Solomon Asemota …on the end of the Nigerian Federalism
Last week as we joined fellow Nigerians to celebrate the 85th birthday anniversary of the Nigerian pathfinder, we published some excerpts of the patriots leader to the CAN youths 1985…below is another excerpt from that earth shaking delivery….
The Hausa/Fulani ruling class effectively used Gowon to continue the propagation of Islam, when Nigeria joined the organisation of Islamic countries (OIC), on an observer status, to take over mission schools and hospitals by government in order to slow down the growth of Christianity and introduce the quota system. The effect of these policies was that the Hausa/Fulani Muslims benefited more than any other group in the country. Some Christian schools were even given Muslim names.
Religious factor In military coups
When two Christian Colonels, Anthony Ochefu and Joseph Garba, decided to stage the coup against Gowon’s government in 1975 they brought in some Muslim officers to assist them. The result of that coup was that a Muslim, Murtala Mohamed became Head of State. Thus, the Muslim again benefited more from that coup than the Christians who actually planned and organised it. When eventually Murtala Mohammed was assassinated, the secret trials that followed, saw the execution of a number of Christian officers, thus depleting the number of Christian officers in the army.
Although, Murtala’s Second-in-Command Obasanjo succeeded him, his succession was a temporary Christian leadership of the country. Obasanjo later handed over power to Shagari another Muslim in 1979. Since then it has always been a Muslim affair. Buhari/Idiagbon, Babangida and Abacha. Abiola/Kingibe would have been another Islamic leadership, except the strategy had been fine tuned to ensure that only certain Muslims of ‘pure’ northern extraction can emerge as Nigeria’s Head of State.
Shonekan though a Christian was merely a stop gap, a strategy that did not make the handing over from Babaginda to Abacha so obvious. The Hausa/Fulani Muslim ruling class’ penchant for political intrigues has no parallel in the Christian agenda if there is any. Our Christian leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was at some point the Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council like other Christians then and now, put political survival over and above faith. As minister of finance, the funds of Christians (Biafra) were confiscated and Christians depositors were given fixed sum of twenty Nigerian pounds or #40.00(Forty Naira) each, irrespective of their holdings. The continental shelf occupied by Christians of the minority zones, was taken over from them and made federal territory in terms of revenue sharing. It was returned only a few years ago. Derivation principles of revenue sharing was later reduced and benefit that initially accrued to Christians minorities were taken away from them, resulting in a situation where today, the Hausa/Fulani benefit more from the oil than those who own the oil. It must also be remembered that it was a Christian, who drafted Decree No. 1 of 1966 which provided that, ‘the federal government shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Nigeria or any part thereof with respect to any matter whatsoever,” thus foreclosing Federalism. It was also the same Christian lawyer that provided under Section 6 that “no question as to the validity of this or any other Decree or any Edict shall be entertained by any of law in Nigeria.’ A Christian Attorney-General gave absolute power to a Christian military dictator, Aguiyi Ironsi, the instrument later was used by successive dictators to destroy the structure of the Nigerian Federalism. The difference between a Muslim political leader and a Christian political leader is that with Muslims, the interest of their faith takes precedence over political survival, while the opposite is the case with respect to Christians.
Islam overall interest
How and why has the Hausa/Fulani ruling class been able to sustain their permanent interest for so long, we may ask? The answer to this question is superior strategy. As Hassan Kukah said, “the northern ruling class has done extremely well in holding out. It has shown an incredible degree of survival and adaptation in retaining its hegemonic hold,” While Zik and Awolowo were politicking with the elite, the Sardauna was politicking with the grassroots and the youths. He set up the Jamaatu Nasir Islam-Society for the victory of Islam, to which all Muslims belonged and each has the option of being active or sleeping member. As a result today, far more followers of the Sardauna are still around and still very relevant.
A number of royal fathers today enjoyed very visible political profile before ascending their various thrones. Especially in the north, it is hard to find a single first generation Emir who was not a practicing Politician before becoming an Emir. This assertion is difficult to fault. Majority of the older Emirs in the north were at various times members of the defunct Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) of the first Republic. Mustapha El-kanemi, the Shehu of Borno was an NPC member of the Northern House of Assembly from 1952-56 as was the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero.
Now, when you compare the Sarduana to Abacha, I chose to go back to that imperial formula of patriotism. Abacha from all his activities had that imperial formula of patriotism. Then of course, is it wrong to say that he had Sarduana’s qualities? It must be pointed out however, that General Abacha was not a Huasa/Fulani but a Kanuri. However, the permanent interest of the Hausa/Fulani ruling class would be better served by Abacha than anyone else, not only because Abacha was a Muslim, (so was Abiola), but also because any other northerner coming forward then to take over Nigeria from Abacha cannot be defended in the face of the fact Abiola was still alive and in prison. This is another example of Hausa/Fulani adaptation and flexibility which is why known presidential aspirants from Hausa/Fulani ruling class, Umaru Shinkafi, Adamu Ciroma, Abubakar Rimi, Bamanga Tukur retreated into their shells.