Politicking in 2019, when President Muhammadu Buhari would have been nearing the completion of his first tenure shall be spiced by many considerations. It will certainly throw new alliances between groups and regions; heighten anxiety and the actors would deploy demonic intrigues to undo political rivals.
The Southwest Yoruba race has given early signals in this regard. Self-acclaimed APC national leader, Senator Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu has not hidden his desire to stoke the flames of discord in the ruling APC. He aims to blend it with vicious manipulations to even unseat incumbent President Buhari to remain in the reckoning of national politics as a political bulldozer of all dispensations.
He has a knack for this political posturing. Presiding as Governor of Lagos state, Tinubu stoutly challenged attempts by former President Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) in 2003, to convert the Southwest from the opposition Alliance for Democracy (AD) to mainstream politics of the then ruling PDP. Despite OBJ’s political roughness and might, with his entire presidential aura, he could not effectively trounce Tinubu, who retained some Southwestern states to the AD.
Strikingly too, after the AD underwent mutations and ended up with the nomenclature of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011 with Tinubu still as the captain of the ship. ACN posed as the strongest rival political party to challenge the ruling PDP. Aggrieved politicians mainly from PDP fold massively sought refuge in the opposition ACN and contested the 2011 polls at different levels-governorship and parliamentary polls.
There was recommendable impact, as the ACN largely touted as a regional party made inroads in other levels of elections even in some parts of the North. But Tinubu romanced the reverse gear on the presidential ballot.
He allegedly gambled away the chances of the ACN presidential candidate, a northern minority, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan who desperately wanted the 2011 presidential job of Nigeria.
Of course, the ACN and other opposition parties like the CPC, ANPP and others, formed an alliance in the build-up to the 2015 general elections, resulting in the merger of mega opposition parties, to form the APC. Certainly, the combination of forces threw President Buhari as its presidential candidate and the APC eventually sacked the ruling PDP government of former President Jonathan in the historic 2015 general elections.
Now, some issues are now sprouting over the Buhari Presidency. The issues neither have weight nor merit of any kind. Chiefly, Tinubu is reportedly instigating his brethren in the Southwest to fault or perceive every action of President Buhari’s administration negatively. They have kick-started subtle campaigns to work against dislodging Buhari in 2019. It is mainly by spreading the sentiments of the continued political hegemony of the Fulani oligarchs in Nigeria.
The sermons have become very acidic, except that it has failed to impress anybody or gain currency. And Tinubu is alleged to be the shadows behind this new wave of antagonism of the Buhari presidency on account of his unfounded political discontentment.
Recent write-ups, analyses, commentaries anchored by South westerners have vainly tried to push the impression that not only other parts of Nigeria that have been unfairly subjugated by the “Fulani Caliphate,” (whatever that means, only the proponents know) but Northern minorities, especially, those domiciled in the Middle Belt have been cheated by the core North for too long.
They are instigating Northern minorities into rebellion or resistance to any further domination from the Fulani oligarchy, which they claim number just about seven million people. They are soliciting for new political realignments in 2019 with Minorities of the Middle Belt against the Core North to consolidate this plot.
To expand their political fortunes, the Yoruba’s new circle of antagonists have renewed calls for the re-structuring of Nigeria, in the hope that it would galvanize the interest of other southern regional blocs to identify with their cause. They laughably claim the Fulani Caliphate dreads the restructuring of Nigeria because of the extreme poverty of the Core North, which is fed by other regions and cannot survive on its own resources. And the dingdong has kept resonating, albeit unconvincingly.
Accepted, the Yorubas in the Southwest are undoubtedly very intelligent and exposed Nigerians. When they lend their voice to a cause, Nigerians listen. But the current campaigns against the Buhari presidency and the desperation to steep it in some Fulani hegemonic control of Nigeria makes no sense to a sane mind and it is fact belated.
