NIGERIAN RELIGIO-ETHNOCENTRIC PROBLEM AND SOLUTION?
I have just persused this fascinating article by Paul Sawa.
My friend Ego-Phil tagged me in, and i thought i share it with you. I am republishing it here, because it is definitely a roadmap to our unity solution.
Paul Sawa, has elucidated even more clearly the Nigerian problem and therefore the solution, with clear examples i can relate to from my experience, and i am sure others can as well.
I appreciate the blind spots of my understanding of Nigerian history and culture (Northern) he has shed much needed light on.We are the ones we are waiting for, we are the change we need according to Obama, so indeed i want to be his Facebook friend,
Expanding on his solution of “Each one, should reach one” :-I subscribe to the concept of 6 degrees of separation ie all of us are 6 people connections away from everyone else, at most, on this planet.
Social media, especially Facebook is a godsend, that we can use to enlighten influential personalities, even celebrities, and leverage them for their circles of influence, with clear and present truth, and of course the mapped out LONG-TERM BENEFIT of “what is in it for them.”
As Paul clearly stated, most of the tribes in Nigeria have always been manipulated by the elite, especially the semi-educated elite, who because they know their level, resist light to shine in darkness, for it exposes them too!!!
The problem is not environmental. The problem is not poverty. These are combustibles that fuel the fire. The problem that started the fire is education, or more aptly, a lack of it. It begins with a succession of failed Northern leaders, each one too shortsighted to appreciate the cumulative effects of ineffective governance as evidenced in the abysmal, ineffectual education policies that have resulted in today’s embarrassing rates of illiteracy. I am talking about leaders whose only claim to fame and power has been through the barrel of a gun (brute force) or through the deployment of deluded hordes that have been conditioned over the years by strategically coordinated campaigns of religious intolerance and ethnocentrism. Such leaders are threatened by any new order, and will deploy all they have to forestall any move that will result in heightened citizen awareness. You could well compare them to a half-literate man who is threatened by his wife’s increasing awareness through education, and then resorts to beating her (violence) and refusing her further access to higher education (frustration of growth) – the primordial principle of muscle over mind.
Let me make a few other observations, though.
The oversimplification of Nigeria into “three main tribal groups, the Christian Igbos, the Muslim Hausa, and the mixed Yoruba” is actually untrue and misleading. The Hausa in the past have been officially estimated to constitute 21% of the population; Yoruba, 21%; Ibo, 18%; Fulani, 12%; Ijaw, 10%; Kanuri, 4.1%; Ibibio, 3.6%; Tiv, 2.5%; and others, 18.7%. Today we know that these projections are fallacious and politically motivated, democracy being a game of numbers.
Here are a few noteworthy facts:
1. There are MANY Hausa Christians, many more than you would imagine, in Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, etc.
2. The Christian population of indigent Nigerians in the Northeast (Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Taraba), if not more than the Muslim population, is certainly equal to it. A proper census, excluding the millions of illegal immigrants from Niger and Chad, would present a truer picture.
3. Fact is, all of the other tribes put together actually could amount to >50% of Nigeria’s population. I am Pabur/Burra. Although my tribe is spread across five states in Northern Nigeria, many Nigerians will tell you they’ve never heard of us. We are predominantly Christian, have a sizable Muslim population, and we get along okay. The same holds for over three hundred other tribes in Nigeria.
4. One reason for the assumption by foreigners and some Southern Nigerians that the North is predominantly Hausa is the mode of dressing. We all dress the same. I wear khaftans a lot. Both my wife and mother love using veils. But we are NEITHER Hausa nor Fulani and we are proudly Christian.
5. A second reason for this misconception is that Hausa is the lingua franca in most of Northern Nigeria. It is the vernacular that is understood almost everywhere up north.
If it were left to the “big three,” Nigeria would have split up a long time ago. I believe the so-called Northern Minority tribes are the glue that keeps it all together.
