A publisher from the North, Musa Ajogie has tackled the northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum, saying it lacked the competence to speak for and on behalf of the North.
Musa who is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Kaduna-based National NewsEnquiry magazine and National Chairman of Patriotic Indigenes of Northern Publishers Association, PINPA told Daily Sun in an interview that being a consultative forum has stripped the group of the responsibility of speaking for the North since it doesn’t consult with the constituent states that make up the North.
He also said Prof. Ango Abdullahi goofed when he said the North may keep the presidency of Nigeria for 100 years. Excerpts:
We have been hearing different political tunes on similar matters from the North and this is quite unlike the North people used to know. As a publisher of northern extraction, is the North still monolithic?
The North today is still one entity. The North, I repeat, is still one entity. From the geographical and regional structure of the word North, we are still one entity. By the word North, we are still under one umbrella and talk. However, the marriage has, in a way, been divorced. Today, we have Kaduna State, Plateau State, Benue State, Kwara State, Adamawa State, Kogi State and the rest of them. So, we now have a total of 19 states under the North. You can see that the umbrella that we all hide under is still not torn. So, if any northerner who is mature and of my age speaks for or against, he must be speaking for the North and indeed in the interest of the North.
You now have a situation where some people who are northerners are claiming to be from Middle Belt. Is that not tacit evidence that the once monolithic North has broken up?
The truth, which I will let you know and which must be a revelation to you is that there is nothing like Middle Belt. If you want I will go through it again. There is nothing called Middle Belt and if there is any word like that it is a jargon. Nothing is Middle Belt in the North. What we have is North-central and not Middle Belt. Middle Belt is a political jargon, which does not hold water. It is not even there, geographically and constitutionally speaking. Again, if you look at it naturally and structurally we are of the North-central. There is nothing like far North like some people will want to describe themselves. You can never be far from your home. If you claim you are a Nigerian why should somebody refer to you as a Nigerian from far North. The real demarcation, naturally speaking describes North-central and not Middle Belt. If you look at it very well this is not a fabrication and not a political arrangement. What I am saying is that within the North you have the central position. That is what it means, but not far North or Middle Belt. No. There is nothing like that.
Do you then have core North like some people in the North would want to describe themselves?
No. There is nothing like that. I was privileged to interview the late Justice Mamman Nasir. I asked this question you have just thrown at me and he said to me, Musa, those who refer to themselves as core northerners do not know what they are saying. Do they say they are strangers in a country they proclaim to be their own? So, no part of the country is core. If they say they are from the Sahara part of the North it is okay, but to say they are from the core North, no.
You do not believe there is anything like Middle Belt?
It is not believing; it is the truth. There is nothing like Middle Belt in the North. But if you talk about oneness of purpose, the North was one under the umbrella of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Sardauna of Sokoto. And this was because his leadership gave us all sense of belonging as northerners. He remains today and all the time the guardian of the North, politically speaking. But the moment the military came and split the North into states, we think we are now autonomous at state levels. However, when it comes to interest of purpose, we must weld together under the umbrella of the North.
You must or you are welding together?
That’s a good one. The interest of purpose is no longer there and that is why we are now scouting and navigating to find our levels. We must be listened to and we must be heard at that state level. But when it comes to the North, I want to say ACF, that is Arewa Consultative Forum, is not talking for the entire North. You know what ACF means? It is a consultative forum.
You mean ACF is not speaking for the North?
It does not.
Who then speaks for the North?
The person who speaks for the North is the one who says it correctly and at the right time.
Who now speaks correctly and at the right time?
You read and you hear and if it is objective. NEF is more paramount and relevant to the cause of the North than ACF, which is a consultative forum. The word consultative has weakened the body and since it does not consult, it cannot speak for and on behalf of the North. From all indications they have not been consulting. They are entitled to their views, but those views are not binding on northerners. You know what consultative means in grammar. So, they are on their own. Nigerians should, therefore, ignore whatever views that come from ACF where they claim it is that of the North. It is not true because they don’t consult. Who do they consult? They never consult anybody; so why should they say the North said…no, the North never said anything you hear from them. At best they are views from individuals in the forum.
As a northerner what does ACF mean to you?
ACF is a consultative forum. Do they consult before making any pronouncement? That is the question. It is not enough that you gather yourselves together and meet. Did you form a quorum in the name of the North? The name consultative has deflated that forum and, therefore, they cannot speak for us.
Who speaks for the North?
Well, when the time comes we will know, but such a person must be nominated or appointed. Like for now, NEF is competent to speak for the North, but must make sure it does not mislead northerners. As an elders’ forum and by their age and qualification they are competent to speak for the North, not ACF. Name matters a lot to human beings. That is why people go for meanings of the name we bear because it can make or mar you. Now, do they consult before making any pronouncement? It is not enough to gather yourselves and meet. Was there a quorum of all northerners and their representatives? I earlier told you that one North was split into states and that the implication is that we think we are autonomous. Now, if you want the aggregate views of northerners as a consultative body, it is just fair that you get the views of the representatives of these states that make up the North. Has that always been done? We also have traditional rulers who are custodians of the tradition of the people and are sometimes mandated to speak for the people. Are traditional rulers members of the ACF? Have they always been consulted before rushing to speak on behalf of the North? You see the word consultative has indeed deflated that forum. You cannot speak for the North because it is consultative.
What about the Northern Elders Forum?
Northern Elders Forum, that name is grammatically structured and correct because of a truth we have elders of the North. If such elders find themselves on a table to discuss the North, at that cadre they are for the North and can speak for the North, not a consultative forum. But of course you know there was Northern Elders Forum before this ACF. That body under the late Abdulrahman Okene was the one speaking for and on behalf of the North. There was nothing like a consultative forum. Again, the forum is social-cultural in nature and not a political body. Their members are from different political parties and, therefore, are not expected to discuss political matters because they can never come to a just conclusion. But they speak on political matters not minding the opinion of others.
