For some months now, the Governors of southern Nigeria have been meeting to deliberate on issues that affect the region and also seek ways to move the region forward and harness its potential for economic prosperity. Also, the governors have not shied away from laying claims to what they feel should be that of the region in the grand scheme of things, especially what the region gets politically and economically in the larger Nigeria context.
Since they have started meeting regularly, they have passed some resolutions and reached a certain consensus on certain contentious issues, especially those that put them on a collision course with the federal government and their Northern counterparts. From banning of open grazing to the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) by states, the governors — at least a respectable majority of them — have spoken with one voice, and it is not just the unison with which they have made their stance known that’s pleasing, but the fact that their decisions are a reflection of the wishes of the people of the region.
However, since their convergence became a frequent thing, one particular issue has continued to be a subject of reiteration, as if to say there’s no going back on what we have decided on this particular issue, come what may — and that is the 2023 Presidential election. The governors have made it clear that the presidency must return to the south in 2023, and for good measure, they averred that they would not support any party that picks its candidate from the North. This statement has riled up some people and has left some elements in the North infuriated, they see the audacious remarks of the unyielding southern governors as a threat and intimidation.
In a shocking rebuttal, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said the region can’t be railroaded into acceding to the demand of the southern governors for a power shift in 2023.
NEF Spokesman, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said northerners would never be second-class citizens of Nigeria, hence the North would not accept to play second fiddle come 2023, he noted that election is about population and the North has the population to dominate Nigeria for decades.
Baba-Ahmed who spoke at the maiden Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture Series at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, said nothing would happen if a northerner succeed Buhari. Baba-Ahmed reckless and divisive remarks were greeted with outrage and resentment, and rightly so. Aside from his castigation for his polarising utterances which are capable of deepening the schism and mutual contempt among the dominant ethnicities that inhabit this frightful contraption called Nigeria, his remarks also jolted many from their silent reverie and they raised concerns about the veracity of the numerical strength that the north is always quick to deploy as an instrument of domination and oppression.
The notion that the north is populous than the south has been steeped in misgivings in some quarters, and attempts to push the issue to the frontline of national discourse has been suppressed by aggressive public relations by the northern elites. The reason many question the authenticity of the acclaimed numerical superiority of the North this time around is because of the intrigues and shenanigans that have characterized the build-up to the 2023 elections and the condescending tone of Baba-Ahmed comment. His unguarded remarks helped push the debate of more populated north to the mainstream.
More than that, isn’t it quite baffling that the North is always quick to play the population card when it comes to election and power in the country? One would expect that a region that sees its disputable numerical advantage as a thing of pride will look inward and see how it can harness such for growth and development. I can wager that not many people will vent their spleen if they have turned this so-called numerical advantage into economic prosperity. But rather, we have a situation where you want to hold on to power at all cost using a phantom large population. Besides, geographical components of the North have dispelled the assertion that there are more inhabitants in the region than in the south. Anyone who has traveled to the north by road will know that the vaunted numerical advantage they are always quick to tout is fictitious.
Nigeria is the only country in the world where a swathe of arid land has more people than coastal towns. In the North, you can travel a distance of, say, Lagos to Ibadan, and you will not see a single soul. What you will see are checkered farmlands and an expanse of uninhabited space. Nigeria is bordered in the North by the Niger Republic, the Niger Republic is landlocked and is twice the size of Nigeria and its population is less than 22 million. So how will a landlocked northern Nigeria in the Sahel have more people than South that’s seashore?
Having said that, I think it’s high time Baba-Ahmed and figures like him from the north learned to put their emotions in check when speaking in public. He must communicate effectively and speak in measured tones. Someone like him can’t afford to speak disparagingly or be careless and haughty in his remarks. A northerner has been at the helms of affairs for six years and the North is worse off for it, never in the history of Nigeria has the Northern region been ravaged by the level of insecurity it has witnessed in the last five years. The country is in comatose and the economy is in the doldrums.
Should we then continue to toe this part of destruction all in the name of having a Phony humongous population?