An Editorial And The Untold Burdens Of The Core North

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BY CHRIS GYANG

Will they keep on desperately clinging to power even as it continues to be a blight on them? Will it not eternally signpost their hankering after raw political power, undiluted by the profound essences of responsibility, the milk of human kindness, honour, good character and conscience, equity, integrity and sacrifice?

Unlike the Daily Trust newspapers, the core north’s political and religious elite and their accomplices in the Middle Belt and other parts of Nigeria, we shall not gloat, white wash or side-step essential truths about the shedding of the blood of innocent Nigerians based on primordial ethnic and religious sentiments. The lives of all human beings matter to us – Muslims and arna (infidels) alike.

In a recent article, the iconic Dan Agbese focused on the belief among the Hausa/Fulani that politics is the main industry in northern Nigeria. He quoted the late Yusuf Maitama Sule to highlight this point: “The northerners are endowed… with leadership qualities. The Yoruba man knows how to earn a living and has diplomatic qualities. The Igbo is gifted in commerce, trade… God so created us individually for a purpose. Others are created as kings, servants. We all need each other. If there are no followers, a king will not exist.”

Mr. Agbese explained that the statement was “an attempt to promote the right of the north, for which read, Hausa/Fulani, to rule….” Now, for the sake of clarity, see what Justice Niki Tobi said about the ‘Hausa/Fulani’ nomenclature: “The expression Hausa-Fulani is a double barrel coinage of relatively recent history, a nomenclature aimed essentially at achieving political, economic and religious ambition and relevance. The expression Hausa/Fulani in our view does not have any historical, cultural and even ancestral meaning or relevance. There is no tribe in Nigeria called Hausa-Fulani and the expression has no background in the culture and sociology of the two distinct Nigerian tribes.”

The ace journalist argued that this notion of the right to rule “has sat on the psyche of the north for so long that it has gradually acquired something close to divine imprimatur.” He, however, pointed out that this industry is “… nurtured by a warped psyche and sustained by a political engineering that has put the north at the head but left it hollow.” This is because, “Power, political power, matters to the north because it is the only thing that matters.”

Of course it is this mind-set that inspired Hakeem Baba-Ahmed of the Arewa Consultative Forum to make this provocative declaration in October 2021: “We will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before, whether we are president or vice president, we will lead Nigeria…. Why should we accept second class position when we know we can buy form and contest for first class and we will win….”

Does Baba-Ahmed’s ‘second class … first class’ postulation here have any parallels with the legendary Maitama Sule’s theory of ‘kings… servants… followers’? Both men, scions of the core north’s political establishment, believe that their region possesses the God-given right to eternally rule Nigeria (as first class citizens and kings) even at the expense of the rest of us (the second class citizens, servants and followers).

But Agbese asked the fundamental question that is always anathema to the core north’s political and religious elite: “what has the north done with [the] power?” This is one of the issues the Daily Trust newspaper editorial of December 12, 2021, deliberately failed to address. This is because the tabloid has been at the forefront of inspiring, espousing and disseminating the ideals of the core north’s dominant elites which it serves as a mouthpiece.

These elites have dominated political power for most of Nigeria’s post-independence period but used it mainly for their own selfish aims while the majority of the people have been left to wallow in abject poverty and want. It is this parlous state of affairs that is partly responsible for the kind of violence being experienced in most of Nigeria’s North Western today.

Hear Mr. Agbese: “… politics as a northern industry is a failed industry…. It offers seasonal employment to young men as political thugs in election seasons. When the elections are over, the job ends and young men find themselves right back where they were until another election season rolls by.”

It is also worthy of note that some of these young men the politicians had recruited as political thugs and under-aged voters have become today’s dare devil bandits, kidnappers, rapists, terrorists and vagabonds making life a living hell for the poor masses of the core north who have themselves been at the receiving end of their politicians’ greed since independence.

However, it must be pointed out that because it has failed woefully in the core north does not make politics an entirely repulsive venture. As Bishop Kukah explained, “The banditry going on in Nigeria is a sin against the nobility of politics as a vocation.” And as Agbese so poignantly pointed out above, it is the attitude and character of the northern politician that has made politics so disastrous to the geographical north.

Nevertheless, some northern youth, under the umbrella of the Arewa Concerned Civil Society Organisations of Nigeria, appear to have realised the futility continually clinging to political power. In a statement issued on December 10, 2021, the organisation regretted that both the current and past leaders from the region “have failed to meet up with the expectations of our people, and have continued to betray our trust, confidence, and respect for them.”

They proposed that the next president should come from those other parts of the country that have not occupied the office in the past “to further promote fairness, equity, unity or oneness of the country.”

