If the South West wanted Nigeria restructured today, in earnest, tomorrow, Nigeria would be restructured. Why Nigeria is not restructured is for a simple reason. The Yoruba have not chosen to so demand, and in earnest.
Why do we say so? All politics is in the contestation of power. And nothing showed this more than the official consecration of June 12 as a national day. The truth is that the Yoruba “universally” demanded it and it was granted to them. But the details are as follows: first of all, those who say that President Muhammadu Buhari was political in remaking June 12 a national day are being naïve. Buhari is a politician and does little else than play politics. Those who say it is opportunistic may be right. But the point of power is that opportunism has no moral or amoral values. In power terms, a thing is done or not done. Opportunism is a matter for moral actors, not hardball players. And politics is the hardest of hardballs.
So, why a potentate concedes to act A and not B is not of any particular import. Whether he is acting from being bully or bullied is completely meaningless. The point is that all actions in politics are more or less taken under fire and pressure.
That is, if a potentate acts or refuses to act, it is because he is forced to so do. The idea that the helmsman has a bouquet of choices to pick from at leisure is imaginary at best. In reality, the Presidency, like all such courts, is a theatre of war and mayhem. There is complete breathlessness at work and play in warehousing and managing great powers.
If you may recall, one oyinbo man, an old hand at the power game, once called up Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, then a pro-Independence upstart. In a private conversation, he warned Zik, it was reported, that “uneasy lies the head the wears the crown.” Zik, uppity as all new guys are wont to be, fired back, “give me the crown and let my head lie uneasy.” And so it was. And since Zik and the rest of them, Nigeria has neither found things easy or been found at ease itself. Simply put, power, even in peace time, is concentrated chaos and instability. Managing big power is the equivalent of being at war.
Yes, there is a window of individual potentates judging or misjudging the forces at work and play. However, it is only these forces or how they are perceived that pressure a president’s hands, one way and not the other. It is the net of the pull and push of power that fixes the price of any actions, and thus the willingness to pay or not pay for it. In order words, the pull and push are like the supply and demand of marketplaces. That, not charity, is what forces a Dangote to fix his prices. So, the prices of Dangote noodles in the marketplace, say, or the actions of a president over his constituencies are not their individual choices. They are forced upon them by forces at work and play.
If this is taken, then it is safe to assume that Buhari’s hands were forced to do June 12. He had no options. If you asked us, we did say the following: the least thing a Buhari would do is to concede to June 12, ordinarily. First of all, that means that his co-potentate, General Sani Abacha, in whom he is well pleased, would come to criminal judgement.
But things happen. And it so happened that despite Buhari’s high hopes of being a Sai Baba, a messiah in power, it’s now clear that things have gone south under his watch. The economy tanked. His former alliance partners became irrevocable enemies. General Olusegun Obasanjo typifies them. He called on Nigerians, “don’t reinforce failures.” And he was referring to PMB, his once protégé.
And it also happened that Buhari has been accused by many of running a nepotistic court, exclusive of others, especially of the South West, which helped him to power. The matter was so pitiable that Senator Remi Tinubu, spouse of the irrepressible Jagagban, the de facto Yoruba Asiwaju, literally broke down in tears in the open. Next, the rumour that the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, representing the South West officially, was yelped has not helped. Today, alas he is left to play without balls. Or he is being played as if he himself was the ball. As one observer put it, perhaps in the spirit of the World Cup, Osinbajo has been benched. Osinbajo is not playing in the fields of power or influence. Osinbajo is a spectator just like the rest of us.
What all these add up to is that, in electoral terms, Buhari’s hands may have been chopped off, come 2019. While Buhari may be consolidating his personal powers in his current reign, he is perhaps crashing out of the future.
It was this spectre of crashing out that forced Buhari’s hands, not his love for democracy or June 12. First of all, he has alienated four out of the six regions of the country. He is in grace only in two core northern zones. In other words, his presidency looks core northern and Muslim. And this is Nigeria. So, even if he were to win or rig elections by taking home all the polls in the North, Buhari needed a signaling southern presence, both for legitimacy and other practical reasons.
