The Northern Third Force is a group of northerners who want to intervene to rescue the region from what they see as an unhealthy and dangerous trend against the political interest of the North. What they consider unhealthy is the rivalry between the factions of Solomon Lar and Mohammed Dikko Yusuf. Both come from different northern sub-regions. The dangerous component is perhaps, the ethno-religious conflict that has put questions on which north is really the north. The goodness of their idea can’t be contested but its timing is wrong.
The North comes as a group to make authoritative demands on the centre but goes back home to redefine the status. In that redefinition, it seems, the Middle-Belt had always lost out. But for the Gowon years and a little more, the Middle-Belt had nearly come to the brink of intra-northern marginalization even though the north has ruled for 38 out of Nigeria’s 50 years of existence. This may have brought the Middle-Beltans to the realization that some northerners are more equal than others.
Over the years, they had nibbled this grudge in solitary quietude. In the last nine months however, the point Jos on the Belt has been a plateau of blood spilt by the north against the north. The question is, where was this Third Force? The impact is that the Middle-Beltans – now called, North-Central – are beginning to ask themselves: should we suffer marginalization all these while and now face annihilation? The combination of these two existential threats may be behind Solomon Lar -a Middle-Beltan – separating himself from M.D. Yusuf with many Beltans filing behind Lar to boost Jonathan.
The first overt casualty in this unfolding scenario is the much choreographed zoning arrangement. Most Middle-Belt and Southern Nigeria said no to it; most of the North said yes and the PDP Chairman pronounced it dead. I am not sure that the North quite understands the political implications of the Jos crisis. Considering their political cuteness, they would have flagged it red longer time than now. First, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to get back the minds of those who suffered mass killing to mount one rostrum as one north. Second, the Middle-Belt is unstoppably flowing South.
What they are suffering now is an old song in the East, South-South and West which nobody likes to chorus. It is the insecurity of life and property in the north. So, for the Northern Third Force to start worrying about 2011 and negotiating power with Jonathan is what can at best be described as tackling a problem from the middle. The first step should have been to go back to the basics and correct the thinking of their people. Each killing spree in the north has a political and other consequences.
It is not in the interest of the north that the rest of Nigeria does not feel safe in its domain even though as individuals, they are a fantastic people: humble, kind and easy going. If the Middle-Belt has begun carving its separate identity, it is because its safety is under threat and its political identity at variance with that of the north. But the north can do something to restore the Belt’s confidence. First, it should know to what extent it drives its religious bigotry and indigeneship tussle. Religion is good but you don’t win people over by killing them. You do so through exemplary lifestyle that inspires.
In the indigene-settler dichotomy, it makes sense to concede every space of the Belt to them but carve your niche of relevance within the arrangement. After all, Igbos are everywhere doing business without claiming ownership of their host communities. Second is, take pragmatic steps to heal the wounds already inflicted and prevent a repeat. May be with goodwill and penitence, much would be forgotten and pardoned if sincerely followed. The consequence of ignoring this counsel may be a dramatic unfolding in the coming years. The Belt may openly bid the North goodbye politically, economically and socially and forge entrenched alliances with the East, West and South-South.
Though it will be good news for the South, humiliating the North is also not the best way to build a new Nigeria. To avoid this, the recurrent blood-letting in the North should be excused with finality. The Third Force should drive this. Its quest for power can come later.