Is the contest for president a war between North and South?

As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to have had good teachers. Goodness or badness in teacherhood is relative but I know that the litmus test to determining who a really good teacher is in that teacher’s ability to leave a piece of himself in you. Years after I graduated, I ran into a couple of these teachers, the then Drs Tony Afejuku, Yusuf and Titi Ufomata. I know that these teachers are now professors and still involved in leaving large chunks of their intellect with their students. But it is tragic that I cannot remember the name of the teacher that introduced me to the elements of logic and ratiocination – that ability to recognize that if ALL BOYS WEAR TROUSERS, and that AMINA IS WEARING TROUSERS, does not make AMINA A BOY. That teacher often made references to a fallacy known as ‘ad hominem’, when a weak argument appeals to people’s emotions and prejudices instead of their ability to think. The hallmark of such weak arguments is that they usually fly in the face of another error of reasoning known as ‘ignoratio elenchus’ – when arguments stand upside down.

Recently, there have been a cacophony of voices arguing on who becomes president from 2011. While a great many politicians see the incumbent as a radical break from the status quo and a ‘breath of fresh air’, another equally vociferous group, led by their champion IBB, demands [quite simplistically] that since the PDP ‘zoned’ the presidency to the North, to the North then it must be whether or not the position will go to an ignoramus. On the other hand, politicians from the West and East are playing the Ostrich and watching the fray, hoping to find relevance in another political dispensation. In the upsidedownness of a lot of these arguments, many have lost their heads; some are already importing grenades and bazookas so that the madness taking place in Myanmar will prevail here. A documentary I saw recently by Africa Independent Television, AIT, had Raymond Dokpesi threatening everyone that if his man did not win, there was going to be a coup. Others are baring fangs and making it clear that if Goodluck Jonathan becomes president next year, Nigeria will disintegrate.

These are the sentiments making the rounds. Ordinarily, we should see these as empty threats. But the trend becomes worrisome when those making these threats and arguments are supposed to be well placed people. Well, if this is the way these politicians want things to go, I would not hesitate to encourage you my fellow countrymen and women to arm yourselves as well. Look for and buy a gun now. This is because if the security forces are not arresting and prosecuting those making these incendiary remarks, shouldn’t that tell you something of a looming catastrophe? Violence cannot always be the way to resolve issues. If it is, you better ask Otto Von Bismarck, the Prussian leader who tried to build an empire via iron and blood. Where is that empire today and were is Prussia?

There is no other time than now to insist that the contest for president of Nigeria is not a contest between Northerners and Southerners. The real issue is that since the contest has shifted from the mundane to a realization by these politicians that the only way for us to make progress as a nation is for us to dump the status quo, people like Ciroma [who has been a part of virtually every government since Independence] are jittery. And because those who represent the status quo are already beginning to catch cold even before the breeze has started to blow, they have cooked up that red herring of the Presidency-contest-is-a-war-between-the-North-and-South argument. The contest in fact, is not North versus South but about a people who have had enough and who want an opportunity to also determine Nigeria’s destiny.

Any nation today making any kind of progress can be likened to a boiling cauldron of beans. Now, take a moment from reading this and go to your kitchen and perform this simple experiment: get some beans in a pot and pour some water into it. Watch what will happen to that hot pot of beans in your kitchen: EVERY BEAN RISES TO THE TOP OF THE POT BEFORE THE WHOLE POT IS DONE. In theory and practice therefore, that is what happens in great nations of the world today. Everybody, no matter what part of the country they come from, has an opportunity to rise to the top. These opportunities or the enabling environments are usually not defined by geography but by verve. Look at the incumbent US president: here is a Kenyan-American, with a queer name that resembles Osama bin Laden. The people who voted him in as president were not thinking of his queerness or the fact that he has black skin. His party, the Democrats chose him out of many other QUALIFIED candidates. They were thinking more of an individual, not a party, that they could entrust their lives and that of their children. In effect, the kind of voting that took place at the mid terms recently sent a chilling message even to Obama, as if the people were saying: we don’t care who you are but perform now or get out! But when Americans voted him in as president in 2008, they made a statement and set a precedent for others to follow. Nigeria as a leader in Africa should follow this lead. Unfortunately however, an inherent weakness in our ability to think, or an inherent weakness in the people who know that they are going to lose out in the elections has introduced the red herring of North versus South. What makes it even sadder still is that certain parochial members of the media are the ones fanning this ember. I might also want to say as conclusion that 90 percent of the politicians who want to drag us into this unnecessary argument are the used condoms: they are no longer relevant.

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