It has been said that only the Truth can set the People free. But in Nigeria many people are afraid to tell the truth. The leaders in this do-not-tell-the-truth and do-not-face-the reality business are the politicians and the governments they run. Many times they prefer propaganda than telling the truth. The Nigerian situation is however complicated that even when the truth is told by the few brave or God-fearing people, government and its sponsored media have a way of making it look like partisan criticism. So when a bitter truth is told about the polity or the economy, it is regarded as criticism sponsored by the opposition and dismissed by media aides and spokesmen of the authorities. And as long as the truth is not told and accepted by those in power, things do not change and the people remain in bondage or in chains.
Very recently I have really been enthused by some truth and hard realities coming from the North of Nigeria. About July last year, Atiku Abubakar shocked Nigerians when he spoke directly to the political elite of Northern Nigeria that they needed to accept the National yearning to restructure the Federation. He agreed with many from the South of Nigeria that the Federation was lop-sided and clumsy and so was tottering. He appealed to his compatriots to accept to be at the table where Nigeria’s structure would be re-negotiated, rather than wait to be forced to face a done deal. In effect, Abubakar Atiku was prophesying that Nigeria would eventually be restructured and it was best for everybody to sit around the table and participate in the negotiations in a peaceful manner, rather than be forced by circumstances beyond their control. A few other Northern elites have supported the need to face the reality of a restructured Nigeria that will give the federating units more autonomy, allow for fiscal Federalism and reduce the attraction and ultimately the deadly-competition for the central government in Abuja.
So far, the Federal Government seems unwilling to accept the truth nor ready to face the reality. In some quarters, Atiku’s submission has been called a political ploy to help his political quest. Well, time will tell if Atiku is a true believer or a pretender. The British Ambassador to Nigeria who supported Brexit is opposed to Nigeria breaking up. That is fine. But I hope he will go further to encourage Nigeria to restructure the Federation to prevent a possible break up. If the Nigerian authorities are unwilling to do so, then may be he should recommend a referendum to determine the popularity of some of the agitations.
Mohammadu Sanusi 11, the Emir of Kano is one leader who is not afraid to tell the truth as he sees it. When he was working as CBN Governor, he found his voice to criticize President Umaru Yardua, who appointed him to office. He asked Yardua to reduce his 8-point agenda to one point agenda, so that he could focus and produce result. Last week he was at it again. He cautioned the Federal Government against its present growth strategy focused largely on borrowing.He raised an alarm that we have reached our limit of debt and must now change course and promote growth through investment. We are on the same page on this as I have severally made a case for a focused strategy to promote domestic investment and attract foreign Direct investment( FDI). Despite the fall in oil prices, Nigeria’s potential for FDI remains significant but we have been sluggish in working to realize the opportunities in both oil and non-oil sectors. It is my hope that the National Economic Recovery & Growth Plan( NERGP) recently launched by the Government will begin to address this lacuna.
But the more striking truth told by the Emir of Kano last week was the one he told the Northern political and economic elite at the Kaduna State investment summit called by Governor Nasir El’Rufai. He told them the hard truth that the North was actually dragging Nigeria back in several areas- infant mortality, maternal morbidity, girls education, primary school enrollment, infectious disease load, vaccination for preventable childhood diseases,poverty etc. Indeed in virtually even human development Index, Nigeria’s ranking is weighed down by the North.It is not as if this was news. These statistics have long been known. But no respected Northern Leader has been this bold in accusing the leaders of being responsible for the underdevelopment of their people. If this was said by Atiku as he tried once, it would have been ignored or dismissed as political talk. If it was said by a Southerner, it would be regarded as part of the hate campaign of the South against the North. If it was said by a Christian cleric, it would have been interpreted as attack against Islam.
Because it was like a self indictment, shorn of any political or religious bias, Emir Sanusi’s bitter pill seems to have been easily swallowed by Governor El ‘Rufai and his colleagues. I am really impressed that there was no attempt to deny reality, or input any motives. The Governors from the North West have agreed to seek collaboration and hopefully get into some level of integration so that they can muster the resources to begin to deal with the major challenge which Emir Sanusi has thrown at them. I truly wish them well, because it will require a great load of efforts and I am hoping that the Emir will assist them with changing the mind sets of the traditional and religious leaders who have persistently refused to allow any form of modernity.
Emir Sanusi has previously spoken other truths to Nigeria. One that resonates so much with me is the one where he told Nigeria, that the Country has placed so much odds against Ndigbo. He accused the North and the West of Nigeria of conspiring to keep Ndigbo out of the levers of power in Nigeria because of the Biafran secession in 1967 which led to the civil war( 1967-1970). He believes that Ndigbo have paid so much for the War and it was time, they were truly accepted as equal citizens of the Country and when all the glass ceilings and other impediments to Igbo full re-integration would be smashed and dismantled for ever. I believe that those who insist that Nigeria must remain one indivisible Country must pay heed to this truth just as the North West Governors who met in Kaduna the previous week seem to have heeded the challenge thrown at them. That is the only hope otherwise it may just be too late.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR