Try coup and risk disintegration

THE PUNCH Newspaper-Adebolu Arowolo

We are a plural society –– multi-religious and multi-ethnic.

This kind of diversity has become a huge source of strength to the American society, making it the most stable democracy and the most prosperous economy in the world. In the last three decades, however, the challenges of pluralism and the glaring failure to manage them have led inexorably to the collapse of some countries, including Yugoslavia. Many civil wars, especially in Africa, are as a result of poor management of pluralism and heterogeneity. If Sudan finally disintegrates, it will be because it has failed to effectively manage its plurality.

To remain one, a plural society must observe and firmly maintain the principles of equality before the law. State institutions must remain neutral to religion and ethnicity, upholding the principles of justice and fairness to all, regardless of tongues and tribes. In America, heterogeneity has become a source of strength because federalism has been entrenched to encourage fiscal self-reliance and healthy competition among the constituent parts.

Today, our nation‘s unity is threatened afresh by the sloppy and unjust handling of the glaring power void created by President Umaru Yar‘Adua‘s protracted absence from his desk. Contrary to common sense, convention and national interest, the nation has been left rudderless and largely ungoverned for 77 days because the Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian minority from the South is not acceptable to a north-based oligarchy whose members have always seen political power as the only path to private wealth.

Ironically, this national wealth that the north-based clique is desperate to control comes largely from Jonathan‘s backyard in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Before I go forward, let me try to make myself clear about the nature of the clique. Though it has its nucleus in the north, the cabal has its political tentacles and foot-soldiers across the country. The oligarchy is neither beneficial to the nation nor to the ordinary Northerner. Indeed, because of its selfish and parasitic nature, the domination of power by this oligarchy has impoverished the common man in the north. It has consistently used religion and ethnicity to blindfold the people of the north while filling the pockets of its members with filthy lucre.

Many analysts have suggested that the current logjam is the handiwork of the First Lady, Turai, and a few members of Yar‘Adua‘s kitchen cabinet. Yes, Turai, Ruma, Tanimu and Aondoakaa may be working hard to sustain the status quo they prefer. But are these few people more powerful that the Nigerian nation? Why have they succeeded so far in their political machinations? The truth is that Turai and others are merely dancing on the ethnic platform provided by the oligarchy. They are operating within a wider ethnic agenda of clinging onto power at all costs, not for service, but for bread and butter reasons. Look, for instance, at the position of the northern governors on the matter. At their meeting held in Kaduna last week, they reportedly rejected the idea of a formal transfer of power to Jonathan. The National Assembly has been resisting change because it is dominated by people with an ethnic agenda.

Yes, some progressive individuals and important groups, including the Arewa Consultative Forum, have come out openly to insist that the right thing be done to end the lingering crisis. But the position of the northern establishment remains the same. It has significantly continued the ethnic superiority path allegedly mapped out long ago by Sir Ahmadu Bello when he reportedly stated that: “The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate from our great grand father Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We must use the minorities in the north as willing tools and the south as conquered territories and never allow them to have control of their future.”

Diverse interpretations and explanations have been given to the ongoing logjam. But I prefer to situate the unfortunate situation within the wider context and political attitude planted and nurtured by an Independence statement allegedly made by the late premier of defunct Northern Region. That same attitude was responsible for the annulment of the most credible election ever held in the history of the country. The election was voided by the north-based Mafia and till today, no acceptable reason has been given for the unpatriotic act. The true reason for the annulment was that, Chief M.K.O Abiola, the presumed winner of the election, a southerner, though a Muslim, was not acceptable to the same power cabal that is finding it difficult to accept Jonathan as acting president. When the opposition to the annulment was becoming too hot to handle, a military coup was sponsored to force the unjust and unpatriotic act down the throat of Nigerians.

Now because of the unwillingness of the evil clique to accept Jonathan even as acting president, there are fresh fears that the Mafia could again sponsor a coup to ensure that power remains firmly in the north. Some are even saying that if the clique accepts to impeach Yar‘Adua, Jonathan also will be removed through the same process. Nobody should put anything beyond a desperate cabal that sees power as its meal ticket. But let the warning go out early that any coup attempt at this time may ignite a chain of events that may culminate in the break up of the country. The nation has moved quickly beyond where it was in 1993 when largely peaceful means were employed to resist the June 12 annulment.

The nation is now suffused with illegal arms. There are millions of unemployed and disgruntled youths to be recruited for armed struggle by those who may wish to use violent means to resist any injustice done to Jonathan and his own section of the country. If this senseless impasse remains unresolved in the next few days, centrifugal forces may be unleashed afresh on the system. The Niger Delta militants may go back into the creeks to carry out fresh waves of insurgency. If they are able to castrate the economy by destroying the nation‘s oil export capability as they did in the past, the other sections of the country that are already tired of the protracted underperformance of the Nigerian State may begin to raise fresh questions about the workability of the Nigerian project. One can only hope that the ongoing logjam, together with the rumours of coup, is not a prelude toward fulfilling the doomsday prediction by America‘s Central Intelligence Agency, that Nigeria could disintegrate before 2020.


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