Igbo Presidency and the Conspirators
Nwankwo Tony Nwaezeigwe, PhD
Like a lion caged unwittingly for a noble cause I have watched with mournful disdain and uninspiring resignation the malicious and moronic tirades of AlhajiYerima Shettima, President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum against the Igbo in particular and the rest of Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt in general. I have waited with uneasy calmness and patience to see if anyone could call him to order and tell him the bitter truth about himself, his Hausa kinsmen and his feudal Fulani lords he purports to defend their monstrous political interest, but it seems that the cataclysms of the Nigerian civil war has driven my Igbo kinsmen into a state of inglorious grave passivity.
Although his unguarded utterances could at best be described as mere infantile semiotics of historical ignorance founded on protective political stupidity, uncalculated mental imbalance, and infectious syndrome of paranoiac feudal despondency, it is however necessary to put the records straight in order for posterity to have the basis of sound judgment.
A supposedly Comrade of the Nigerian new revolutionary order Shettima Yerima once gave me the impression while, as the National Coordinator of Igbo People’s Congress(IPC), we worked together for the good of the Nigerian Federation under the tutelage of our Great Revolutionary Father now in far away great beyond, Dr. Frederick Isotan Faseun, that he as a bona fide Hausa man from Zaria was determined to liberate the down-trodden masses of his Hausa ethnic group from the shackles of their Feudal Fulani oppressors. We even discussed at length on how we could build a synergy for that purpose and how several attempts were made on his life by the Fulani ruling class for advocating justice and equity for his indigenous Hausa landowner-turned servants.
I took Shettima Yerima as very fine gentleman with whom to do serious business in respect to fixing the Nigerian Federation right and have always taken him by his words, having lived in the North and being well acquainted with the fine dispositions of an average Hausa when placed on a normal moral level-playing ground devoid of the corruptive effects of religious bigotry. In fact if the present Northern Nigerian traditional leadership were to be in Hausa hands, Nigeria should have been the most peaceful country in Africa.
Nevertheless, it is instructive to point out that Nigeria is in its present messy situation because of the singular quisling acts of one Hausa Coptic Christian of Arewa origin called Mikaila (Michael) Abdulsalami who in 1805 joined Shehu Usman dan Fodio and mobilized his Hausa compatriots against his Habe kings with the promise that he would succeed Shehu Usman dan Fodio as Sultan. In fact Mikaila Abdulsalami was the engine-house of the Fulani Jihad without whom Usman dan Fodio should not have headway.
I want to remind him that even though I am Igbo by ethnic definition, I do not belong to the class of the political morons who believe because they were defeated in a war of genocidal survival that even proved their unrivalled tenacity to survival under any grave circumstance they should therefore allow themselves to be debased politically by those who even contributed less in the said defeat. I state this categorically because I am from the Western Nigeria axis of the Igbo ethnic nation and we never fought the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the civil war at official level. So there can be nothing like being defeated in war by your people against my people.
The Igbo know those who defeated them in the civil war. It was neither your Hausa kinsmen nor your Fulani overlords because they possessed not the power to do such at the time. Rather the Igbo defeat came by the undaunted riffle-power of our own Middle Belt Christian brother-soldiers and the ingenuity of Yoruba commanding officers, all crowned with British armored machine, the invincibility of Russian Mig-fighters, fundamentalist Egyptian military pilots, supported by mercenaries from Niger and Sudan Republics and finally coloured by the self-sabotsging. Instinct of the Igbo themselves.
The only notable Fulani commander in the Nigeria civil war turned hero coup-plotter—General Murtala Ramat Muhammad was routed by the Biafran forces several times and never won any single battle against the Igbo. The records are there equally for people to see how the almighty Fulani army fell like pack of woods before the invading forces of only few men commanded by Colonel Federick Lugard in 1903. The bulk of the present Middle Belt were never conquered by the Fulani jihadists, including the present Hausa-pride kingdoms turned emirates of Argungu and Ningi as well as the present Dakarkari group of ethnic nations of Kebbi State, who even though mainly Christians have been forced under the artificial Emirate of Zuru with a Fulani imposed on them as Emir.