The Northern Elders Forum, specifically, its Chairman, Prof Ango Abdullahi said recently that the North may keep the presidency for 100 years. Does that represent your opinion as a northerner? Are you in tandem with that?
No, I am not. I am not in agreement with that.
It is because leadership in Nigeria is all about negotiation. It is about election and voting and where these conditions work you don’t come and make this kind of authoritative pronouncement. If that is the case what do you then do with elections and their processes? What do you do with the voting and counting? You mean people will not vote? I think that statement is out of context. So long as they have not disagreed with what he was quoted to have said I will not say he was quoted out of context. No. But I think Ango Abdullahi, Professor, the one I know spoke out of provocation. I repeat; that statement by him is a provocative one, not against the Yoruba or Igbo, but he was personally provoked from within his northern territory. They seem not to know that he exists and if you don’t say I am, nobody will ever say thou art. I think that is the sense in which he said that.
Let us be clear about what he said. He said democracy is all about numbers and that the North has it…
You see this is where he goofed. Number is negotiable and if he relies on it I will like to say that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan are southerners and got elected in an election conducted across the country. Where were these numbers? The victories were in spite of the northern numerical strength. Does he not understand? History doesn’t lie you know. So, banking on numerical strength is a nullity. These things are negotiable. But I say to you with due respect sir that to some extent the northerners are by far more the victims of President Buhari’s…I don’t want to use the word maladministration really, but victims of Buhari’s inward adjustments and they weep. Originally, it was weeping, but today they are crying to our hearing. So, the numerical strength, yes it is there, but the policy implementation is nationalistic. So, you cannot say because we are more, implementation should be tilted towards the North. Buhari cannot do that and they see him not playing the ball. They offer the service. Let me tell you my story to buttress the fact that Buhari cannot tilt implementation of policy to the North. Abiola was to be honoured on the 12th of June this year, I as an investigative journalist left Kaduna to Abuja. On my way from Abuja the next day I was kidnapped on my way to Kaduna between Jere and Rijana towns. It was not because I am a northerner or I am rich or because I am from any zone of Nigeria, but the kidnappers told me when I asked them why they had to kidnap and hit me that they hit me because I was struggling with them. I then asked why I was kidnapped when I do not have money and was only coming from an occasion in Abuja as a journalist. They said they are not happy doing what they are doing and using their own words, I am not supposed to be the people they are looking for. They are looking for the big people up there, but they cannot reach them. Then they said I should take their message to Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari that they are not happy with what they are doing, but that they have been rejected and denied. They are not farmers and traders, but that they are occupationally and hereditarily cattle rearers. They said today they have no cow to rear, they have no place to go and wherever they go they are looked at as settlers and strangers. They then asked me what they can do to feed in the circumstance. They said they are human beings too and should be listened to and heard. Then they said I will have to go, but if you go because we know as a journalist you will have access to Buhari, tell him to be fair to all manner of mankind, including themselves; that anytime they are ready to see reasons with them with objective sense of belonging they will lay down their arms and join hands to make Nigeria even greater. I am using their words. I was kidnapped between 7 and 8 in the night of 13th June this year. I told them I have no money and they asked if that is why I didn’t board a plane or train. I was not the only one kidnapped. They asked me for ransom and I had to phone my governor, the most courageous governor in Nigeria today, Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai to bail me. My representative went to Government House, but the governor was not at home. They tried to reach out to Aruwan, (El-Rufai’s media man then), he was not there. They left a note for Aruwan that they should hurry and bail me out. All said and done within my own family we were able to generate something that got me off their hook. They called me in one of the two nights I spent with them when they observed I was not praying. They said danjairida (meaning journalist) are you a Muslim? I said no, I am not a Muslim. You are a Christian? I said no, I am not. They then asked who are you then? I said I am a Pagan, but I believe in God. They then said I should stay in one corner because it means you cannot be able to blackmail. I am using their words. They asked how much I have been able to pay. I disclosed and they said okay you can go.
But it is like the North is now more divided than they used to be. Would that be a fair assessment?
If you say so you are not being biased. The division is all about state creation. It is not more divided today. The issue is all about state creation. You must assert your base and if there is any central home that we must pay homage to, we will not hesitate, but at the state level, if you call it division, well…
Why in your opinion is the Middle Belt now tilting towards the South than the North?
I think that is an observed question and it is a fine one. I am of the North-central, but let me say that those who think tilting towards the South will be more beneficial are making a mistake, in the sense that whatever happens, rightly or wrongly, the South will always ask them to return to where they belong. They will be denied when the chips are down. You are free to go and look for food. It is survival of the fittest. Nobody will deny you, but if it means interest and policy of value, let me tell them that they can get it within the North and not outside the North. Let me repeat this to those saying they are from Middle Belt that there is nothing like Middle Belt. I am telling them they should remain with the North. You are from North-central and not Middle Belt. There is nothing like Middle Belt. Middle Belt is a jargon and not tenable. It is not even in the dictionary.
But when Joseph Tarka was alive he was of the Middle Belt Forum and was liaising with Chief Awolowo and the rest from the South. The present romance of the Middle Belt with the South seems to suggest that after so many years of being with their brothers in the North, they believe it will be more beneficial working with the South than the North.
History is not a liar. We are readers of books. So, these things are there. In the days of J.S Tarka and Awolowo, the rest of them, these names were used for political leanings, majority and sympathy. But if you come to the reality of the name today nothing is Middle Belt in the Nigerian structure. Nothing is Middle Belt in the Northern structure. Nowhere in the geography of Nigeria do you have Middle Belt. You only have North-central.