By Saad Umar
First things first. By ‘Arewa argument’ I mean the hypocritical, farcical, meaningless, irrelevant reductive reasoning, advanced in favour of Atiku by Atiku and by some nonrational ‘northern’ establishment elite.
There are many versions of the argument. A version of it, by a local cleric, was sent to me on Tuesday, 7 Feb ’23 when Atiku stumbled in Bauchi and that is what prompted me to write this piece. Moreso, the PDP dropped Sa’adu Zungur’s name.
However, this is how Atiku articulated his version in Kaduna: “What the average northerner needs is somebody who is from the north. He doesn’t need a Yoruba….” Curiously, Atiku made it clear that ‘somebody from the north’ is not Kwankwaso or anyone else but Atiku.
Central to the argument is the false equivalency equating Arewa’s interests with Atiku’s and vice versa. Make no mistake, Atiku is for Atiku only. He is not for Arewa. His eight years with Obasanjo has proven this point. He did nothing for Arewa. Did he?
Atiku is not even a true northerner in the first place; he is a southerner, recoloured, like Emefiele Naira notes, with northern hue. (Apologies to Kperogi).
To be sure, this Arewa argument is not entirely new. It has colonial seeds. For instance, Sa’adu Zungur (1915 – 1958), somewhat, puzzlingly, oxygenated the Arewa argument in his poem “Arewa, Jumhuriya ko Mulukiya”. The North: republic or monarchy.
But, unlike Atiku, Saadu Zungur’s argument was angelic and philosophical, while Atiku’s is hypocritical and solipsistic.
More importantly, there’s nuance to Saadu’s argument. Contextually, it’s essentially in favour of bifurcating the pre-independent Nigeria; where Northern Nigeria will exist as an independent nation different from Southern Nigeria.
Given Saadu’s progressive ideals, I can’t imagine him making the same or similar argument in a postcolonial independent united Nigeria. Sa’adu will argue that the presidency must not be determined by someone’s place of birth or the language he speaks or how he worships; but by his competence, character, credentials and integrity. Atiku is light on all four.
Sa’adu, Sardauna and other pre-independence Arewa leaders held a different political philosophy from their Southern colleagues.
According to Sa’adu, ‘Arewa’ wanted a constitutional monarchy anchored on Shariah law. Hear him “… Arewa ta zaɓi Mulukiya”, the North adopted constitutional monarchy; while the South opted for a republic. As in “Niyyar Kudu … duk ƙasa ta zamo Jumhuriya.”
So, when Sa’adu said “in jama’ar Kudu suka hau mulkin Nijeriya, kowa zai sha wuya (edited by me) he meant imposing republicanism on the monarchical North will be difficult for Arewa. He did not mean to say a northerner should not vote for a southerner or that elections should be based on geographical accident or primordial sentiments.
Sa’adu further described how the Mulukiya works: “Sarki da gidajen shawara; Da Shari’ah kun ji Mulukiya.” The monarchy will consist of a sovereign, a congress and a constitutional order based on Shariah law.
Here, we can contrast Saadu’s pro-Shariah posture and Atiku’s anti-Shariah shenanigans. Atiku was all over the world disdainfully demeaning Shariah when he was the vice president, proudly proclaiming that “I was the only northern politician who stood up against Shariah in 1999”. This reminds me of the giraffe on seeing the camel: it said God forbid bad things. I can’t capture this in foreign language. So take it in ‘Arewa language’: Raƙumin dawa ya ga na gida.
At the height of Shari’ah struggle, Atiku and Obasanjo summoned “northern leaders” to the Villa and ‘blackmailed’ them to agree to “stop enforcing” Shariah. (AP March 1,2000).
We need to note that at that material time, the ‘average northerner’ wanted Shari’ah but Atiku and his cohorts hated Shariah, hence Atiku fought tooth and nail to stop it. So much northern interest.
Besides, Atiku’s Arewa argument is hypocritical because he doesn’t believe in it. His past record reaffirmed his disbelief. In 1999, Atiku did not see anything wrong in totally excluding Arewa from even participating in the presidential election. When Atiku wanted to be vice president in 1999 and remain so in 2003 he said northerners needed Yoruba (OBJ). Now that Atiku wants to be president he did a volte-face: now northerners don’t need Yoruba. Doublespeak.
Again, this cannot be overstated, Atiku and his gang were not and still are not for any Arewa but for themselves, their families and friends.
Furthermore, the argument is meaningless and irrelevant, in that the Arewa they’re talking about was massacred in 1966 and subsequently sequestered into six states: North-Eastern State; North-Western State; Kano State; Kaduna State; Kwara State; and Benue-Plateau State. As I write, that geographical expression known as Northern Nigeria is divided into 19 states. I see myself as a citizen of Bauchi State not Northern Nigeria.
Another thing to point out in order to buttress Atiku’s hypocrisy is that the Arewa has never been homogeneous. It’s very diverse. Apart from the Hausa-Fulani, other ethnic nationalities were part of it. The Yorubas of Ilorin and Kabba provinces were part of the Arewa. However, the Atiku’s Arewa doesn’t include those Yorubas. Else, how do you explain or justify Atiku’s assertion that in this 2023 presidential election, a northerner “doesn’t need a Yoruba”. Ok. A northerner doesn’t need some northerners, right? Orwellian. Divisive. Tribalist. Unfit for a diverse Nigeria. We don’t need you.
For Atiku, a northerner needs Atiku and only Atiku. And Atiku needs Nigeria. To what end? Atiku needs Nigeria so that, in his words, “he will leave a legacy for his children”. (BBC). Not to leave legacy for the average northerner or Nigerians but for his dear children. And his children are many. By the way, some of his kids are half Yoruba and half Igbo. And the kids want to be bastard billionaires. We know it, thanks to Achimugu.
Here is the scariest part. How will the kids become billionaires? Simple, Atiku will sell Nigeria to them. The other day he was heard saying he will sell Warri refinery, Kaduna refinery, and Port Harcourt refinery. He will sell NNPC, he will sell universities and sell everything. But sell to who? To his family and friends I guess.
After all, Atiku’s family and friends are entitled to be enriched. We did not forget what Atiku said in 2019 when he swore to sell the NNPC. He said he will sell it to his friends. Rhetorically rubbing it in: “Are my friends not entitled to be enriched?” No, they are not, Mr entitlement. But we get the message.
And here’s our message Atiku: know that there are no flies on the average northerner. We know you’re for yourself, your fat friends and family. You are not for Arewa, you are not for the talakawa and you are not for Nigeria. That is why you are unfit to be the next president of Nigeria. And we the true northerners, the talakawa know who we need. It’s not you. We will reject you and your PDP at the polls and vote for the APC and Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu: he will make northerners and Nigeria better. In sha Allah.
Saad, a lawyer, is the Deputy Chairman of APC Publicity Committee, Bauchi State and former Director General BASEPA.