Nigerians know that former presidents of Nigeria, like Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari and the Late Umaru Yar’Adua were all of Fulani extraction in the North, but were given the mandate to preside over the affairs of the country at different times. When Buhari vied for the presidency in 2015, he never veiled his origins as a Fulani man. Yet, Nigerians brushed this aside because the focus was on the person in the candidate. These are unalterable truths Tinubu and his cohorts know without any shred of doubt.
But suddenly, Buhari’s origins have become an issue to stimulate sentimental campaigns’ and preachments about the Fulani Caliphate’s domination of Nigeria, like their personal patrimony. To deepen the campaign, the separatists’ have attempted to create an imaginary feud between the Fulanis and the Hausas, as well, claiming, the former has enslaved the Hausas for decades.
However, the first sure mistake and point of early crash-landing of the campaigns is the dishonest schemings to drag the Middle Belt minorities into the unfounded anger of the Southwest or Yorubas’ orchestrated campaigns to urge them to severe ties with their brethren in the Core North. To put it generously, no Northern minority is ready for such a gamble with the Yorubas, no matter the attractiveness of the bait.
Such political experiments’ with the Southern Yorubas in the past were never rewarding to the Northern minorities, who are even wiser today. The Northern minorities are ever willing to pitch tent with the worse Hausa/Fulanis in politics than any angel in Yoruba garments.
The experience of minority rights crusader, Late Sen. J.S. Tarka is handy. The Tiv example is appropriate because the Tivs are the single largest ethnic grouping in the Middle Belt and their experience is largely reflective of the general plight of Northern minorities which might want to attempt a political alliance with groups like the Yorubas.
History has shown that the alliance of the Tiv ethnic nationality led by Late Senator Joseph Tarka’s under the banner of the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) with the Southwest Action Group (AG) led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo never worked beneficially. Tarka had revolted against the Core North’s Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), which led to his formation of the UMBC.
Chief Awolowo perceived the crack as an opportunity to penetrate and break the oneness of the North by reaching out to the disgruntled Tarka for a political alliance. While Awolowo was busy developing the Western region, sending his brothers to school abroad, no such gesture was extended to any of the brothers of his friend, Tarka whom they had struck alliance. What Tarka reaped from that marriage of inconvenience were the two terrible Tiv riots of 1960 to 1964, resulting in awesome killings and arson.
Thereafter, politicking in Nigeria ended with the Kaduna Nzeogwu led coup of 1966. But Sen. Tarka came back from the alliance with the Yorubas with nothing either for himself or his people, but was drenched in the blood of his kith and kin the riots of the Yorubas alliance caused.
At the return of democracy in 1979, Sen. Tarka had no option than to embrace his Core Northern brothers. When Shagari emerged President, Tiv nation alone had five ministerial slots. Years later, a President OBJ would disgrace out of office the COAS, Gen. Victor Malu based on disagreement over policy issues. Since the creation of Nigeria, Yorubas consider the portfolio of Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice as their traditional birthright.
When it goes to another section of the country, they kick and scream all manner of inanities. But a Fulani man, Late Yar’Adua who emerged as President in 2007 gave the portfolio to Mr. Mike Kaase Aondoakaa of the Tiv minority, aside other generous appointments.
Therefore, the Yoruba campaigners of separatism of minority tribes of the Middle Belt from the Hausa/Fulanis of the Core North must be reminded that stretching their machinations this far would not nourish their cause in anyway. Agreed that when people or groups live together, issues crop up from time to time, but these issues are not weighty enough to cut the cord of fraternity.
Should other regions of Nigeria also accuse the Yorubas of clandestine moves to hijack Nigeria? When their son emerges president, they claim, he is not the choice of Afenifere. If other regions produce the President, they express irritating dissatisfaction with the lofty patronage extended to them. What do the Yorubas really want? Without mincing words, their present campaign is very unpopular and unacceptable to the Northern minorities in the Middle Belt. They should keep a safe distance away from the minorities of the North.
—Ebute is former Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.