“Our Northern region today has been reduced to a human abattoir, to say the least, where all communities have been converted to a mass grave due to the failure of government at all levels,” they declaimed.

But in the core north, which is still largely feudal in character, it is the religious and political elite that always have the final say on such critical political matters. Consequently, these voices calling for power shift may as well have no effect in the final analysis. In any case, critics say that these youth may only be blowing hot air as they have shown a penchant towards conservatism over the years just like their forebears. Their response to the popular youth movement, #EndSARS, which they massively boycotted, is a case in point.

But as it has become a matter of policy for Daily Trust and the core northern power elite, killings carried out by Fulani herdsmen in the same Kaduna State were deliberately omitted from that editorial simply because the victims have mainly been Christians of Southern Kaduna origin. As a matter of fact, almost within the same period the editorial focused on, 36 people were massacred at Ma-Doo, in Mabushi Chiefdom, by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

Soon after, Rev. Silas Ali of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), was murdered about a kilometre from Zango town by people suspected to be Hausa-Fulani settlers of Zangon Kataf. Sources said that, between November 4 and 12, 2021, about 26 people were killed in cold blood in nine different villages across Atyap Chiefdom.

And on the same December 6, 2021, when 23 commercial bus passengers were burnt in broad day light at Sabon Birni Sokoto State, 3 people were killed and several houses set on fire by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Chibwok village. On the whole, within a couple of months, not less than 59 people were brutally murdered by suspected Fulani herdsmen in these areas alone. Even these are just a tip of the iceberg as Southern Kaduna has consistently been under siege from armed Fulani herdsmen which both the Kaduna State Government and the Buhari administration have chosen to ignore for obvious reasons.

But these spates of orgiastic mayhem did not just start in 2021. On December 24 and 25 2016, Fulani herdsmen attacked and destroyed Goska village in Kaninkon Kingdom of Southern Kaduna during which about a hundred locals were massacred and many others maimed and wounded. This heinous crime took place when a 24-hour curfew imposed by the state government was in force.

Now, back to 2021, on July 13, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU, spokesman, Luka Binniyat, disclosed in a statement that “in the past 6 days, at least 33 Atyap natives of Zangon Kataf Area were massacred, 4 churches burnt and 215 homes burnt by assailants always identified as armed herdsmen in a genocidal campaign that became so intensive since 2016.”

DAILY POST reported that SOKAPU condemned what it described as “this wicked act and the complicit silence and inaction of government from taking steps to bring the perpetrators and their leaders to justice.”

According to the online publication, the Atyap people had consistently accused the Hausa settlers of the Zangon Kataf semi urban town of “harbouring killer herdsmen, lamenting that, yet, no authority has done anything about it.”

Corroborating this, a Hausa Christians’ organisation recently made this declaration, to which we shall return later: “When lives and property were killed and destroyed in different communities in Plateau State, Benue and Southern Kaduna, many Northern Muslims and their leaders rejoiced publicly. The life of a Fulani terrorist is considered more valuable and sacred than the life of any saint anywhere in Northern Nigeria. The government of the day and the leadership of the Fulani Miyetti Allah have sponsored so much propaganda, both locally and internationally, to support the killing spree of the Fulani terrorists.”

That is why the Daily Trust editorial did not find it morally and professionally right to mention these atrocities being committed against the Christian minorities of Southern Kaduna and elsewhere in Nigeria’s geographical north. Yet it accused Mr. Buhari, whose nepotism, tribalism and religious bigotry (some of the underlying causes of the current state of lawlessness sweeping across the country) they have propped since he became president in 2015, of not showing enough emotional response for “the unending recurrence of … gruesome attacks, and the helplessness and haplessness of the [north west] victims….” What hypocrisy! What is the difference between the attitude of the Buhari administration and that of the Daily Trust regarding such matters?

It is the double standards of the Buhari administration that makes many Nigerians feel that his government is not totally committed to fighting jihadi insurgency and other forms of violence that have become bugbears to the country. This is because, first, some of its key officials and closest religious allies have been known to openly support extremist Islamist views that tend towards terrorism. Second, Mr. Buhari’s government has refused to expose the sponsors and supporters of terrorism in the country despite the fact that it has confirmed that it knows such persons/organisations. But it did not take the administration any dithering to declare IPOB a terrorist organisation and deployed its massive financial, intelligence, diplomatic and military might in arresting Nnamdi Kanu and seeking the extradition of Sunday Igboho from Benin Republic to Nigeria.

