The plethora of arguments centering on the unjust structuring of the Nigerian federation by the colonial masters, which gave the North an unfair advantage over the South in the distribution of resources and allocation of political positions, has continued to occupy the front burner in Nigerian political discourses several years after the country formally gained independence from British rule. This perceived imbalance in power relations has been the cause of agitations by Southerners for a redress of the uneven structuring of the federation.
There is no arguing the fact that the processes that culminated in the creation of the Nigerian State were faulty as the British arbitrarily bequeathed to the country a political liability which has been impeding the country’s unity due to the unequal geo-political structure of the country which left, the Northern Region, over half the size of the whole, which meant that with the final devolution of power to Nigerians, the North would always have an overriding influence in the country’s affairs (Tunde Oduwobi, From Conquest to Independence: The Nigerian Colonial Experience, University of Lagos. HAOL, Num. 25, Primavera, 2011, 19-29).
However, despite the quite reasonable arguments by a retinue of both academic and casual analysts, especially the acolytes of restructuring and secession, that Nigeria’s colossal structural deformities are the primary background factors responsible for the constant frictions amongst the country’s indigent groups, especially the big three (Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa), some of the pertinent questions that should be agitating our minds are: what have southerners done to improve on the so-called “mistake of 1914” since the exit of the British? What concrete steps have southerners taken to activate the processes of restructuring or transforming the system in its entirety? Put more succinctly, what have southern leaders done to practically redress their supposed second class status in the Nigerian State system on the few occasions they had opportunities to captain the countries ship of state?
The blanket answer to the above questions is “next to nothing”. Apart from the heroic, but blunted efforts of founding fathers of southern extraction who agitated for the creation of more regions or boundary adjustments to redress this geo-political imbalance – prelude to independence and afterwards – the later feeble efforts of the southern intelligentsia, the muted sounds of a sprinkling of activists, to some isolated agitations here and there, coupled with other subdued attempts at reform in the past by southern leaders when the reins of federal power was in their hands, no constructive nor concrete steps have ever been taken to redress the gross absurdities in the system.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, in recent memory, are classic cases of southerners who were privileged to serve as substantive, democratically elected Presidents of the Nigerian State, but did nothing tangible to rectify the historical mistake that have supposedly made the south the “North’s slave”. While Obasnjo failed twice as first, a military Head of State, and later a civilian President, to carry out any concrete structural reformation, Goodluck Jonathan, having conducted a successful national political reform confab, during his tenure as Commander in Chief, failed to implement the findings of the conference. These southern rubber stamps simply went through the empty motions of being in office. They lacked the “guts” to make their marks.
Unlike their northern counterparts who come to office with clear-cut blueprints of what they wish to achieve in office, southern politicians come to power unprepared. That is what sets northern leaders apart from their southern counterparts, and accounts for their seeming domination of the country’s politics. It is instructive to note that all the state creation exercises since the country’s independence were carried out by Northern leaders – General Yakubu Gowon, 12 states; General Murtala Mohammed , 7 states; General Ibrahim Babangida, 11 states; and General Sani Abacha, 6 states.
Rather than unite to forge a common, unbreakable front to countervail the north’s hegemony, Southern groups, especially Igbos and Yorubas, have tended to cancel each other out by allying with the north during political contests. This disharmony in relations between these two potential allies is the chink in the armor the north has always exploited to its advantage. The north dominates the political space because they have had willing aiders and abettors from the south who pose as their people’s representatives, but are in fact sniveling traitors. Northern domination would not succeed without the tacit support of southern collaborators. Pure and simple!
The north dominates the country’s politics because its elite understand the dynamics and value of power much better that their southern counterparts who are only interested in the accouterments of power, and not how they can exploit power to allocate values to their chief constituencies. Northern political hegemony will continue until southern politicians put their battered house in other. The northern political elite will continue reigning supreme in Nigerian politics until Southern politicians go back to the drawing board, if they have any, to hash out feasible strategies to checkmate their dominance. The north will continue having an upper hand in Nigerian politics until the southern political elite throws off the toga of henpecks who are used and discarded whenever it suits the fancy of their northern masters. The southern political class must look in the mirror and change their ways. Until then, they should shut their noisy traps and stop complaining.
That is the simple truth of the matter. God bless Nigeria!