The inconvenient truth talking to “Me and my people”, by Dr Ibrahim Yabani
I have during the last few decades of my public life written, commented, advised on public issues. Some of my works centered on processes of government, people and places but I have never written about “ME” the import of this discourse is to speak the inconvenient truth to “Me and My People”.
My characterization of events in this discourse is not intended to hurt anyone, persons, group or entity. If anyone is mentioned in this discourse is incidental and therefore inconsequential to the subject unless of course he is part of “Me and My People” The reason for this I do not blame any leader or persons who love one of their own. To me doing so is part of human nature even though I would love them to be fair to others as well.
Leadership is about inclusivity. Life is about opportunities it comes once and may never come round again. I therefore do not begrudge any one who knows his objective interest and uses it to his advantage and lift his people. I see nothing wrong with that as long as he is fair to others.
Firstly I would like to start by stating the fact I come from multi tribal family where some of my half brothers have mothers we don’t share the same tribe, I have cousins, nephews who their mothers are not from my tribe. Of three wives that I shared my live with none of them was even from Yobe, talk less of coming from my tribe. So also most of my brothers. In a nutshell we are detribalized family. We knew early how to manage race and tribal issues in the family. My history is of those who live in a glass house do not throw a stone at others.
In addressing “me and my people” I have to talk about tribe and tribalism because it is what is pulling us down as a people and keeping us apart for decades. We are loosing greatly, we need the conversation no matter how inconvenient it would be. It may likely open old wounds, bruise peoples egos, give others sleepless nights, but it is a conversation we must have for us to survive the vicious muzzling agenda.
We all knew how our leaders fought for the creation of Yobe state, but is it serving us thirty years down the lane? the answer is NO? Is it serving those who fought against it’s creation, Yes. Are they benefiting from our cupidity and arrant nonsense called tribalism and desire for fiefdom which is meaningless in this era.
Do we blame those people who are enjoying the spoils of our labour NO. The truth is we can not because we failed to align our goals and objectives to reject the politics being manufactured to separate us as a people. Clinging to unproductive demand for space and tribal supremacy all in the name of tribal ascendancy and self actualization has shown it is not only a fools paradise wish but idiotic and destructive. As a result, we have lost our numerical advantage as a people because of petty tribal aggrandizement. We refused to let go those cultural, tribal, and traditions that are meaningless in today’s world.
Others have exploited our divisions by employing the concept of ‘divide and rule’ They know politics is a game of numbers a strength that we have over others. Consequently, we must not be allowed to realize this potential and use it for our benefit.
To perpetuate this agenda the first seed of discord was planted with the creation of emirates crafted by Bukar Abba an astute politician who was only interested in power and want to remain in power at whatever cost. Now an octogenarian, ill, frail, and probably not in sound mind today still wants to return as a Senator. He was the one who understood what he wanted. He created the emirates not because he loved the people but for his survival. Let me however clarify the creation of the Emirates was not totally a bad idea, genuinely there are some people who because of the creation state lost their traditional institutions and they needed such institution to remain relevant. There are others also from within who needed their separate fiefdoms. The issue is not about the creation of emirates entirely but how the administrative headquarters of emirates were put in place. Politics of self serving agenda took over the process.
Bukar, knew so early for him to survive in politics he needs to create some distractions in the polity that was why he championed the creation of emirates in the state. He also ensured no one in his constituency becomes so strong to challenge his authority. That was how he was able to become a senator and his wife a member of the house of representative for years. This worked well for him until when Geidam became the governor.
To deal with the other sections of the state in order to remain relevant the creation of the emirates became a good diversion for him. He cached on the sensibilities of the community by exploiting the antagonistic relationship between the major tribes in the most populated part of the state. He deliberately located the administrative headquarters of the two emirates in one city a situation that has never happened in the establishment of emirates even during colonial administration. He knows by allowing two first class emirs in a city where the two major tribes have been for decades at each other fighting for who owns the space is a recipe for trouble.
Bukar, is not unaware of the history how colonial administration tinkered with the formation of administrative headquarters of emirates in Northern Nigeria yet he deliberately ignored this. He knew what the consequences of his action would generate, thirty years since the emirates were created all successive governments including the military were unable to solve the problem because of it’s sensitivity. He allowed his political ambition to override the collective interest of the people and the state. The situation today is as dicey as when the idea of creating the emirates was first muted.
