Northerners should render account of their leadership of the country in order to demonstrate to Nigerians whether they led the country well or not. This call has become imperative because since the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua and the ascension of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan to the Presidency, northerners have been clamouring for power to return to them. The clamour by northerners for power should be of utmost concern to all Nigerians considering the fact that the north has led the country for 39 years of the nation’s 53 years of independence either as military heads of state or elected presidents without commensurate development to show for their leadership. This has prompted many Nigerians to ask if the demand by the north for power is justified or not.
Our checked history reveals that on August 29, 1957, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the Prime Minister of Nigeria and formed the first all Nigerian Federal Executive Council on August 30, 1957. On Saturday, December 12, 1959, the first federal elections were held. The result of those elections returned Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the Prime Minister. After the elections, Nigeria was never the same again as there were claims and counter claims of rigging. Election fraud and violence snowballed into the January 15th, 1966 military coup which was led by late Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi who later headed the military government for six months was killed in a counter-coup on July 29, 1966. Colonel Yakubu Gowon became the military Head of State and ruled the country for nine years but was dethroned on July 29, 1975 by Major-General Murtala Mohammed who was assassinated in an aborted coup led by Lt. Colonel Buka Suka Dimka.
General Olusegun Obasanjo took over the reins of power immediately and led the country for three years after which he conducted the general elections in 1979. He handed over power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the winner. On December 31, 1983, General Mohammadu Buhari seized power from Alhaji Shehu Shagari and ruled the country till August 27, 1985 when he was ousted by General Ibrahim Babaginda. General Ibrahim Babaginda led the country for eight years and conducted presidential election in 1993 which was won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola but later annulled the election. General Ibrahim Babaginda was however forced to step aside on August 26, 1993 but appointed Chief Ernst Shonekan to head the infamous Interim National Government (ING). Barely three months into the administration of Chief Ernest Shonekan, he was removed from office in a palace coup on November 17, 1993 by General Sani Abacha who held on to power till he died suddenly on June 8, 1998.
As a result of the death of General Sani Abacha, General Abdusalami Abubakar assumed office as military Head of State on June 9, 1998 and conducted a presidential election in 1999 which Chief Olusegun Obasanjo won. General Olusegun Obasanjo led the country for eight years and handed over power to Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua who won the 2007 presidential election. Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died on May 2, 2010 after he had led the country for three years. Subsequently, Acting President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn into office on May 3, 2010 as President of Nigeria.
However, immediately after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua and the subsequent swearing into office of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan as a substantive President, northerners warned him not to contest the 2011 presidential election. They vowed to make the country ungovernable for him if he was elected President. The threats to make the country ungovernable for Mr. President are being fulfilled through the Boko Haram insurgency that has placed some parts of the north in a state of chaos and anarchy!
It is pertinent to recount as above, how the country has been led since independence to keep Nigerians abreast with the geopolitical zone that has led the country the most! Nigerians are indeed worried by the demand for power by northerners that have led the country for 39 years without significant developments. Where are the achievements of northern leaders in this country? Can we trace any significant developments to the administrations of northerners in the country?
The importation of refined petroleum products started during the administrations of northern leaders. The Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries which supposed to be a normal maintenance process in factory was turned to a money spinning “business” for government officials. This unwholesome practice began during the regime of late General Sani Abacha, a Northerner! The oil sector became a family affairs where northern leaders award oil blocs to friends and relatives as largesse. What sector of the economy was developed under the leadership of northerners? Is it power, education, agriculture, aviation, roads, railways, security, industry, petroleum, etc that was good during the leadership of northerners? Was it not northern leaders that turned the country into a mono economy? Where are the groundnut pyramids, cottons, palm oil, cocoa, rubber, rice, yam barns etc? The introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) by the Gen. Babaginda’s administration brought abject poverty which the country has not recovered from till date!
The once blooming rail system was also destroyed by northern leaders who own the trailers that have virtually replaced the rail transportation system. The failure of the rail system and the frequent use of trailers with heavy loads on our roads have caused the deplorable state of the roads across the country. Heavy loads are supposed to be transported on rail tracks but they are rather moved on the roads which cannot bear the weights of such heavy loads!
But some questions are bothering the minds of Nigerians. First, what could northern leaders not do in the 39 years they led the country that they want to correct in Aso Rock or are 39 years not enough for any serious minded group of people to achieve something remarkable? Second, is the leadership of Nigeria the sole right of northerners? Third, what do northerners want from the Nigerian Project that they have not received? With 19 states and 407 local government areas, the north receives more federal allocation than other geopolitical zones including the South-South that owns the crude oil yet the north does not contribute anything to the national treasury! Northerners do not have crude oil yet they control 83 per cent of oil blocs. They have also produced more Petroleum Ministers and Group Managing Directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) than the Niger Delta region that host the crude oil. The Federal Capital Territory, Abuja supposed to be a neutral place for all Nigerians as the aboriginals were adequately compensated for their lands they relinquished to the Federal Government but today, there are emirs, other traditional rulers, and indigenes who are claiming ownership of Abuja! The north also dominates the armed forces, customs, immigration, etc not based on merit but nepotism. What is in Nigeria that the north does not dominate?
Now, what does the north want since it controls everything in the country except the Presidency? What change did the country experience when northerners were in the driver’s seat? If northerners had led the country well in terms of infrastructural development will the country be in the sorry state it is presently? It can be recalled, at a point when the Nigerian economy was strong and competitive, a Nigerian leader of northern extraction said the problem with Nigeria was not money but how to spend it. At the time that statement was made, how many roads, railroads, tubes, bridges, hospitals, universities, houses, power plants, dams etc did that leader in question build? It is only in a country like Nigeria that the north that led the country for 39 years without any pronounced developments can further demand for power! What did northern leaders do with the apple opportunities they had when they led the country? Was there any change when northerners led the country? Is there any justification for the north to demand for power so soon? I do not think so!
But why is it that any time a Southerner is in the helm of affairs in this country the north will boil? During the time of President Olusegun Obasanjor, it was Sharia Law. Now President Jonathan, another Southern is on the throne now, it is Boko Haram. Why? Is the leadership of this country reserved for northerners? Again, can we say with sincerity of heart that the north has produced better leaders that the south?
Northern leaders should be sober and agonize for the underdevelopment they imposed on this country due to their inept leadership. They should as a matter of urgency, apologize to Nigerians for leading the country into the present quagmire where nothing works. Rather than demand for power, northerners should give adequate support to President Goodluck Jonathan to enable him succeed in his transformation agenda. This is what Nigerians expect from northerners.