We all know how Nigeria got to its present state of political mess. If only the Igbo should know those who actually defeated them in the civil war and realize who their real political enemies and true friends are in the present Nigerian Federation, the likes of Alhaji Shettima Yerima whose ancestors bequeathed unto him and his Hausa kinsmen perpetual status of political slavery under their Fulani conquerors, should not open their stinking mouths to pour political invectives on the pride of Igbo personality.
The Fulani are what they appear to be in Nigeria today—a larger-than-size political carriage, no more and no less, by the collective saboteur syndromes of Shettima Yerima’s Hausa, the Igbo, and the Yoruba. Until this common political decimal factor is resolved algebraically political-wise, there will never be any political headway in the Nigerian Federation, not even the much drummed-up restructuring and secession would suffice, including the on-going beggarly demand for Igbo President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But who do we blame? Not the likes of Shettima Yerima either, but the Igbo who have refused to discard from their cascading mental declivity the debasing gangrenous sense of defeatism even before those who were not instrumental to the said defeat.
The likes of Shettima Yerima seem to have the field of reckless and unguarded display of their political malady today just because, as the Igbo say, a woman who ties her wrapper at the tip of her buttocks is an invitation to rape. It is happening today simply because the throngs of Southern and Middle Belt political leadership are walking half-naked on the political thoroughfare of the Nigerian nation without minding what will become of their generations to come. I need not ask the likes of Shettima Yerima who owns the Nigerian nation at this point because at the appropriate time Nigeria will decide those who own it.
Suffice it to state that saboteur syndrome is not exclusive to the Igbo ethnic nation. The Yoruba and Hausa have had their respective bitter pills of sabotage in history. The only problem with the Igbo case and perhaps the Hausa is that it appears that their gods seem to either be in collusion with the Devil itself or are in deep perpetual slumber, for among them are serial saboteurs celebrated as heroes, crowned kings unto their people, and conferred with iniquitous chieftaincy titles. On the other hand, while the Yoruba have had their equal but high-level doses of saboteurs, the masses of Yoruba ethnic nation however seem to enjoy the support of their gods, for at every moment a saboteur emerged the gods never hesitated to strike them as a proof of their rejection of any servile inclination towards the Fulani oligarchy.
Aare Ona Kakanfo Afonja lost both his life and Ilorin fief to his Fulani allies and collaborators and consequently confined his generations to perpetual slavery to the same Fulani he invited to support him against his own people. During the decades of Yoruba civil wars in the nineteenth century that followed Afonja’s revolt, the people of Offa revolted against their Fulani overlords of Ilorin and invited the great Ibadan warriors to support them. While the people were withstanding the siege of the town led by the brutish Fulani General known as Kara with the support of Ibadan warriors, a group of Offa saboteurs instead chose to make peace with their common Fulani enemies and resolved to surrender, leading to the eventual withdrawal of Ibadan warriors. The consequence of that action is better described by a renowned Yoruba historian than an Igbo.
As S. A. Akintoye graphically described the scene:
“The next morning when the fact became known, the new leaders of Offa trooped with drummers and dancers to Kara’s camp to offer their submission. Later that morning Kara entered Offa in triumph and, after killing his new friends in cold blood, had the town sacked.” This is the Fulani for you.
In the first Republic it was the turn of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola to play another Afonja, incidentally coming after he took the title of Aare Ona Kakafo. The consequences of that singular revolt against Chief Obafemi Awolowo under the inspiration of the same Fulani oligarchy are very well known and too encyclopedic to be recounted here. Akintola’s Afonja syndrome precipitated a heinous crisis that turned the whole Yorubaland red with the blood of their innocent citizens which like the case of Afonja led to a civil war, even though with the Yoruba out of the receiving end.
Then came Chief Moshood Abiola the so called Apostle of June 12 historical landmark of democracy. Chief Abiola did everything humanly possible to please the Fulani leadership for the purpose of fulfilling his ambition of being the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, going even to the extent of supervising the pulling down the revered symbol of Christianity at the University of Ibadan. But like the biblical Moses seeing the Promised Land without entering it, Chief Abiola saw the Nigerian Presidency without taking it.
Today it is the turn of Senator Bola Ahmad Tinubu to play Afonja for his people, and as the scenario continues to unfold, it is equally clear that the gods of Yorubaland will not abdicate from their onerous responsibilities. Even though Tinubu’s wings could not fly the exalted warrior title of Aare Ona Kakanfo, both the titles of Asiwaju of Lagos and Jagaban of Borgu stand for the same warrior title of Aare Ona Kakanfo.