It was the desperation to get a 2019 southern boots on the ground that forced Buhari to conciliate the South West. Now the South West, with the north, are the Group of 2, or G2 allies. The current formulation and framework of Nigeria as a unitary state was solely constructed by the G2, acting in concert or the South West in acquiescence. To repeat, the current state of Nigeria is a joint production of the G2, despite all self-righteousness or involuntary denials by any of the two parties.
Now, the choice of the North returning to the South West is both a morality play and a mafia closure. The morality in it is that the South West felt anger, perhaps justifiable anger: We have made all these sacrifices and been paid with shit. And we are wanting out.
But it is not easy to walk out on the mafia. Immediately one enters a deal with the mafia, one is doomed if he wants out. You may only go if the mafia pushes you. Even Dr. Reuben Abati, a former Presidency hand, once hinted at it: you can’t resign on the president. He has to sack or let you go, on his own terms. Of course, mafias are more deadly than presidencies. In fact, one can ask “who is the Presidency?” but you dare not ask, “who is the capo?”
The fact is, joining the mafia is like joining the Ogbonis. If you joined and wanted out, you did be warned: “you know we have done things together so there is no way you can go.” What you have known, you can’t un-know, so you can’t go, save as a carrion. Power, whether of the Ogbonis or the Presidency, is a big game hunt. Very dangerous.
But there are limits to mafia or Ogboni humiliations. At a point it pays to quit, even if it is as a corpse. Perhaps, that is the position the faction of the South West that engineered the alliance that got Buhari the presidency is in, politically. And they must have cried out: Buhari, if you don’t give us a thing to show our people for 2019, the divorce is sealed.
Buhari would have sensed the irrevocable certitude of the Yoruba faction to quit even in political death than continue the servitude. And it was a servitude that was pushing them from the frying pan into an inferno.
Yet, to remind them who is the capo, Buhari did the June 12 things exclusively his own way. Traditionally, the Jagagban faction would have been consulted before any decision, good or bad, is earmarked for his region. This is politically important even if Jagagban was a mere ducal power. But reports show that he woke up to hear the news like the rest of us, like he too was an outsider. That diminished him. And that diminution was a power play by capos in Abuja. They want to have him but on a leash as a pet, not a partner. And they wanted that known in public. However, the important point is to note that decisions are taken not because they are desirable or beneficial. Decisions are taken because there are no other options.
If we all returned to restructuring, the question is, can the Yoruba force it? The answer is, yes. All the Yoruba, as keepers of the balance of national powers, needed is to issue an “irrevocable letter of credit,” in political terms.
Now, the point must go as follows: The Yoruba may have to openly admit to their strategic errors in the past. They have hinted it, but they give it out as the opportunism of others, of their northern G2 partners. For example, Gen. Alani Akinrinade and others have said it openly that the northern soldiers opportunistically (that “O” word again?) created states, LGAs, etc, as to skew Nigeria into a default northern empire. The Yoruba have never conceded to their strategic naivety or failures in co-winning a war and abandoning the future entirely to an alliance faction.
If the Yoruba can simply re-state all that Akinrinade is saying, in bland new ways, the North will accede to restructuring tomorrow. The point is that the Yoruba, as co-winning coalition alliance partners, must first admit their errors and next charge the North of “nudged imperialism.” But our suspicion as we said in our book is that the Yoruba are held back by the Alcibiades syndrome. The fear of admitting that they or their heroes can be wrong, holds them back.
But if they can overcome that fear, it is just theirs to rally the rest of the country to redesign Nigeria from a G2 to a Group of All, G All. The point is that the north has stolen national powers beyond a point Nigeria will ever be stable. And only the Yoruba, as the second most powerful unit of power, can lead the reversal. All else is humor. Ahiazuwa.