Northern Interest: In Whose Interest?, By Kazeem Akintunde

Some Northern politicians have been huffing and puffing since it came to light that some departments in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), are to be moved to Lagos for administrative convenience and to cut down cost.


First to react was Yerima Shettima, the spokesperson of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF). He told the world that the plan would jeopardize the growth and development of the North. I am still scratching my head for the correlation between the movement of those departments and the anticipated development that the north would lose as a result.


Shettima, who issued the statement on behalf of ‘Northern youths’ will turn 50 on May 28, this year. How he is termed a ‘youth leader’ in Nigeria’s political eco-system beats the imagination, but hey, they say age is nothing but a number and we are ‘not too young to run’ so no problem.


Twenty-fours after the statement from Shettima, the ‘elders’ added their voice. This time, it was Professor T. A. Muhammed-Baba, National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Council (ACF). To give strength to his younger brother’s position, Prof. Muhammed-Baba was emphatic that the move would under-develop the North. Let me quote him extensively so that you will get the drift of my argument: “The CBN’s decision is no means of isolated or normal administrative action to fix some logistics problem. Rather, it fits into a disturbing pattern of antagonistic actions often taken by certain federal administrations against the interests of Northern and other parts of Nigeria.


“The CBN’s announcements were followed by another from the Federal Ministry of Aviation’s Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to also relocate to Lagos, due to shortage of office space and claim of the volume of air traffic handled by Lagos.


“The proposed actions of the two agencies, i.e. CBN and FAAN are precipitous and mala fide. Still in the Ministry of Aviation, only eight of 40 directors recently appointed are from the North!


“ACF wishes to remind all concerned that decades ago, the seat of the capital of the Federal Republic was moved from Lagos to Abuja for reasons that remain valid, it is constitutional even more so today, constitutionally so, although, of course, a section of the country never liked the decision”.


Then our brother up north moved their campaigns against the plan relocation a notch higher when Senator Ali Ndume, representing Borno South in the National Assembly warned President Bola Tinubu not to approve the decision as it would have ‘political consequences’. His came with a subtle threat. There would be consequences! Speaking during an appearance on Channels TV, Ndume stated that Northern opposition to the decision was unanimous as Abuja is recognised as the country’s capital. His words: “This is not only about Northern colleagues; it’s a consensus. We only have one federal capital, and that is Abuja. All these Lagos boys who are thinking that Lagos is Nigeria are just misinforming and advising the president wrongly; the regulators of the financial institutions are supposed to be or are in Abuja. They are not doing any favour to my president because this will have political consequences”.


Elders in Katsina State have also added their voice against the plan. Socio-cultural and other political groups in the south have also risen in support of the move. The Afenifere Socio-cultural Organisation, The Middle-belt Forum, Ohanaize Ndigbo, The Pan Niger Delta Foram (PANDEF) and several others have all condemned the campaign by northern politicians against the move, insisting that Nigeria does not start and end with the North alone. An issue that should not receive more than a passing glance has now been turned into a battle between the North and the South.


However, many political watchers know that some of these so-called politicians and elders in the north are simply trying to protect their bellies and what to put into them. They are not protecting any northern interest. The relocation plan has, once again, exposed Nigeria as a country whose foundation was built with wooden plywood which can crack and pack up at any time if care is not taken. Nigeria is yet to transit from being a mere geographical expression to an evolving nation. Sixty-four years after independence, we are still far from forging a strong and united country.


We still think and talk about what our ethnic groups and tribes will benefit from our geographical arrangement, not minding that it is our politicians and their children that the benefits go to. This is sold to the rest of the nation as ‘northern interest’.


Indeed, the political class are the architects of our misfortunes in this country. Those Northern leaders and others that have come out to speak on behalf of the North are educated men who, ordinarily should rise above tribal and ethnic considerations and whose words should be chosen to give hope to all sections of the country. These are leaders one should look up to.


It is disappointing to hear them speak this way, and makes one wonder if they are truly speaking for the North or for their parochial interests. The late General Murtala Muhammed’s administration that conceived the lofty idea of looking for a neutral and central area in the country to serve as the Federal Capital Territory in 1976 chose Abuja in the belief that it would be home for all. He went ahead to set up the Justice Akinola Aguda-led committee to make recommendations after which a relatively virgin land, inhabited sparsely by the gbagyi people, was chosen as the new Federal Capital Territory (FCT).


General Muhammed issued a proclamation to that effect on February 3, 1976, but unfortunately, lost his life 10 days later, during a coup d’etat. General Olusegun Obasanjo and subsequent government that came after him ensured that the dream became a reality. But political jobbers from the north now see Abuja as their own. They are the owners while others are visitors and guests. Even at that, have they used their proximity to Abuja to develop other northern states?


Since the movement of the seat of power from Lagos to Abuja, of what benefit has it been to the ordinary Northerners in Nigeria? Has it improved their standards of living? Reduced infant and maternal mortality rates? Reduced the number of out-of-school children? Has it made life so abundant for most northerners that people can now sleep and snore in the North?


Truth be told: politicians are the real enemies holding down the growth and development of their regions and of the country. They have used the cover of religion and culture to hold down the masses for far too long and the consequences is now what the entire country is battling with in the form and banditry, kidnapping and religious crises. They feed fat on the seat of power and preach contentedness to the masses.


Thankfully, the people are wiser now. With the realization that our so-called leaders only have their own personal interests at heart, they have taken their destinies in their own hands and have made several parts of the north too hot for many of these fat cat politicians. Of what benefit is the CBN head office in Abuja to the masses in the north other than it provides an opportunity for the children of the rich and top politicians to get employment without passing through the rigours their counterparts in the south go through before getting such appointments?


How is the FAAN head office in Abuja of significance to northerners except for the fact that more than 60 per cent of those employed there are children of the highly connected from the North and Hausa dialect as the official language of communication in the establishment.


Many of the northern politicians are yet to forgive President Bola Tinubu for having the effrontery to appoint a southern, Nyesom Wike as the Minister of the FCT. In their minds, the Ministry should always be headed by northern politicians. That is the crux of their agitation against moving some departments outside Abuja. Their lollipop is about being snatched from them.


Although the Federal Government has come out to debunk the allegation that the movement was to prepare the ground for the eventual return of the federal capital back to Lagos, it is time for the Tinubu administration to walk it’s talk by bequeathing on the nation, true federalism, which he has championed for the most part of his political life.


The Federal system of government that we are presently practising is too lopsided on the side of the central government. We need to devolve power to the states and local governments so that the central government would not be too powerful and continue to serve as a cash cow to those that bring little or nothing in the baking of the cake. Whether it is called devolution of power, restructuring, or true federalism, it is quite clear that we cannot continue to run Nigeria the same way we have been doing in the last 64 years and expect different results.


It is time to allow each region to control the resources under the bowel of its soil and pay royalties to the central government. It is when such is done that we can all sit tight and face the development of all the regions in the country. There would be healthier competition among the regions while the cries of domination, marginalisation and the born-to-rule mentality will disappear from our national politics.


Again, it is time for northern leaders to have compassion on their people. They should rule with the fear of God and do justice to the masses. They should use the resources in the north for the benefit of the larger majority. Educate the masses and alleviate the suffering of the young and the old.


The northern politicians fighting over office relocations are not fighting to protect any northern interest but are only trying to protect their cash cow. Heaven will not fall if the federal government moves the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to the Niger Delta region, where most of our oil wells are located. There is nothing wrong in a federal system taking headquarters of major companies and parastatals to other regions in a bid to fast-track development.



See you next week.

Related posts