Tinubu started his brand of Afonja political apostasy when he clinically outsmarted Funso Williams as the anointed candidate of Awoist Alliance for Democracy (AD), and then went further to introduce Islamic religion as a brand of politics in Yorubaland with Rauf Aregbesola as his hatchet-man against the long-standing tradition of Awoism which puts collective Yoruba interest over and above those of Christianity and Islam. In fact right from the point Bola Tinubu became the Governor of Lagos State to the point the Epe-born Akinwunmi Ambode, if you are not a Muslim you will not be appointed the Principal of a Government-owned Secondary School.
As an ally of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), I am fully informed of the fact that it is a strong taboo for any member to discuss religion while meeting as a member of the organization. I am equally aware that the way Chief Obafemi Awolowo inculcated the spirit of Yoruba nationalism into his followers did not permit any room for easy identification of the religious affiliations of his leading disciples. For instance, not many people know the religious affiliation of Chief Bola Ige till his death.
I could remember in 2015 when I made a stop-over at Dubai on my way back from Indonesia and I had the privilege of interacting with Hon. Justice Adedoja O. Agboola of Osun State High Court, who had handed me her hand-bag containing some foreign currencies with restless confidence. She was surprised to learn that Chief Bisi Akande, a former Governor of her, sorry his State and later the pioneer National Chairman of APC is a Muslim. This was because not only did he discard off his “Abdulkareem” Muslim name as did Chief Obafemi Awolowo with Jeremiah, he had all the while seen himself first and foremost as a Yoruba nationalist.
Indeed what Chief Obafemi Awolowo understood, and which Bola Ahmed Tinubu, M. K. O. Abiola, and Afonja, among other Yoruba Muslims did not understand is that so long as the sitting Fulani Oligarchy fails to repudiate the Hadith of their father—Shehu Usman dan Fodio which rightly in his opinion defines those who are true Muslims from those who are not, the Yoruba Muslim remains worse than the typical Igbo unbeliever such as the Igbo from Southern Nigeria. These facts are clearly stated in Shehu Usman dan Fodio’s work titled: “Bayan wujub al-hijira.” So the Nigerian nationality problem does not in any way begin or ends with one’s religious identity as most people seem to think. This was the case with the original objectives of the Jihad of 1804.
Many people are not aware today that the Hausa were the first to embrace Christianity in Nigeria, dating back to the era before the coming of Islam in Africa, and that both the present Kano and the Kingdom of Gobir—the starting-point of Usman dan Fodio’s jihad were in fact Christian Kingdoms, and not Islamic as is popularly assumed by most historians. Even the kingdom of Kanem-Borno was partly Christian and partly Muslim as indicated by Sultan Muhammad Bello—the second Sultan and second son of Shehu Usman dan Fodio. Most of the documents in connection with the Christian identity of both the kingdom of Gobir and Kanem-Borno Empire were either destroyed or kept as secret files by the Fulani Jihadists after the conquest of Gobir and the destruction of Ngarzagamu during the jihad. So right from the beginning of the Jihad, it was a Fulani battle against Christianity.
Like many Igbo who turned enemies to their ancestral heritage blindly forsaking their time-honoured and tested traditional value systems on embracing the Christian faith, Mikaila (Michael) was one of the early Hausa converts of Shehu Usman dan Fodio and eventually adopted the name “Abdulsalami” and subsequently became the willing tool of the Fulani Jihadists against his people and their kings. He fought gallantly anywhere he was called to lead the battle against his people in the name of Jihad, hoping as he was promised by Shehu Usman dan Fodio to be the successor-Caliph to the Shehu.
Looking at the Command hierarchy of the Jihad of Usman dan Fodio, it was clear that the next person in command after Usman dan Fodio’s immediate family was Mikaila. The hierarchy then was Usman dan Fodio—his Younger brother Abdulahi as his Waziri or Deputy, who later became the Emir of Gwandu and sub-Sultan of Western Emirates after his failed attempt at succession; his first son Muhammad Sambo who was militarily redundant and was assisting his father at home, later to be maneuvered out of succession by his younger brother Muhammad Bello; Muhammad Bello himself who used his direct access to the soldiers and as his father’s representative in the eastern emirates to appropriate the succession; and then Mikaila Abdulsalami—the only Hausa and non-family member of Shehu Usman dan Fodio. Thus by effective command ranking Mikaila Abdulsalmi was the fourth highest ranking official of the Jihad of Usman dan Fodio.
