Nigeria: A Dance On the Edge of the Cliff

The uncertainly that faces the country is as real as the potential peril associated with the forthcoming election.

Ahead of the 2023 Presidential election, never in Nigerian history have the people been so confronted with an intriguing nightmare. The uncertainly that faces the country is as real as the potential peril associated with the forthcoming election. One thing is clear: The ruling class, dominated by the Fulani ethnic group, a small fraction being Kanuri, appear to insist on handing over power to its rookie, a President that will dance to the whims and wishes of this tiny but powerful group. Who should blame them? Let us face it, since 1914 when the ethnic groups in Nigeria were forcefully merged, the political contest for control of power and resources have been largely between the ancient ethnic nations mainly Hausa, Yoruba, Fulani, Ijaw, Tiv and Igbo. In reality, Nigeria was created not out of the love for the people, but basically for British economic interest. It was in the bid to protect British trade and property that the then British Prime Minister, Palmerson picked John Beecroft as the Consul in 1849 which spearheaded the piecemeal colonization of existing independent nations. Today, of the major ethnic groups, the Fulani ruling elite have had upper hand since the country’s independence. Gaining and sustaining power is not about education or the number of certificates acquired, all over the world power has been secured and sustained through the control of the instruments of coercion which is a country’s security architecture.

Let us concede: The Fulani ethnic group which had inherited some powers since 1804 Jihad, later sustained by the British, is not a novice. Though with little education in the Western sense, small in population and usually tiny in physique, an underestimation of the Fulani political prowess is dangerous, while over-estimation of its dexterity is a fleeting illusion. From 1500 when Hausaland was besieged by the Tuaregs, Arabs and Berbers, the Fulani were less known in this hemisphere until the 1804 Jihad which completely erased old things and reshaped the history of West Africa. The Fulani have remained a dynamic transmitter of cultures and politics and have played prominent roles in the emergence or destruction and building of empires since helping the Arabs to famish Sarakoli of Wokoro in Ghana, driven out from Senegal and Niger by the Tuaregs in 1050, sold to slavery by Sonni Ali of Songhay, built the Uthman Dan Fodio Empire and have increased their once tiny population in Nigeria since the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the Fulani are just seven percent of Nigeria’s population but dictates the political economy at least by 60 percent. Power has been one of the greatest things sought by the Fulani, knowing that with political domination, every other thing follows. In this pursuit, power is to be attained by all means possible. Sociologists ascribe to them ‘decorous, polite, of great fortitude of bearing tremendous pain or affliction without showing’ any pain.’ There is a proverb in Fulfude that If a Fulani man stands his two feet on a red hot iron, the anguish would not be written on his or her face. They are reputed to be patient and diplomatic in statecraft. These attributes may have helped them to sustain the stronghold on Nigeria, but for how long will a system that fuels anguish and poverty reign? Yet, as the 2023 elections approach, from all indications, it is easy to predict that the Fulani will produce the next President of Nigeria, from either of the mainstream political parties. This is not about President Muhammadu Buhari, but about a time honoured culture of a people hell bent on shaping the form and character of Nigerian politics. That they will determine who becomes the next President has less to do with what Nigerians want or desire, but more to do with precedence, capacity to control and manipulate existing national structures, primordial organization for a common goal, availability of funds and the strategic positions they have occupied before and after 1999. The 27 years of military rule, when might was right, has been used to change the political and economic landscapes of Nigeria to the extent that Presidential elections in the next 100 years will be determined by them boosted by skewed existing laws-mostly military decrees, delineation of wards, local governments and polling units, states, created by military fiat. At present, the Fulani ethnic group is negotiating from the position of strength. Apart from controlling state security apparatus, her people control illicit weapons in the hands of non-state actors leaving others at their mercy. Since 2015, the group has consolidated on the brief setbacks suffered between 1999 and 2015, when for 16 years, it had only a brief spell under Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua. Again, the APC was deliberately weakened by the Cabal, reduced to a martial structure where decisions are taken by a few people. Who took the decisions that the nomination forms should be N100 million? Who took the decision that former President Goodluck Jonathan should be invited to contest? Where are the minutes of the meeting?

The question then comes to mind: Where will the next President come from and how? Before providing an answer, it is important to state that who becomes the President is crucial for the single reason that the position of the President of Nigeria is arguably one of the most powerful seats in the world, given the authority associated with its nature, characterized by over concentration of executive functions in the hands of a single person. We ask: Will power move to the South? In the South West, there are high expectations by the ruling elite that the zone should produce the next President. In 2014, the region provided funds, logistics, a mass-driven tactical campaign that brought in President Buhari. Its greatest error was to concede to an MOU without the signature of the main partner. The South West leaders formed an alliance without terms and conditions, without a written document and without any sense of history, but based on trust that was never proven. From all indications, the hope of the SW producing the next President is dim, due to a combination of the zone’s tactical blunders and the surgical calculation of the Northern ruling elite to set the zone against itself, a feat already achieved with a trophy. In Ogun State alone, there are four aspirants, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Senator Ibikunle Amosu and former Speaker, Hon Dimeji Bankole. The South West also has Dr Kayode Fayemi, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu making six aspirants in total. It should be understood that none of the aspirant would have sought the ticket without gaining the confidence of the Presidency and members of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet, indicating that the cabal may have deliberately given the nod, with strong but futile promises, to each of them, albeit privately and stealthily, knowing it was the best way to fuel the intra-personal and regional contradictions among them.

