If there’s anything special that President Obasanjo’s tenure had unraveled in its great details, it is the underbelly of the internal contradictions of the nation’s groveling absurdities. Nigeria had during this era became a snapshot of a tedious hypnotism of smudgy hysterectomy. Men without alloyed values emerged as slurp of manhood with luscious resource and history was forced to reside in lynching abode on the luxuriousness of medieval iniquities and looming around a sinking hand of a clock. It was really a peacetime for mischief-makers and resounding success-story for new adventures of subtle wily fellows. Ethnicity, religion, regions and partisanship were exploited to the full glare of the underhappenings emasculating the very possibilities of exertions along nationalistic pursuits.
It is not that geography, religion and politics are not interrelated, infact they are intermingled but the manipulations goes with rationality as it appeared in the past, success will be recorded in favour of the opportuned and lucky permutations. Crude ways hardly offer comfort zones of such opportunities. Therein lies the hardlines of convince during the Obasanjo’s era. The pass-times of strange hold would have elapsed for this modern day advocates if not for their ill-will. The early nationalists would shiver in their graves due to the pre-emptive lack of logic of these new croppers. Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe was a Nigerian before an Igbo and Christian, which when the reverse, he would have been sidelined into the dustbin of history, Sir Ahmadu Bello would not have carried the entire North into the realms of national politics, if he had identified openly with any ethnic or religious card considering the complexities of Northern society. Infact he would have been relegated to the periphery of note and nod. Same with Chief Obafemi Awolowo representing the South-West where religion up to now is not an issue of politics. Presently, politics in Nigeria is about lies and politicians pretend to be the preachers of religious enforcements. What a contradiction. By the sides, as si de attractions a microscopic minority says from the Middle-Belt would distort history and statistics that Muslims are overwhelmingly predominant in the north, just to identify with Muslim interest and claimed to be more defiant than even a Kanem –Bornu Muslim who was in Islam about a century before the Jihad in 1804.
A Yoruba man from Kwara not Benue would claim to be a new advocate of Middle-Belt carved out from north and people believed him (Benue being the home-base of Middle Belt agitation in the past) and a fellow who had never professed Christianity in his lifetime, join politics and become a undisputable protector of Christian interest or a Southern Yoruba Muslim terrifying current that he is fighting for Northern Muslims. How marvelous. Let us pick facts and salient issues from these contradictions. Unlike what some people want us to believe, the composition based on religious beliefs in the north under a fair, accurate and transparent census will reflect in the so-called core northern states of Borno, Katsina, Yobe, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi and Kebbi.
Borno has 40:70 in favour of Muslims, Kebbi 30:70 in favour of Muslims while Katsina, Yobe, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kano and Jigawa are predominantly Muslims with about 10% indigent Christian population in Katsina and Jigawa and pockets of indigent Christian population in Zamfara, Yobe, Sokoto and Kano. Bauchi is 30:70 in favour of Muslims. In the case of the so-called Middle Belt states of Benue, Niger, Plateau, Adamawa, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Kaduna, Gombe and Taraba with FCT; Benue, Plateau, Taraba and FCT are predominantly Christian, Niger, Kogi Nassarawa, Kaduna and Gombe had almost 50:50 and Kwara is 40:60 in favour of Muslims.
The Southern states of Abia, Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Delta, E kiti, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Akwa-Ibom, Cross-Rivers, Rivers, and Edo predominantly Christian while Lagos and Oyo are predominantly Muslim in a ratio 60:40. I have sojourned in all the states of the federation and I visited the loops and corners of each and would claim that these projections are realistic. This is by the way. However, the ailing points of departure from the hours of justice and fairplay find reinforcement in the deliberate confusions to pave way for mediocrity in governance or else, how can explain the logic of our past experiences that; Christians stage manage the overthrown of General Aguiyi Ironsi to install General Yakubu Gowon as Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Northerners actively participated in the coup against General Yakubu Gowon to install General Murtala Ramat Muhammad, a Southern and a Christian made sure a Northern and Muslim actualize his dreams in an electoral process, from Obasanjo via Alhaji Shehu Shagari even against the tide of his own people. Muslims ousted the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Muslims and Northerners overthrew General Muhammadu Buhari and General Abdulsami Abubakar-a Northerner and Muslim paved way for the succession of a Southerner and Christian to rule Nigeria in a tensed democratic contest and so on.
Who says it is one of your faith and origin that can only protect your interest! Does poverty and justice have any ethnic and religious coloration? If the Christian population is to say 70% of the Nigeria, does it mean a Muslim will not rule Nigeria again even when the Muslim is qualified? Must the nation elect a Muslim who has no credential of justice and fairness just because the nation had an earlier Christian President? Should a Christian continue to rule Nigeria even when the Christian lack in nationalistic posture and even when the number of Christians out number the Muslims? How many Northerners and Muslims stood by General Muhammadu Buhari in the last Presidential elections? Was General Buhari’s ambition, not shuttled for fear of economic interest which cut across religious barriers rather than religion?.
