“The answer is no. The system is completely rigged against them. The elite send their children to Western schools and persuade the talakawa to limit their children to Quranic education so that they will not be Westernised. And the people believe them. The north-east and north-west lead the way in infant mortality, water-borne diseases and illiteracy but the thought leaders make them believe that perpetually keeping northerners in political power is in their best interest. That is how hegemonic ideology works — through “common sense” values.
Down south, the hot topics developed for public engagement are ‘restructuring’, ‘resource control’, ‘fiscal federalism’ and ‘true federalism’ — while most of the state-owned schools and hospitals are an eyesore despite huge budgetary allocations. How many southern governors and commissioners can allow their children attend public schools? How many can allow their pregnant wives give birth at public hospitals? Yet, the thought controllers would rather talk about state police than question the mismanagement of resources by their governors. They perpetually paint northerners as the enemies of their progress, as if all the oil revenue goes to the north!
I recently saw the federation allocation figures for February 2019. Akwa Ibom got N17.2 billion, Bayelsa N13.2 billion, Delta N17.4 billion, Lagos N9.1 billion and Rivers N14.7 billion. By contrast, Sokoto got N4.05 billion, Taraba N3.6 billion, Yobe N4.07 billion and Zamfara N2.9 billion. You will hardly hear any of these southern hegemonic institutions and their intellectual agents question what Delta does with its N17.4 billion, or ask why Lagos, with its enormous internal revenue, has a debt overhang of N500 billion. Rather, the attention of the “elders” will be on the N4 billion collected by Yobe and how the north is “dragging” Nigeria backwards! That is how hegemonic ideology works.
They spend all their time attacking Lord Lugard, conveniently ignoring the poverty being brought upon the people through the mindless mismanagement happening in their backyards, right under their nose. I was involved an argument with a professor a week ago. He said Nigerians do not have common aspirations and should, therefore, not be one country. I disagreed with him. I have been to most states of the federation. I always ask the ordinary people — taxi drivers, traders, artisans, Muslims, Christians, northerners, southerners — their desires. They list education, healthcare, roads, water, power and jobs. They want a peaceful and prosperous country. What else is aspiration?
Are we in a hopeless situation? I would not say so. We need a new class of thought leaders in the media, academia, civil society and polity to focus public discourse on the things that matter the most. We should stop heaping all Nigeria’s woes on Lord Lugard. Why can’t we also spend some of our energies on demanding for water, education, healthcare, power and security — which most Nigerians apparently agree on? Inevitably, the rich and the poor will benefit. National productivity will increase. This will ensure social stability. The elite class needs to be far-sighted enough to connect its own interests with those of the ordinary people. We need a new hegemony.”
Excerpts from Simon Kolawole’s article captioned Nigeria and the hegemony of ideology and published in Thisday on 3rd April 2019.