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Monolithic North, Middle belt and socio-political dynamics

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AT Nigeria’s political sovereignty in 1960, the country had been balkanised by the colonial overlords into three regions, namely: Eastern Region, Northern Region, and Western Region. It was an intentional and glaring disproportional balkanisation making the north to be larger than the two regions put together.

The opinions of people that made up Nigeria were not sought before the 1914 Amalgamation of southern and northern protectorates, and consequential balkanisation into regions. In 1963 when the country became a Republic, the national parliament created Mid-Western Region out of the Western Region.

  The creation of Mid-Western Region was due to the politics of blackmail burn out of gross selfish and self-serving considerations by the “northern hegemonic caliphate” led by the powerful Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of Northern Nigeria. The raison detre was ostensibly to undermine the ballooning popularity of the leader of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo to be in the minority in election matters.

  Ethnic groups in the Northern Region called “Middle Belt” led by Joseph Tarka had expressed discomfort with their people being lumped together with the northern region and had stridently agitated for the creation of Middle Belt Region out of the Northern Region. Due to over-whelming political power and brazen intimidation by the leader of the Northern Region and Premier, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Saduana of Sokoto, the quest was smothered so as to be using the minority tribes, especially the Middle Belt to shore up majority in the national parliament and have their way in the policies and programmes of government.

  It was the disproportionate regional arrangement brazenly exploited by the northern leadership that birthed census and electoral manipulations and malfeasance, which in turn ignited political upheaval, military coup d’tat, and the eventual Nigeria-Biafra war.

The military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who wrongly diagnosed the socio-political problems of Nigeria, proceeded to create12 states; six states in the then Northern Region, and six in the South, made up of Western, Mid-Western and Eastern Regions. Subsequent military heads of state goaded by the agitation for marginalisation by some sections of the country proceeded to create more states bringing the total to 36 states in the country.   

  When the military left governance in 1999, the civilian governments being hamstrung by the military imposed 1999 Constitution moved on with the states irrespective of the smoldering discontent of quixotic developments in the course of the civilian administration. In the bid to foster a measure of equity, fairness, and justice in the distribution of national patrimony, the six geo-political zones were invented and included in the constitution.

  Consequently, going by the much-abused freedom of association embedded in the constitution, the elected governors thought it worthwhile to form associations based on the constitutionally recognised six geo-political zones.

  Consequently, there appeared: South-East Governors’ Forum, South-South Governors’ Forum, and South-West Governors’ Forum. Curiously, the supposed “northern hegemonic caliphate” or northern political establishment” as respectively dubbed, prevented the North-Central Governors [ethnic groups in the middle belt] comprising: Plateau State, Nasarawa State, Benue State, Niger State, Taraba State, Kwara State and Kogi State from emulating the governors in the southern part of the country in forming governors’ forum based on the respective geo-political zones, to form “North-Central Governors’ Forum”.

  From the chequered political history of the country, the “hegemonic caliphate” brazenly invoked the same intimidation of the minority ethnic groups in the Middle Belt to corral them into a socio-cultural organization called “Arewa Consultative Forum”[ACF]. The same intimidation led to the formation of the so-called “Northern Governors’ Forum” [NGF] ostensibly to spite the constitutional approved six geo-political zones in organising socio-political and cultural cum sectional affairs like the meetings or associations of the governors and Houses of Assembly which are better organised along the geo-political zones.

Thus, the age-long understanding between the minority ethnic groups in the old Northern Region called “Middle Belt” was consciously smothered by the “northern establishment” by compelling the ethnic groups to be members of the ACF and the NGF.  Thus the mantra of “Monolithic North” which has been a ploy used in caging the minority ethnic groups in the Middle Belt section of the erstwhile “Northern Nigeria” is still being invoked by the northern establishment to prevent the Middle Belt ethnic groups from exercising independent opinions and stand on burning national issues.

  In the supposed NGF, issues bothering the Middle Belt ethnic groups are played down and smothered. For instance, the mindless slaughtering of the people and sacking them from their ancestral lands and homes by foreign religious Muslim militia masquerading as Fulani herdsmen are never discussed in the Northern Governors Forum.

This is because the interest of the “hegemonic caliphate”, belonging to the Fulani ethnic group, would be jeopardised. But if there is “North Central Governors Forum [NCGF], the solution to the terrorist invasion would have been found; and the foreign invaders who have occupied the ancestral lands, even as the federal government looked askance, would have been sacked by the combined forces of the vigilantes of the respective states within the middle belt.

  In other words, the corporate interests of the people of middle belt would have been safe and sufficiently secured if the “northern political establishment” [aka, hegemonic caliphate] had allowed the formation of NCGF.  The governors, in conjunction with the political and socio-cultural leaders, would have found pragmatic solutions to the existential challenges facing them and even decimating the people like the displaced victims of Fulani herdsmen knives and AK-47, languishing and dying in the ramshackle and makeshift refugee camps. More lamentable is that the survived children are not attending school while the federal government has not made any plan to drive away the foreign invaders occupying the ancestral homes and lands of Benue State people.

  The federal government has refused to emulate the governors of Zamfara and Niger States whose people have been overwhelmed by the so-called “armed bandits” and cattle rustlers [the security agencies of government deliberately fail to recognise them as Boko Haram Muslim religious insurgents] and have brokered “Peace settlement” with them to stop killing their people, kidnapping and raping the women and girls.

The surviving ones sheltered in makeshift refugee camps have been allowed by the invaders to go back to their communities and resume farming activities. But nobody is talking about making the Benue State people to regain their communities colonised by the foreign Fulani herdsmen families.

