#KogiDecides: Good News for Minorities? by Bala Muhammad

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Whatever the courts may later decide in the matter of Kogi State, it has now come to pass that one Alhaji Yahaya Bello, an Ebira man, a Kogi Minority (as compared to the State Majority, the Igala, who are in turn a National Minority) is now Governor-elect and, by January, substantive Governor.
This man, whose people I hear call ‘Fairplus’ (I don’t know whether it’s ‘fairness’ of the skin or ‘fairness’ of attitude), has become Governor on a Platter of Divine Intervention; for that is the only term anyone could describe this Kogi turn of events. With God, certainly, nothing is impossible! And may the soul of Prince Abubakar Audu, once my neighbour in Kano, rest in peace.
As far as I know, the Ebiras are Godly people, and now they will believe in the Almighty all the more. During my student days at Bayero University, Kano (BUK), many Ebiras became Amir (President) of the Muslim Students Society (MSS) even though they were not a ‘majority’ among students. In my time about thirty years ago, for example, the mantle of Amirship was held by my very good friend and Brother (now Professor) Adam Ahmad Okene of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA): an intelligent, wise, learned, religious, combative and militant leader he has always been. In secret, we called him the Sultan of Okene! Many Ebiras were Amirs before and after him, not only in BUK but in many other higher institutions.
Such were the Ebira, a people who are numerous in number, with multitudes straddling many states, who are decidedly vocal and accomplished, who are urbane, fierce and learned, who are all other adjectival positives, yet they could not aspire to be governor in the very state their population is very substantive, and where they are number two in absolute numbers. Yes, they could be, and have been, Governor in the old Kwara State (Alhaji Adamu Attah) during the days of yore; and could be, and have been, Police and Military top brass and even governors; yet in this Republic with its littleness and meanness of primordial politics, they just cannot, or could not, be governor.
But their situation is not worse, or better, than that of the neighbouring Idoma people of Benue State. This is another people, numerous and accomplished, people whose sons had been governors elsewhere (albeit during military days), a people whose son had held the Third Most Important Person in the Nation (former Senate President David Mark), yet they could not aspire to be Governor of small Benue State, emasculated as they are by State Majority, the Tiv, who are in turn a National Minority. No wonder the Idoma always agitated for their own state, that which they want to call Apa.
I have been told many times that I can’t ‘feel’ what being ‘minority’ is; scion of the Oppressing Majority that I happen to be (even if not by choice). I remember back in 2000-2001, when I was a Press Secretary in the Office of then Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a discussion ensued between two of my very friendly colleagues – one from Adamawa and the other from Cross River – on the subject of Majority-Minority politics. The two, who claim to be among the ‘oppressed’ minorities, were lamenting and ruing their people’s stations in their states’ and the nation’s politics, and how limited their political opportunities were. I attempted to ‘put mouth’ in the debate but was shut up and shut down and reprimanded. They said: “You can never feel what we feel!” Never mind my ‘Fairplus’ attitude to fairness and justice.
Such is the politics of underdevelopment.
Many other ethnic groups and peoples in many states face the same ‘Fairminus’ treatment. For example, despite the advancement of the Kanuri Civilisation, it is a widely-held belief that the Kanuris may not readily allow a person from Southern Borno (say Babur from Biu) to be a governor. And this is a people, the Kanuris, who were arguably the first civilisation in Sub-Saharan Africa, and were once themselves a colonial power with suzerainty extending far to the West taking in all of Hausaland, and far to the North taking in most of today’s Chad Republic. Yet they are practicing this primordial attitude. So, perhaps for reasons justifiable, the Idoma people may today be a bit envious of the Ebira.
“Anticipatory Fear” is the reason why, for example, a Hadejia person may not readily become governor in Jigawa State (although had the present Deputy Governor Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia wanted to be he could have got it on a Platter of Buhari-APC-SAK Phenomenon). Hadejia is as Hausa-Fulani and Muslim as every part of the state, but because of ‘Anticipatory Fear’, the other components in the state (Dutse, Kazaure, Ringim and Gumel) would rather unite and deny Hadejia for they feel that if Hadejia rules “They will be UNFAIR to us,” while say, the Tiv may feel that the Idomas “Will DEAL with us” if we allow them to rule.
It does not help matters that Hadejia arguably has the most educated elite in the state, and they are a ‘Majority’ in the civil service and other institutions. Same with the situation of the Fika people of Potiskum in Yobe State (until late Senator Mamman Ali broke the jinx by becoming governor in 2007). Same with the Zuru in Kebbi State. Like Hadejia, the Fika and the Zuru people are so elitist and too highly educated and too ‘domineering’ to be allowed to hold both the bureaucracy (as overlords of the civil service) and the executive office of a governor.
This “Anticipatory Fear” is perhaps one of the reasons why the other two Nigerian major ethnic nationalities (the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba) and in fact many other Nigerians are reluctant to have an Igbo ascendancy in the nation’s presidency. Not without justification, for the average Igbo person, especially if holding public office, is usually seen to exhibit pomposity, quasi-arrogance and dominance. But perhaps that is their nature and in their blood, and is not intended or willful. And so perhaps we are being ‘Fairminus’ to them.
The Karaduwa of Katsina have also broken the jinx with the SAK Phenomenon that threw up former House Speaker now Governor Aminu Bello Masari. The Southern Kaduna also broke it with late Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa who first benefitted from Divine Favour when his principal went on to become Vice President, and then led his party to win election in 2011. And in fact, come to think of it; after 16 years of ‘Muslim’ rule over Lagos State, the Christians now have it!
That’s why you have to give it to the Nupes. Arguably the largest single ethnic group in Niger State (with a significant chunk in Kwara and Kogi), the Nupes have allowed others to taste the seat of governor (or perhaps it is the other way round – that the others have been able to successfully fight for it). And one can say that, perhaps in Divine
Recompense for having such a ‘large heart’, the Nupes were rewarded with being governor in Kwara State (Alhaji Shaba Lafiagi) where they are not a majority. And they may well be Niger Governor again. Again like Hadejia, Fika and Zuru, the Nupes are accused of having more than their fair share of Niger civil service.
That is why Western democracy, as it is now constituted, is very dangerous. In Kenya, it was this kind primordial tribalism that landed the country in the violence that caused the death of thousands during the 2007 presidential elections. The Kikuyu, the Luo and others took to cudgels and machetes to prove “majority status”.
It is our hope that ‘Fairplus’ will be fair enough not to ‘deal’ with the Igala, the very people who contributed more than any other to his becoming a recipient of the Gift of the Divine Platter.

Credits: Daily Trust

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