By Muyiwa Adetiba
The Northerners in my estate on the Lagos Island have not changed their lifestyle to the best of my knowledge. The late comers among them have not started coming in early out of fear. Neither have the early birds waited for the sun to rise before venturing out. Those who wear hijab still do so without pretensions. Those who wear trendy Western or native wear have not had cause to alter their apparel. The Muslims among them join other Muslim faithful around the neighbourhood to worship on Fridays. Those who attend my church as Christians have not stopped coming either. More importantly, I have not seen their eyes darting furtively in fear as they move around. I have not seen armed escorts around them. They are as free or as tense as the rest of us. The Northerners who sell fruits in carts have no fear of anybody except the local Government officials who constantly worry them.
Now to the Mainland. The Northerners around my office in Oregun have not started hiding themselves in fear. They lounge and loiter around as they have always done in their search for the quick buck. Those who engage in subsistent farming in the marshy areas on my way to work have not fled. I still see them watering their vegetable beds in broad daylight. The beggars are not cowing in fear as they approach you for alms. Instead they are more brazen, and it’s not from fear or hatred but from desperation and hunger. The white collar ones have not resigned or fled their offices. I have also not heard of anybody being stopped from his daily chores let alone killed just for being a Northerner. Lagos is in the South. Infact, Lagos symbolises the ethnic tolerance of the Yoruba people. As it is in Lagos, so it is in inner parts of the Yoruba nation to the best of my knowledge.
So when I hear some top Northern leaders, people as high up as Governors and Senators say the killing of Northerners in the South or specifically in Yorubaland must be stopped immediately, I wonder which South, which Yorubaland? If the cry of ‘foul’ should be made at all, it should be the other way round. It is the Southerners who have had their peace disturbed by some Northern ‘visitors’ – and I use the word ‘some’ deliberately. For example, I cannot go as I like to visit my old folks at Ilesha for fear of being attacked on the way. Like I said in an earlier article, I believe the fears are exaggerated. People travel hinterland everyday unscathed. But the odds of being attacked have grown if we want to face facts. They must be reduced if not completely removed. And like I said in another article, I do not believe the bandits are exclusively Fulani herdsmen. Many of those pointing accusing fingers at Fulani herdsmen are generalising and have become a part of the problem. They would not recognise Fulfude even if it was spoken to them. But the bandits are there and they must be neutralised. They are not all native to the land.
The point is that bandits operate from the bushes. Herdsmen live mainly in the bushes. Both are staying there illegally at the discretion of the relevant authorities. One has infiltrated the other. We are at a point when their continued stay is no longer benign. In fact, it has become extremely dangerous to the wellbeing of other settlers. They have to be flushed out and the wheat separated from the chaff. To ascribe that to ethnic cleansing is disingenuous. It is shameful. It is unworthy of anyone who calls himself a leader.Unless it is a tacit admission from ‘these leaders’that the ‘troublers of Israel’ are all from a particular ethnic stock. The Governor of Zamfara State should know better. His State is ravaged by bandits. The Senator in Katsina State should know better. His State is ravaged by bandits. If they do not see ethnic cleansing in the attempt to rid their States of banditry, why should they see it elsewhere? This attempt to sectionalise or ethnicisecrime by either the North or the South is unhelpful. In fact it is injurious to the health of the nation. Crime must be separated from tribe, or region or religion. Nobody steals or kidnaps for tribe. Mostly for self. Nobody kills for God. Only for the devil. And anybody who defends these people because of tribe or religion is an accomplice to crime. Period. We should stop finding political or religious solutions to serious crimes like murder or terrorism.
The country is full of tribal noises from those who should be preaching unity. Everybody is busy demonising the other without realising that the demons are within. The lawlessness in Imo State did not come from the Fulani this time. The lawlessness at the PDP Congress in the North-Westdid not come from outside. Neither was the one from South-West from outside. The earlier we decided to collectively fight crime and corruption irrespective of tribe or personality, the better for us all.
Speaking of sectional leaders, some Northern leaders came out recently in support of restructuring but put a caveat to Presidential zoning. To start with, I don’t know why they made their support for restructuring look like a concession unless they admit to benefiting from the current warped system. The country has to restructure at some point anyway or disintegrate because the present system has proved unsustainable. That point has become more imminent than we think by the non-inclusive policies of the present administration. And we should still hold our breath until we see what is being restructured. The goal is to make every zone if not State develop at its own pace within its own resources. The goal is to encourage competition and co-operation among States. The goal is to cut the Federal Government to size and reduce the weight of a dysfunctional behemoth on the shoulders of our country. The goal is to have an inclusive Federal arrangement that is truly representative. This is where the idea of Federal Character comes in. This is where the idea of zoning comes in. It should soon become obvious to those who want to stop zoning or Federal Character in a polity as diverse as Nigeria that it is not a wise idea. Even Regions and States have to zone political and administrative positions within their constituencies for equity and inclusiveness.Zoning must not be confused with mediocrity as zoning and competence are not mutually exclusive. Sectionalism and ethnicity would have to go first before zoning can go. To do otherwise in the present climate is to seek to dominate and perpetuate ruler-ship by a region or an ethnic group.It is a recipe for trouble as no free born anywhere in the world would take that for too long.