From all indications, the Fulani ruling class, and its ‘yes men’ appear to be weighing many options with the same goal of sustaining their time-honoured privileges and to ensure Fulani total relevance beyond 2023 or what Chief Olusegun Obasanjo described as the Fulanisation of Nigeria. The plots for the survival and control of Nigeria by the ruling Cabal are many. Nothing suggests they care about the trauma of the masses. One plot is to nail or neutralize the agitation for the break-up of the country currently being championed by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, (IPOB). This may have informed the extension of the tickets to some Igbo leaders including Rotimi Amaechi and the Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, who is from Agbor, Delta State. Emefiele is Igbo, but with only a strand in the tap root of the Igbo mainstream heritage. His wife is Yoruba. Emefiele himself speaks Yoruba fluently. This makes him to be a pride of both the Ika Igbo and potentially a candidate the ruling class thinks can placate the agitators for Biafra. His not having a very strong Igbo root means his full dedication to the Igbo cause may not happen, leaving the ruling class the advantage to manipulate him.

In the case of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, to even conceive of a former President, pushed out of power on strong allegations of corruption, ineptitude, and complete lack of vision could seek to rule the country again is tortuous. It is even more ridiculous that Jonathan would accept the offer and more degrading that a section of APC would even conceive of offering him the ticket. That the nomination form was purchased by a Fulani group indicates who his sponsors are and the beat he is expected to dance to if he wins. With Jonathan, the Cabal hopes to come back after his terminal four-year term, giving it the opportunity to continue with its agenda. It is obvious Jonathan also wants an opportunity to prove that his defeat in 2014 was a fluke and that an indication of APC suggestion that Buhari ‘s eight years could not make the country better than the way Jonathan would have ran the country. However, there is a caveat: If Jonathan is given the ticket, there is no mechanistic guarantee that he would win the election. He may have been set up to pave the way for another candidate in the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) with active connivance of this same parochial group in the APC who are motivated by nothing save ethnic chauvinism. It should be known that the Cabal in APC is hands in gloves with their counterparts in the PDP. The third plot is the desire by the Cabal to ensure the emergence of another Fulani or its crony from the North to succeed Buhari. While this is one of the most difficult to conceive, it is not unimaginable. The argument of the Cabal is that democracy is about population. Since the North West and North East produce some 60 percent of the votes, there is no justification for scuttling what has become a ‘natural phenomenon.’ Indeed, even if the APC goes for direct or indirect primary, in any ‘democratic’ primary election, the prospect of a candidate from the North winning the ticket is real, considering the multiplicity of candidates from the South and almost a one dimensional candidature from the North. The Fulani ruling elite are far ahead of their Southern counterparts who largely have no coordinated network, no cover and overt intelligence gathering and poor interpretation of political axioms, lacking in synergy with the social and cultural forces in their dominion and completely isolated from their own people, always looking out for salvation in the North, throwing away the age-long axiom that charity begins at home. The Southern ruling elite are weak and vulnerable. It shows in the dept and vision of many of their aides, most of who do not understand the dynamics of power and politics in Nigeria, bereft of history and lack the capacity to offer meaningful and strategic advice to their bosses. Imagine, most of the South West candidates prefer to consult with Emirs and the ruling class in the North with deep contempt for their own people who increasingly disdain and hate them with cruel scorn. They lack a forum to constructively engage their own people beyond the narrow prism of electoral politics. This is where late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a genius. Also, the Southern elite are disorganized, na├»ve, petty, lack perspective and driven by electoral politics without consideration for the long-term livelihood of their own people. For example, while their people are slaughtered in hundreds in the North by terrorists and killed, raped on their ancestral lands, politics of appeasement to Northern leaders is more important to some of them. If not for Ekiti and Ondo State Governors, there would not have been anything like Amotekun. Note this, for instance, only one of the APC South West Presidential aspirants consulted and invited the Pan Yoruba groups to his declaration in Abuja, others would prefer to invite Miyetti Allah. For the fact that the dictates of power comes from the North is not enough reason for responsible candidates to diminish the importance of their own people. For now, the enslavement of the Southern ruling elite is not in doubt. The 2023 race has the Cabal as the referee and the linesmen, the dictator of events, using different strategies, sometimes stimulating fear, feigning weakness where it is strong, showing strength where it is weak; offering carrots, then sticks, to whip and manipulate the gullible Southern politicians. Remember, the Chinese military tactician of the ancient times, Sun Tzu ascribes power to ‘one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move, maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something that the enemy may snatch at it. Beholding out baits, he keeps him on the march, then with a body of picked men he lie in wait for him.” Southerners are smart, but most of their rulers are not. The smart only seeks battle after victory is secured, while the foolish first fights before seeking victory. The Cabal has roused its adversaries to anger, making them to tremble and stumble. However, where will all these lead Nigeria? The Cabal may fool some people all the time, but it cannot fool all the people all of the time. The Cabal is actually at wits end, since history testifies that a house built on dew is destined for a shipwreck. Nothing will save Nigeria apart from truth, equity, justice, fairness and responsible leadership all of which are absent at the moment. In every battle, the idea of winning, taking all the aces, without concession to contenders, even if they are weak, is the greatest weakness and the biggest route to self destruction.

Adeoye, a multiple award-winning Journalist, writes from Lagos

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