Right now, the two major ethnic groups in southern Nigeria, the Igbo and the Yoruba, are up in arms against one another. Reason? The All Progressives Congress (APC) has promised both of them Presidency in 2023.
As a result, the gladiators of the party on both sides of the ethnic divide are working hard to ensure that they outwit the other so as to win the coveted trophy, with the negative implication of dealing a deadly blow to the much talked about East-West solidarity or “handshake across the Niger”, a coinage by the irrepressible late Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
In what looks like a political thug of war, APC members in the South East and their counterparts in the South West are pulling each end of the rope, hoping to outvote the other in 2019, so as to be given the Presidency in 2023!
APC apologists in the South East like Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Osita Okechukwu, etc., strongly believe that Buhari will give the Igbo Presidency in 2023, while their South West counterparts like Vice President Yemi Osibanjo and Babatunde Fashola, equally insist that it is the turn of the Yoruba to take the Presidency from Buhari in 2023. But they all are living in fool’s Paradise as none of them would get the Presidency in 2023!
Ever since Nigeria was created, the erstwhile British colonialists, working for the interest of their stooges in the North were bent on dividing the South while keeping the North united. They would play the East against the West, the Igbo against the Yoruba, so as to keep political power in the North. People call it, divide and rule.
At inception of British colonial rule in Nigeria in 1900, the country was divided into three administrative units namely, the Colony of Lagos, the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. In 1906, the Colony of Lagos and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria were unified, while the amalgamation of the Northern and the Southern Protectorates was carried out in 1914.
That notwithstanding, the two protectorates were administered differently. But while the wind of change was allowed to blow incessantly in the South, the North was shielded from influences of Western civilization.
At the same time, the Indirect Rule system prevalent in the North was imposed on the South, where some local agents of colonial government were made Warrant Chiefs and asked to preside over the affairs of the people. This had in no small way caused dislocation in many areas of the South where the Chieftaincy institution was strange, resulting to the Aba Women’s Riots, the Egba Uprising, etc. Thus, while the South was busy fighting internal crises, the North was left to consolidate its hold on political power.
In 1929, the colonial government shifted the administrative capital of Southern Nigeria from Lagos to Enugu. That was when we had the Brodericks, the Ogunbiyis, the Sannis, etc., who lived in Enugu as either civil servants, traders or businessmen. But not comfortable with its resultant outcome of Southern unity, ten years later, in 1939, the colonial government decided to split Southern Nigeria into two – the Eastern and the Western Provinces, with Enugu and Ibadan respectively as administrative headquarters, while the North, which was more than two times the size of the South, was left intact.
And in order to keep the South further divided, the colonialists ensured that the newly introduced wealth base – educational facilities, scholarships, employment into the civil service, contract awards, etc., were in short supply so that the elites in the South would begin to fight among themselves over who gets what, or how to access them.
In the process, a new term called tribalism, applicable mainly to the South, crept into the system. While the entire North, from Oturkpo to Sokoto, and from Idah to Maiduguri, was seen as monolithic, with the Hausa language as the acceptable medium of communication, the South was split into a cacophony of languages, with the Igbo and the Yoruba as the flagships.
What broke the camel’s back was the election conducted under the McPherson Constitution of 1951, where Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo, won election into the Yoruba dominated Western House of Assembly, which would have entitled him to head the government as leader of the political party that won majority seats in the House. But surprisingly a rug was pulled under his feet when some elected members cross-carpetted on the floor of the House. From then on, the East-West rivalry became the norm, which was easily capitalised by both the British colonialists and the oligarchic elements in the North to always divide the South.
In a recently declassified document, a British colonial civil servant who participated in the pre-independence Nigerian election of 1959, Mr. Harold Smith, revealed how the colonial government through manipulation of both the census figures and the election results, rigged that election in favour of their Northern stooges.
While the gap between the East and the West was widening, the North continued to consolidate its hold on political power, exchanging the baton among themselves with their men in both agbada and khaki uniforms.
Except for Olusegun Obasanjo who became head of state by default for a period of only three and half years, all the other heads state, for thirty two unbroken years, (from July 29, 1967 to May 29, 1999), were northerners. These were Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar. MKO Abiola who wanted to break the chain was disallowed and later killed in prison.
That was when it began to dawn on some progressive southerners, that the North had for long been taking them for a ride, and they decided to fight back. They therefore began to campaign for southern solidarity. Ojukwu called it “handshake across the Niger”, which was embraced by many southerners.
Some other people in the Middle Belt and in the South South equally woke up to this reality and began to parley with the South East and the South West, thus suggesting the handshake to extend up to the Benue River, so that political power could be wrestled from the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy.
Now, the APC is trying to reverse this gain by promising both the Igbo and the Yoruba the Presidency in 2023, so that the two ethnic groups would begin to fight themselves. But the two ethnic groups may be wasting their time as the North would not make another mistake of surrendering power to the South, which they made in 1999.
It was later when they realized their folly with the Obasanjo Presidency, that the North decided to come up with the Sharia law, to destabilize the Obasanjo administration. Again, when Jonathan also by default became President, the North equally came up with Boko Haram, to make the regime ungovernable.
Many Nigerians had thought that if Jonathan was voted out in 2015, Boko Haram would seize. But were wrong. Almost four years of Buhari Presidency, Boko Haram is still waxing stronger and stronger. Today, we have two Fulani men as strong contenders for the Presidency in 2019, and one of them would get it, while the South would be killing themselves.
Even if Buhari manages to win the 2019 election, both his age and the Nigerian Constitution would have knocked him out of the 2023 contest. Then, the APC would have died a natural death since Buhari is the only person holding the APC. Forget about Tinibu and co. At that time, every northerner would switch over to whoever the PDP would present as Presidential candidate.
If on the other hand, Atiku Abubakar wins the 2019 Presidency, nobody will crucify him if he decides to recontest in 2023 and he would likely win the election. In other words, head or tail, the South will continue to lose, unless Providence decides otherwise, and if the South decides to come together to fight in a common front.