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(OPINION) Letter To Kumalia: This March Of Folly! by Yinka Odumakin

Yinka Odumakin
Yinka Odumakin
Dear Alhaji Ibrahim Kumalia:
I have watched with amazement your futile attempt to deny the communique of the summit of Northern Reawakening Forum read by you at the end of your recent summit declared open by the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,Prof Yemi Osinbajo(SAN).I hope the VP would be available any day he is invited to a similar summit in the South!
Your communique called on President Muhammadu to discard the report of the 2014 National Conference because former President Jonathan who convoked it had a hidden agenda which you did not state.You instead asked for another conference to address the problems confronting the North East. In your words:
“The North has the highest number of people below $2.00 a day; 71.5 per cent of the population in the North-East live in poverty and more than half are malnourished. A 2013 World Bank Report showed that poverty in 16 out of the 19 Northern states have doubled since 1980. The North has the lowest literacy rate in the country. Lagos is at 92 per cent, Kano 49 per cent and Borno less than 15 per cent. Sixty Five per cent of Northern girls and 53 per cent of boys are not in school compared to only 20 per cent for the South-East.

“We call on the Federal Government to convene a National Conference for the development of the North-East to put together a short, medium and long-term vision for the development of the zone. The last National Conference was convened by the Peoples Democratic Party government. You do not expect this (All Progressives Congress) government to take hook, line and sinker what was put in place by the last government.

“What are the problems in the North-East? Has anybody tried to ascertain the problems in the North-East? The essence of the national conference is to analyse the extent of damage done to the North-East. The working document would be used to rebuild the region. There is no resemblance between the conference we are proposing and the 2014 National Conference. Many things have been destroyed and we need people with experience to discuss how the area will be settled.”

Before I go to broader issues,let me quickly address the issues you have raised about development index in the North East by saying that all what you highlighted are the creation of the elites of the north who held power for 38 out of 55 years of Nigeria’s independence.It is surprising that you gave data in a way suggestive that the underdevelopment of Borno is a function of the development of Lagos rather than posing the edge as a challenge to your elite to modernize.Did you miss former governor of Kano state gloating after the last elections that Almajiri is a thing of pride for you elites in the North because he was able to mobilize them to get 2 million votes? What conference do you need to know that it is your error that has produced the terror that has now destroyed the North East?I was in Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s hometown in 2011 and saw his sprawling edifice which was only comparable to Aso Rock villa with every other house in the town in mud and thatch and you think that social system was sustainable? How many northerners who own nearly all the oil blocks in the creeks have instituted scholarships for the children of the north? Are the people burning down schools in the North East not your wards?

How ironic is it that you now want the APC which said the money spent to look at the problems confronting the entire country was a “waste” now in government to use national resources to set up another National conference for North East to point out the failures of your elites to you.Haba!!!

Now to the real deal.I met you at the 2014 National Conference and worked closely with you at the Political Restructuring Committee which you co-chaired with General Ike Nwachukwu. Your suaveness enamored you to members of the committee from all divides though any keen watcher could easily see how your countenance swung during contentious issues.

We also spent several nights together at the Consensus Building Group meetings hosted by High Chief Raymond Dokpesi with Prof Ibrahim Gambari as co-convener.We used that broad coalition to build understanding around major contentious issues which were bound to tear apart an assembly of a multi-ethnic country that had lived in denial for decades.

You were a member of virtually every committee put together by the Deputy Chairman of the conference,Prof Bolaji Akinyemi whose diplomatic background helped in no small measure in ensuring that frayed nerves were calmed at every juncture.In spite of attempts to blackmail him and Conference Chairman by some Northerner delegates,the conference owed much of its success to those diplomatic moves.

Thus a conference that was to collapse over majority threshold at the onset was able to conclude without dividing the house once as attested to by Justice Idris Kutigi as he presented the conference report to then President Jonathan. “Mr. President, we approved over 600 resolutions; some dealing with issues of law, issues of policy and issues of constitutional amendments. These resolutions did not deal with frivolous or inconsequential issues. We showed courage in tackling substantial and fundamental issues.”

He added, “Not once did we have to vote or come to a division. This is a message that we wish the world to hear loud and clear. Nigerians are capable of not only discussing their differences but are also capable to coming up with solutions to these difficulties.”

Those resolutions are available at:2014nationalconferencereports.com.

The only issue that hung at the end of the conference was the derivation formula.We already had a consensus that the 13% be increased to 18% while 5% of the Federation account should be devoted over a 10 year period to the exploration of mineral resources in all states of Nigeria with another 5% of Federal Government revenue to be set aside to take care of disasters in all parts of the country starting WITH the North East.You guys broke trust when Prof Gambari was asked by Gen Nwachukwu to present the decision to plenary and he unilaterally changed it to read that the funds should be for only North East and North West.The uproar that followed that perfidy was doused by the conference decision to throw the issue to the President who should set up a technical committee on it.

Your call for the dumping of the reports of the last ditch effort to save Nigeria flows from the negative triumphalism and myopia some of you up North have exuded since March 28 when you achieved REGIME CHANGE(“Bring Back Our Domination”) which some folks down South who may have to ask the audience if asked to raise their left hands were hoodwinked and duped into believing was a CHANGE for the whole country.How such people could believe that an elite that ran its own corner of the country to produce the statistics you reeled out in your communique as their harbingers of CHANGE should be the new definition of naivety.

A much sober reading of the country today should tell the enlightened of the north who should have a better appreciation than the Boko Haram that to put life back into the shell you are carrying requires implementing those decisions we collectively agreed to.

I want you in the meantime to get copies of Babara Tuchman’s ” March of Folly” and Brian Hall’s “The Impossible Country:A Journey Through The Last Days Of Yugoslavia.” I promise you a good read.

Let me close by recalling the conversation you had with me the day the conference closed proceedings.You called me aside to complain about a mail Prof Chinweizu sent to me and copied others which was to later go viral especially in Arewa world.He sent the mail on the day Arewa delegates were poised to walk out of the conference at the beginning saying the rest of the conference should see such as a fulfillment of Orkar’s vision.

You admonished that our generation have a greater stake in the unity of Nigeria and that was the reason your children are in schools in the South.You lost me though when you went into the non-sequitur of we need ourselves “because when we talk of commerce you give that to the Igbos,the knowledge industry is Yoruba forte while governance and leadership is the competence of Hausa-Fulani.”

Your latest endeavor now convinces me that the only thing you believed in all you said were your last words.

My last words on this? A constitution that does not bend will break!

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