Our elites failed to see the danger or they simply acquiescence because of their tribal hate for one another or for pecuniary reasons or lust for power. They cheaply sided with him but are now biting their fingers nails for their selfishness.
We must agree, we miss stepped, but now with the benefit of hindsight, we must drop those morbid tribal sentiments and try to live with the bad situation and let it work to our advantage as no one will correct this for us and there will be no winner in this game. Our failure to accept the reality of what is going on would further widen the divisions between us and continue to serve the interest of our compatriots. We have lost our self-esteem as a result of this, no one is happy with what is going on but ego.
Those tribal ideologues claiming they are fighting to improve our lots are fighting to improve themselves. Their actions only succeeded in widening the gap between us, it has killed our initiatives and comparative advantage. It has evaporated whatever claims we ought to have in the political process. We have been made onlookers in a game where numbers are the key to open doors that can be used to bargain our ways out. We no longer call the shot we have become bystanders looking for crumbs to pick from the table.
All these did not happen out of nothing but because others long ago knew if we are allowed to use our strength they may be on the receiving end. They exploited our weaknesses and took advantage of it, that is why we are where we are today. We fought for the creation of the state but have become losers in the politics. They have pulled the carpet from under our feet with our eyes opened simply because we chose to glorify morbid tribal sentiments.
Take for example even in those days when we were under North East and former Borno state, Potikum, Gombe and Azare are the tripodal emerging cities that developed not because the state was instrumental to their success rather their people were enterprising they engaged in commerce. We were also better represented administratively in the former Borno compared to the inconsequential positions assigned to our people in Yobe.
Gombe is now a state and the capital is arguably the most developed part of the former North East even though it recently became a state capital. Azare is developing fast in fact they have all the institutions found in any state capital. Potiskum is just no where because we have chosen fiefdom over development. We had the most developed infrastructure when Yobe was created. Yes, we have lost the capital status to Damaturu, but we ought to have been the booming economic and commercial center of the state given the advantage we had.
The system and those who want to whittle our strength by ensuring all our comparative areas of advantage are destroyed or marginalized have succeeded. For example they ensured that none of the older educational institutions we have was upgraded to a status of a University. They killed the oldest and the most developed state hospital by allowing it to rot. The teaching hospital, nursing school, and the federal medical center all sited elsewhere. In fact we now travel to Gombe or Azare federal medical centers because those meant for the state are too far from the community in spite of our population. Equally worrying are the bad state of the roads which are not conducive for parrying sick persons.
Appointments, training, scholarship and other opportunities are strictly based on representations which again the senatorial district is disadvantaged. This arose out of our cupidity and miscalculations when the local governments were created we have the population to have more local government councils but we chose not to open up because of our tribal desires for dominance, we are now paying dearly for the mistake. The most recent onslaught is how they have now decided to pick candidate for the office of the Deputy Governor, though they still select from the zone but the hidden political game is at play again only those who can read politics may understand the trick.
Our compatriots are thinking while we are blinded by tribe and tribal divide. If we have decided to remain too divided in the light of all the odds against us and have chosen to continue clinging to primordial and limiting past, we shall continue losing our self esteem and comparative political advantage.
This conversation is a wake up call. We must not continue leaving in the past, it will not take us anywhere. We must discard our primordial cleavages and embrace meaningful ways of leaving together. Glorifying ethnicity, tribalism over all other things is revisionist it will continue hurting us as a people.
We need to rethink, speak, talk, engage and encourage conversation among us on the issues we consider a taboo in our relationships, if we want to be players in our social environments. We have what it takes to make us real actors in the game. We have the numerical strength, the exposure and capacity to determine how the system must work in our favor. Holding on to tribalism and the desire for ascendancy of one tribe over others would not take us anywhere but to abyss, self destruction, misery and deflated egos. Tribe and Tribalism will not be a panacea to our problems in todays modern globalized world where education, innovation, technology and opportunities are key.
The hegemonic struggle for control of space and tribal supremacy we are clinging on and fighting each other for decades will leads us to no where but misery, poverty and lost of opportunities.
We must no matter how bitter it is begin to talk, delink from our feudal past, come together as a people to realise our potential. No one will do it for us. The early we start the conversation the better.
Dr Yabani, a freelance Journalist, writes from Kado, Abuja.