Without a shadow of doubt, the uniqueness of Nigeria’s history worked to place power in the hands of a Nigerian with a northern root. There is nothing irrational about that. If our colonial ancestors must relay the baton of power to Nigeria, there had to be a Nigerian, who must come from one part of the nation, to inherit and become the indigenous successor of Lord Lugard, as it was at the time. What was unacceptable was the manner the inherited power was perceived and put to use. The power was perceived as belonging to the North and was used to ensure that it remained that way. This was a mistake because the implication was that the others will remain slaves.
For almost four decades, power remained, firmly, in the grips of the Northern political class. This was made possible through a string of military dictators with, occasionally, short spells of democratic regimes. Democracy which should have corrected this power lopsidedness was locked out and kept in the cold. Democracy would have given us that break with which to pick, as leaders, individuals with the extremism of desire for a nation we would have all been proud of, a nation Nigerians would stop at nothing to protect. Democracy would have given us leaders with a strong precognition to see that the denial of sameness to all Nigerians would amount to building a castle in the air.
Four decades was a long enough period. It created a feeling of superiority and pride in the minds of the commoners of the north and a contrasting feeling of inferiority and despondency but also the art of patience in the minds of all deprived Nigerians. The long period created the notion that the North was born to rule the folks of the other regions, hence the offensive phrase,” Born-to-rule” that became common among reckless commentators of the North.
Ordinary people of the North find pride in Born-to-rule as it made them feel superior and so the backed it. The unpopular political ideology however had a restrictive benefit, benefiting just the political class of the North and their southern conspirators as it did very little to bring the desired progress across the nation, with the host region of Born-to-rule most awful.
The truth is that the oil wealth of Nigeria is largely the reason why Nigeria is among the richest nations. This oil prosperity comes form the Niger Delta. The stunning ravages of Born-to-rule was not just the denial of the region of the subterranean resources it possess but taking away basic resources for subsistence such as the nourishment of farmlands and the coziness of marine habitats, dealing a huge blow to the economic life in the creeks and the coastal areas and defiling drinking water, the most basic of all human needs. While the peasants of Olibiri and sister villages reel in dire need of the basics of life amidst the abundance of the land, the benefactors of Born-to-rule flaunt Nigeria’s oil riches in the best shopping streets in the world: Fifth Avenue, Bond Street, Rodeo Drive … The people of the Niger Delta see these and considers them a huge transgression against them.
To understate the fact, Born-to-rule created a melancholy in the heart of Nigerians but a psychological storm in the minds of Niger Deltans. This is manifested by the highest degree of defiance to constituted authority that one sees in the Niger Delta today. “We were often told that the things we have always asked for were in the pipelines, so we resorted to breaking the pipes to get them fast.” This has become a saying among some Niger Deltans trying to rationalize pipeline sabotage. Another Niger Deltan raved with furry when asked to comment about oil theft in the region thus: “the people of the Niger Delta do not see it as stealing when they go getting a resource that actually belongs to them.” When the Niger Deltans got fed up with Born-to-rule and its greedy traditions, they resorted to building unauthorized quasi-military groups for the emancipation of the region. In desperation for a splurge, they found solace in pipe-breaking and arm stockpiling with which to hold the nation at ransom.
It is sad that with the uncertain situation that Born-to-rule has engendered, northern political leaders have remained stiff-necked, upholding the old tradition by insisting that power must come back to the north. There are people who strongly feel that Boko Haram is an extension of the struggle to preserve Born-to-rule and that some of the northern political powers are actually financiers of the ferocious religious movement.
A this critical moment in the history of the nation, it is expected that the political class of the north must be having knowledge of the reality that the nation now stands on edge and can fall over with the slightest push. Hence they should be working to return the nation to well being. They should insist on having a leader with a capacity to tow the nation to that position where all Nigerians can be certain that the future will be brilliant for posterity and hence sleep with all eyes closed.
The political class of the South-south must also understand that the responsibility of rebuilding faith in the minds of Nigerians is not just the onus of the northern political class but theirs as well. As a matter of fact, the burden rests more on them, given that the man who calls the shots in Nigeria at the present is one of them. Rather than designing the nation so that the South-south can keep on trucking, they must join hands with the wise from the rest of the country to find a successor with the wisdom and courage to reverse what seems a looming apocalypse to the state of Nigeria. The region a new leader comes from should not be criteria. What should be criteria is his quality.
The ordinary people of the north must understand that they have a role to play in the search for a nation of their dreams, that building a nation involves courage and sacrifice, that the nation is heterogeneous and fellow Nigerians elsewhere across the country have feelings as well and that they cannot truly love the nation without respecting the rights of other Nigerians.
In a way, one could say that the ex-militants of the Niger Delta have become power brokers Nigeria. Despite the wrongdoings of Born-to-rule, not just to them but the state of Nigeria at large, they can channel the power they now wield towards a better nation, rather than looking at it as a tool of blackmail. It takes sacrifice and humility but the humble, as often said, shall inherit the earth.