By Aloy Uzoekwe
As kids growing up, how we laid markers for fights was by a push and a shove. The tactics was thus: a disagreement would arise between two age mates, then one would push the other person and push him again to signify that he was serious. The other person would in retaliation give the pusher a forceful shove. And it would begin. That is the exact scenario we are currently facing in Nigeria between the North and the South, the handshake is clearly going beyond the elbow. In most cases, the fight never ends except a third person (force) intervenes to separate the warring parties.
In May 2021, the Governors of the seventeen Southern States, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, came to articulate on matters of common interest as they affect their States. The maiden meeting of May in Asaba (the Declaration) was followed up by two separate ones – Lagos, July 2021 (the Road-map) and Enugu, Sept 2021 (the Re-affirmation). Among the matters deliberated on which the Southern Governors stand are resolute are (1) the ban on open grazing of cattle (2) the insistence that the next President of the country should come from the South and (3) the uniform support for Value Added Tax collection by States. Surprisingly the Southern States sudden siblinghood relationship has ruffled the feathers of the North, their leaders are irked that the South dare to speak with one voice. This is made manifest by the Northern Governors equally resolute opposition to their Southern counterparts stand on all fronts. The Northern Elders Forum (N.E.F) in solidarity with their Governors also came out to reaffirm their birthright to the rulership of Nigeria. All these are obvious, the discomfiture of the North at the new found unity among the Southerners is understandable. The unity if allowed to stand will change the power narrative of Nigeria. It will challenge the long skewed sharing formula of things in the country.
In Igbo we have a proverb: “nwata zoba nke ya ogbaa ajo mmadu” (once a child starts to demand his rights he becomes a bad person). That’s the truth about the existing face-off between the South and the North in Nigeria. For a very long time the marital bliss enjoyed by the components of Nigeria has been sustained by the timidity and inexplicable self-doubts of the South. The South had allowed itself to be bludgeoned and beguiled by their Northern partners since 1970. At every turn, the South had been the peace loving and malleable partner but there is an extent to which you can make love to a blind partner without receiving a merited backlash.
Since 1970, everything in the country is tilted to favour the North. From the citing of federal establishments to occupation of sensitive offices, the South has always held the short end of the stick(s). It appears like the South is perpetually indebted to the North for accepting to be part of the Union and as such seeks to placate it at all turns. The imbalances have been at times accompanied by brazen arrogance and irreverent machismo by the North.
What seems to jolt the Northern establishments more is not the stance of the Southern Governors, rather it is the solutions they have put forward. Having solutions to condemned practices show real intent of purpose. This is not what the North is used to about previous Southern agitations which always fizzle out at the slightest rebuke. The current scenario amplifies the saying – “Eburu ozu jide ogu, ihu anaghi adi udene mma” (when a corpse is carried along with a hoe, the vulture is never happy). The Southern bloc of the Union is determined now more than ever before to get its dues within the marriage, it has grown tired of its flunkey disposition.
Yet, a dispassionate appraisal of the South’s resolutions, demands and stand show that they are fair and equity oriented. The system of cattle rearing practised by the pastoralists who are mostly Northerners is outdated and no longer condoned in saner societies. It has led to countless conflicts between the farmers and herders with fatal consequences most of the times. The North has monopolised the leadership of the country since independence; the few times Southerners assumed headship of the country had been accidental or as pacification gestures from the North. The revenue generation and sharing formula in the country makes a mockery of the term ‘equitable distribution of resources’, it is hypocritical in certain aspects. These are the anomalies which the Southern Governors demands seek to correct. Any fair minded being is bound to support them not hound them.
For the North to oppose the resolutions and insist on maintaining the current state of affairs shows a primitive disposition to anarchical solutions to problems. It means the North is utterly contemptuous of the South and cares less about the advancement of the nation. The present ‘in your face’ disposition of most of their leaders is the type that pushes a lady to fight her man in the market. A shift in their attitude will do the country a world of good.
So whatever fury or fear drives their current position, the North’s leaders should do well to imbibe the spirit of live and let live, lest the disagreements lead to less pleasing outcomes because ‘I no gree, I no gree na him dey tear shirt’.
- Hon. Aloy Uzoekwe wrote via email@example.com. Phone: 08038503174