1. These minorities (predominantly Christian) are Northerners geographically, yet they share the bond of religion with many Southerners. I, for example, am as comfortable with my Ibo brother as I am with my Northern brother. In fact, in some cases, due to years of perceived inequity and injustice due to religious bigotry in the North, I may find myself more closely aligned (and willing to trust) my Christian (or even Muslim) Southern brother in certain matters, than my supposed regional brother. Why? Because I would consider him less likely to align with someone across the border (say, in Cameroun or Benin Republic), in order to oppress me. On the contrary, I may not be that confident of my Muslim Northern brother who openly displays a greater sense of solidarity with the Chadian or Nigerien (because of religion) than with me. Unfortunate, but true.
2. In the past, these lines actually overlapped and blurred sometimes, because a Muslim Minority Northerner seemed to enjoy an elevated status over a Christian Minority Northerner. States like Benue and Plateau that were predominantly Christian had their minor internal ethnic struggles on farmland and boundary issues, but they never resulted in the sort of strategic, coordinated attacks carried out by Maitatsine or Boko Haram who, incidentally, made no secret of the fact that theirs was/is a religious agenda. Their primary targets have always been Christian Northerners and non-Muslim Southerners. Their goal…strategically decimate the Northern Christian population by forcefully converting them, or simply eliminating those who will not convert. The sheer size of the population of Northern Christians, and their fraternization with their Northern-based Southern brethren, makes Boko Haram’s attempts laughable. I should point out, at this point, that the act of suicide bombing is in itself a concession to the fact that the adversary (the bombed) is greater than the bomber. The reasoning is such, “Since I clearly cannot defeat them physically, let me hurt them and see if I can instill fear in them, thereby breaking their spirit.”
3. East, west, home is best, they say. Well, for the Northern Nigerian minorities, the North is still home, religious persecution and ethnocentrism notwithstanding. We do not intend to go anywhere else.
4. The Northern Minorities showed remarkable restraint and maturity (as they always have) by not allowing Boko Haram to turn them against their non-Minority, Muslim Northern brothers. We now understand the dynamics and will no longer be used to fight another man’s war. Yes, indeed, we have our differences, but they are not unresolvable, and progress is being made in the area of mutual respect and understanding.
Northern Nigerian minorities are caught betwixt and between. Many times treated as second-class citizens back at home in the North, we regard the South as allies who can check the excesses of the radical Muslim Northerners who are hell-bent on creating the impossible – an Islamic Nigeria. In view of all of these, it would be an affront to our sensibilities to attempt to depict Boko Haram as simply the result of environmental degradation. Ethnic militias are not a new thing in Nigeria. Nether are Islamic fundamentalist militias in the North. Where did they spring from? What kind of society produced them? Why has there been so much bloodshed in the North?
Let’s look at the North more closely.
I grew up in a North where a lady could not walk some streets wearing a skirt or trousers. She would be trailed by street urchins chanting, “Matan kurege, biri da wando!” meaning, “Squirrel’s wife, monkey wearing trousers!” In quite a few cases, they would even throw stones at her! I witnessed it with horror many times. Even as late as the eighties, in the University of Maiduguri (no less!), I remember female students being attacked by Islamic extremists on campus for not dressing “appropriately.”
I also remember when I was in the University of Maiduguri, in the late eighties, when young boys whom we called “Yaro” boys roamed all over campus, willing to do little odd jobs like washing dishes or running errands. I wondered whose they were and what sort of future they might have. I was told they were Almajiris. I wondered why they were not in school. Today, I wonder if those boys, who must be in their mid-thirties now, do not make up the bulk of Boko Haram’s fighter force.
I grew up in a North where Southerners were referred to in Hausa as “kwari,” meaning insects. We, Northern Minorities, were referred to as “kabilu” (tribesmen), though only God knows by what term they referred to us in private.
Now let’s move to the present. Not too long ago, I was challenged by Raphael Ossusens, one of my supervisors (South-southerner), for having a predominantly Northern workforce. I was quite shocked, because I had never viewed it from that perspective. I explained to him that most of my workers had come to me through Matthew, my oldest serving gardener (17 years now), and I believe that Matthew had simply pooled from those whom he knew he could personally rely on not to disappoint him (he knows that I tolerate no form of tardiness!). I assured Raphael that there was no sinister agenda, reminding him how when I appointed him as supervisor over all of them, even though he had been with me for only two and a half years, they had all accepted it. He was quite satisfied with my explanation, but that got me thinking. Apparently we Nigerians see things through the eyes of region, ethnicity or religion. So, I decided to employ a Muslim since all my workers were Christian, before I was tagged a religious bigot.
