By Emeka Obasi
Those who talk of marginalisation should join hands today in highlighting the plight of our brothers in the North East who are going through hell imposed on them by all Nigerians even as we believe that the North should take a break and give others the opportunity to taste the prime position.
I stand with the North-East and if some of them do not see things from my point of view, I will open their eyes to the imbalance in the system. Those who want to pillory me for flying the Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo kite should be prepared to hear more on the choice of the Gombe State governor.
The only North-Easterner to have ruled Nigeria was Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1957-1966). And we must not forget that even in that position, the most powerful Northerner, was Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern region who sent Balewa to Lagos, in the first place.
The North-West has produced Generals Murtala Mohammed, Muhammadu Buhari, Sani Abacha and Presidents Shehu Shagari and Umaru Yar’Adua. Rulers from the North Central include Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdusalami Abubakar.
From the South-East, we saw Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi. The South-West gave us General Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Ernest Shonekan. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan filled the South-South quota. And when leaders from the other zones reigned, they did not follow anyone’s dictates.
We really have to feel for the North East. This region produced the country’s First Prime Minister. The first Nigerian Governor of the Northern region, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, hailed from there. The first indigenous Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN ), Alhaji Ali Mai Bornu came from that region. The zone also produced the first Northern Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ibrahim Jalo Waziri.
The first Sandhurst trained Nigeria Army officer, Zakariya Maimalari, commissioned in 1953 and the first Northern Inspector General of Police, Kam Selem, were born in the North East. By 1962, Selem born in Dikwa, was a police commissioner. And when Gowon was commissioned in 1956, the cop was already a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP ).
Historically, the North-Easterners cannot play second fiddle as the Jihadists had no reason to move in after Idris Alooma had done the needful. So the Empire of Kanem Bornu existed before the Caliphate.
In politics, the North-West and
North-Central were way behind. In 1947, Malam Zanna Bukar Dipcharima was part of the delegation to London following the Richard’s Constitution. After the 1954 elections, there were three ministers from the North. The North-East produced Balewa (Transport and Works) and Muhammadu Ribadu (Mines and Power).
When the first All Nigerian cabinet was formed on August 3, 1957, three of the four Northern members : Balewa, Ribadu and Dipcharima, were from the North-East. The loner was Inua Wada, Murtala’s uncle, from the South-West. So it does appear that the moment the Army took over, there was a deliberate attempt to punish the North-East.
With Balewa’s assassination in 1966, the next senior cabinet minister, Ribadu was in Switzerland. However, Dipcharima was the next in line. But the soldiers were handed over power. And when war broke out, the North-East did more than the other Nigerian zones in terms of command positions.
It began with Col. Mohammed Shuwa who commanded the first Division. Ibrahim Haruna followed after Murtala abandoned the Second Division. Col. Gibson Jalo took over from Haruna. The import is that the North-East was the only region that produced three GOCs during the civil war.
Strange enough, Jalo was also
marginalised after proving himself in battle. He was made GOC when some of his seniors were in the rear. Born in March, 1939, Jalo enlisted on September 25,1959 and after training at Cadet Training School Mons, Aldershot, was commissioned in November 1960.
At the time Jalo became a GOC on May 12, 1969, his seniors like Folusho Sotomi (joined 1956, commissioned 1959), Godwin Ally (joined March 30, 1959) and James Oluleye (joined September 9, 1959) were not considered. Yet when Murtala struck in 1975, he picked Yakubu Danjuma as Army Chief.
Danjuma enlisted in April 1960 alongside Alani Akinrinade, Ben Gbulie, Alabi Isama, Simon Uwakwe, Martin Adamu, Sule Appolo and David Bamigboye. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant on March 3, 1961. Danjuma who was in Aldershot between October 1960 and March 1961, and was not a GOC during the war, was made Chief of Army Staff ahead of Jalo who spent June 1960 to November 1960 in Aldershot.
Jalo was also senior to Akinrinade, who was Danjuma’s mate, but Obasanjo and Danjuma fixed Akinrinade as Army Chief by passing Jalo. It was Shagari that got it right when Jalo was put in place of Akinrinade. And for the first time, Nigeria had a Chief of Defence Staff in Akinrinade. That was no office.
We must look at the fact that Major Hamza al Mustapha from Yobe could have assumed power when he discovered that Abacha was gone. The young man alerted his seniors. Not many would do that. Vice President Atiku Abubakar could have been President in 2003. He deferred to Obasanjo and lost out completely.
After June 12, the South-West got the presidency. After militancy, Jonathan emerged. I have given Nigerians Dankwambo. He has what it takes to move mountains in 2019. Let us give the North-East their due.