It is this same Daily Trust that came out with the screaming banner headline – IRIGWE YOUTHS KILL 25 FULANI TRAVELERS IN JOS, OVER 50 MISSING – on August 15, 2021, when in fact, as it later turned out, these youth were not responsible for that incident. On December 4, 2021, three Plateau State ethnic nationalities wrote an SOS petition to the governor in which they revealed that not less than 102 communities in the state had been sacked and were being forcibly occupied by armed Fulani herdsmen. They appealed to the state government to “immediately issue evacuation orders to all illegal occupiers and users of land, dams, ponds, streams, homes and other properties in all the affected communities.”

Yet, Daily Trust has hardly conceded the fact that Fulani herdsmen have been committing atrocities all over Plateau State and other parts of the Middle Belt. The closest they ever come to accepting this fact is when they resort to that calculated, deceptive, narrative of describing this genocide against indigenous peoples as ‘herder/farmer clashes’.

Surprisingly, the newspaper was miffed that the President did not deem it fit to personally condole with the victims of the attacks but chose to be “in attendance at a book launch of a party chieftain in Lagos,” in South West Nigeria. Of course, President Buhari must suddenly develop compassion towards the victims in the core north because, as the editorial argued many times, he was “voted en masse five times by the same populace.”

Even when Buhari has consistently shown an abiding lack of concern, disdain, for victims of such attacks in other parts of the country in the past, he must now “genuinely demonstrate that he feels the silent anguish of hundreds of communities and thousands of citizens everywhere across the north and the country at large….”

On the night of March 7, 2018, the same president was in Jos after a two-day official visit when innocent citizens were killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Bokkos and Bassa LGAs. The next day he flew out of Jos, the Plateau State capital, without he or his host, Governor Lalong, saying anything about the murders. Is Daily Trust only beginning to realise that this oftentimes aloof leader hardly shows compassion, empathy for the sufferings of Nigerians? You say he contested for the presidency a record four times. But was this persistence borne out of a genuine desire to make sacrifices for the general good of Nigerians or to simply prove the point that he could actually become president, against all odds?

Furthermore, this perception that Mr. Buhari must show compassion towards his fellow Fulani/Muslims while doing otherwise to other Nigerians reinforces the belief that he is actually the ‘president of the core north’, minus other Nigerians.

On October 13, 2017, the then World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, made this revelation: “In my very first meeting with President Buhari, he said specifically that he would like us to shift our focus to the northern region of Nigeria and we’ve done that. Now, it has been very difficult. The work there has been very, very difficult.” Before that, Mr. Buhari had declared that most of his projects would go to the core north which gave him the largest chunk of the votes that won him the Presidency.

This nepotism has largely underscored the president’s policies with the active connivance of core northern institutions such as Daily Trust. Consider these three phrases which occured in three different parts of that editorial: “…citizens everywhere across the north and country at large… and elsewhere across mostly northern Nigeria… in the north or elsewhere in the country….”

These are the closest the editorial got to specifically referring to other parts of the country that have been ravaged by Fulani herdsmen’s attacks for quite some time now. In fact, Benue State has been one of the epicentres of this deliberate Fulani expansionism. They massacred 73 indigenes of Logo and Guma LGAs on January 1, 2018. This is only one case in point. These attacks have continued without the Buhari administration doing much to curb them.

Analysts have posited that the northern political establishment has consistently refused to sufficiently address the Fulani herdsmen’s scorched earth campaigns against indigenous/minority communities of Central Nigeria. And the fact that the 2015 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) rated Nigeria’s Fulani herdsmen as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world has not moved the Buhari administration into appropriately designating them a terrorist organisation.

As we have pointed out many times before, had the Buhari government and the northern power block, of which Daily Trust is an integral part, humanely and in all honesty addressed the monumental atrocities Fulani herdsmen have been inflicting on the indigenous peoples of Central Nigeria and other parts of the country, the mayhem currently unfolding in the core northern states would not have reached such a monumental scale. By allowing armed Fulani herdsmen have a field day in other parts of the country unabated, the core north was tacitly making violence a legitimate means of territorial and religious expansion, acquiring power and influence.

Unfortunately, this virus has now infected the core north itself in a most pernicious way. Sadly, it is innocent people who had hitherto borne the full brunt of the selfishness of the northern elite that are still at the receiving end here.

In the estimation of the newspaper, banditry in northern Nigeria is caused by “an amalgam of many complex issues, among them high levels of poverty and unemployment in the region, deeply entrenched feelings of past dispossession and exclusion, climate change, and above all, a near complete break-down of law and moral order in society.”

