By Basil Okoh
The Northern oligarchy believe they control military and political power in Nigeria. They do not. That claim has not been tested in today’s Nigeria. The military putsch by the minority ethnic groups in April 1990 sent Ibrahim Babangida scampering and running from Lagos to pitch the Nigerian capital in Abuja.
The Yoruba believe that they dominate the economy of Nigeria. They do not. The ownership of the industrial installations in Nigeria is shared between foreign investors, increasingly Asian, Yoruba, Igbo and the minority groups particularly of the Niger Delta.
Beyond that, the oil wealth of the Niger Delta is the underlying power driving the economy of Nigeria, particularly the economy of Lagos. Without the oil wealth moving into Lagos in various taxes, ways and forms, the economy of Lagos will tank.
The Yoruba are no longer dominant in the economy of Lagos and the Western Region. When research is made, people will be amazed at how much of the West’s economy is owned by the Igbo and people of the Niger Delta minorities.
So the socioeconomic landscape of Nigeria is suffused with so many assumptions not founded on facts. The economic ecosystem of the eighties and nineties are no longer applicable in understanding the economic realities of Nigeria in the twenty-first century.
The Northern Fulani oligarchy thought that by concentrating military installations in their territory, they will permanently control military power in Nigeria, menace the South and seize their wealth. They did not reckon with developments in military technology which has made most of those military equipment obsolete.
They did not also reckon with the emergence of Boko Haram, ISWAP and Ansaru which have decimated Northern populations and turned the NorthEast into a Hobbesian enclave and a huge IDP camp, posed a deadly existential threat to the feudal emirate establishment of the Muslim North and shown up the tectonic military weakness of the entire Northern Nigeria.
The Muslim North has been so hobbled militarily with roving bandits and blood lusting sectarian zealots that there is no way it can mobilize a modern force to take on a well trained and mobile two-battalion army. Northern military generals know this.
So all the preparations for war and dominance against the South has been vitiated by circumstance, seeds of implosion planted by its own designs, with nothing to do with Southern Nigeria.
The North survives today because no adventurer has taken the gamble to divide the armed forces and wage war against it. The only props holding the North together today are the Nigerian armed Forces and Niger Delta petrodollars.
The North has been at war with itself for more than a decade. If Southern oil money and the armed forces of Nigeria are taken away from it, the North will shatter into many splinter groups that will take the entire world decades to put together again.
This is why the marauding activities of the Fulani cow herders is seen by the international intelligence community as a death wish. Despite all the posturing in the bushes, the Fulani cannot muster a modern fighting force. Their ongoing raids on unprotected and unarmed communities persist because they enjoy the protection and endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Armed Forces.
If the invaded communities procure weaponry and defend themselves, the Fulani Marauder’s will flee back to the Sahel. Imagine Fulani survival without the Monopoly of selling cattle beef in Southern Nigeria. Imagine also that Southern Nigeria can get better beef at half the price of Fulani beef.
It is the same with the Yoruba and the economy of Nigeria. The Yoruba control of the Nigerian economy was an outcome of the Civil War and was spurn by economic policies made during the Civil War years of the sixties and the early seventies.
Some of those policies made during and immediately after the war years were designed to punish the Igbo. That period also coincided with the commanding control of the economy by the Central Government dominated by Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba military officers.
With the end of the period of sleaze known as import licensing in the mid-eighties, Yoruba and Fulani domination of the import dependent economy began to unravel. By the late eighties and nineties, the Igbo and Niger Delta ethnic minority economic ascendancy was well on its way.
Thereafter came the liberalization of Bank Licensing and then the Minorities of the Niger Delta and the Igbo planted their feet in banking and other areas of the financial sector and the real competition for dominance in the new Nigerian economy began in earnest.
Even though the sector got jammed soon after, with so many hollow companies and dishonest and badly managed enterprises, real competition was well on its way to changing the economic landscape of Nigeria powered by an indigenously owned and truly thriving financial sector.
It was to be that the North got truly frightened of a renascent South and worked to bring in Lamido Sannusi to bring the uppity South down as it were.
At the height of the financial bubble that started in the closing years of the eighties, Delta citizens had six of the ten best banks and financial institutions but Lamido Sannusi brought his diabolic axe to cut down many without giving them a chance to re-energize.
The most painful being first, All-States Bank and later, Oceanic Bank and Bank-PHB. Sannusi was to flippantly betray his pre-judgement of the banks when he expressed hatred that six of the ten biggest banks come from owners from one State, Delta. The fact therefore is that the military power of the North and the economic power of the South West are all myths that died with twentieth century Nigeria and no longer have relevance today. Although competition is not native to any ethnic group, the liberalization of the economy has stimulated competition to remove Nigeria from ethnic control and dominance.
So also has the historical unravelling of the Muslim North removed military dominance from the Fulani who now must depend on soldiers from other ethnicities to assure the survival of their ethnic establishment and institutions. Any unravelling of the armed forces will signal the end of Fulani dominance in Nigeria. The army is what stands between the Fulani and perdition in Nigeria today.
*Basil Okoh can be reached at [email protected].