I had asked the security men at the gate to get me someone who could do some menial work at my home, and they introduced me to Ahmed who initially began work for me as a laundryman, occasionally washing my vehicle in the mornings. I asked him if he’d like to learn gardening and join my team. He was delighted. I introduced him to the boys, instructed them to observe his propensity for diligence, and dispatched them to site. On the third day, while driving back from site with him, we began discussing the day’s events. He had actually shown some initiative by repairing a pipe that they had mistakenly burst while digging. He related to me how he went to a small hardware store to ask if they would give him a short length of pvc pipe, to which the store owner (an Igbo man) insisted he pay a small amount. Ahmed was outraged! Why must he pay for this little piece of piping, which was most probably picked off the ground in a building site!? He concluded his narrative with a statement of indignation in Hausa, saying, “Rankadade, ama kabilun nan ba su da hankali!” meaning “Sir, these tribesmen (non-Hausa) are of bad character!” He had blurted it out before it occurred to him that his boss was actually a ‘Chief Tribesman.’ His attempt to correct himself was hilarious, to say the least. He quickly added, “Gaskiya, Rankadade, Inyamirai din nan sun chika son kudi!” meaning, “Of a truth, Sir, these Igbo people like money too much!”
First he had unwittingly shoved me outside his “circle of approval” then, realizing his mistake, he attempted to draw me back in. How? By denigrating the Igbo man, he expected to align with me! When I came back home, I pondered over this unfortunate delusional thought process, and silently cursed whoever it was that sowed such a terrible seed in the young man’s life. He was operating as he best knew, speaking from the heart. Does Ahmed represent the average Hausa or Fulani Northern Muslim?
Ahmed was not born thinking this way. He was conditioned over time to believe that somehow, being Hausa made him superior to all other tribes. This engendered a feeling of entitlement. Entitled to what!? It is this same kind of thinking that goes on in the head of the street beggars who believe that they are actually helping you to fulfill your religious obligation of giving alms. This mindset became more evident as Ahmed would shirk his duties, working basically when he chose to. After reprimanding him a couple times, I gave up. Why should one out of fifteen workers consider himself entitled to special treatment? The final straw was when he failed, unlike all of my other workers, to produce someone who would stand for him as a guarantor. I simply had to let Ahmed go.
Now, a caveat. It would be a gross injustice to incorrectly label all Kanuris, Hausas or Muslims as a result of the failings of some of them. We would then be guilty of the same crime as the unfortunate deluded ones. I’m delighted to note that there have always been Hausas, Kanuris, Fulanis and Muslims who were totally against such bohemian behavior. I must also admit that there have been a number of Pabur/Burra, Margi and Higgi people involved with Boko Haram. Such idiots cannot be used to define me! The current successes against Boko Haram would never have been possible without the support and involvement of the Borno Youth Vigilante Group (Civilian JTF) and well-meaning Muslims who provided reliable intelligence.
I fondly remember a Muslim friend of mine in the University of Maiduguri, with whom I would debate for hours on end, with no animosity. We would sit on the back steps of our HOSTEL IN the evening, sharing a cigarette, and discussing faith issues amongst other things. It was such that when I eventually left Maiduguri, I particularly asked him to put a protective eye on my younger sister who had just gained admission. I can give many other examples of Muslim men and women who Nigeria is blessed to possess. I’m sure you’ve got your own endless list too. I am of the distinct opinion that the majority of Northern Muslims are far from radical. Many have been well educated and have enjoyed such international exposure that I can only dream of. But their numbers (and influence) pale in comparison to the hordes of highly indoctrinated, illiterate “free radicals” who give the rest a bad name. I guess it is more up to the “good ones” than anybody else to work towards redeeming their significantly battered image. A good place to start, methinks, would be reorientation. Each one, reach one.