But the question then is to what extent was Mikaila compensated with his Hausa compatriots in accordance with their enormous sacrifices? It should be pointed out that no Hausa leader of the Jihad was ever made an Emir throughout the Caliphate, not even Mikaila. What was Mikaila Abdulsalami’s share of his fatherland after ingloriously sabotaging his kinsmen for the immigrant Senegalese Fula? While dishing out the fleshy parts of his political spoil of office to his Fulani kinsmen, Usman dan Fodio only gave out seven bony-villages to Mikaila and put him under the supervision of his younger brother Abdulahi.
When Mikaila protested against the injustice and began to contact his yet to be conquered Arewa kinsmen, he was transferred to Sokoto where he was placed under Muhammad Bello’s close watch. He however revolted after the Shehu’s death but was unfortunate to be defeated by the combined forces of Abdulahi and Muhammad Bello, dying afterwards from a poisoned arrow-shot. With his death, what became a popular revolt by the Hausa masses against their supposedly oppressive rulers under the inspiration of Shehu Usman dan Fodio turned out to be an exclusive Fulani empire.
Mikaila’s experience is an obvious lesson to the likes of Alhaji Shettilma Yerima that the Fulani can never be trusted as an ally so long as it concerns the contest for political power. But have the non-Fulani citizens of Nigeria come to realize this incontrovertible fact of irreconcilable unity in what we define as the Nigerian Federation today? After Mikaila it was the turn of the Nupe where Malam Dendo masqueraded as a Fulani friend of the revered Tsoedo Etsu-Nupe dynasty and later a peace-maker in the succession dispute between two brothers, only to eventually usurp the throne and consequently turning it into the Fulani Emirate of Bida of today.
From Bida to Ilorin came another Fulani called Alimi as noted earlier, who convinced Aare Ona Kakanfo Afonja to revolt against the Alafin, and after he did that he was eventually thrown out and killed by Alimi who became the Emir of Ilorin, thereby rendering the teaming Yoruba indigenes of Ilorin Emirate perpetual subjects of the Fulani.
Their eyes were equally set on the prestigious Igala Kingdom of Idah but the Igala warriors were too hard a nut for them to crack. Against this failed attempt the Sardauna of Sokoto Sir Ahmadu Bello attempted during his time to bring Ata-Igala Ame Oboni I under his subjugation but was resisted, leading eventually to the dethronement of the latter. It was equally in accordance to this objective that the successor to Ata-Igala Ame Oboni I Ali Obaje, who was a practicing Christian, was compelled to convert to Islam as evidence of proving his allegiance to the Fulani oligarchy.
He was further threatened with the risk of elevating the Onu of Ankpa to the status of Ata-Igala, just as he attempted to do same with the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, who through the closeness of Abdulrahman Okene with Ahmadu Bello, attempted to compete with the Ata-Igala in prestige, rank and influence. But one unfortunate thing about Abdulrahman Okene and his contemporary pro-Fulani Chief Sunday Awoniyi of Mopa in the old Kabba Province is that none of their notable Fulani political allies attended their burial rites at their respective hometowns.
Today Alhaji Shettima Yerima seems to be repeating the same disastrous history of the saboteur syndrome of his historical Arewa leader Mikaila Abdulsalami by inadvertently singing political requiem for his teaming down-trodden Hausa masses through his short-sighted incendiary defence of the indefensible structural political declivity that is now evident of the Nigerian Federation, forgetting that one does not pull the ants off his legs while standing in the midst of swam of ants.
The other period it was Shettima Yerima giving Igbo residents in his upper Northern Nigeria, definitely not the Middle Belt, ultimatum to quit. He is also reported to have stated that the Igbo will not be President because of the activities of Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). The question here who stopped both General Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar from contesting the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because of Boko Haram insurgency in the North?