It is high time we collectively part with alarming emotional aspects and focus on points of egalitarianism. What is disturbing sometimes is when leaders of communities who are suppose to be neutral, take sides with conflicts either consciously or unconsciously. I respect the traditional institutions, be it cultural or religious based, being part and parcel of th e institution. When the North was embroiled with sectarian crisis courtesy of the misrule of some governors, it was the then traditional rulers who pushed for the establishment of an umbrella – The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) – to cater for the multifaceted socio-economic and political problem of the region through an in-house arrangement. I am a founding member of ACF and great strides had been recorded in diffusing suspicion amongst the diverse ethnic and religious contentions in the North. It is almost a clear-cut victory for the North. Traditional rulers were able to win peoples’ confidence, bearing in mind that a traditional ruler is suppose to command respect by showing fairness to all this subjects – be they of same or different creed, because fairness they say is next to Godliness.
But when it was reported that some traditional rulers in the North met in Kaduna about maginalization (not under ACF this time), that Muslims are maginalised in the current National Conference and in some appointments (mind you, not Northerners). Others threatening fire and brimstone, I became lost. Infact, the appointment of Southern Muslim as a co-Secretary to Rev. Fr Mathew Kukah followed with jubilation from these quarters. Meaning the leaders is making a sham of the much talked about unity of the North, preferring a southern Muslim to a Northern Christian. What would be the same people’s reaction if some of us i.e. the so-called Hausa-Fulani Christians along with the so-called Middle-Belt minorities-who actually are the majority – made alliance with the predominantly Christian South-east or South-South or even South-West to openly show preference for an Igbo Christian or Yoruba Christian in the same Conference, as against a Northern Muslim? A betrayal? It is such open support for such interests that brings suspicion amongst the people of the North in recent times, the Northern locals both Christians and Muslims are so chicken hearted that they can be manipulated, let us not allow such manipulations to happen. It will save us the burden of time and efforts of another ritual at the International Trade Fair Complex in the name of another peacemaking.
For sure the grandiose crudesterism and opened outlets for people from the other parts masquerading through religious manipulation on both divides for political advantage of their region that has been the nemesis of North in recent times. How then do you blame the earlier balkanisers preferring to be referred to as Middle-Belt when we also are towing the same path? A case of everybody in Nigeria is corrupt and so I must be corrupt or what? Definitely, as opined earlier interest building in a refined manner opened hopes of progressiveness but crude ways offer comfort zones of resistance and sectionalized consciousness which is unhealthy in modern day political competition. Times, society and circumstances determines mood of systemic approach to leadership. What is adjudged healthy in the past must functionalise credible ideological commitment of the present in terms of peculiarities and painful aspect of polarization in order to carefully nurture psychological peace. Presently, in the North it is this peace that is required.
In the present context, politics and religion will have a divergence, in that politics is optional in consent but religion is mandatory in obligations. A naked show of religious card brings about political confrontations especially in a society like ours that is being factionalised by military dictatorships, more so, religion both by Christians and Muslims in North is treated as fulcrum of sacred sensitivities. But are we more religious than the South? One may ask, the answer is man does not judgeth a man but God is the only judge of man in this regard. If Northerners and Nigerians are so mindful of their religious beliefs they should rather register for Christian and Muslim political parties to propagate their beliefs in politics, but to over heat the policy unnecessarily is not only condemnable but also non-condonable. The history of marginalisation in the North and Nigeria is as old as the creation of Northern protectorate in 1956 and establishment of independent Nigeria as a country in 1966.
If the new advocates from the North are disenchanted with the leadership and the mode of operation of the Arewa Consultative Forum–being the forum to discuss issues affecting the North including marginalisation – they should be bold enough to voice it out but to indulge in hide and seek game (ala Obasanjo) is to say the least uncharitable. Infact, the infiltration of Southern feelings disguised as religious struggles had been the major source of fiction in the North. No doubt religious beliefs accommodate brotherhood irrespective of tribe but Nigerians use religion to achieve sectional political interest at the expense of collective religious interest. Until and unless the North prepares itself for nat ional contest through skillful in-house understandings, it should forget about the future. Primordial sentiments cannot be a rescue for competitive credential in the current global challenges.
Does God not state in explicit terms that equality of mankind is sacrosanct? Must we always have our ways even in abnormal situations? Is there a conspiracy that tends to be created or wants to be broken that agitated this spontaneous protest?. A rational protest in Nigeria today cuts across religious and ethnic barriers, it should be a protest against chaos of ethos, total collapse of our value systems and injustice at all levels instead the North should encourage and enforce the culture of hard work, honesty and dedication which is presently a lost value in the North thereby prompting up the high level of frustration amongst the local populace and the unparalleled state of poverty amongst the large segment of his people amidst the opulence of a few class. Let us not make a scapegoat of the situation but rather create room for a discernable departure. Traditional rulers are not partisan politicians neither are partisan politicians, traditional rule rs and hence, the two should not meet at a market square to discuss national problems, especially when it affects the sensitivities of a fragile society like the North of today.
- Mamza is a Political Columnist with the Leadership Newspapers.