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Bayelsa 2015 gubernatorial election: Whither Ijaw Leaders?

Ijaw nationThe forthcoming Bayelsa gubernatorial election is not an ordinary election to

any right-thinking member of the Ijaw nation. It is a test of Ijaw nation’s sense of history and its ability to take important decisions critical to Ijaw national interests. In fact, it will define their sense of identity in the context of Nigeria’s geopolitics. 

Unfortunately, the unexpected, the unthinkable, indeed the unbelievable is already taking place. That prominent Ijaw leader like Timi Alaibe with followers defected to the ruling party came to me as a shock. I though the Ijaw nation was united in protesting the treatment meted to Goodluck Jonathan, one of their own. I thought the message that the minority was not fit to govern Nigeria was not lost on them. Or, was the message that only the Fulani and the Yoruba were qualified and indeed fit to rule Nigeria lost on them? 

The Ijaw from pre-independence Nigerian politics had identified with the Hausa/Fulani. The average Ijaw man saw the Hausa/Fulani as the defender of the interest of the Ijaw nation. In all the elections held in Nigeria until 2011, the Ijaw nation always supported the Hausa/Fulani leadership. During the national crises in late sixties, the Ijaw nation threw their weight behind the Hausa/Fulani, who claimed to have liberated them from domination, with their blood.

Since the end of the national crises in 1970, the Hausa/Fulani has reaped bountifully from Ijaw national wealth that has sustained the Hausa/Fulani leadership of Nigeria.  

Yes, to all intents and purposes, the Ijaw nation felt at home with the Hausa/Fulani leadership of Nigeria. This explained why the Ijaw nation did not mind that its resources were being used to develop Hausa/Fulani land by way of construction of dams, irrigations, split highways, establishment of educational institutions at various levels, provision of rural electricity, portable water, and even hajj commission, which was a conduit pipe for siphoning wealth generated in Ijaw land. Almost every Hausa/Fulani hamlet produced a general in the Nigerian armed forces through whom whatever they wanted was provided for their people. In the days of analogue communications, their cities went digital long before Port Harcourt got such touch of development. Even the most unlikely of their cities could boast of airports, some international. There is a refinery at Kaduna as well as a Petroleum Training Development Institute. And we know how many oil wells are located in Muslin north.

It did not matter at the initial stage that the Ijaw nation did not have roads, portable water, electricity, and any form of development to justify the amount of wealth being taken out from there. Then, began the agitation for some attention to be paid to the goose that led the golden eggs. Unbelievably, the struggle turned out to be epic before little concessions were given. Three per cent derivation; OMPADEC, 13% derivation, NDDC, etc were grudging given by the masters.

Meanwhile, all the oil companies had their head offices in Lagos. Over 50% of their staff was of Yoruba extraction. Besides, with the capital of Nigeria in Lagos, the wealth of the Niger Delta was used to develop the city. Sale of land, rent, wharfs at Apapa and Tin Can Island, international airport at Ikeja all combined to prosper the Yoruba nation. Being the second leg on which Nigeria rests, the Hausa/Fulani did not lose sleep over developments in Lagos. But that was not forever.

Then, the idea came of a national capital that would be centrally located and the centre of Nigerian unity-a master stroke by the Hausa/Fulani to remove the national capital from Lagos.  Judging by the size of Nigeria, there was nowhere the centre of Nigeria could fall outside the north where the influence of the Hausa/Fulani was unquestionable. The Ijaw nation was, as usual supportive.  

It would appear that having created Abuja, the Hausa/Fulani wanted to dispense with the second leg on which Nigeria stood. They thought they could go it alone. Then followed the reckless annulment of Abiola’s mandate in 1993 by Babangida. To their surprise, the Yoruba and other Nigerians fought back ferociously and threatened Nigeria’s corporate existence. It was too premature to dispense with the Yoruba.

This was well demonstrated by the decision to allow two Yoruba men to run as the only candidates for the election to return Nigeria to democracy in 1999. Obasanjo emerged president. The hawks in the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy thought that they had capitulated needlessly. During the election of 2003, they fielded Buhari to recover power from the Yoruba. Buhari however lost to Obasanjo who won a second term. 

It is true that Buhari as military head of state showed integrity in office. He did not still from our collective purse. But he served the greatest thief of our time-Abacha. Buhari declared Abacha clean. Yet, “Abacha’s loot” is a permanent term in our political lexicon. So, how come Mr. Clean dined and wined with the greatest thief of modern Nigeria? Just judge for yourself. I am convinced that there is more to Buhari’s holier-than-thou crusade against corruption than meets the eye. His first three months in office has however revealed it clearly: restore power to the Muslim north.

Obasanjo’s choice of successor did not appeal to the Hausa/Fulani hawks. Yar’Adua was going to be another Shagari who preoccupied himself with ensuring fairness and equity in Nigeria. Yar’Adua’s choice of a deputy said it all already. Unfortunately, democracy was not a military regime and coup making had become old fashioned, no longer acceptable in the world; so Yar’Adua could not be removed by forced. Then, the unthinkable happened: he died in office. 

That was how Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw man became president by accident after everything to stop him by the ‘born-to-rule’ failed. They claimed he was allowed one term in 2011. But, why one term? Did Obasanjo do one term? Were the Hausa/Fulani in a hurry to return to power after producing six past heads of state in uniform and agbada justified? 

The friendship of the past between Ijaw and the Hausa/Fulani did not count. No, Jonathan must go. He was corrupt. He was weak. He was everything bad. Yes, he must go. Then, the alliance between the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba, as the two legs upon which Nigeria rests was revived. The Yoruba joined forces to remove Jonathan and in the process positioned one of them for another shot at the Aso Rock Villa in the event of a vacancy, by accident or otherwise.

I thought that the Ijaw nation was hurt by the manner Jonathan was treated. He was said to have been removed because of corruption. But who was not corrupt among Nigeria’s past leaders? Is Jonathan’s corruption different from Obasanjo’s corruption? From twenty thousand naira in his account after his release from prison in 1999   to a billionaire in any currency after eight years as president of Nigeria, was he not corrupt? Were Abdulsalami Abubakar, Abacha and Babangida all clean? Why is it that certain departments and agencies of the federal government are the preserve of Hausa/Fulani bureaucrats? Buhari has just appointed Col. Hameed Ali, a retired army officer to head Nigeria’s Customs & Excise! He is Mr. Clean. He will banish corruption in the Customs. He took over from Mr. Dikko from Zamfara state. 

I had concluded that the leadership of the Ijaw nation would have closed ranks to protest Jonathan’s treatment. And one good opportunity to do just that has presented itself: the forthcoming Bayelsa gubernatorial election. In fact I expected that even if the Ijaw nation would gravitate back to their relationship with the Hausa/Fulani, it would not be immediately. How wrong I was! But I think it is not too late for the Ijaw nation to retrace their steps.  Please, for yourself worth, image, etc, bury inordinate ambitions and unite together and express your anger, your disappointment, your resentment and your displeasure forcefully and unambiguously by re-electing Governor Dickson unopposed. A vote for APC is a vote for the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba land. How time changes! The progressives of yesterday are now wearing the toga of conservatism!!

I am yours without rancour.

Ubanese Nwanganga, ubanganga@gmail.com

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