The Broken Calabash of the North
The Jos crisis and its dimension have punctured the legal fiction often referred to as ‘One North’ in Nigeria. The idea that the North is one big united and indivisible family with a common identity, shared beliefs and single collective future is not only patently fallacious but is based on a dangerous hypocrisy and make-believe by only a few who are the benefactors of this myth. The one big family (the North) if it ever existed at all, is now a divided house; a broken calabash that cannot be repaired.
It is a delusion that would not go away because it suits the interests of both the Muslim North and their deluded counterparts in the Middle Belt who are obsessed with enhancing their bargaining clout within Nigeria’s competitive ethno-regionalism. In reality, it is a dude cheque in political terms; a marriage of convenience that died a long time ago, even though the couple are still going through the motions and self belief that their marriage is still holding. It is crucially important that we come to terms with the honest truth; recognizing our differences and learning how we might live side-by-side in mutual respect and tolerance.
The Muslim North has a heritage rooted in the traditions of Jihad and the Caliphate. The Christian Middle Belt has an identity anchored on Christianity and resistance. The peoples of the Middle Belt are what they are today because they were never conquered by Jihad and never subscribed to enslavement by the Caliphate and its feudal powers. The fact that we all speak the Hausa language is neither here nor there. According to the Muslim narrative, Northerners are the heirs to an illustrious heritage rooted in Jihad and the Caliphate.
They belong to a global Muslim Ummah in which the Nigerian branch is one of the largest on the African continent. They have had a tradition of learning and rulership that is probably unequalled in the annals of the Western Sudan. The British colonialists subjugated the North in a manner that benefitted Christians and Western imperialist interests, blocking the southward march of Islam. In the light of the global Islamic resurgence, the traditions of Jihad have to be reinvented to meet the needs of the twenty-first century.
Western secularism and materialism have shown themselves to be highly discredited. Muslims have had to be vigilant in defending their honour and their values from assault by Western imperialism as represented by the twin evils of Zionism and American neoconservative reaction. Muslims must assert their identity wherever they are. Believing themselves to constitute an overall numerical majority in Nigeria, they do not see why they should not have a free hand to remake the country in their own image after their own thoughts, ideology and way of life.
Muslims in Nigeria have always use political power as the trump card that they have to sustain them in political leadership and once in power, they must use that opportunity to defend the Northern Islamic interest, however defined. They see nothing amiss in dominating all strategic government positions from local, state and national levels. Equal status is not accorded Christians with their Muslim counterpart in far Northern States. Churches are barely tolerated and are seen as a menace.
Christian preaching is seen as a source of irritation or provocation. The Shari’a law is embraced by the Northern States as a counter to the growing missionary activity of the Church. The Almajiri system is nurtured as a potential army to be deployed when Christians need to be ‘taught a lesson’. And when the ‘lesson’ is being taught, the victim is expected to ‘turn the other cheek’ according to what their holy Book supposedly teaches. And if they choose to retaliate, it is ‘genocide’. In the Middle Belt, Christians see things differently.
They believe they have always endeavoured to live in harmony with their Muslim neighbours, although it is doubtful if the Muslims feel the same goodwill towards them. The persecution of Christians and the torching of churches has become an annual ritual in most northern states since the 1980s. Many of these attacks are random in character, mostly unexplained and unprovoked. Even more ominous is the fact that they often occur with the tacit knowledge if not connivance, of some of the most influential elements within the North and in the corridors of power. The Global Jihad
The Middle Belt has been at the receiving end of a long Global Jihad for years now. The Islamisation policies of Sardauna which were fiercely resisted by the Middle Belt States have continued to re-surface through various means and approaches employed by the Hausa/Fulani Jihadists. Even today, under the current democratic dispensation, army postings, police postings despite denials in certain quarters, are being reshaped in accordance with the whims and caprices of Northern hegemony. As I write this article, presently in Plateau State, 8 key police officers are Muslims i. ; Police Commissioner, Deputy Police Commissioner, ACP C. I. D, C. S. P. Admin, OC C. I. B, OC MOPOL, OC General Investigation, and STF Commander. One wonders why there will be such kind of postings in a predominantly Christian population and yet in Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Katsina, Sokoto etc such an opposite postings cannot take place. The questionable and controversial roles of people like the former Army Chief, General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau and Major-General Saleh Maina, Commanding Officer, 3 Division, on the Jos crisis leaves much to be desired.
When the outcry was loud, Major-General Saleh Maina had to be changed. While he served as the GOC of the 3rd Division Nigerian Army Jos, he was in full control of the Special Task Force whom was answerable to him on a daily basis. A new GOC who is a Christian was posted but he was short changed in his responsibilities by the outgoing GOC as the Special Task Force is removed from his desk and a Muslim Commander appointed to give them direction. This maneuvers show that something sinister is happening perpetrated by our so call big brothers from the North.
These Northern brothers have certainly shown themselves to be untrustworthy as far as the people of the Plateau and indeed the Middle Belt are concerned. If we were together as a non-divisible North, they would have protected the calamities being witnessed in Jos, Tafawa Balewa and Benue where gross killings have been perpetrated by Muslims of recent. It is also instructive that just before the outbreak of violence in Jos, a mysterious order came from Abuja transferring all Plateau State indigenes serving in the Nigerian Police Force out of the State.
With the benefit of hindsight, it has been gathered this was a malicious move to unleash terror on the Plateau people. The attempt to subjugate and humiliate the peoples of the Middle Belt is nothing new. Our northern Pharaohs had always ensured that the region was always marginalised in terms of location of industries, political appointments and development projects. When it comes to representation at the Federal centre, the Middle Belt region always plays second fiddle to the Muslim North in the scheme of things.
Today, you are unlikely to find anyone from the Middle Belt holding a senior cabinet position in any important department of government. Even when you find it, these are mere errand officers for the Pharoahs. This is in keeping faith with the clarion call by Sir Ahmadu Bello (The Sardauna of Sokoto) at Nigeria’s independence as quoted In the Parot Newspaper of 12 October 1960 when he said: “The new nation called Nigeria should be an Estate of our great grandfather Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power.
We use the Minorities in North as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future”. Northern leaders continue to pay lip-service to the ‘One North’ myth, but we know that their definition does not include us in the Middle Belt. Middle Belt leaders are largely to blame for pandering to this empty, nauseating charade. They have lost the vision bequeathed to us by such heroes as Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, Jolly Tanko Yusuf, Rev. David Lot and Patrick Dokotri.
And we have all but forgotten the arduous sacrifices they made so that our people would have a more dignified future. The Broken Calabash Looking at these events, clearly, the so called “one North” calabash is broken. Instead of trying to mend it, now is the time for the Middle Belt to look toward forging new and alternative strategic alliances that will respect and recognize our identity, strength and abilities. It is an act of foolishness, cowardice and immaturity to continue to persist in the illusion of ‘One North’ when we are getting absolutely nothing out of it.
The Middle Belt has enough manpower, land and natural resources to stand the test of time. With our rich and fertile soils, credible leaders and a persistent people, we have all it takes to have a separate identity other than the Northern mythology. What all this boils down to is that we must look elsewhere in seeking the explanatory variables for the persistence of violence and instability in the Middle Belt. We are led, inevitably, to the question of religion and Jihad. The Middle Belt people have borne more than their fair share of sacrifice to keep Nigeria together.
In peace as in war, there are few to equal the likes of Yakubu Gowon, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, Domkat Bali, Gibson Sanda Jallo and several others who fought to keep this nation together. Our people are known to be God-fearing, chivalrous, accommodating and patriotic. Those who have married our women have found them to be virtuous and hardworking. We are the heart of Nigeria. This country would not have continued to exist as a corporate entity were it not for the sacrifices made by the Middle Belt people. The antics of the Jihadists have been familiar to us since the days of the Sardauna.
Their trademark is deceit. Through the abuse of ‘geopolitical zoning’, they have ensured that whenever any opportunity arises for the North, it will always go to a Northern Muslim. Their definition of the North does not include us. While Christians are the majority in Nasarawa, Kaduna, Niger and Adamawa, they have never ruled those states except for fate that made Kaduna to be governed presently by a Christian. Because of their ‘success’ in subjugating our people, the Jihadists are frustrated that they cannot take over the Plateau or other Middle Belt States through their subtle plans, hence the resort to violence.
We are told in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart by Okonkwo that if a man defecates in your compound, the manly thing to do is to take a stick and break his head. If the Jihadists expect people to lie back and relax while they kill rape and maim our women and children, then they must think again. It’s over and cannot be tolerated. One thing that is clear from the continued scenario and hooliganism of the Hausa North is that the Islamic fascists do not cherish human life the way normal people do. While the Christian cherished love, they believe in violence and the rule of fear.
Force being the sole language they understand, we must be prepared to give as much as we receive. While the Federal Government which controls the police and the army seems compromised and a lackluster to defend our people in the Middle Belt, we are left with no option than to defend ourselves. And if disproportionate force is what is needed to dissuade the Jihadists, then disproportionate force it must be. We are no longer in doubt about how well we have read the enemy and understood his antics.
By now, we know how his mind works and how he operates – his terror antics, the mischief, the surprise nature of his life and tricks are all but clear to us. Of course, violence cannot be said to be the ultimate. The Bible urges us to seek peace and to pursue it. Muslims, too, are children of God. None of us enjoys taking the life of any child of God. But there is a time for war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3: 3, 5, 8). God the Son is a God of love; but the God of Joshua and Aaron is also a flaming fire. There comes a time when you must stop praying and act; when you must defend your family, your children, and your land.
Such, alas, are the times in which we live. The Jihadists always have somewhere else to go to; we have nowhere to go, hemmed in as we are in the geometrical centre of the Nigerian Federation. With all manner of imported arms and mercenaries arrayed against us, and with military chieftains who leave us in no doubt as to where they stand, it is Jehovah nissi alone that will defend us. And if some of us should fall, the Angel of the Lord will fight for us. Our children will rush forth to meet the enemy at the gates with horns and trumpets of victory.