This was followed by his recent paranoiac outburst that the Igbo will not be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for refusing to accept rejected social miscreants called Almajiri. Stating so to say with the audacious impression that Nigeria belongs to a particular group of people. What a sorry state of diminutive sense of reasoning for a man who now sees himself as the mouth-piece of the Northern Fulani ruling class while his Hausa kinsmen languish in institutional squalor, monstrous official neglect and customized destitution, all in the names of one North but different destinies, and an Islamic brotherhood woven in selective distribution of basic necessities of life. Does it not show the evidence of political psychosis that the same people he gave quit notice to leave his land he was within a short space of time inundating their land with unwanted citizens of the same land they were asked to leave?”
It is often a spectacle of authoritative ignorance to hear Shettima Yerima saying “We Northerners”, as if we are still living in British colonial times or the First Republic. The question is who are the Northerners in the present Nigerian political context? What Shettima Yerima does not know is that the concept of “One North” which he presently carries as his political Holy Qoran is a moribund political entity which no longer exists in every practical term. Successive episodes of Nigeria’s post-civil war history have clearly rendered the concept of “One North” impracticable and thus a perpetual nullity.
The Murtala Mohammed-led coup against General Yakubu Gowon, the Colonel Dimka-led abortive counter-coup that followed and, the most eventful of all the military coups in Nigeria—that of Major Gideon Orkar, are clear indications that a clear demarcation of what constitute the Middle Belt and what constitute the feudal North has been established. Or how can the likes of Shettima Yerima convince us that the same places Fulani herdsmen have turned into killing-fields of defenceless citizens are part of the same “One North?”
Can the people of Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Taraba, Adamawa, including Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State, Southern Borno, Southern Gombe, the Gwari of Niger State, and Zuru Emirate of Kebbi State be included in Shettima Yerima’s “One North?” As far as the present Nigerian political equation goes, these are defined as the “Middle Belt” geo-political zone in Nigeria in practical and cultural terms, and they are willing to go with the South any time and any day under normal electoral process.
So one does not know where Shettima Yerima’s concept of Northern majority sprouted from. Or does Shettima Yerima think these people are fools to the extent of not knowing who their friends and enemies are in present Nigeria? As far as the present political equation stands the Middle Belt are not part of Shettima Yerima’s One North and so one does not know his statistical basis of Northern Majority. Is it by mobilizing grossly underage Almajiri to vote in general elections in criminal defiance of the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Indeed without mincing words, if I am put in a political contest in Middle Belt with the likes of Shettima Yerima I will soundly defeat them.
As a friend and fellow comrade I am advising Shettima Yerima to stop dissipating his energy campaigning for those who do not regard his esteemed personality and right of identity and refocus his energies towards the liberation of his down-trodden Hausa kinsmen, unless he is telling us that he is not proud of his Hausa identity. To do this Shettima Yerima needs a sublime reflection of his past brought forward to the present and raise such testimonial questions as:
First, why did it take a Nigerian President of Southern extraction to introduce Almajiri formal schools after many decades of continuous Northern domination of Nigeria’s political landscape?
Second, what is the population ratio of Hausa to Fulani children in Almajiri Schools?
Third, how many State Governors from Sokoto to Gombe are of Hausa origin?
Fourth, how many Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other appointees are of Hausa origin?
Fifth, how many Hausa are appointed Imams and Alkalis in Northern Nigeria?
Sixth, how many Hausa men are permitted to marry Fulani women in the same manner Fulani men are allowed to marry Hausa women?
Seventh, does Shettima Yerima know that the term “Arewa” which symbolizes traditional Habe Hausa identity does not include the Fulani who have recently in the most fulsome manner adopted “Miyetti Allah” as their counterpart group identity thereby rendering the compound identity term: “Hausa-Fulani” irreconcilable with their imperial objectives and therefore obsolete?
A stitch in time saves nine. Shettima Yerima should therefore stop building the castles of political authority in the air and face the realities of his institutionalized slavery status in his Sharia-driven Northern part of Nigeria. It is delusive for his likes to think that the Upper North can make the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without the willing support of the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria, the degree of inglorious rigging notwithstanding. They tried it under AP and APP before and failed, and it took only the moral disintegration of the gullible Southern and Middle Belt political leaders to let the Fulani have their ways last time. This time around we can only but place it on the divine table of judgment to decide.
Nwankwo is Co-Convener United Middle Belt-Southern Front (UMBSF)
Institute of African Studies, & Dept. of History & International Studies,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Odogwu of Ibusa Clan, Delta State