Although no mention of Fulani herdsmen’s attacks and the fact that the so-called bandits buffeting the core north are mainly Fulani Muslims (as has been confirmed several times by the Sultan of Sokoto and Governor Masari of Katsina State) one other critical cause of the problem was left out here by Daily Trust, again, by design.

Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah believes that religious persecution has been left to bloom in northern Nigeria for too long to such an extent that the impunity of the dominant religion has now boomeranged against itself. In a homily at the funeral mass of Seminarian Michael Nnadi, who was killed by kidnappers for his faith, held on February 11, 2020, he warned about the simmering violence that was about to explode and engulf the core north: “We are being told that this situation has nothing to do with religion? Really?

“Are we to believe that simply because Boko Haram kills Muslims too, they wear no religious garb? Are we to deny the evidence before us, of kidnappers separating Muslims from infidels or compelling Christians to convert or die? If your son steals from me, do you solve the problem by saying he also steals from you?” Even though the Bishop was speaking before the current violence peaked in the north, his words nevertheless prefaced what is happening today.

According to the cleric, one of the remote causes of the current upsurge in anarchy in the north is the fact that “the northern Muslim elite has not developed a moral basis for adequate power sharing with their Christian co-regionalists.” Could this be what the editorial tersely listed as “deeply entrenched feelings of past dispossession and exclusion…”?

If so, no one feels this sense of exclusion and alienation more than northern Hausa Muslims who are treated as outcasts, second-class citizens and their basic rights routinely abused and denied. In the wake of the Sokoto travellers massacre, a northern Hausa Christians’ organisation issued a statement (-admin@hacfo.org) in which it described that heinous crime as “quite unfortunate and highly condemnable.” Note that we referred to this group above.

It noted that although Northern Nigeria is a multilingual and multiethnic region, “no one is respected and given the chance to live and have a sense of belonging if the person is not a Muslim…. Even among the Muslims, if you’re not a Fulani man or woman, you are not considered eligible for key positions and opportunities.” Despite the fact that this position further underscored Bishop Kukah’s stance above, the Hausa Christians went ahead to distinguish between, first, Hausa Muslims and non-Muslim Hausa and, second, Fulani and Hausa Muslims.

The organisation revealed that they are always asked why Hausa people were also being killed and kidnapped by Fulani terrorists when they are also Muslims. “Well,” they said they always replied, “in reality the Hausa people have been enslaved by the Fulani right from the deceptive campaign of the Usman Danfodio jihad,” which had created a master-servant relationship between them. And still re-echoing Kukah’s viewpoint, they said: “Religion has been used to enslave the entire Hausa land and Northern Nigeria at large. They have been brainwashed into supporting all the evil done to others, especially Christians, in the name of religion.”

Bishop Kukah’s response is that nation building cannot effectively take place “without adequate representation and deliberate efforts at creating for all members a sense, a feeling, of belonging, and freedom to make contributions. This is the window that killers of Boko Haram have exploited and turned into a door to death. It is why killing Christians and destroying Christianity is seen as one of their key missions.”

The editorial cried out, “What more needs to happen before the President would genuinely demonstrate that he feels the silent anguish of hundreds of communities and thousands of citizens everywhere across the north and the country at large? Only a few years ago President Buhari too bemoaned these very events, even when they occurred at a much lower scale than now, and that his bemoaning was part of the very reason he was elected to the presidency.”

This shows that Buhari merely used the issue of insecurity as a ruse to win his first and second term elections and, second, the current state of insecurity in the core north and country at large has spiraled out of control. It is now more than what obtained during the President Jonathan era, unlike the propaganda being bandied around by Buhari’s spin doctors, especially Lai Mohammed, the Information Minister, to the contrary.

But this is Bishop Kukah’s take on this score: “No one could have imagined that in winning the presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink. This president has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity.

“He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women. The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian.”

The editorial quoted the Sultan of Sokoto as bemoaning the current situation in the north thus: “if I continue talking about the insecurity in the North, we will not leave this room… There is no single day that passes without people being killed in the North, especially in the North West now, but we don’t hear of it.”

But here is another dimension from which the same Sultan had earlier conceived the problem, as quoted by Bishop Kukah: “The Sultan recently lamented the tragic consequences of power being in the wrong hands.” Kukah proceeded to paint the general picture of disenchantment with the Buhari administration among Islamic clerics and even the Northern Elders Forum “who in 2015 believed that General Buhari had come to redeem the north [but] have now turned against the president.”

And to the newspaper’s assertion that the onus was now on the president to tame the bugbear of insecurity in the country by “personally take charge of the counter-offensive against terrorists, in the north or elsewhere in the country,” we say, in the words of Kukah, that the north has reached this desperate state because this “is what happens when politicians use religion to extend the frontiers of their ambition and power.”