  Following the mindless rampaging of Benue State and other states in the North-Central Geo-Political Zone by the Muslim militia masquerading as Fulani herdsmen, even as security agencies was lackadaisical in restraining the murderous marauders, middle belt indigenes have stridently voiced opinions bordering on their resolve to distance themselves from the activities of the “Monolithic North” since none of them bothered to prevail on the federal government to protect them from the murderous campaign of the alleged foreign invaders wielding AK-47 from the Sahel Region of West Africa.

  The ensuing socio-political dynamics in the country has thrown up diverse opinions among the people of the Middle Belt on whether to break the time-honoured suffocating partnership with the Northern Moslems who dictate the path of the unequal relationship or brave the odds and go their way to search for ways to better their lot in the corporate Nigeria. They have come out openly to say that “Monolithic North” is dead and buried.

  The former Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, a Christian convert to Moslem religion was reported to have said that he has never seen anything wrong with the relationship between his people and Northern Moslems. According to the report, he boasted that nobody can separate the geo-political zone from the North. “The Forum leaders are noise makers. The Middle Belt would remain an integral part of the North whether the Forum likes it or not”, the ex-police boss exclaimed.

  As the searing anger swells, the spokes-person of Middle Belt Forum [MBF], Dogo Isuwa, in a published interview in a weekend edition of a national daily described Tsav as “a traitor and betrayer who has never worked to promote the interests of the people of the Middle Belt Zone”. The forum further declared that there is no going back in the zone’s resolve to break from the North.     

  Dogo Isuwa continued: “Tsav should be ignored. He is speaking only for himself, and people of the Middle Belt are laughing at him. Tsav, everybody knows has never identified with anything that will bring progress to the people of the Middle Belt. He has become a hunting dog for his pay masters, that is, his northern feudal masters. The Middle Belt has suffered tremendously under the Northern leaders, and now that we have broken and severed the cord of relationship with the North, there is no going back again”.

  “Those people who still think or are claiming that the Middle-Belt Zone still remains with the North are living in a fool’s paradise. Middle Belt is no longer part of the North. This is the bitter truth, and reality that Tsav, and those who are thinking or reasoning like him should accept. We don’t have anything with the North again. So, why the desperation by the North and its apologists”?

  It is unfortunate that about 480,000 persons displaced by herdsmen crises are still trapped in IDPs camps. According to the Executive Secretary, Benue State Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Emmanuel Shior, the federal government is yet to release N10 billion to resettle victims of herdsmen rampage. On why it is still difficult to drive out the herdsmen illegally occupying the ancestral lands of the people, the secretary said: “The fact is that some of our hinterlands are not safe even up till now, herdsmen have occupied those places and are grazing their cattle freely”.

  The National President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, in a separate press interview said that the Middle Belt had never wanted before Independent to be together with the North as they made it clear in the Williams Commission Report but their objection was suppressed by the Northern Moslems who wanted to be using them to boost their population and domination of the South. He said: “The core North then who was partnering with the British realised that if the Middle Belt was carved out from the North, they would be insignificant in terms of population. So they resisted and ensured that it never happened. …The relationship has continued and the core north has continued to use the Middle Belt to lord it over Nigeria, boosting their population”.

  He decried the foot-dragging to restructure the defective federation, saying that the pervasive and intractable insecurity can be curbed with decentralised security architecture. He said: “We don’t have to continue the way we are and think we have a country because going by the security indices; we can say Nigeria is a failed state. It is so unfortunate when governors will negotiate with bandits and bandits will even come to the negotiating table with arms in their hands. It is a disaster. It is shameful for insurgents to stop a security vehicle carrying arms and ammunition and money meant for the military and cart away everything”.

  Apparently expressing faith on the “Monolithic North”, believing that the socio-political dynamics playing out which has been adversely affecting the ethnic groups in the North Central Geo-Political Zone is not a sufficient ground to break from the age-long thralldom of the “hegemonic caliphate”,    Musa Ajogie said: “The North is still one entity. From the geographical and regional structure of the word “North,” we are still under one entity. However, the marriage has, in a way, been divorced. Today, we have Kaduna State, Plateau State, Benue State, Kwara State, Adamawa State, Kogi State and the rest of them. So, we now have a total of 19 states under the North. You can see that the umbrella that we all hide under is still not torn.

  There is nothing called Middle Belt and if there is any word like that, it is a jargon, which does not hold water. It is not even there, geographically and constitutionally speaking… But the moment the military came and split the North into states, we think we are now autonomous at the state levels”.

  Ajogie’s position amounts to begging the question because states in the South-East, South-South, and South-West are autonomous in their governance. They are not under any quixotic ‘Forum’ similar to Arewa or NGF. The people of the Middle Belt are not impressed by his passionate standpoint because concatenation of socio-political dynamics has rendered the Monolithic North as a myth. The minority ethnic groups in the North have resolved to shake off the age-long slavish yoke and bondage as they were used for selfish preferences while being left in the lurch when their lives are in mortal danger. The ACF and NGF during their meetings never saw the mindless slaughtering of Benue State people by the Islamic militia masquerading as Fulani herdsmen as an agenda for discussion and effective remedy found. 

  One would recall a stunning scenario during the 2014 National Conference. Delegates from the Middle Belt [North Central Geo-Political Zone] opted for state police in line with the practice of federal system of government the world over and also the brazen abuse of security agencies by the “hegemonic caliphate”, who were alleged to influence the recruitment, promotion and transfers of security personnel to align with their quest to be controlling the country directly and indirectly.

As the Northern Moslems were not satisfied with their position, they summoned the delegates after the day’s session and cudgeled them to reverse their position which was done the following day in the National Confab. The Middle Belt ethnic groups should at the moment and assert their independence from the strangle hold of the “hegemonic caliphate”.   

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