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Opinion: ‘What Do Northerners Want?’



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I don’t know about you, but prenatal amnesia has denied me the recollection of the details of that crucial conversation I had with God in heaven before I became a swimming zygote looking for a willing host.

However, in the 21st Century I am forced to make a recollection of that epic event. The way things are politicized in my country reveals my prenatal myopia in asking angels to smoothly guide me to Okeagi instead of Buckingham Palace. Before I landed there, Frederick Lugard had partitioned the country the way it suited him. The way it was done, a Yagba man is categorized as a northerner. I did not need the permission of the Sultan to be a street cousin of Tafawa Balewa; it was achieved by natural selection.

Weird isn’t it? Exactly! My father thinks himself learned even though he is self-taught. He rates himself as well travelled if being a labourer in the defunct Western Region qualifies one. He is cosmopolitan in outlook and nepotism does not flow in his blood. Long before I discovered I had Muslim nephews, cousins and nieces, it was in our inherited cottage that I witnessed the first Muslim praying. I must have been five or six. The itinerant alfa would perform ablution and kneel to say his prayers right before joining us for dinner.

Sorry, this is not a biography, but a recap of events that shaped my worldview. At 18, I moved to Kano to live with my now late Aunt Olu Awofegha, second of three wives of a man who professes Christianity. But even as a Kwaran, some Kano officials considered me not northern enough for promotions and appointments. That is the past and I no longer live there.

Sunday morning, a close friend sent me this list. I have no idea what it was meant to achieve. Perhaps to remind us northerners of our insatiable appetite for public office; to ridicule us or help those within our regional pantheon who see acquisition of the presidency as the ultimate cure for their earthly troubles and access to eternal bliss? So here is what it says: –
Vice President – North
Senate President – North
Speaker – North
Head of Service – North
INEC Chairman – North
IGP – North
CJN – North
President, Court of Appeal – North
EFCC Chairman – North
President, Federal High Court – North
National Security Adviser – North
Chief of Defence Staff – North
Chief of Naval Staff – North
Comptroller, Customs Service – North
Comptroller Prison Service – North
Defence Minister – North
Education Minister – North
MD Port Authority – North
MD NDIC – North
Richest Man in Africa – North
85% of Petroleum Marketers in Nigeria – Northerners
80% of Oil Block Owners in Nigeria – Northerners
99% of Beggars in Nigeria – Northerners
Boko Haram – North

Yet, the poorest states in Nigeria and educationally backward areas in Nigeria are in the north.
Now ask yourself, what is the problem of northerners?

Of course these are dubious statistics, but that is an argument for another day. So, what is the problem of ‘northerners?’ I have no direct answer to this question that I know is circulating in the textosphere apparently exclusively to non-northern friends. But I am a northerner. I don’t give a damn if all these ‘privileges’ are taken away from my region and in its place leadership and service is bequeathed to all without affection or ill will and unmindful of where they come from or their creed. The occupiers of these positions earn their salaries and put the money in their pocket, not in the account of the Kaduna or Langtang or Yagba Mafia.

For four years, I have lived in the hospitable city of Ottawa. My children and I get all the privileges extended to natural Canadians except the right to vote. I do not know the ethnic composition of Stephen Harper’s government or those of my provincial representatives. I will give a Tim Hortons coffee; they are not Inuits, the original inhabitants of Canada.

At the last municipal elections, a Nigerian was elected into the Ottawa City Council. It is not important to Canada where people come from, they are judged by the strength of their character. If and when I file papers for citizenship, the Canadian Border Services Agency, would be looking into my records and my ability to contribute to the growth of my adopted nation.

So, what do I want as a northerner? It is not different from the wishes of every bona fide Nigerian – good governance, provision of service, peace and progress-that’s all. Kogi, my state and Mopamuro are ruled or ruined by indigenes, but nothing has changed in 15 years to significantly advance it. It would not change if they all come from Okeagi. Nothing changes in a country blinded by ethnicity and bigotry. As a nation, nothing will change until our priorities change.


Article written by Tunde Asaju  and can be reached through


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