What happened at the Daily Trust 18th Annual Dialogue of the 21st January, 2021 was really interesting. The Southeast remembered the colonial legacy; the structures it left at independence before the 1966 coup that toppled it by some – largely their own – very ambitious and adventurous youthful military officers, with nostalgia. They think the structure was the best thing that ever happened to them! John Nwodo, the president of the apex sociocultural group of the third largest ethnic collective in Nigeria, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, was high on this position. Throughout the sessions and very articulate so. The solution for a better Nigeria, he constantly reiterated, is only to find a way of dismantling the present structure, write a freshly minted constitution; disregarding the mandate and authority of the present National Assembly as is composed now, after all, according to him, everything about this country since 1966 was built only “on a quicksand”. What trampled the old order and the baggage it came with, in the name of a new and present order, even after nearly six decade now, is still democratically illegitimate. He implied.
For the Southwest through the sharp tongue and the profound insight of Chief Ayo Adebanjo, fire or brimstone, we must return also to pre 1966 regional arrangement where Yoruba ethnic nationality in particular can relatively take its destiny onto its own hand and the other parts of the country too, for their own good and needed comprehensive progress. Ayo is a nonagenarian and a founding father of the apex Yoruba sociocultural group, Afenifere. He believes either, restructuring is actually not a constitutional matter and therefore its processes can bypass the present National Assembly as is composed. The foundation of a solid national prospect and prosperity must be built on the over bearing influence of cultural sentiment as the case was with the different regions of Nigeria before 1966. Subversion of that arrangement from the onset was the origin of negative narrative that is associated constantly with Nigeria now.
What is very interesting is the position of Northern Nigeria. It claims now and then –everywhere before and outside the Trust dialogue – to be the worst victim of the events of 1966 with its best of leaders, since Nigeria, literally wiped out. However away from the Southwest’s and Southeast’s positions; and during the dialogue the Northern position seems to be, the best governing structure that Nigeria should continue on, is this present structure that toppled the legacy of the British colonial masters in the North that was a hybrid between the old Sokoto Caliphate/ Kanem-Bornu and the then colonial thoughts and experience. The North suddenly don’t want anything to do with the past structure that they claim gave them the best in terms of leaders, leadership and fruits of governance through the impeccable and unrivalled wisdom of our darling Sardauna!
The North was shown to prefer, what succeeded the 1966 – the legacy of the coupists – 12 states structure of General Gowon, the 1976 governance command line ratified by General Murtala, which completely did away with the local institutions Sardauna worked with to deliver the much appreciated and remembered good governance. They substituted them with free for all agencies that were newly experimented in the name of Local Governments; the subsequent 19 to 36 states structure that will continue to deliver the fruits of ‘good’ governance, still, further away from the kind of institutions the mighty, selfless, angel like Ahmadu Bello used to deliver the fruits of governance.
Prof. Attahiru Jega, an accomplished academic and a veteran NEPU ideologue. NEPU, we must not forget, was Anti-Ahmadu Bello’s thoughts and ideals of the institution he worked with to deliver the trumpeted untainted fruits of good leadership. Jega stood tall to present what seemed to be the unanimous position of Northern Nigeria’s apex sociocultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum. He wants the present structure retained but power devolved down to the states or state governors and this should be accomplished using the same National Assembly that is the ultimate product of the 1966 coup that killed the very best of Northern leadership. The National Assembly that both Southwest and Southeast regard presently as not a product of people’s will and as such not far from being fraudulent.
This raises in the mind of spectators and historical events surveyors of Northern Nigeria like yours sincerely questions like these: are the Northern Nigerians the ultimate beneficiaries of the events of 1966? Did Generals, Murtala, Gowon and TY Danjuma who over saw the counter coup of 1966 really avenged or even wanted to avenge Ahmadu Bello and his killed colleagues or they subsequently helped completely murdered and permanently buried his legacy as is obvious? Is it true as Reverend Matthew Kukah often say that Sardauna’s children only paid and still pay lip service to his legacies in a manner typical of hypocrisy?
Where are the true representatives of the institutions Sardauna used to deliver the much celebrated good governance we so much like to hail? Why are they silent? Do they too no longer believe in themselves? Is the North confused or lying to self that it still loves what Danfodio/Elkanemi left to them as modified by the British and Ahmadu Bello and Wazirin Borno, Sir Kashim Ibrahim? Was Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah truly nostalgic about Sardauna’s Northern Nigeria as in his letter to Ahmadu Bello written six years ago and virally republished by many online Nigerian Newspapers last week (19th January, 2021); when he wrote to him in his grave or being merely tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, mocking him as the ultimate loser as already proven by the actions of the present Northern elites? After all his grandchild is basking in the lavish comfort afforded by the status quo, grown bigger in prism without the ability to even keep fit to play fives like the Sardauna used to as a sign of determination and strength of will to make useful his times in life, as Kukah reported?
Whatever the case maybe and as observed in the same letter by Kukah, all these years after Ahmadu Bello, the supposed claimants of his true legacy, have failed in the simple task of endowing a single Chair for Sardauna studies in any of the universities in or outside the country. Had there been one, probably the Sardauna legacy would have remained looming large in the air with scholars constantly conducting synthesis over time between his enduring legacies and contemporary exigencies, to keep his ideals relevant at any time, when discussing the future fate of Nigerian nation state. Had there been such, certainly there wouldn’t have been the sad event of last week where a monumental step was taken dialoguing, without any wide idea presented amidst applause making adequate case for neo Sardaunism as the eternal panacea to the troubles facing the 21st century Nigeria; even if side by side the neo NEPU bone prone but flesh barren, articulated presentation of Prof. Jega.
It would have been two positions from the North as it used be always from two different political paradigms, instead of one. But contrary to that as we have seen, the Northerners went to the event to complete the funeral prayer for Sardaunism and declare the Sardauna loudly and forcefully an orphan non grata. They failed to remember that Sardauna didn’t do that to Dan Fodio. Had he done so we would have had those miscreants claiming to be his representatives, instead, on our shores long before now that we have them in the Boko Haram claiming to be the best of Danfodio and El-amin Elkanemi. However, if we continue to neglect Sardauna, walk away from the grave the 18th Annual Daily Trust Dialogue, dug for him and buried him – without waiting to exhume him, and place him on the right stable of our national life- it wouldn’t be long before we have another militant group coming up on these coasts claiming to represent him best. And it will not be good to Nigeria or Northern Nigeria. History or prominent historical figures are a burden to their succeeding generations. It is either they embrace them, garb them well and use them for good ends or throw them aside as wastes for others to pick, mould in ugly muds and use them effectively against contemporaries!