Akinlade in this third edition of the discourse, blames the persistence of conflicts in the north on government’s failure to ensure orderliness, security and welfare of the people
THE implication of the above scenario is that Easterners who are Christians came to be seen as enemies of the Hausa/Fulani race because they executed the first coup that killed prominent Northern political and military chiefs.
In 1975, the coup that banished Yakubu Gowon government was plotted by Hausa Muslims, while Murtala Muhammed was assassinated by Sukar Bukar Dimka, a Christian from the minority group in the North.
This fractured the relationship between Hausa/Fulani and Northern minority, considering the fact that, Gowon was a Christian and Murtala Muhammed was a Muslim. The North again, resorted to the pre-Ahmadu Bello unification of the North era. It is now understood, why conflicts in the North take tribal and religious colourations. Hence, Hausa/Fulani versus northern minority/southerners.
Today, Northern Nigeria especially states with multi-ethnic colourations are vulnerable than any other region in the country, for the above reasons.
Nature of conflicts in Northern Nigeria in 13 years of civil rule: The nature of hostilities that have consumed invaluable lives in Northern Nigeria since 1999 can best be understood when classified, as they were induced by the following:
•State: These conflicts are functions of actions or inactions of government and its agents. The inaction of government for instance has made poverty to ravage the land. The people in turn, visit their frustration on innocent citizens, who are also victims of socio-economic injustice.
The millions of “almajiris” in the North find violence profitable as it provides avenue for looting of people’s property. In fact, the protracted conflicts in Jos, Plateau State, are a product of the division of Jos into the Jos North and Jos South local government councils by Babangida led government. Indigenes opposed it, settlers, Hausas favoured it.
The escalation of crisis in Yelwa Shendam in 2004 was blamed on Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye by President Obaasanjo as the governor took to international travel while his state boiled. Also, the purported rigging of election in Jos North by the State Government, led by Jonah Jang, precipitated the December 2008 upheaval in the state, where violent conflict is now protracted.
•Community: In this case, “people of different communities and in most cases with inseparable boundaries, due to proximity are pitched against one another” on issues like ownership of land, location of government project, chieftaincy matters and political benefits, especially “our turn syndrome” as well as ethnic rivalry. The conflicts in Kaduna especially Kafanchan were partly over traditional rulership.
As Maier aptly observes “another source of tension has been the long-standing demand by the Christian minorities to be ruled by their own chiefs instead of the Muslim emir”. The heinous violence that followed the 2011 Presidential election in most Northern states in Nigeria was predicated on the view that, the north ought to produce the occupant of the seat of President till 2015. Equally, indigenes/settlers crises in Plateau State are better understood within communal context.
•Religion: This refers to conflicts that have religious undertone. Actually, most of the conflicts in the North may not strictly qualify as religious as popularized by the press. Most of the crises are tribal but the various ethnic groups belong to different religious groups as stated earlier. Meanwhile, an example of religiously motivated crisis was the impasse over the planned introduction of Sharia in Kano, Kaduna and Bauchi in 1999/2000. Unfortunately, there was no crisis in Zamfara, where it was first introduced in 1999. Activities of Boko Haram, which is the gist of the moment, also deserve a mention.
Little was known about the group before 2009, when they struck hard on Police stations in Maiduguri Borno State. Although, they came under heavy military fire of the Federal Government under late President Musa Yar’Adua, as a large number of them including their purported leader Muhammed Yusuf was captured alive, were summarily murdered. It was in 2010 that, they re-appeared stronger, more dangerous and determined on the scene as they hardly fail to make headline in the news.
Army barrack, Police headquarters and United Nations building all in Abuja were visited with horror. Also, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Kano, Gombe, Kaduna, Plateau and Taraba States have so far experienced their abyss as they attacked markets, churches, mosques, relaxation centres and other public gatherings.
The group which allegedly worked for Ali-Modu Sheriff for the 2007 Governorship election before they fell out of favour preaches restraint from Western ideas including education as source of corruption and advocate the introduction of Sharia in the north, as an instrument of social justice and social reform.
Retaliatory or reaction: This refers to those conflicts that are in response to the killing of the kinsmen of the Hausas/Fulanis, in other regions as well as those propelled by the Fulanis over the killing of their cattle by those whose farm land were destroyed by their cattle, while looking for grazing land.
In fact, this is the main cause of violent conflicts involving the Fulani race and this has been the case in Benue, Nasarawa and recently between the Gwari and Fulani in Abuja. Reprisal attacks are common in Kano and Plateau states, by both Hausa/Fulani and minority groups.
Why conflicts persist in the North?
The persistence of conflicts in Northern Nigeria along ethno-religious, communal and political lines, which have been responsible for past conflicts despite the acknowledgement of armed conflict as a cog in the wheel of development and progress of the region and the country at large has continued to alarm the minds of patriots. The following are some of the reasons for the continuous surface of such conflicts:
Governmental Failure: Obviously, the persistency of conflicts in the north implies that government has failed in its duty of ensuring orderliness, “security and welfare of the people” (Federal Government Nigeria, 1999) which the constitution said shall be the primary responsibility of the government. The federal and state levels of government have not been proactive enough in their bid to nipping the scourge in the board.
Regrettably, accusing fingers are sometimes pointed at government, thereby putting pressure on its neutrality. The obvious cause of conflict from North-West, North-Central and North-East, is joblessness on the part of the youth. Rather that address this trend, more workers are retrenched as seen in textile industries, banks and some privatized companies.
If northern Nigeria must know peace, the scourge of “almajiri” must be addressed. At this point, a bit of understanding of “almajiri” is necessary.
“Almajiri” are male children that find their means of sustenance at the mercy of people. They have no hope of the next meal and they have no access to good clothe including foot wear and shelter as well as parental care. They are kept with Mallam (Muslim scholar) who in most cases find it difficult to feed his family.
They are kept with the mallam as early as four years in some cases, while their peasant parents mostly go back to their states and hardly come to check the progress of such children.
The Mallam, who is constrained by economic tsunami gives plates to the children in the morning after little teaching of the Qur’an to go beg for alms from which they will feed. The practice continues for as long as possible.