Opinion

North-Central or Middle-Belt?

The renewed secessionist agitation championed by Nnamdi Kanu has triggered a chain motion of cleavage-based identification. Whether it’s the usual bandwagon attitude of Nigerians to emulate the good, bad and ugly trend or the real deal of our expanding fault lines is what time will certainly unravel.

Suitability, homogeneity, compatibility of segments calling for regional recognition is another factor to contend with. Interestingly, the next alternative to secessionist call is to revert to the 1963 constitution, as agitations for resource control guarantees power to component states if true federalism is practiced.

In the dust of the renewed Biafra agitation and the Arewa youths quit notice, the middle-belt voice rang a resounding backup solo to chorus support behind Nigerians of Igbo extraction asked to leave the north. This position contradicts the directive of the so called youths from Arewa, which the “middle-belt” is supposed to belong “politically”. The position of Professor Jerry Gana, a former minister of information and president middle-belt forum to distant his forum from Arewa quickly drew flak from the north, including Muslims from the so called middle-belt.

The message of Professor Jerry Gana only points at resisting acts that may undermine Nigerians corporate integrity, but many felt it was packaged in a wrong container. The coinage “middle-belt” completely smears it, as many Muslims prefer the name “north-central”. When asked, many will quickly discard middle-belt, claiming it has Christian coloration, insisting north-central gives it a better and more balanced representation. That informs on the rapid firing Gana received with unsavory names and linkages.

The identification “middle-belt” championed by Joseph Tarka, former minister of transport and later communication under the administration of Gen Yakubu Gowon for states like Kogi, Kwara, Taraba, Benue, Niger and Plateau have been reduced to religious grouping of Christians. With the inclusion of north-eastern, north-western Christian dominated areas like, southern Kaduna, southern Zaria, Zuru of Kebi, Numan of Adamawa, it was quickly identified along religious underpinning instead of the minority it was meant to represent and protect. Whether or not the later additions opted to join the central states for “protection” is irrelevant, as geography and sentiments is thoroughly working against them.

With the tension already generated from the issue of quit notice to the Igbo, which in the first place is not remotely connected to the central states, it is clear the six central states of the north are religious accidents just waiting to happen. The numerical balance along religious lines makes it a very fertile ground for an evenly marched tug at the rope of direction on which coloration fits into the divergent mix. If the monolithic north and south was beguiled by cleavage based sentiments on religion, the brewing middle-belt or north-central critical mass is tailored to be horrible.  The proximity of potential gladiators who are locked between traditional north and south will only add fuel to the burning furnace.

No region except the south-west can survive in peace and prospect of economic prosperity. The Yoruba have more homogenous geographical space, more accommodating in the aspect of religious diversity and socially free amongst themselves. A Yoruba person from any state can become commissioner in Lagos and it will slide without issues. If only Nigeria as a country can borrow a bit from the Yoruba, perhaps the country would have gone far in terms of peace, prosperity and communal living.

The legacy of senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state has survived more than a decade after leaving office. The growth rate in Lagos is astronomic based on the concept of continuous governance in terms of projects, policies and programs. There is no noticeable witch-hunt or battle of primacy as we have in the northern states. No sitting governor is duplicating projects or destroying legacies of predecessors to assert on power.

The north and the south-west must re-examine themselves socially, politically and economically. They must understand their predicament of being problem to themselves first before looking for perceived or real external issues. The “core” north got so greedy, to the extent political power (leadership role) is an exclusive preserve of a segment of the region. The north-central or middle –belt are often not recognised except to vote or to be used as muscles. Marginalisation of the six central states was done with impunity. It did not take a divinity to tell the states that they are good for wars, mobilization and number. Leadership was an exclusive preserve of those with “green blood”.

For the Igbo the only thing uniting them presently is fighting the north. The north has been their major problem. They can align with the central states and south-south, maybe the Yoruba but not the north. What many of them fail to consider is the fact that the Igbo are deeply divided amongst themselves. Already, the Anambra man who thinks he is a better and more educated Igbo man feel Nnamdi Kanu is on his own as the Biafra issue is concerned. The outcast or Osu classification further reduces some Igbo to less mortals. The attention of an average Igbo on who leads them flickers. Soon Kanu will become history who must give way for the next champion. Yes, the Igbo race is only united when they have a common battle. What then happens next if they must survive on their own?

It’s time we sit to address our differences as a country. It’s time we learn from our past mistakes. It’s time we learn to understand that we may not fare well in fragments. Maybe that time has passed for splinter, may be that maturity needed to secede and survive is far from us. We are more protected as Nigerians. We must however restructure socially and economically. Physical restructuring may be phased but the other two must start very soon to avoid a regrettable implosion. The 1999 constitution is too weak to contain our diversity.

 

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