There is no doubt that there is tension in the polity. Much of the tension derives from the reluctance or outright failure of the federal government to accede to the clamour for restructuring. If there was any hope left that the polity could be restructured soon, it was dashed few weeks ago, when President Muhammadu Buhari declared that there is nothing to restructure.
But that is like a complete reversal of the disposition of the government. The APC-led federal government had set up the Restructuring committee headed by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. The committee submitted its report on what and how to restructure in the polity in February 2018. More than four years after, the government has not had the will power to implement what it commissioned.
It is also true that the loudest agitation for restructuring comes from the Southern part of Nigeria. This is not for nothing. Many of the southerners believe that the Buhari administration is overtly skewed in favour of the North, where he comes from, while the Southern part is practically left in the cold or served the dregs and left-over of democracy dividends
It is equally true that the quest for restructuring was not as loud as it is today, especially in the days of previous administrations. Some pundits say it is because previous administrations were sensitive in ensuring a fair distribution of government’s privileges and largesse in a way that almost all parts of the country had a fair sense of belonging. But the Buhari administration seems to have cared less about the quest for such geo-political balancing, and this has inadvertently fueled the clamour for restructuring.
According to the agitators, if and when the country restructures, there will be a redistribution of wealth in accordance with the ethos of natural justice. The Niger Delta agitators, for instance, believe that restructuring the polity will see them virtually controlling their resources in such a way that they will merely be paying taxes and royalties to the federal government. That way, they can sufficiently deploy their resources to the growth and development of their region, and free the region from the grip of poverty and under development. However, those who argue against this perspective are wont to ask how well the oil-bearing states have been able to meaningfully use their 14 per cent derivation fund in the development of their various states.
Perhaps, it is the fear of the fiscal consequences of the restructuring that has made the federal government to develop cold feet on the matter.
But beyond the controversy of resource control, which the federal government does not want to concede, are the various other sore points in the relationship between the Federal Government and Southern agitators. Some of the issues include, but limited to:
Top jobs going to the north
Many have accused President Buhari of unbridled nepotism. This derives largely from his appointments. He does not seem to care a hoot about the requirement of the Federal Character Commission, which basically advocates a fair distribution of federal appointments
The examples of nepotistic appointments abound so glaringly across board in the country. Until recently, and for over six years, for instance, all the service chiefs, save one, were all from only one section of the country—the north.
Heads of prized government agencies and parastatals including the Police, DSS, Army, Customs, Immigration, Prisons, NPA, NIMASA, Federal Character Commission, RAMFAC, NNPC, DPR, FIRS, etc. etc., are all northerners, and predominantly of the Fulani stock.
It is the fear of such I-don’t-care dominance by a certain section of the country that further fuels the fear that even the 2023 election will not be free and fair. The tension being generated by the vote against the non-electronic transmission of election results is just a manifestation of such suspicion, if not apprehension.
North’s Unfair Waivers and Concessions
This is one sore area that irks people from the south. The concessions and waivers granted people from the northern part of the country are huge, most times to the detriment of people from the Southern part of the country.
The argument is that some waivers have to be introduced to avoid one section of the country over-running federal facilities etc.
I recently read the very brilliant write up of the former Emir of Kano, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi on the position of northern students in the 70’s over the removal of feeding subsidy in Nigerian universities: how he, along with some northern students teamed up with the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to oppose the increment of meal ticket in Nigerian universities, even though majority of the northern students were under various forms of scholarship, while majority (if not all) of the students from the south were self-sponsored. So, how come northern students had scholarship while southern students did not? That’s story for another day.
But that is not all. Few weeks ago, I saw the cut-off mark released (is it) by Federal Ministry of Education on children who wrote National Common Entrance Examination, seeking admission to Federal Government colleges. There was one scheme and syllabus for all Nigerian children, whether they are from the south, east, west or north. The children wrote the examination same day under the same condition of timing, Test and Measurement parameters etc. When results are released, the cut-off marks became different. While the candidates from Abia State, for instance, are expected to score as high as 130 to get admitted into any of the federal Government Colleges, the candidate from Jigawa would need just 44, Yes, 44 or even 2 (for a male candidate from Yobe or Zamfara States) to get admitted into the same school where an Imo-state candidate who scores 135 may not be admitted, all in the name of educationally-advantaged state and educationally-disadvantaged state. What kind of double standard is that? Little wonder they (northern students) would be the ones that would publicly write: “You Feeds Us at School and You Feeds Our Fathers…”, even before Mr President, at the Sallah rally last Tuesday in Daura!
How can we truly preach the gospel of one united country in the face of such wicked and discriminatory policy? How can the Delta born child forgive a system that denies him or her admission on account of coming from Delta State, yet grants admission to a child with far lower score than his or hers, just because he or she comes from Gombe State, for instance?
What is worse, it is the children who enjoy these unfair parities that rise even far much faster in Civil service than their southern counterparts.
That explains why today, we have more Judges in the nation’s judicial system of people from the north, essentially because they do not go through the competitive rigour their southern contemporaries go through in climbing their career ladder.
Many really wonder how long this disparity of educationally-advantaged states and educationally-disadvantaged states will continue to polarize standards in the Nigerian educational system.
Under Age Voting At Elections
The practice of allowing under-aged voters in the northern part of the country had become so aged that it hardly counts as an electoral oddity anymore.
As a Political reporter, I had covered elections in virtually all parts of the country, including the north. There is no argument about the fact that during elections, under-aged minors (sometimes as little as eight year olds) are verily accommodated on the queues, all with their voter’s cards. Nobody challenges them. Not even the law enforcement agencies or Electoral officers dare raise an eyebrow. They are all jolly well allowed to vote. Their votes count.
Yes, the north has huge population, but the voting figures that come from the north are somewhat wild, making some people to wonder (if not allege) if cows and goats are not counted along with human voters.
Security agencies and Electoral officers down south are far more vicious in ensuring compliance with electoral rules and guidelines than it happens up north. These are hardly spoken about inequalities.
Unfair Political Skewing
Perhaps, more than any other factor, the issue of unfair political skewing irks Southerners to no end. Maybe, it can be argued that the northerners are not to blame for the cartographical inequality of the Nigerian map, as drawn by the colonial masters. While the north has 19 states, the south has 17.
Yet, the political gladiators, over the years, have unwittingly established the ratio.
I had cited, in previous articles, for instance, of how the South East is under-served by giving them only five states in their geo-political zone (even when the late Dr Alex Ekwueme supervised that geo-political allotment in the country), while all other geo-political zones have six states with the North west even having seven states.
Even then, the skew is huge. Until August 1991, the present Jigawa State was part of Kano State. While old Kano State got split, Imo State largely remained what it was.
Today, while the duo of Kano and Jigawa States have a total of 82 LGAs, the entire five South Eastern states have just 95 LGAs. What that means is that the two states of Kano and Jigawa will draw almost the same amount of resources from the federation account as the entire five south eastern states.
What is more, in terms of representation at the National Assembly, Jigawa and Kano States would have more representations than about four states of the South East.
That explains why at almost all times, when it comes to voting, the northern lawmakers would always have their way, as they would always overwhelm the south, no matter how cohesive the south may be. The modifications on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and even the Electoral Amendment Bill are very clear and present examples.
In all, Nigeria will witness less agitation if and when leaders spare a thought for all. Both parts of the country: north and south should enjoy fair and equal treatment, no matter which of the sections produced the sitting president.