The North is angry!, By Festus Adedayo

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So, the north is annoyed. This time, the north that is annoyed is represented by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF). A few other voices have spat into the void and lapped the sky-spiraling spittle with their faces. One of them was Ali Ndume, the senator representing Borno South in the National Assembly. While the NEF, through its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said that the relocation of the CBN departments would lead to brain drain, Ndume delivered his in form of a subtle threat. He said, if the Yoruba-born president of Nigeria goes ahead with the relocation of those departments, this “move would have consequences.”

For Ndume, who is today the self-appointed one-man squad spearheading the north’s dissonance with government’s policies, the president is being ill-advised by the people he derogatorily labeled “Lagos boys” in the corridors of power. Hear him: “All these Lagos boys who are thinking that Lagos is Nigeria are just misinforming and advising the President wrongly. Those political cartels that are in the corridors of power are trying to misinform the President and we will tell the President. The President will take action. They are not doing any favour to Mr President because this will have political consequences”.

The Kaduna Mafia, a faction of the Nigerian bourgeois class and northern oligarchy, escalated the ethnic politics between the north and the south in the 1970s to the 1990s. The Mafia was a set of amorphous but lethal power-baiting individuals. Within this period in the life of Nigeria, this narrow group interest held the rest of Nigeria to ransom. It dictated the political and economic barometer of the country and blithely decreed the future of Nigeria. It perfected underdevelopment, focusing solely on development of the north and like godfathers in today’s politics, was narrow-minded and self-centered. Like the roach, the Kaduna Mafia had very sensitive political antennae with which it sniffed the pendulum of power and ethnic gains. Realizing that the best place to manipulate power was outside the locus of power, the Mafia fiddled with policies in such a way as to ensure that the north made maximum benefits through strategic positioning of policies and structures. Using the façade of Islamic puritanic posture, the Kaduna Mafia was be able to conceal its selfish political and economic interests before the overall intent got exposed to a larger Nigeria.

The current federal government is trying to relocate CBN departments like the Banking Supervision, Other Financial Institutions Supervision, Consumer Protection Department, Payment System Management Department, and Financial Policy Regulations Department from Abuja to Lagos? Ex-CBN Deputy Governor, Kingsley Moghalu, was the first to thaw its ice by labeling it an unnecessary wolf cry. In a tweet on X, he claimed the Lagos office, which he said had been completed and inaugurated approximately 12 years back, was underutilized while the staff of the CBN at the Abuja headquarters “exceed the health and safety limits of the building, hence the need to relocate.” He said the relocation was “rational, given that the market entities supervised by these departments are predominantly located in Lagos.”

While corroborating Moghalu, CBN former governor and ex-emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said “Northern politicians will shout that this is moving from Abuja to Lagos. Abuja is a federal capital not a northern issue. So long as this is a principled decision, the noise should be ignored.” According to him, “All this noise is absolutely unnecessary. The CBN has staff manning its branches and cash offices across the Federation. Moving staff to the Lagos office to streamline operations and make them more effective and reduce cost is a normal prerogative of management.”

Now, why does the NEF relish this idea of northernising Abuja? Does this Kaduna Mafia-incarnate think that localization means ownership? Countless times, the South-South people have cautioned those who see the FCT as their patrimony, reminding them that the glittering roads of Abuja were paved with oil money from their soil. It was this same northernisation of Abuja reasoning that bred the vacuous clamour for a northerner to be FCT Minister at the beginning of this present government and the gas-lighting of the incumbent.

Before the 4 February, 1976 promulgation of Decree No 6 by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria which initiated the removal of the national capital from Lagos to Abuja, there had been previous advocacy for its relocation. One of such was made by Chief Obafemi Awolowo at the 1953 constitutional conference held in London. It was Awolowo and his Action Group’s contention that Lagos must be merged with the Western Region while a new federal capital should be built in central Nigeria.

Following this up, the Action Group published a pamphlet in 1953 with the title Lagos Belongs to the West, where it articulated that “(Lagos) is strategically… highly vulnerable. Geographically, it is not by any means properly suited to serve as the headquarters of the Central or Federal Government. Lagos is to Nigeria what Calcutta is to India. What we need now, to pursue this analogy, is a New Delhi.” The party then made this proposal: “A large area of land should be acquired by the Federal Government near Kafanchan, which is almost central geographically, and strategically safe comparatively, for the purpose of building a new and neutral capital. The new capital should be built on a site entirely separate from an existing town, so that its absolute neutrality may be assured. Being the property of the Federal Government, it would automatically be administered by it in the same way as Washington, D.C. in USA or Canberra in Australia. Such a capital would be a neutral place indeed.”

In August I975, the Supreme Military Council formed a Committee on the Location of the Federal Capital, one of whose members was Dr. Tai Solarin, Headmaster of Mayfair College, Ikenne, who had written many articles in the Tribune newspapers advocating relocation of the capital from Lagos to the north. One of such was a 197I article he wrote with the title Lagos ‘should go’. Other members of the committee were Dr Ajato Gando, the only member with a background in geography and urban planning; Reverend Colonel Pedro Martins from Lagos, and Justice T. Akinola Aguda as Chairman. The Aguda committee, made up mostly of westerners, recommended Abuja as the FCT. If the SMC had northernization of Abuja in mind, it probably would have made the committee an all-north affair. While its initial planning and implementation were undertaken by the Military Government of Generals Murtala Muhammed and Obasanjo, Gen Ibrahim Babangida eventually relocated Nigeria’s capital to Abuja. 

Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist. 

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