However, Kukah still referred back to the Sultan: “Again, the Sultan got it right: let the northern political elite who have surrendered the space claim it back immediately.” But have they? Certainly not.

That is why the country is teetering on the brink of total collapse. Jonathan Ishaku, the late Obadiah Mailafia and Bishop Kukah had at various times in the past warned that Nigeria had become a failed state because the Buhari administration had consistently failed to deliver on the key departments of governance, most especially its inability to curb insecurity, and the pursuit of objectives that are openly geared towards Islamization. These failures are more widespread and well entrenched in the core north because of the centuries’ old inequities that feudalism had wrought on the lives of the masses.

In 2017, Bishop Kukah declared that the sense of alienation felt by citizens generally was the result of state failure as manifested in loss of monopoly of legitimate use of violence, loss of capacity to make and enforce collective will of the state, inability to provide social and welfare services to citizens, inability to guarantee safety of citizens, domination and control of environments by criminal gangs and mafias, inability of regulatory agencies of government to levy and collect taxes, rise in population of displaced and homeless persons even in peace time, circles of violence and instability, increase in lack of respect for the state and its law enforcement agencies, etc.

This state of affairs, according to Kukah, breeds “a season of anomie, disorientation, helplessness and despair among citizens. Citizens feel increasingly unsure of the rules and they create their own rules for survival…. They have no collective plan and do not need one. All they know is that the current order must fall…. Their powerlessness breeds resentment and hate for the state, its agencies, individuals, other groups, or institutions.” The demagogue, bandit, terrorist, kidnapper thrives most abundantly in this swirling miasma of hate and confusion. That is the dire condition of today’s Nigeria that Daily Trust dares not reveal to Nigerians, especially the desperate masses of the core north.

Jonathan Ishaku reckoned that “the evident failure of the Nigerian state to guarantee basic security and safety to its citizens qualifies it to be a termed a fragile or, indeed, failed state.” The veteran journalist and writer further asserted: “In my opinion, one area the nation has been playing politics with national security management is the issue of Fulani herdsmen’s terrorism.”

Writing in the PUNCH newspaper (August 30, 2021), Obadiah Mailafia distinguished between ‘fragile states’, ‘crisis states’ and ‘failed states’ and rationalized that “…State collapse is closely associated with the phenomenon of political decay, defined by the eminent political scientist, Samuel Huntington, as a chaotic and disorderly situation where the rate of social modernisation is accelerated ahead of progress in political and institutional development.”

Although these gentlemen raised these red flags between 2017 and 2021, nothing has positively changed. Rather, things are on a downward spiral. But former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, is not surprised by this ominous trend. On December 14, 2021, the Daily Post reported the former president as saying that Nigerians should not expect anything more from President Buhari because what he has so far done as president is the best he can offer. In other words, Mr. Buhari has no capacity to go beyond what he has so far ‘achieved’ in his about seven years in office.

Obasanjo declared: “The truth is this: President Buhari has done his best. That is what he can do. If we are expecting anything more than what he has done or what he is doing, that means we’re whipping a dead horse and there is no need.” He advised Nigerians to begin looking ahead of the Buhari era by searching for a better replacement that would rights the wrongs committed by this administration.

But Sonala Olumhense is not so lenient and would not allow Mr. Buhari complete the remainder of his second tenure. He demands instant measures: “Buhari should resign.” This message, which happens to be the title of his syndicated column, was incidentally published on the back page of the Daily Trust edition under review here. He ends his piece on this dire note: “Buhari received a blank cheque in 2015. He squandered it. I repeat my message from about four years ago: He should be man enough to resign. Let someone else do it.”

Apparently, all the palpable indeces about this era are coming down to this: Mr. Buhari is going down in history of Nigeria as a leader who not only failed to inject the milk of human kindness in his dealings with Nigerians he swore to protect and enhance their overall welfare, he has divided the country in a way never before seen in its annals.

It is this damning legacy of his Presidency that Daily Trust (through that predictable editorial), other institutions and individuals who have egged him on all this while are struggling to run away from. They are beginning to realize that the Buhari Presidency is one of the heaviest burdens of the core north. Now that a terrible judgement is beckoning, they want to steer clear of him and place themselves on the positive side of history – along with the dehumanized peoples of Nigeria, especially those of Mr. Buhari’s core north.

But can this be possible at this late hour?

(GYANG is the Chairman of the N.G.O, Journalists Coalition for Citizens’ Rights Initiative – JCCRI. Emails: info@jccri-online.org; chrisgyang01@gmail.com)

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