State of the nation: We are ready for Nigeria’s break-up —Prof. Ango Abdullahi, spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum

Posted by News Express | 13 July 2014 | 5,844 times

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Professor Ango Abdullahi, scion of the northern intelligentsia, and frontline trooper of the oligarchy, is the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF). He shot into national consciousness in the maelstrom of the “Ango must go” crisis of 1986, when a violent uprising in the nation’s ivory towers demanded his removal as the vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU).

He is a leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and by his own reckoning was one of the 10 people that drew up the constitution and “signed it into life”.

But his stay in the party is no longer rosy. He insists Jonathan has committed unpardonable sins against the North and has been up in arms against his regime.

In this interview excerpted from Sunday Sun, Prof. Abdullahi (shown in photo) claims that Jonathan’s leadership has cast a pall on Nigeria’s continued existence and unequivocally declares that the North is willing and ready for the break-up of Nigeria. “Keep your oil, we’ll keep our land,” he says reassuringly.

He stokes further embers as he declares the South a parasite on the North between 1914 and 1960, proclaiming in the same breadth that oil, which is the pride of the South, is indeed a national resource, contrary to their belief. “It belongs to Nigeria, it’s a national resource,” he affirms with finality.

Question: I want to talk to you about the on-going National Conference. Some documents from some groups calling for secession from Nigeria are flying around. The Yoruba want Oduduwa republic, Niger Delta wants to go. The Igbo want Biafra. Why?

Prof. Ango Abdullahi: Nigeria was put together, not by me, not by you. It was put together by the British colonial masters. Of course, when they put Nigeria together, there was no consultation even with the local chiefs, the local chiefdoms. They carved out protectorates initially – the Lagos colony, the Southern protectorate and the Northern protectorate. And at some point Lugard decided that for administrative convenience and for effective exploitation of Nigeria’s resources, they needed to merge these protectorates together in 1914. That gave birth to Nigeria. Some people say it was God. I would rather say it was the British colonial masters that created Nigeria, maybe against the wish of the people who would not want to see this kind of arrangement. Having done so, they tried to organise the country from 1914 up to 1960 when they left us. And by the time they left us, they were able to convince us that it was going to be beneficial for the country to remain under certain constitutional mechanisms and arrangements. This is why they preferred; given the diversities of the country, its historical antecedents, a federal system of government that leaves a lot of authority and powers to sections of the country. That’s why we started with three regions – Eastern Nigeria, Western Nigeria, and Northern Nigeria in 1960. By 1963, the Midwest region was also created. Apart from the federal constitution, each region also had its own constitution. That again leaves a lot of powers devolved to these regions. That understanding we had experienced was that even the region themselves were not as homogenous as they should be.

Even before the British left, the minorities commission was set up to see in what ways the minorities’ fears could be allayed before independence, and after it. So, by the time we had our independence, and after 1963, when we became a republic, agitations had continued unabated; that the kind of Nigeria that people would want is not what we have,  and they continued in as many ways as possible to urge for structural changes. These agitations led to a number of constitutional conferences. The first constitutional conference started in 1963, when we changed our constitution from a country with allegiance to a monarchy, and became a republic. That came with a constitution. A constitutional change took place, when Gen Gowon(retd) created 12 states out of the 4 regions at the time. When Murtala Mohammed came, he introduced a merger to the constitutional reforms by introducing a presidential system of government, moving away from parliamentary system. And in addition, he created more states. I think it was during his time that we had 19 states. This agitation for creation of states is a manifestation of our ethnic diversities. Ethnic groups wanted to be as independent as possible as active participants, in the affairs of the country. This led continuously to moves for more states creation. After this particular one, we had 36 states, plus the Federal Capital Territory. All the same, we are still experiencing dissatisfaction with this. Despite the agitation for creation of states in the 60s, people are now saying no, we’ve made a mistake by creating states out of the regions. And that’s why the west felt it was better for them to be in the old western region, or the structure of the old western region. That was the same thing in Igboland. Given the minority agitations, well before independence, one is not surprised that the Niger Delta area may not want to remain with the Eastern region of old, and may want to be on their own. More so now, because there are oil wells there. So they want to leave the Igbo out of it. So, fair enough, the place where so many questions seems to be hanging is the position of the North – the North had never agitated for the breakup of Nigeria. There was one time when there was Araba in 1966. It was when they suddenly saw what they considered to be a sectional disruption of government by military boys mainly of Igbo extraction. And of course there were reprisals that led to the killings of Igbos in their numbers here, and of course eventually it moved to the Eastern region, Aburi, the civil war, and the rest of all. So, Biafra has been on the cards for quite some time, and still on the cards of so many people. So, for us here in the North, we have tried like our parents did. Yes, Nigeria is very useful to all Nigerians, not to Northerners, not to westerners, not to Igbos alone; to everybody, including us that sell suya in some sections of the country. For us now, we have reached a point that, if other Nigerians feel that the current Nigerian state is untenable, is not sustainable, we will support its balkanization. We will support it. I am one of those who believe that, yes, if other Nigerians are saying that Nigeria is not good enough, is not worth it, we believe the same, and I think we should go ahead and balkanise it.

