The Prob­lem­at­ics of North­ern Lead­er­ship in Nigeria

The north has wielded political power in the coun­try to the ef­fect of the un­der-de­vel­op­ment of the north.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Governance And Markets - By Jide Ak­in­tunde

Nigeria is a fed­eral repub­lic. Ac­cord­ing to the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion, no part of the coun­try is in­el­i­gi­ble to pro­duce the pres­i­dent in our pres­i­den­tial sys­tem of govern­ment. Ac­cord­ingly, north­ern Nigeria is en­ti­tled to pro­duce elected pres­i­dents. Not­with­stand­ing, the pres­i­dent is elected to govern the coun­try in the best ways and pro­mote cit­i­zens' wel­fare and se­cu­rity.

It is about two years since Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari came into of­fice. In these two years, the Pres­i­dent has brought to the fore, once again, the key prob­lems with Nige­rian pres­i­dents – and heads of state – from the north­ern part of the coun­try. These is­sues are summed up in two: north­erni­sa­tion of the fed­eral govern­ment and fail­ure of north­ern lead­ers to de­velop the north.

In the early days of ap­point­ing his aides, Pres­i­dent Buhari said he was ap­point­ing peo­ple he knows. This was prag­matic,

ex­cept that the peo­ple Buhari knows are his kith and kin. In the con­text that he had to lever­age a coali­tion with a ma­jor south­ern power base and south­ern politi­cians, Buhari's nepo­tism was al­ways go­ing to con­sti­tute a co­nun­drum in forg­ing his na­tional lead­er­ship and govern­ment.

When con­fronted with this faux pas, com­ing in the first weeks of a four-year term of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, he dou­bled down. Buhari is­sued his in­fa­mous re­sponse that he could not treat the con­stituency that gave him 97 per­cent elec­toral sup­port equally as the con­stituency that gave him five per­cent. But the whole coun­try is one con­stituency in elect­ing the pres­i­dent. More­over, the pres­i­dent is man­dated con­sti­tu­tion­ally to rule the coun­try as one en­tity.

Pres­i­dent Buhari has gone ahead to fill ma­jor cabi­net po­si­tions with fel­low cit­i­zens of north­ern ex­trac­tion. His kith and kin now dom­i­nate the man­age­ment and boards of the fed­eral agen­cies be­ing re­con­sti­tuted by his ad­min­is­tra­tion. The same ten­dency of re­gion­al­is­ing key govern­ment ap­point­ments was noted with the govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Umaru Yar'Adua, be­tween 2007 and May 2010.

Yar'Adua's and Buhari's eth­ni­cally lop­sided ap­point­ments were/are in con­tradis­tinc­tion to the gov­ern­ments of Pres­i­dents Oluse­gun Obasanjo (1999 – 2007) and Good­luck Jonathan (2010 – 2015). A lot of the in­flu­en­tial of­fi­cials in the ad­min­is­tra­tions of Obasanjo and Jonathan were from re­gions dif­fer­ent from the two for­mer pres­i­dents'. Some of the most in­flu­en­tial of­fi­cials in the Obasanjo ad­min­is­tra­tion were Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nasir El-ru­fai, Oby Ezek­we­sili, Charles Soludo and Sham­sud­deen Us­man. Those in Jonathan's ad­min­is­tra­tion, apart from Diezani Ali­son-Madueke, were Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ak­in­wumi Adesina, Bala Mo­hammed, Mo­hammed Bello Adoke and Sambo Da­suki.

Un­til the fourth repub­lic, the com­bi­na­tion of the machi­na­tions of the British colo­nial­ists and the sub­se­quent “born to rule” pos­tur­ing of the north­ern oli­garchs al­most com­pletely 'north­ernised' the po­si­tion of Head of State and Com­man­der of the Armed Forces. Be­tween in­de­pen­dence in 1960, and be­fore the in­cep­tion of the fourth repub­lic on May 29, 1999, the north ruled Nigeria for ap­prox­i­mately 34 out of the 39 years.

