Continued from yesterday
By 1970 many Northerners had good degrees from good universities- (again the Southerners would beg to defer) he got into the university as special care, how do I know the same preferential treatment was not given them in the final year exams? I demur, but the perception continued so strongly that the Federal Government sought through education to reduce tribal tension and begin near and breed the authentic Nigerian.
The Federal Government in the 1970s set up unity schools where students from different parts were sent off to acquire secondary education and to fraternize among themselves.
Those who oppose zoning claim that it is against democracy which is the rule of the majority. If the majority of Nigerians are from the North why should they be denied the right to be President? (Is the Prime Ministership of the UK zoned to the Ox bridge graduates? Over 50% of the UK are from Ox bridge (AG, lait Britain is not a federation) is this really an argument, an objection? How does the Prime Minister of the UK emerge from both parties?)
Why do we need a leader of Nigeria not a leader of the North ruling over the South and North?
Perception is all-important in politics, if some sizeable groups feel that they would never be President, to that extent is their ministership of the Nigeria project questionable.
Zoning encourages xenophobia.
Students from different parts were sent off to school so as to ensure enforced meetings of up and coming Nigerian classes. After secondary school, universities were encouraged to accept students from outside the catchment area location of the university, at the National Youth Service Corp one year programme, again working in this scheme of producing true Nigerians, the Government encouraged the Youth Corpers to train in states other than their own original states: thereby learning a new culture, and creating a better-rounded Nigerian.
Moreover, during the civil war, Nigerian Soldiers had been posted around, especially in the East where a large number of senior officers married local women out of love and circumstances. After all, the officers considered themselves Nigerian officers not Ibo, Yoruba or Hausa officers.
Even the perception that the Northern officers were given preferential treatment could not be erased from the minds of non-Northern officers, who constantly in private conversations noted how Northern officers flew past them upward of the officer ranks despite earlier qualification, training and excellent record and reports that fried up the files. Too often, they complained that when a Chief of Army, Navy, Air Force is chosen, a relatively junior officer is chosen necessitating the mass retirement of all officers senior to the incoming Chief in that arm of the military.
Non-Northern officers complained of the insecurity of their tenors to no avail.
The Northern officers were seemingly more modest, less flamboyant. If the officer was not, his shortcoming is usually traced to his Southern wife or to some other tryst that he had with a Southern woman- pushy, flashy, get rich quick women- impatient for their man’s success. (In a closed society nothing is stronger than rumors, there is no society more closed than the military: these rumors take on the strength, the fervor, the authenticity of the Holy Grail, Bible or the Quran or the commentaries.
Need for healthy competition and answers to the fears of the Northerner if the Southerners and vice versa, to ignore doing so smacks of arrogance- Why should I waste my time explaining that Southern or Northern view of each other is wrong, childish. (Try not to explain a suspicion to your wife on the grounds that such suspicion is childish and watch what will happen to your house, family, business, and friends.)
The Southerners and Northerners need to constantly reassure one another of their devotion and their love.
Even so, there are two other toxins in the life of the Nigerian- a. religion b. Middle Belt who to the Northern is a mongrel, not a pure breed and does not deserve the time and attention of the super Northern pure breed. This veneer and that is all it is, breaks down when into the Northern toxicity; you now add a highly indescribable none academically provable- the Hausa-Fulani.
Where in God’s name do you include a Middle Belter in that categorization? Democracy is clear as to race, geography, freedom to elect, equality and tolerance. That freedom includes freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom not to be jailed or arrested when you have broken no law, and freedom of worship and assembly. (It is of course true that the father of democracy- the US failed in all the above instances; jailed people because of the color of their skin, jailed people they did not like and failed to give any American the right to live and do whatever his ability could get him, sold slaves and deprived them of all the elements of democracy). They built institutions and supported robust guards, and rails to maintain democracy.
Dr. Cole OFR is a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil.