By Ochereome Nnanna
LAST week Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, was engaged in an interesting exchange with the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, the self-styled Chief Servant of Niger State. Maku accused the Arewa governors of “not doing enough” in the effort to bring the Islamic insurgency being championed by Boko Haram to an end.
In a sharp repartee, Muazu said Maku was being “uncharitable”, adding that no governor would like his domain to be turned into a theatre of attacks, mass killings, abductions and destruction of schools, an experience that Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kassim Shettima in particular, is going through on a daily basis.
Yes, you could say Maku was engaging in the blame-shifting tactics that the Federal Government and the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have resorted to as the Boko Haram atrocities expand both in intensity and scope of devilry.
You must have noticed the PDP’s tendency to accuse the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its chieftains of supporting Boko Haram, even though no one (apart from Senators Ali Ndume and Khalifa Ahmed Zanna) has been picked up for trial. Former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nasir El Rufai, recently dragged PDP to court with huge financial claims for accusing him of having links with the terrorists, a very commendable step.
We are now waiting for the PDP to tender its evidence and get El Rufai convicted for the alleged offence. Otherwise, it will be clear to all that they are using spurious accusations of their political opponents to obfuscate a very serious security issue rather than tackling it as the ruling party.
When Dr. Oby Ezekwesili led the #Bring Back Our Girls protest to Aso Villa last week, the President sent a team led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, to intercept them at the gates of the Villa and receive their message.
The Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Ms. Olajumoke Akinjide, who acted as the federal government’s spokesperson, urged the protesters to direct their angst at Boko Haram, the perpetrators of the evil, and not the federal government that is “doing everything” to combat them. She forgot that we did not give our votes to Boko Haram.
We gave our votes to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to assume the enormous powers of the President of Nigeria and protect us from our predatory enemies, such as Boko Haram. He swore on the Constitution to do so. So, we have the right to ask him to live up to his pledge and duty. He must lead the effort to secure the release of those abducted Chibok girls and crush Boko Haram or he will not be able to come to us for another vote. We do not care how he intends to do it. Let him just do it.
Still, this does not, in any way subtract from the truth in what Maku said. In fact, he was being diplomatic in describing the irresponsible behaviour of Northern governors and a large chunk of northern leaders, particularly those who subscribe to the unpatriotic activities of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF).
When you examine some of the activities of the governors and leaders of Arewa, you will reach the conclusion that they are determined to destroy the north politically, economically and socially, even though they rowdily posture as the champions of northern interests.
It is these people who, through their myopic and discriminatory policies and measures, have driven the wedge of division between the Christians and Muslims, the Hausa-Fulani and the various Minority communities in the north. In total defiance of the constitution, they have elevated Islam to the status of state religion, investing billions in Islamic education that has limited scope in creating a future for the youth. No similar attention is paid to Christians. In fact, they carry on as if the Christians do not exist in the North.
The correct thing should have been to provide sound Western education for both Christians and Muslims while creating a fertile environment for individuals to pursue religious or spiritual knowledge according to their needs without government wasting valuable public funds dabbling into the private religious affairs of people. They feed the opium of religion to the Muslims, some of whom turn around to use it against society.
That is why religion is the greatest demon bedeviling the north, giving it little room for development and accounting for almost unbroken, steamrolling violence.
Nigeria is not the only country where Islam is practised. In the whole of Africa, it is only in Nigeria and Sudan that Islam is deployed by a dominant tribe (Hausa/Fulani and Arabs) mainly as tool for the imperial subjugation of others. Many countries in West Africa, such as Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso and Gambia are dominated by Muslim majority populations.
There are also substantial Muslim presences in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria is the only country in the sub-region where, because of the negative orientation of northern leaders Islam has been made a major precursor for national instability.
I emphasise the north because Islam is also widely practiced in Yorubaland, and yet they coexist with people of other faiths. Muslims are part and parcel of factors that make Western Nigeria a major front for stability and development in Nigeria, which makes it attractive for other Nigerians to go there in search of economic fulfillment. The North would have commanded a similar attraction had its leaders not used religion negatively to poison the north and the rest of the country.
What makes religion such a fatal contagion in the North is the in-built “born-to-rule”, imperialist mentality that Arewa leaders have nursed from their cradle. This had its watershed in history, particularly the making of the Sokoto Caliphate and also the subsequent undue advantages granted the region’s ruling class by the departing British colonial masters.
It gave some of these northern leaders the mistaken notion that Nigeria is a colony of Arewa. How can Nigeria be a colony of Arewa or any other section of Nigeria when the country fought and won her independence in 1960, nearly sixty years ago? How can Nigerians win independence from Britain only to surrender and become indentured subjects of local colonisers?
It was only tolerated when Nigerians did not know about the conspiracy between the colonialists and those they handed over power to. Now, everybody’s eyes are open and watchful.
That negative mentality accounted for the fight by some northern governors and leaders to grab the presidency from Dr. Goodluck Jonathan by all means fair and foul. Some of them withdrew from the PDP and went to the APC in an attempt to weaken Jonathan.
Boko Haram actually started as an expensive experiment by politicians, especially governors, in using religion to fight their political battles. Some of the governors and wealthy individuals have been funneling money to Boko Haram, either to safeguard themselves, families and interests or as part of the conspiracy to upstage Jonathan and snatch power back.
They pussyfoot behind the scenes, while the noisier ACF acts as the public defenders of the interests of Boko Haram to spite Jonathan while the north is annihilating itself.
One thing is clear, though. The game is out of the hands of those who started it. Boko Haram is no longer in the control of local jihadists. It has become part of an international coalition of the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Even if Jonathan comes down in 2015 and an Arewa man becomes president, he will still have this monster to face.
It is better for an Arewa man to become president of Nigeria through the consent of majority of Nigerians rather than a “snatch”, which won’t work, anyway. We have no other choice than to work together as Nigerians to bring back our girls and crush Boko Haram. If we are not together we will continue to fail. None of those sneaking around in the background like thieves in the night will get what they are hoping for. No one will emerge as president of Nigeria through sabotage.