President of Nigeria or King in the North?


This morning, news broke that President Buhari had asked the World Bank to focus their development efforts in Nigeria on the north.

Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank president, said at a press conference in Washington DC that during his very first meeting with President Buhari, Buhari “said specifically that he would like us to shift our focus to the northern region of Nigeria and we’ve done that.”

As expected, this has sparked reactions on social media, particularly Twitter, making ‘Northern Nigeria’ a trending topic. These reactions range from shock and disbelief to I-told-you-so and why-are-you-surprised? The revelation of Mr Kim’s statement further strengthens the argument that President Buhari is biased to the north and does not even hide it, an argument that is almost as old as Buhari’s political career.

A few months after Buhari’s swearing-in in 2015, Ayodele Fayose, the Ekiti state governor, accused him of the “Northernisation of Nigeria”, decrying his lopsided appointments that heavily favoured people from the North. Perhaps one can say this is not surprising as over 80 percent of Buhari’s 15.4 million votes came from the North and less than 8 percent from the South-South, even though ethnocentrism is never justified. But the nature of his victory, while a win for democracy, was an indicator of the volatility of ethnicism in Nigeria, the weighty tension between the North and the South.

Apart from cutting down the fig tree of corruption, which he has largely botched, Buhari was facing the mammoth task of uniting Nigeria with its long history of tribal tension made worse by the removal of History from school curricula. Nigeria does not feel more united today than it did three years ago when the people made history by voting out a sitting president for the first time ever. Nigeria does not feel more united today than it did when the Civil War ended in January 1970.

Buhari has been accused of nepotism repeatedly. Former education minister, Oby Ezekwesili, accused him of “deliberately or inadvertently” alienating “a segment of the people” he leads. She added that “it is the lowest form of churlishness that is unbecoming of a leader to send signals that you dislike anyone of the groups you lead,” referring to his deployment of soldiers in the South-East for Operation Python Dance 2. Then there is the simple matter of his reluctance to speak out against the murderous activities of some Fulani herdsmen. Add to that to his approval of a new rail line from Kano to Daura, his hometown, while the “West Wing (Warri-Lekki) of East-West road and 2nd Niger Bridge are lying fallow.”

It seems like every time Buhari has had to choose between Nigeria and the North, he chooses the North which raises the question of where his allegiance lies: to the country or to his tribe?

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