EDITORIAL: The North has restructured, let others restructure as well

When it comes to politics of power and regional interest, Northern Nigeria, without belabouring the obvious, is master of the game. Not for the region the endless, not to say fruitless, intellectualization of politics to which the South appears eternally beholden; not for the North the convoluted sense of propriety that immobilizes the South, that makes it, every so often, seek—to no positive end, of course—moral and constitutional validation of every action it may wish to take, or pronouncements it may wish to make in defence of the truth, in a country where the constitution, for princes of the establishment, is only but a piece of paper.

Indeed, it is not for the North the lack of shared vision and mission that characterizes political engagements among southern leaders, an otherwise well-educated, travelled and exposed lot, embarrassingly content, however, to wallow in the bitterness, egoism and ethnic jingoism that defined politics of yore. No, weep not for Southern Nigeria that neither its high educational attainments nor the similarity of cultures in the entire southern belt has weaned the region from its debilitating, gutless narrow-mindedness.

Obasanjo…CAN my foot!

Pause and ponder. While the Northern Governors Forum has been on and thriving since the return of democratic governance in 1999, then President Obasanjo, a slave to his own self-perception (self-deception, if you will) as the great, only-living national unifier, would not permit a similar association of Southern Governors. While Obasanjo had so much disdain for Christian Association, CAN (CAN, my foot! he once sacrilegiously declared), a mainly Southern-led group of Christian denominations in the country, he effortlessly turned a blind eye to the creeping de-legitimization of Nigeria’s secularity by then Governor of Zamfara State, Ahmad Sani Yarima, the Mullah who introduced and enforced Sharia Law in his State and, for effects, capped it with the merciless amputation of citizen Jangedi for stealing a goat! The result is that, today, the entire Muslim North is ruled by Sharia Law (with pressure mounting by Muslims to be ruled by Sharia Law anywhere they may be in Nigeria). No thanks to Yarima, now under the Sharia Law, Northern Nigeria, the Muslim North that is, does just as it pleases.

Hisbah is State Police   

Hisbah police in Kano

Which is how we came to be saddled with Hisbah! The Islamic religious police is organized as the enforcer of Islamic moral code. But it has become more powerful and authoritative, in every material particular,  than the nation’s regular police. Early this month, Kano State Hizbah, acting under the supervision of the State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, represented by his Deputy, Dr. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, reportedly destroyed some 1,975,000 bottles of beer or “20 truckloads of alcohol”, as they put it, worth over N200 million and confiscated within Kano metropolis. The exercise was carried out at Kalebawa in Dawakin Tofa Local Government Area of the State.

What this means, AbeyaNews can report, is that Hisbah is not only an enforcer of Islam’s moral code but also that of social and economic order in whatever State or area it operates. For, if Hisbah could effortlessly destroy an economic resource worth a whopping N200m without any consequences, would it not have the power also to supervise and decide what economic activities individuals are allowed to carry out in Kano or any other part of the Muslim North, for that matter? If Hisbah, operating under a State law, could regulate religious, social and economic life of Kano, thereby acting as the principal security agency in charge of law and order in that State, what else is there for the federal police to do in Kano?

Abdullahi-Umar-Ganduje, Governor, Kano State

Thus, Hisbah, to all intents and purposes, is a State police organization and, in point of fact, a very effective one at that. For us in AbeyaNews, therefore, while the argument that those who destroy alcoholic drinks should not benefit from the VAT therefrom, may well be valid, it is probably more important, at this point, that the gains of Hisbah, in terms of its autonomy of actions, are extended to other States, than that we continue along the old way but ensuring that ‘Hisbah States’ do not enjoy VAT from sales of alcoholic drinks. Which, in our view, is no victory at all.

Zamfara points the way to resource control

L-R-Governor-Bello-Matawalle-and-Senator-Sani-Yarima (Sharia law enfocer-in-chief)-

Again, consider Zamfara. Recently, the pace-setting State (move over Oyo State!), the birthplace of enforced Sharia law in Nigeria and, by extension, the incubator of the ground-breaking Hisbah police, entered into an agreement with the CBN for Zamfara to sell its gold bars to the nation’s apex bank. The agreement came in clear violation of the law guiding the exploration and exploitation of mineral deposits in Nigeria. That law, ipso facto, makes mineral business a federal affair, a reason  the coal mines may be dead in Enugu but the State government cannot take steps to revive them because the mines belong to the federal government. (And, like a dog in manger, the federal government, though it no longer sees profit in coal business, is still loathe to let go of it, for fear that letting go may conduce to restructuring!)

That is why Ondo cannot make something out of its vast bitumen deposits because every mineral deposit is federally-owned. That is why crude oil deposits found in Enugu State have been capped for 54 years because no other authority, except the federal government, which seems uninterested in developing an oil field in mainstream Igboland, may exploit those oil finds. And that is why federal troops constantly destroy, in the Niger Delta, local refineries dubbed ‘illegal’ for the simple reason that the crude oil, the raw material for the refineries, sourced from wells at family backyards, belongs to the federal government. But, here we have Zamfara mining, processing and selling its gold bars to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and there are no consequences—the mineral deposits law simply no longer applies!

If the foregoing aren’t valid examples of federating units acting out their autonomy in what should be a ‘truly federal Nigeria’, we wonder what are. If a security agency set up under a State law has practically the power of life and death over Nigerian citizens in a particular State, whether it is in its authority to punish an accused violator of a religious moral code, or in its obviously unchallengeable power to destroy economic resources considered repugnant to the social and religious wellbeing of the faithful in a given State, something that not even the regular Nigeria Police would do, it would mean, for us in AbeyaNews, only one thing: the autonomy of a federating unit to handle its internal affairs the way it deems fit, undictated to by any superior authority, has just been born!

Indeed, what has happened is very simple and that is that more practical, even more pragmatic, Northern leaders have sidestepped the constitution, the pussyfooting going on in the political establishment over restructuring, and enacted State laws under which they have taken very bold steps to run their internal affairs, in total disregard to the overarching power of the oft-meddlesome central government.

Sampson-Ayokunle, CAN President

In our view, what that means is also simple: there is no point for the rest of the country (read Southern States) to wait for the formal inauguration of an SPV to organize debate on restructuring (for, they will be waiting for Godot!) before taking steps to that effect. They should just ‘borrow brilliance’ (apologies David Kord Murray) from Muslim North—get their state assemblies to legitimize their actions through Acts of the assemblies, and govern their territories within the bounds of what is permissible in a truly federal republic. If it is good for Zamfara, it cannot but be good also for Bayelsa. It would appear that what is needed to make a success of any political derring-do in Nigeria is not so much the legality of the action taken as it is the gumption, the raw guts to bend the law to one’s will. Kano and Zamfara are living examples. In the end, their ‘brave’ moves may well have become the federation’s blessing in disguise.

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