Will you attribute  that  to the current Islamist insurgency in some parts of the North, where Nigeria is dripping with blood. Is that perhaps part of the agitations by the North for a break-up of Nigeria?

Certainly not. The present insurgency is only ten years old. Boko Haram is only ten years old. It is much younger than OPC, much younger than MASSOB, much younger than Niger Delta militants. It is recent; very recent. When the OPC and MASSOB were talking about their own agenda, the issue of balkanizing Nigeria was not important. Why is it that because of the insurgency here in the North, some people are saying yes; because of the insurgency by Northerners, the Nigerian state is not tenable. This is absolute nonsense. It’s not an excuse. So, for me, they must find other excuses for Nigeria to feel untenable, unsustainable. Certainly not because of Boko Haram. There had been insurgencies similar to Boko Haram before. And steps were taken to mitigate and overcome them. There is something we suggested should be done two or three years ago. I have a document that we presented to the President from the Northern Elders Forum; bringing the suggestion out that this is a localised affair. Anybody who thinks that Boko Haram insurgency is religious must be thinking upside down.

What is Boko Haram all about?

It’s basically socio-economic and political agitation. And this is what is contained in our document. The crisis we are having is a socio-economic manifestation of failures of the Nigerian state in this part of our country, or in that location in the country, just like it was in the Niger Delta or elsewhere.

But Niger Delta people were talking about environmental degradation and neglect? They were producing the oil but poverty was ravaging them, and oil was exploited and taken out to Abuja.

I want to comment on that misconception. The oil money is there in Niger Delta; in the hands of the leaders of the Niger Delta. Because, if you take the derivation arrangement that we are using now, you will see that Rivers State gets four or five times revenue monthly than Kano, even though Kano State is twice in population or in size that of  Rivers State. Rivers State gets between N20b and N30b a month, against Kano’s N5b to N6b. So, you see the leaders of the South- South have been misusing the resources. Right from Balewa’s government, there has always been special provisions for the Niger Delta. He was the one who kick-started it. The prime minister defied all expectations and consequences to create something that would deal with the issue. This tradition continued until this particular point in time. So, you ask where is the money? Where are the huge sums of money that go in form of derivation to these areas? Where is it? Of course it is in the private planes. It is in the yatchs that are in South Africa. Tension is created by the leaders of these people, and when the people rise up to challenge them, they will say, oh this money is in Abuja. The money that has been spent on Abuja development is less that the money Rivers State gets in a month.

Why they talk of Abuja is because the resources are pulled together in the federation’s consolidated revenue, and then shared among the three tiers of government. Correct?

In the first place, the oil revenue is not theirs, according to international law and even the law of this country. Oil resources underneath the soil of this country, on, or off shore, belongs to the nation. There is no need for any special investigation on this. It is very clear internationally. The oil is a national resource. And of course, people tend to forget. Before the oil came nko? Where were the resources coming from? I will refer you to a document that was produced recently by one of our Northern elders to show you the budgets of this country from 1914 to 1960. How money was collected and used across the regions. Deficit, mainly most of the time were found in the West, in the East. It was from the North that the budgets were operated, according to the colonial administrators. You see, it’s all politics anyway, that you want resource control. If you want to take resource control, take it, if you like. For example, you want oil, we want our land.

Your land, how?

Yes! The North has 75% of the land of this country and it’s our resource. And if you want to keep your oil, we keep our land.

How would you keep land? The South also has land.

Okay we keep our land, our cattle, our agriculture. We are happy with that. We are okay with that. That’s why we are not afraid if this country balkanizes. But in the spirit of this history of our leaders who worked hard to really get this country together, up to the point we got independence and beyond, and looking at all the various parameters of togetherness, the advantages of togetherness, one would encourage Nigerians to stay together. But if for purely political reasons, or reasons that appear selfish to me, people still insist that Nigeria is not well structured enough, and they want every part as much as possible to be on their own, so be it. We will support it.

Let me ask you this on the insurgency ravaging the country for some time now. Northern Elders have been accused of keeping quiet and have not been able to do much in quelling it. Similar incidents in other countries called for closing of ranks and return to hostilities after the emergencies. Why are you keeping quiet?

That’s not fair. I can show you a document by the Northern Elders Forum presented to Mr President in May 2012, where we made substantial suggestions, on various tactics on  challenges  of  the country, particularly in the area of security, and the area of apparent emerging political instability in the country. I have the document right here.


Source: News Express

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