- The Sultan offers support for restructuring as he condemns the quit notice on the Igbo
FOR the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, it would appear a significant shift in thinking towards restructuring, given his statement that the clamour was not to break up the country but to ensure fairness to all. Only a few weeks ago, the monarch was pushing states’ liberal access to federal-owned dams for agricultural purposes, rather than political restructuring.
Given that he is the foremost royal in the Nigerian Northwest, that region in which anti-restructuring sentiments appear most ardent, could this signify a change, if gradual, of thinking on the issue?
Still, for all of the Sultan’s new support, he only moved from the fixed position, of not a few of the leading lights in that region, that Nigeria’s unity was settled; its territorial space sacrosanct; and that people pushing for restructuring were seditious malcontents just heating up the polity. That is one extreme.
Another opposite extreme insists Nigeria is so dysfunctional it reserves the democratic right to call for its dismemberment — not as subversives, but as patriots that love their country. They would therefore love its remake, even as different components, if need be. That, they insist, is imperative to scale the present paralysis for a better future.
For the most radical in this school of thought, restructuring is only the last chance to fix the country — or let it fall apart by peaceful and democratic means: going rather the way of the former Czechoslovakia (now Czech and Slovak Republics, which peacefully went each other’s way) and not the defunct Yugoslavia (which went violently apart).
Given that the hallmark of resolving any dispute is striking acceptable compromises, the Sultan deserves praise for moving from one of the two extremes. It is therefore time for proponents of the other extreme to make their own shift. That way, both sides would see restructuring as the common rally to save their country, and recreate a Nigerian federation along productive lines.
Such compromise would be a good start indeed, to engage the Nigerian crisis of nationhood. Despite the current challenges, Nigeria would appear much better off as a single entity, but nevertheless a future one that plays to its strength, and not this present one that totters under its weaknesses.
The Sultan also earned plaudits by condemning the now withdrawn October 1 notice, by some northern youths to the Igbo, to quit the North or face severe consequences.
Welcoming to his palace Dr. Meshach Ahanta, the World Igbo Union Leader, the Sultan dissociated himself from such a threat, saying whoever wished the Igbo ill in the North should wish such evil on themselves. He further declared that he never, for a second, believed in such a threat.
“If anybody or group of persons plans negative attack on the Igbos,” he declared, “it should be done to him first.”
This, indeed, is a welcome declaration. Although the security agencies have not quite done anything to sanction the Arewa youths that made the threat, the Sultan followed a consistent northern elders’ response to the threat.
Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, was the first to condemn the ultimatum immediately it was uttered, calling on the security agencies to arrest the culprits; and swearing that Kaduna, his state, was home to all Nigerians and would not be used as a bastion of hate against any Nigerian.
Then Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, as chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, followed suit, echoing Governor El-Rufai’s stand, that such behaviour would not be allowed. Though Prof. Ango Abdullahi, former vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, and a few others would break ranks and support the threat, that prompt opposition, by the key northern leadership, aided the eventual withdrawal of the ultimatum.
However, the contrary was the case in the South East, where Nnamdi Kanu’s initial outburst of hate and threats acted as trigger for a most tragic development. For months, Kanu went on his fusillade of threat and boasts, and the best the South East leadership could do was an initial hee-haw. It wasn’t until the northern ultimatum that Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo civil face, was obliged to condemn Kanu’s torrent.
That was a tragic and condemnable abdication of duty, given that the northern threat could have put, in harm’s way, millions of peaceful and law-abiding Igbo people in the North. Perhaps if the Igbo leaders of thought had reacted more decisively against Kanu hate orchestra, the northern anti-Igbo ultimatum would have been averted.
Still, the Sultan’s latest intervention opens a window of goodwill to stanch the crisis. If Nigeria must experience peace and tranquillity, every section of the country must learn to respect one another.