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In this centennial season of blame game over everything that has gone wrong with Nigeria since 1914, it is not surprising that President Goodluck Jonathan has become the whipping boy. Yes, the buck stops at the President’s desk – and he knows that. That is why he takes all manner of criticisms from all manner of people in his strides knowing that he asked for a difficult job in 2011 when he offered to serve the people as their President. In one of his recent chats with the media, President Jonathan did accept that Nigerians, including this writer, are justified to be angry and frustrated at the slow pace we have made as a people in the journey of development since independence in 1960.
While it is justifiable to criticise the President fairly for what he does or does not do, yet that does not confer on any person or group of persons the right to distort facts, misinform the people and accuse him (Jonathan) for offences, which even a day-old baby can exonerate him from. It is in this category that the wicked accusations of Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie and his Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) fall. According to the ACF, President Jonathan has not only failed the North but also hates our people from the North. Coomasie had said this at the recent emergency meeting of ACF and NGOs in the North.
Needless to point out that the ACF, under Coomasie, has become an irredeemable irredentist group of ethnic jingoists devoid of any nationalistic sentiments and aspirations. The once respected northern association has succumbed to the parochialism and the personalist littleness of its present promoters like the former inspector general of police. Lest we forget, the same Coomasie now attacking Jonathan and blaming him for the insecurity and the failings of the North headed the Nigerian police at its lowest and most notorious period. This was the era when Coomasie donated the force to the arbitrary pleasures of the former dictator-head of state to persecute and eliminate Nigerian citizens from all parts of the country.
It is only in our country that people who brought opprobrium and ignominy to their fatherland are given yet another platform to further insult the sensibilities of citizens. Just as Nigerians thought they have heard the last of Coomasie, he suddenly re-emerged from obscurity at the recently concluded National Confab with even more vindictive and divisive spirit, which nearly ruined the honest efforts of many other patriotic Nigerians tired of ethnic politics and atavistic regionalism.
And to face the issues raised by Coomasies’s ACF, it is not true that President Jonathan has failed in protecting the North. If anything, it is some northern leaders like Coomasie that have failed the region. The insurgency ravaging the Northeast of Nigeria began even before Jonathan became president and that is, perhaps, the only fact that Coomasie could not twist. Although many scholars and strategists have given many reasons for the emergence of the deadly insurgence in the North, an eclectic position is that bad leadership that manifestly impoverished the people of the area of a long period of time is one certain factor.
For many years, northern elite wielded power and did absolutely nothing to improve the access and quality of education in the region. And neither did they build a culture of enterprise and industry there. Instead, what they promoted was personal wealth at the expense of the people, rural and mass poverty that Boko Haram is feeding off for its recruitment. The schools that Jonathan is building and funding in the North today to take children of school age off the streets and make them less vulnerable to radicalisation and other abuses ought to have been done decades ago. And who was in charge then? Coomasie and some of his cohorts at the ACF are directly complicit of the crime against the children and people of the North. What did Coomasie do when he was in office to help the North? Perhaps the most important service he rendered to the North was to receive from General Sani Abacha the corpse of the late leader and nationalist, General Musa Yar’ Adua and brought him home to the Katsina people!
If Coomasie is weeping that the North has become divided politically today, how is that the problem of President Jonathan? The concept of the monolithic North has always been problematic. The high-handedness of people like Coomasie who hid under the rally cry of “one North” to promote a certain ethnic group while subjugating the others in a well-orchestrated internal colonialism policy has found them out. The logic of democracy and the freedom that it inheres are responsible for the boldness that the hitherto subjugated peoples and groups in the North are displaying against an oligarchy that is slow in coming to terms with the reality of the modern Nigeria.
Those who are nostalgic about the “unity” of the North are perhaps jittery to explain in whose interest this unity had been in the past. If the monolithic North is disintegrating, it has nothing to do with the President. If anything, those now pointing fingers at different directions need to re-examine the power relations in the North and how much power had been put in the service of the ordinary people all these years. If it takes an Ijaw man from Otuoke to improve the life chances of the ordinary citizens in the North who have borne the brunt of prebendal use of power by their own elite for many decades, who cares about the selfish moaning of Coomasie and his ACF?
It is unfair and wicked to suggest that Jonathan hates the North and that he is doing nothing to secure the northern parts of our country. Sometimes it amazes to grasp the position of some of the so-called northern leaders on the matter of Boko Haram insurgency. The same people barracking the President and accusing him of not doing enough to protect the North are the same people who insisted on the withdrawal of soldiers from the flashpoints in the Northeast. These are the same people who have asked the President to treat the insurgents with kid gloves as was done to the Niger Delta militants. What do this people really want from Jonathan? But the good news is that Coomasie is not speaking for the entire north and Tanko Yakasai and his Northern Elders Forum (NEF) have given us their word on that!
Written by Hamisu Abubakar.
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