Be­yond be­ing in­sen­si­tive to any back­lash to the mo­nop­o­li­sa­tion of ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers, the north­ern lead­ers – es­pe­cially the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tors – took var­i­ous de­ci­sions that un­der­mined the unity of the coun­try and peace­ful co­ex­is­tence of Nige­ri­ans. Gen­eral Ibrahim Ba­bangida an­nulled the June 12, 1993 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Pop­u­lar Nige­rian phi­lan­thropist and busi­ness­man from the South West of the coun­try, MKO Abi­ola, was on his way to of­fi­cially win the elec­tion when Ba­bangida halted fur­ther an­nounce­ment of the re­sults and can­celled the elec­tion out­right for in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­sons. Gen­eral Sani Abacha threw Gen­eral Oluse­gun Obasanjo, also from South West Nigeria, in de­ten­tion for trumped up in­volve­ment in a coup d'état.

Be­sides the marginal­i­sa­tion of the South East and South South geopo­lit­i­cal zones in his ap­point­ments, the govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Buhari has been in­sen­si­tive to the atroc­i­ties of the Fu­lani herds­men. The herds­men, who are pic­tured car­ry­ing mil­i­tary-grade weapons, have been on a killing ram­page since 2015. The death toll in south­ern com­mu­ni­ties and Chris­tian sec­tions of the north have long reached alarm­ing lev­els. But the Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion seems any­thing but per­turbed, and has done lit­tle to stem the cri­sis.

Given the in­sen­si­tiv­ity to the geopo­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics of the coun­try this term, there has been ten­sion in the coun­try. Ag­i­ta­tion for a sov­er­eign state of Bi­afra re­ceived a new im­pe­tus. The econ­omy slipped into re­ces­sion last year, in part be­cause of low oil pro­duc­tion caused by the at­tacks on oil in­stal­la­tions in the Niger Delta.

Given the ap­peal to the nar­row north­ern power base and nepo­tis­tic ap­point­ments, the na­tional econ­omy tends to un­der­per­form with the north­ern lead­ers. Last year, Buhari led the econ­omy into the first re­ces­sion in 25 years. The rail rev­o­lu­tion that started with the Good­luck Jonathan's ad­min­is­tra­tion would have been afoot at least three years ear­lier, but for the can­cel­la­tion of the con­tracts Pres­i­dent Yar'Adua in­her­ited from his pre­de­ces­sor. The same is true with the re­cent ef­forts to move for­ward re­form in the power sec­tor and get pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion in petroleum re­fin­ing.

But the brunt of the mis­gov­er­nance has been felt the most in the north. The north has wielded political power in the coun­try to the ef­fect of the un­der-de­vel­op­ment of the north. In vi­tal ar­eas of de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, and broader de­vel­op­ment in­di­ca­tors, the north is be­hind the south­ern part of the coun­try.

In a 2015 ar­ti­cle, I raised the point that the new ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Buhari should try to re­verse the pat­tern whereby the north­ern pop­u­lace – es­pe­cially the youth – is merely an ap­pendage of the political am­bi­tions of the north­ern elites. In 2013, girls from Yobe State, north­east Nigeria, needed only two marks in the com­mon en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion to en­ter the Unity Schools. Their coun­ter­parts from Anam­bra State needed 138 marks. Lit­tle won­der then, the Chi­bok girls that were freed from Boko Haram's ab­duc­tion, could not speak English. But the girls were pre­par­ing for their WAEC physics ex­am­i­na­tion – which is set in English -when they were forcibly re­moved from their hos­tel to cap­tiv­ity in 2014.

Ac­cord­ing to 2015 United Na­tions Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Re­port for Nigeria (UNDP HDR), “across the geo-political zones, data for 2013 shows that mean years of school­ing was high­est in the South-South zone (10.664), and fol­lowed by the South West Zone. It is low­est in the North-West zone (3.8126).The North-East and North­West zones had val­ues lower than the na­tional av­er­age fig­ure, while the south­ern zones all had higher val­ues than the na­tional av­er­age fig­ure.”

Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari

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