they get when they speak directly to the older members of the Arewa elite. After listening to them, the Emir of Kano enjoined them “to imbibe the lesson of peace in their entire endeavour”. The elder Statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule, was more forthcoming. He said, “It is true that we have been suffering a lot in the northern part of the country, humiliation, discrimination and so forth – – – We believe that the best way out of this dilemma in which we have found ourselves is to have a dialogue. – – – And that is why we have been trying to have a dialogue, we believe that we can bring to an end the ugly things that are happening in this country if all of us can come together and tell one another the truth. – – – The world can never be governed by force, never by fear and even, never by power”.

One clear picture emerges from both the complaints of the Arewa youth leaders and the responses of their elders. Northern leaders of all generations are seriously disturbed about the way that federal power is now impacting the North. This is something they have never experienced, something they cannot live with. Rather than continuing to live under these conditions in the country to which they belong, they would prefer that the country should be broken up – “for every region to go its own way”.

I am sure that most Southerners would find this picture from the North very interesting indeed. All the years since 1962 (the year that the Federal Government launched an attack on the Western Region), the peoples of Southern Nigeria have suffered increasing “intimidation” and even subjugation by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Because the Northerners controlled the Federal Government until only recently, they did not see or appreciate our sufferings in those years. Because of the unjust impacts of the Federal Government on our lives in the South, we the youths of most of the South (Southwest, Southeast and South-south) became radicalized in various ways, most desiring that Nigeria should break up, and that we should have separate little countries of our own. The response of the North in all those years was to make the Federal Government more and more powerful, better and better equipped with coercive force, more and more ruthless in dealing with “dissidents”.

When, at long last, a Southerner (Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo) somehow found his way to the presidency, we thought that change would follow. But we soon found that we were deceiving ourselves – that the builders of the federal behemoth had built it so perfectly (on roots of human frailties) that it would always operate as designed, no matter what part of Nigeria the president comes from. In fact, the presidencies of Obasanjo and Jonathan are final proof that the character of the Nigerian federal establishment is unchangeable. As the system is, anybody who is president will always presume that it is part of his prerogative to handle Nigeria’s vast revenues as personal estate, to rig elections in any part of Nigeria, to discriminate against any region or people, to bully and subdue the government of any state, and to use Nigeria’s enormous money chest to pervert and subvert Nigeria’s political system and order.

Even now that the Northern elite are experiencing the oppressive side of federal power, they still, strangely, out of habit, want to preserve it – while complaining against it! In the ongoing National Conference, Northern delegates are still fighting might and mane to preserve the federal status quo, obviously because they are hoping to recapture control of federal power soon.

Therefore, there is no other option for the peoples of Nigeria than to do what the Arewa youth leaders demand – namely, to dissolve Nigeria, “for every region to go its own way”. Alhaji Maitama Sule wants dialogue. Hopefully, the dialogue will be to pave way for our new countries – the Republics of Delta, Biafra, Oduduwa, Arewa, Niger-Benue, and Kanem. The Arewa youths speak for most Nigerians. Alhaji Maitama Sule is right: Most peoples in the world, and in Nigeria, hate being governed by force or by fear.


Article written by Gbogungboro


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