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Opinion

Is Senator Ali Ndume for real? -By Lekan Sote

Did Senator Ali Ndume, representing Borno State South Senatorial District, indeed threaten that there would be political implications if the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Minister of Aviation moved some departments or agencies to Lagos?

He probably hasn’t thought of the financial and safety implications of the CBN and Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria travelling to and fro Abuja and Lagos to carry out their legitimate assignments.

The Katsina Elders’ Forum’s threat that “as long as (President Bola Tinubu) is interested in coming back in 2027, (and) as long as he is interested in the votes of the Northerners, (he should) reverse (relocating) CBN departments and FAAN (that was relocated to Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika) to the Southern part of Nigeria,” calls for a renegotiation of Nigeria.

And those Northern Nigerians who think they spite the Yoruba of the South-West by suggesting that the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited should be moved from Abuja to the South-South are childish.

Enough of the blackmail and (subtle) threats (of violence) by members of the Northern Nigerian political establishment against Presidents of Southern Nigerian extraction who want to do good for all Nigerians. They make it look as if Abuja, built largely from Niger Delta resources, belongs to Northern Nigerians alone.

Nearly the same thing happened when Tinubu, as Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States, presented the resolutions of ECOWAS to the National Assembly for consideration and approval, as required by law.

Former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Aminu Wali, and former Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof Usman Shehu, roasted the President with invective.

While Wali, a seasoned diplomat, was coaching the President on how to carry out his responsibilities, Shehu, a medical doctor, who followed Sheik Ahmed Gumi to the den of bandits, was more combative.

Prof. Shehu probably thought that the more he frowned his face the more seriously he would be taken. He was brazen and insulting, barely avoiding calling the President incompetent as he described him as inexperienced.

Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, Shehu Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai of Borno, and Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar of Sokoto, should please rein in Senator Ndume. Dr Doyin Okupe, a former presidential spokesperson, has told him: “Your recent pronouncement on (the movement of some federal parastatals to Lagos) is provocative and unexpected of a politician of your pedigree.”

It is significant though, that Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed told the 10th Annual Ahmadu Bello Memorial Lecture that Vice President Kashim Shettima, to whom he is a political adviser, thinks those opposed to the relocation of some CBN departments and FAAN to Lagos are mischief makers.

Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, Baba-Ahmed’s successor as Director of Publicity and Advocacy of Northern Elders Forum, the bastion of the Northern Nigeria political establishment, had said the move would lead to “brain drain.”

If the CBN moves departments that handle bank supervision and payments system to Lagos where the headquarters of nearly all the banks in Nigeria are situated, the motive of anyone who kicks against such moves should be queried.

Even former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who later became Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, had made the sensible decision to move those departments to the point of action.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York district runs market operations, forex market and stores of monetary gold for foreign central banks, governments and international agencies, which other districts do not handle.

Returning FAAN to Lagos is appropriate because more than 40.3 per cent of air travels happen in Lagos. In 2022, about 16,173,361 passengers used Nigerian airports, out of which 6,526,023, or one-third, passed through Lagos.

There is no doubt that the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos is the busiest in Nigeria. In just one quarter of 2021, about 404,939 passengers arrived at the Lagos airport and another 359,937 departed from it.

For reasons of operational convenience, the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and Nigerian Shippers’ Council are all headquartered in Lagos with the biggest maritime business in Nigeria.

Foreign embassies that claim to be based in Abuja do so only in name. The bulk of their businesses is done in their Lagos offices that they have cheekily named annexes. Senator Ndume must ask why the United States is siting its biggest consulate building in the world in Lagos.

Senator Ndume needs to be reminded that the crybaby attitude of some Nigerians, who think only about their sectional interest and ignore the overall best interest of Nigeria, has placed Nigeria in its current sorry state.

Any ministry that needs to move things around should call the bluff of those enemies of progress and go ahead, especially if it is true that Senator Ndume is just fighting a proxy war on behalf of his family.

You may recall the suggestion that some regionalists kept goading President Buhari, who vetoed the Lagos Metroline during his term as a military Head of State, to ensure the completion of the unprofitable Kano-Maradi Railway line before a Southern President comes to rationalise it out of existence.

Now, all Nigerians, including Southerners, who will hardly profit from a rail line between Kano, in Nigeria, and Maradi, in the Niger Republic hometown of the father of President Buhari, have to jointly service and repay the loan.

It is baffling how some Nigerians think their regional interest should be substituted for the national interest of the country, even if it will drag everyone, including themselves, down the dark pit of abject poverty.

Maybe Senator Ndume should explain why nearly all of Nigeria’s most strategic military installations and facilities are within Kaduna State. If he thinks that Southern Nigerians are not concerned that practically all military installations are in the North, he got it all wrong.

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