The North as a geographical expression is no longer monolithic as it was the case before the creation of the six geo political zones, namely North East, North Central, North West, South South, South East and South West, each comprising of clusters of States with commonality of history, people and cultures.
The North in spite of its numerical advantage is loosing in the power game for lack strategic approach to deal with emerging geo political issues now threatening the survival of the nation.
All indices of social, cultural, political and economic, growth shows that the Northern geo political zones lag behind compared to the other three Southern geo political zones.
Recently leaders of the Middle Belt Forum in a conference held on the 12th of December,2017 at Ajuji Hotel, Abuja, during the inauguration of the new executive council of the forum in a communique echoed our vulnerability to forge ahead as one indivisible entity.
Their frustrations were not based on our homogeneity but rather on the apparent religious persuasions that kept dividing us apart.
At the end of the conference they came out with some far reaching resolutions detailing their concerns, and why they still feel not part of the Northern hegemony. But that is not the concern of this discourse.
I am however interested in only two of the resolutions adopted at the end of the conference.
Firstly, they resolved that “in considering the issue of restructuring, it should not be subsumed under the historical trend of NORTH vs. SOUTH games of outwitting each other” what is needed they said, “is an organic Nation, not a market place for deal-making bargains by elite participants close to governments of the day and devoid of popular inputs.
In this regard the conference mandated the leadership of the MBF to continue to remind the nation that the Northern and Southern protectorates, as far back as 1914, were married into one country regardless of the feelings, let alone participation of the autochthonous peoples of the Middle Belt.
Secondly, they resolved the next President from the former Northern Region must be of Middle Belt extraction and that the Middle Belt Forum will continue to be non-partisan but will remain passionately political with focus on the defence of the interests of the Peoples of the Region.
I have no quarrel with the position of the middle belt forum and their demands. However what is of worry is the indication that the Middle Belt does not belong to the North Central.
If the demand of the middle belt forum is for them have a President of their extraction meaning a Christian minority than it is understandable.
But if their demand for the next President to come from the middle belt was as a result of their in ability to produce one from North Central then one would wonder whether they have forgotten the period when Gowon, Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar were Heads of Government of the Federation.
The North Central today has three living heads of government who have ruled this country for combined period of sixteen years.
The North West also from Shagari, Murtala, Yar Adua, Abatcha, to Buhari would have ruled the country for a combined period of 19 years if the current President completes his term in 2019.
The North East of the three geo political regions in the North has not produced any President of this country. We in the North East are therefore calling on the other regions of the North to allow the next President of the country to come from the North East.
We are saying so because there is no region in the North that is over qualified to produce the next president of this country than the North East.
We therefore call on our brothers from the North West and Central to give the North East the chance for the following reasons;
According to the United Nations Human Development Report For Nigeria 2016,
1. The North East is the most backward of all the three geo polical regions of the North.
2.The north-east region has been the most affected by the more than six-year-long Military insurgency and Boko Haram, which has further improvised the population.
3. It also remains among the least developed parts of the country.
4. The region also did not fare well in all the human development index. This is in spite of the a robust economic growth of about 7% between 2010 and 2014, a large proportion of Nigerians still live in poverty and are exposed to various vulnerabilities. An estimated 61.3% of Nigerians are classified as poor with 48.8% of them classified as multi-dimensionally poor.
5. The north east is also ranked second in the under 5 mortality rate with 160 death per 1,000 birth.
6. High illiteracy level, mass poverty, deficit or absence of infrastructures, and in security are some of the reasons why we in the North East feel the next President should come from the zone
We also feel the North West and the North Central have had their opportunities to lead of this country, now is the time for the North East. we hope the other Zones would be supportive as we have been in order to ensure that the hegemony does not disintegrate. As we shall no longer continue to be on lookers on matters that we have a say.
Democracy is a game of numbers, interest, alliances, give and take and consensus. While we do not intended to rock the hegemonic traditions, we shall not however contemplate to shift bases by building alliances where our interest could best be protected.
For almost half a century we followed and supported the hegemony and it has brought nothing to our region but mass poverty, hunger, insecurity and under development.
To move forward it can no longer be business as usual. We must seat down as a region to re strategize build alliances and consensus come up with workable formula on how to exist as a region. Nothing can henceforth be imagined as given because we share certain affinities. We have been short change for long.
Our status and the way we live must be redefined in order for us to be a formidable group.
If we do not act now, splinter groups like the Middle Belt Forum will keep surfacing and there is nothing the Arewa Consultative Forum would do to reverse the trend and hold the hegemony together.