The Southern Coalition and their long attempts to co-opt Middle Belt as political mis-strategy?
By Hashim Suleiman
It is no longer news to any keen observer of the political space that since about 2012 till now, the southern coalition comprising of the PANDEF, OHANEZE and AFENIFERE have been making attempts at trying to co-opt the Middle Belt Forum to form a part of them with a view to forming some sort of political alliance perhaps to whittle down the influence of the very politically powerful northern Nigeria. However, till date we have obviously not seen or felt the effect of such efforts and could at best be considered a political mis-strategy.
One could have thought the southern Nigeria should by now have learnt enough of politics from the north but it doesn’t seem so. On a generality, Nigerians have become so entangled that it’ll be so difficult to dismember. It is also so with all the regions especially the northern region which is more vast and diverse than the others because the leaders of the region have for a long time enjoyed political power devoid of sentiment. Jeremiah Useni from Plateau state was at some point the most powerful person in the administration of Sani Abacha. Even recently, Boss Mustapha is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. How then is someone going to succeed in truly dividing these elites under such a bond?
The only thing the narratives by these southern leaders could do is to divide the voters to sway some little of them to their side but such votes would be insignificant to cause any harm to the northern agenda. Every time they hold their meetings, I pay keen attention to the members of the Middle Belt Forum who attend and have never found any political heavy weight that was capable of bringing forth any votes or influence. Honestly, I have hardly recognized any of those that are called to attend such meetings as leaders of the Middle Belt.
Such kinds of activities leaves one to believe the popular saying that the southern Nigeria has not still learnt from the best despite being together in this union for over 60 years now. Politics is a science that requires research and strategy and one thing the north knows how to do is ensuring high level of inclusion especially for the minorities of the region. One cannot understand this till you look very closely. Do not forget that the secretary of the Sardauna of Sokoto was Sunday Awoniyi from the Kabba area. That’s how far the northern elites have moved to ensure inclusion.
The propaganda could only do so little owing to the realities enumerated above. The chairman of the Northern Governors Forum today is the governor of Plateau state who belongs to the class of those that the southern coalition has been working tirelessly to co-opt. Another major identity of the entire coalition is their affiliation to the PDP and that also makes them appear as those people who were then helping Goodluck Jonathan to sway the votes of the northern minorities and it never worked and never will. You could consider them as the major mis-advisers of GEJ who led him to lose favour with northern Nigeria and ultimately to his losing the election. One would even assume they have learnt from this but their recent activities till date proves they are still on same lost cause.
Politics is about numbers and such numbers are not forced or artificially built, there has to be careful bridge building through guarded utterances and sincere reach outs. There has to be deliberate efforts at upholding agreements and trusts coupled with mutual respect. The major attribute that has been affecting the south and its politics is sense of entitlements. There has always been this notion that the northerners are illiterates and can’t pull any stunts and the northerners have been hiding behind such and throwing political punches to the south and such will continue unless there’s a reversal on such notions and replacing them with sound political strategies full of engagements and respect.
The 2023 elections are coming which are perhaps supposed to be the turn of the south but the undoing of all or most of the potential candidates for the presidency from the region is taking a toll on them and their sell-ability to the extent that most feel they’ll still be a reemergence of another northerner for the presidency. Governor Dave Umahi has recently shifted grounds to the APC and the bashing he’s receiving is not small thing when in reality there is a thin line between the PDP and the APC. The criticisms could be seen to have some coloration of hate and such is very inimical to political progress. What Umahi is doing is trying to build that bridge that is essential to succeed in Nigeria’s political space but whether his people will reason along that line and support him with the votes is story for the future to tell.
Nigeria’s political space is a very interesting one and only the smartest and the most inclusive benefit most of it.
May God bless Nigeria!
Hashim Suleiman @oneheartnaija