Protection of Northern interests goes beyond party politics
By Capt. Bayo Araba
Lessons for Southerners
The feelings in the North transcend politics and that’s from a personal experience.
In August of 2014, a particular project was to be relocated from Abuja to Lagos because the market survey dictated so. I was then the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology and I had to accompany the new minister of Aviation (Chidoka Osita) to the Federal Executive Council for the approval of the Boeing 737NG Simulator to be sited in Lagos because all the beneficiaries for the project are based in Lagos – so it made economic sense.
I was given the floor at the FEC to defend the relocation. Immediately Jonathan asked for any observations from his ministers after my submission from the ministers-in-council, all his core-Northern ministers visibly opposed it one after the other.
They even wondered why Abuja that it should be in the College in Zaria. Jonathan then asked me to address their objections, which I did uninterrupted for like another 3 minutes stressing that it was for advanced training and could not be in Zaria where ab intio training takes place and cited examples all over the world. From the screen in front of me I could see the president nodding as I spoke and convinced with my explanations.
Jonathan smiled and said, “I have been long in this council to know that people always fight for their own interests, I think the Rector’s argument is about the national interest. Any other objection? If not, it is passed.”
That day the whole Northern Press descended on my that I was relocating the project meant for Zaria to Lagos because I am from Lagos. They succeeded in the transfer of the then Perm Sec from the ministry arguing that both of us were from Lagos and dangerous to have both of us in the same ministry. I was called to meet with some Northern big elements, from the emir, Aliu Gasau, IBB to explain the reason. My explanations. seemed to assuage some of them. Some pretended to agree with our position.
When Buhari came in, in August 2015, during the Ministry of Aviation visit to the Vila to brief the new president about the state of our ministry, the CEOs of the Aviation agencies were led by a Perm Sec, a lady from Katsina because Buhari had not appointed ministers then.
After the briefing the only thing Buhari said was, “I understand there is this thing they use for pilot training that is being moved all over the place.” The Perm Sec pointed to me to answer the president, which I did, explaining in details the reasons for the relocation. I was, however, shocked because the earlier objections and intimidations were from the PDP Northern members.
After Buhari appointed ministers, I was called to be told that they have even decided that the project would now be sited in the College in Zaria. Hadi Sirika accused me of taking the project to Lagos for political reasons because I am from Lagos. I told him angrily that I took objection to what he said, that I am a professional and not a politician. I was so mad I didn’t know when I said they can take it to the palace if they want to, but it was not ideal for Zaria.
He laughed and said it has to be Zaria. When they took the matter back to FEC to reverse the location it was when Buhari was on sick holiday, I was not even invited the FEC.
Such experience informs me that when it comes to the interest of the Core North, there is no politics. I thought I should share for us to know the mindset of the people we are dealing with and re-strategise if need be.