Ethnic and religious bigotry are Arewa’s fatal challenges. With the forces of balkanisation screaming louder, are we learning any lessons? How do we face uncertainty if we are divided against ourselves? We have been fighting ourselves like Kilkenny Cats on account of ethnic and religious intolerance. As a result, our unity is now bound by a rope of sand! If you accused Obasanjo and Jonathan of exploiting the weaknesses of a divided North for political advantages, shouldn’t we blame ourselves instead for creating that opportunity?
The politicians have done more damage to our unity than you can readily admit. The military demonstrated more unifying tendencies than the so-called democratically elected civilians. Former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau was branded “wakilin arna”(agent of infidels or unbelievers) because he was appointed a Minister by former President Jonathan. With this kind of careless and contemptuous language towards the so-called “arna”, why shouldn’t the Christian minorities of Northern Nigeria identify with Jonathan?
We must tell ourselves the unpalatable truth. My colleague the late Abdul Rauf, who was a reporter with The Triumph Newspaper, was almost killed by a riotous religious mob in Kano. He was asked to identify himself, and he said he was a Muslim from Kogi State. One of the mob members, spotting his Igala tribal marks, shouted, “karya ne, ba Musulmi bane” (he is lying, he is not a Muslim). Mercifully, as the mobs were deciding his fate, heavily armed soldiers arrived at the scene to save his life.
When Victor Malu(Benue) and Ibrahim Ogohi(Kogi) were appointed Service Chiefs by former President Obasanjo, the late Alhaji Wada Nas condemned Obasanjo for marginalising Northerners in key military appointments. Obasanjo reacted and said, “I used to think the North is one.” Despite being a Muslim, we didn’t see Ogohi as one us.
Instances cited above reflect the dangerous divisions and distrust in Northern Nigeria today. If the Hausa/Fulani don’t identify with the minorities of the North, they won’t identify with us either. Michael Audu Buba, Jolly Tanko Yusuf, Sunday Awoniyi, Solomon Lar and other Christian leaders were very close to Sardauna Ahmadu Bello and they held him in the highest esteem because, under his leadership, nobody suffered discrimination on account of their religion or ethnicity. He appointed Professor Ishaya Audu, a Christian, as the first indigenous Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. When you treat people justly, they can fight and die for you.
Arewa today is not the Arewa of Sardauna’s dream. You can’t build and sustain unity without justice. Today, the majority Hausa/Fulani and the minority Christians feel it is their duty to oppose each other’s interests instead of helping to strengthen each other. In 2009, Professor Andrew Nok scored the highest marks to qualify him to become the ABU Vice Chancellor. But the process of his appointment was infected by potentially dangerous narrow minded politics, the kind that wilfully killed merit in favour of selfishness. Some subterranean forces ganged up to oppose Nok’s appointment. Embarrassed by the development, the then Chairman of the ABU Governing Council, Malam Adamu Ciroma, chose to resign rather than associate himself with the plot to frustrate Professor Nok’s appointment. I blame the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration for lacking the political will and courage to do the right thing in respect of Nok. The ABU is a Federal University after all.
We have abandoned Sardauna’s philosophy of One North, One Family. Under Sardauna, the Nok issue wouldn’t have arisen because the most qualified person would have been given the job. How can we build unity by undermining each other or one another? In Plateau State, former Governor Jang made it his duty to oppose the emergence of any Hausa/Fulani man as Chairman of the Jos North Local Government Council. He used the so-called Independent State Electoral Commission to frustrate any Hausa/Fulani man from becoming Chairman. He consequently, plunged Plateau State into a needless ethnic and religious crises. Since 2008, the relative peace and stability of Plateau State have been shattered on account of intolerance. Sadly, all these crises are fed by unprincipled politicians who don’t care to use emotive factors like religion and ethnicity to gain power, influence and relevance.