Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Of Arewa Hegemony And Afonja Quislings

By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Nigeria is living in very interesting times of power politics. Some pundits are saying that history is about to repeat itself through the forged political realignments. Some 12 days after Nigeria’s Independence in October 1960, the then Premier of the Northern Region and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, said in The Parrot newspaper:
“The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the north as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future.”
*Buhari in Yorubaland, flanked by
Gov Amosu and Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun
Some Northern irredentists, notably Prof Ango Abdullahi and Dr Junaid Muhammed, insist at every interview opportunity that power must perforce return to the North. They have been countered by the militant voices out of Niger Delta, notably the very voluble Asari Dokubo. It is as though Nigeria is poised on a knife edge. In the alliances being put to play to win political power, the role of General Afonja in the fall of the old Oyo Empire needs to be recalled. 
According to Wikipedia, “The Ilorin Emirate is a traditional state based on the city of Ilorin in Kwara State, Nigeria. It is considered to be one of the Banza Bakwai, or copy-cats of the Hausa Kingdoms. At the start of the 19th century Ilorin was a border town in the northeast of the Oyo Empire, with a mainly Yoruba population but with many Hausa-Fulani immigrants or slaves. It was the headquarters of an Oyo General, Afonja, who rebelled against the empire and helped bring about its collapse with the assistance of the Fulani. The rebellion was powered by Hausa, Nupe and Bornu Moslem slaves. Afonja had been assisted by Salih Janta, also called Shehu Alimi, a leader of the local Fulani. In 1824 Afonja was assassinated and Alimi's son Abdusalami became Emir. Ilorin became an emirate of the Sokoto Caliphate.”
Afonja played a role akin to that of Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian politician who undermined the world by aiding Nazi Germany, for which the word “quisling” entered the dictionary. Some notable Southwest politicians have been drawn into a recall of the old Afonja debacle and the need to stop the quislings in the zone in their tracks. At issue is the divide of support between the two presidential candidates, incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and General Muhammadu Buhari of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). 
The factional leader of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams, weighs in with these words: “I don’t think that the South-west will vote for Buhari en masse. Don’t forget the pain caused by the June 12 annulment; it is still fresh in the mind of our people. Many died in the cause of June 12 struggle; many lost a lot of properties. I don’t think our people will trust a Hausa/Fulani man from the North this time around.” 
Pa Ayo Adebanjo, a leader of the Yoruba group, Afenifere, and a top member of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group, in an interview with Vanguard entitled “The Grave Mistake Nigeria Cannot Afford”, argued that leaders of the North have a “born to rule” mentality. The 87-year-old Adebanjo said: “If some Yoruba follow them sheepishly, probably because they don’t know the background, that cannot happen to someone like me. And part of the inequality we are talking about is what has come out in the Buhari certificate matter. In the first republic, you set up a standard for everybody but when it comes to the northerner, you set another standard, that is exactly what happened in Buhari’s case. Those of us who knew all these things from the beginning are not surprised by the new turn of events. You heard that his principal sent a letter to the military that he was capable and that he expected that he would pass his examinations. That was what was happening in those days in the North. Go and ask serious federal civil servants in this country, many of the permanent secretaries that were senior to them whether they were not superseded without being qualified. They cannot deny that. If you have read General Isama’s book, you will find it there where he said when they were about to be commissioned, the standard set for them was usually lower for the North. I am sure he never anticipated a situation like this.”
The fire-eating Adebanjo who at 87 is sharper than a razor-blade completely dismissed Buhari’s democratic credentials as he continued thusly: “When did he become a democrat? What has he done to show he is a democrat other than the fact he is saying he is being punished because he is now a democrat? When he first came as a military man, he was issuing retroactive actions to convict people for murder. We are all living witnesses to what he did with Decree 4, so, that is the type of man you want me to vote in a civilian regime? He says he is not a fundamentalist. It is just that people forget about records easily. Here was a man who campaigned in the North and said Muslims should vote for Muslims. Here was a man who said he was going to work for the operation of Sharia throughout the country. He has not denied it neither has he apologized for all the anti-democratic things he has done. I won’t be deceived by bringing a first class technocrat as running mate.”
Just like Afonja’s role in the fall of the old Oyo Empire, it is the opinion of Adebanjo that the Southwest “will be making a big mistake and digging their graves”, stressing with finality: “Buhari is only deceiving them.”

*Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, a Nigerian poet, playwright, scholar and public affairs analyst, resides in Lagos  

*First published before the 2015 Nigerian Presidential Elections

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