By Kabiru Muhammed Gwangwazo
April is no doubt a very eventful month. It is the month that we had two significant anniversaries in Kano — that of Late Governor Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi and his PRP political leader, Late Malam Aminu Kano on the 4th and 17th of April respectively. Malam Aminu’s death was 35 years back, in 1983 while Rimi’s, they both bear repeating, was only eight years ago, in 2010.
April 22nd is the Anniversary of Major Gideon Gwarza Orkar’s madness. He happened on us on a Friday towards the end of the Muslim fast of Ramadan in 1990, the 26/27th of Ramadan that year. Gideon Orkar’s ordered us all from the core Muslim North to leave Nigeria and that if we wanted to ever return, we have to all line up behind the Sultan, then Dasuki, IBB’s godfather, to submissively and meekly beg him (Orkar) for re-entry.
For me, then a reporter/sub-editor, at The Triumph newsroom, a mini-Nigeria of a new hub, the unenlightened response to the Orkar lunacy by almost all of my non-Muslim colleagues, especially from the Middle-Belt and the Igbo East in particular was a painful eye opener. I understand, for IBB too it was an eye opener. It is IBB that most of us in the North blamed for being the gateway to that misadventure. But it was good for him as it forced him to finally move the Federal Capital to Abuja, a more central location for all parts to have a sense of belonging, and of course for his safety too.
The Orkar April date is thus another significant anniversary for us in Kano. It is also significant for the entire core Muslim North. It was on that April 22nd that the assumptions of a holistic and unified Northerm Nigeria finally and effectively came to an end. That was when that Northern unity was killed. IBB was obviously the main reason for that murder so gruesome. This is despite his being a principal beneficiary of the Monolithic North bequeathed us by the North’s Sardauna Ahmadu Bello, managed effectively and efficiently by our successive leaders.
In Sardauna’s days, despite the fact that there was such bitter and vicious political rivalry between Sardauna’s NPC and Aminu Kano’s NEPU, the two leaders maintained a commonality of interests keeping open regular lines of communication. That is a feat so ennobling by such fiercely antagonistic rivals, whenever they engaged in public. The one, fighting for the masses; the other, fighting for the establishment. Yet they still had a shared vision of and for the North, a United North for Northerners, first and foremost.
That was a practice common in all the three regions, during the period of that very loose federal structure we were contrived into. There was nothing wrong with it then or even now in the view of most enlightened northerners, should the situation warrant it. Politicians of the opposition from other regions of the Federation leveraging on the advantage they had of earlier contact with the European colonists and their clerically inclined education were never for a moment happy with a Monolithic North for the advantages its size and command of resources conferred on it.
Wherever they could, in the first republic, politicians from the East and those from the West tried their best to undermine Northern Unity. Attempts were made to draw in and use minority political parties and groups for the purpose. In particular, the NEPU, MBC and BYM. This was at the level of partisan politics. At other levels, especially after the overthrow of the elected First Republic civilian government of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa unduly orchestrated religious tensions were manipulated. A significant number of minority tribes in the North had adopted the Christian faith, and despite the prevalence of Christian leaders as heads of state, or may be even because of that, an unfair persecution syndrome was contrived for minority tribes, mainly Christians, by their elite for their personal benefits. Muslims in the North, especially unsophisticated clerics were drawn in to further the fake and unwarranted divisions.
For those of us, Muslims, who went to boarding secondary schools in the 1970s and university in the early and late 1980s, in the aftermath of General Yakubu Gowon’s “No victor, No vanquished” civil war, our closest pals were preponderantly Christian. In fact, differences on the basis of faith were a non-issue. particularly for us, Muslims, even if the more aware amongst us, may have begun to notice the revving up of “scripture unions” and Sunday Classes by the more fanatical of our Christian friends, mainly of the Northern minority tribes.
The Southern Christians, even the Igbos were not so faith-conscious. Of course for Muslims we have our regular five daily prayers as boarders. But sincerely, most youth of those days were not so scrupulous about timeliness and the massive public show of religion we now have as Muslims. And it is good we have it, as it is in full conformity with the Faith and the conditioning for doing good and establishing good neighbourly relations that is the basis of the Islamic Faith. In the days past, only a negligible few of us were into the muslim students society, MSS in our secondary school days, and so were we into all sorts of school and campus clubs and activities so as not be left out by our peers.