By Basil Okoh
The Governors of the South-South region are mostly accomplished professionals, lawyers, bankers, doctors, University teachers etc. but when they congregate, they display a lack of understanding of the ruling dynamics of Nigerian politics.
Nigerian politics is not driven by beliefs or ideology but by ethnicity and regionalism. The ethnic and regional cleavages also follow the divisions in beliefs, religion, politics and the economy. These factors are pre-installed in Nigerian politics and cannot be taken away.
It was the unhelpful idealism in the “Nigerian Spirit”, the supposed dominant presence of an edifying Nigerian ideal, that underscored the naiveté of Nnamdi Azikiwe and his political group NCNC. There is no “Nigerianness” in Nigeria. There is the Hausa/Fulani pursuits, the Igbo renaissance, the Yoruba interests and the minorities concerns, North and South.
Any politician who does not understand and internalize these realities of Nigerian life will always worship in foreign shrines and serve other ethnic gods. It is always the naïve and the stupid who want to be called nationalistic in Nigeria. Abba Kyari was neither naïve nor stupid. He served Northern interests.
I interviewed Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya of the NPP just after a meeting of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) in 1982. Chief Ogunsanya was a firebrand Zikist in his early days as were most prominent Lagos politicians of the early years, who were nurtured with a daily diet of the writings of Nnamdi Azikiwe, a fellow Lagosian in every sense of the word. Chief Adeniran was reeking of that grand sense of nationalism that was obviously a carry over from the NCNC days.
On the same day in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Alhaji Umaru Dikko was warning Chief MKO Abiola to stay away from the fight for the Presidency of Nigeria against President Shehu Shagari, that the presidency was not for sale to the highest bidder and that the North will never allow a power shift to Southern Nigeria. My young mind wondered about the nationalism of one and the deep ethnicity and regionalism of the other.
The gushing praises heaped on the recently deceased Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Abba Kyari, yet again highlights the naiveté of the Southern politician, this time from Governors of the minority South.
The Governors by their uninformed endorsement of the rapacious actions of Mallam Abba Kyari, also unwittingly endorsed and made themselves complicit in the constitutional violations that he forcefully perpetrated against the Nigerian state and people in the past five years, breaches that would have set off deep constitutional crisis in any other country but Nigeria.
Abba Kyari as the Chief of Staff to the President occupied a non elective, non Civil Service and non career position in the office of the president. The Chief of Staff position is as a personal and private staff to the president and is just an appointive and un-tenured position in the life of an administration. He is not even an accounting officer in the office of the president.
But Abba Kyari breached all order of seniority and protocol to become the effective decision maker for Government for no other reason than that he was the one allowed unlimited ingress to an ailing and concussed president. And also because he was conceived to represent the interests of the ethnic group from which the president was chosen.
The direct access and closeness to the president gave him the grounds to act for the president and to wield power far above his duties and take over the responsibilities and office of the president.
By their characteristic groveling and endorsement of the power grab by Abba Kyari, the Governors demonstrate their inferior and dependent self-perception and make the South-South region to be complicit in the illegality that Abba Kyari perpetrated for five years, unchecked. This is what the Fulani like and want from the South, groveling to the northern office holder.
It is remarkable that the Governors of the North on behalf of who he purported to have acted have neither showered praise nor endorsed him. Neither have the Governors of the more informed South-West found it worth their time to mention him
For the past five years, we were brazenly subject to the bizarre rule of an unelected despot in a democracy, an anomaly without precedence anywhere in the world and there was non of us who was man enough to offer a challenge to the abnormality. For the five years of the Buhari presidency, Abba Kyari was allowed, in clear breach of the grundnorm of the country, to act in place of the president of the republic.
Now the Governors of the South, in the shameless tradition of groveling and bowing before a false and fallen god, are trying to endow legitimacy to the breaches and illegalities fostered by Abba Kyari.
They forget even in the heat of an ongoing battle the murders by gangs of herdsmen, the bended development initiatives to the North, the selective employment of Northerners, the cash awards to northern people etc.
The constitutional question that remains begging for an answer and for which this regime must provide one before it leaves in 2023, is whether this President or his surrogates have the constitutional power to delegate his powers and functions to his Chief of Staff or to anybody else other than the Vice President.
It’s becoming regular now that anytime the presidency goes to the North, the entire Hausa/Fulani see it as an ethnic inheritance, with the power of the presidency to be exercised by every Hausa/Fulani. It is never the sole prerogative of the occupant of the office to act as president but the right of the entire ethnic group to force their will on the rest of Nigeria in exercise of the power of the president from their ethnic stock.
This is the rationale for the pugnacious and murderous impunity of the cattle herders to turn to kidnapping for ransom and perpetrate killings across Nigeria. The fact of a Fulani president gives every Fulani the right and protection to kill without question.
In the Nigerian political situation, being that the Governors are actually under the hostage and protection of the presidency, particularly for security, it offers a cowards excuse for the Governors of the South-South to genuflect and pay homage to the memory of their protector, Abba Kyari, but then they were not alone in this dependence of state governor’s on federal institutions for protection and security.
The Governors of the South-South should have their plates full with issues to take their time in this season of a pandemic. The mainstay of the regions economy, oil, has headed deep South with drillers in the shale mines of USA paying off takers to receive and store crude oil for which they cannot find buyers.
The citizens of the region want to see and hear of activities, strategy sessions, on how to hold the economy of the region strong. This is the time to build new totem poles of economic strength in the region. This is the time to drop all pretensions and exploit the expansive and deep knowledge base from the region.
This is the time for the South-South to act with intelligence, unity and a sense of purpose together to tackle the corona virus and rise from it’s ashes, strong and independent in an economy owned by the people and not by a far off and uncaring Federal Government. We have been known as the Oil Rivers for two hundred years, it was not for crude oil.
Basil Okoh can be reached @basilokoh on Twitter.