Why is it that with the more recent overwhelming successes of the Nigerian Military in decimating the ranks of Boko Haram, so many of them are still grudging in openly commending and supporting our troops? While the liberated communities are rejoicing on the one hand, they still remain skeptical on the other hand, because they are distrusting of some of their local and state government officials whom they believe are in cahoots with Boko Haram. Remember that Boko Haram kingpin Kabiru Umar, alias Kabir Sokoto, mastermind of the St. Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church bombing in Madalla, was arrested in the Borno State Liaison office in Asokoro, Abuja. Why would he confidently run to a State Liaison for refuge? This is a man whom investigations later revealed was Governor of Sokoto State according to the Boko Haram hierarchy!
So, ultimately, who exactly are the major culprits? I believe we should turn the spotlight on those community, village, local government, religious, business leaders who know they cannot sustain their undeserved influence in a more highly evolved, enlightened society and, as such, hide behind religion and ethnicity (whichever suits them best) in order to remain relevant and in control. They will use their exalted positions to frustrate any move to liberate the people that they so easily control, especially if it is through the enlightenment that good education provides. They do not want a level playing field, because they know their level. So, if it suits their immediate agenda, they will conveniently let the “yaro boys” do their dirty work by convincing them that … “Boko Haram” – “Western Education is Sin.”
But now we know. And they know that we all know. The game is up. NEVER AGAIN!
Why can’t we all just get along? I love Fulani culture and appreciate their history. I respect them, as long as they respect me. I’ve read about Dan Fodio and his military prowess. I also read that El Kanemi disagreed with him over the jihad, and they debated the issue intellectually. That doesn’t mean that Kanuris hate Fulanis! This is the archived history available to me. There is, however, some other history that was handed down to us through generations. I come from a community that never bowed to Dan Fodio’s warriors (we lost territory once but recovered it all, and more, within a span of 7 years) and am proudly descended from a warrior great-grandfather (paternal) who was arrested and exiled by the British for opposing Fulani rule. That doesn’t mean that Pabur/Burra hate the Fulani. Much to the chagrin of many of my loved ones, my preferred candidate for the Adamawa Gubernatorial elections is Nuhu Ribadu, a Fulani man. This is because I regard him primarily as a fearless performer with a recognizable track record who happens to be Fulani and a Muslim. If his only crime is his ethnicity and religion, wouldn’t I be guilty of the same ethnocentrism and religious bigotry that I complain of if I hold that against him?
I love metamorphosis because, many times, it is not immediately noticed. The caterpillar in the cocoon doesn’t know that wings are developing until, one clear morning, he/she unfurls those new wings as a butterfly! In like manner, I believe that a lot has changed and is still changing in the North. Citizen awareness is higher than ever before. How do I know? Last year’s assassination attempts on Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi and General Buhari in Kaduna, clearly calculated to spark confusion, were met with a calm, measured response by the Muslim community. Years ago, it would have resulted in a bloodbath.
Intermarriage is another key factor. Since in Africa, marriage is not just a union of two individuals but of two families, cross-cultural unions over the years have increased appreciation for other cultures and essentially improved levels of tolerance.
Education, however, remains the single most important key to unlocking a future of ethno-religious harmony in Northern Nigeria. Education brings enlightenment and many anti-developmental demons are exorcised simply by “switching on the light.” Starting at the primary level, children must be taught to appreciate individual distinctions and peculiarities, and the value of tolerance. Positive aspects of other cultures should somehow be fitted into the curriculum.
Finally, reorientation must be aggressive, sustained and carefully coordinated at all levels nationwide. Christian clergymen and Islamic clerics must be carried along. Traditional and community leaders must be involved. The “us versus them” mentality must be actively discouraged.
My ultimate delight lies in the fact that the preachers of hate and sectionalism are losing ground fast. This is due to the rise of the new-breed Nigerians. Who are they? Let me conclude with an excerpt from my book.
“Recently, Lt. Col. Adeboye Obasanjo was thrust into national prominence by default when he was shot by Boko Haram militants. Certainly not a seeker of the spotlight, he unwittingly warmed himself into the hearts of many Nigerians after expressing an eagerness to return to the frontlines while still recuperating from wounds he received in battle against the insurrectionists in Adamawa State. The question on many lips was, “What was he doing there in the first place!? Why didn’t he take the ‘typical’ route and get his father to influence his posting away from the Boko Haram hotspots?”
His privileged parentage notwithstanding, he has earned for himself the distinction of being labeled as a full-blooded Nigerian, willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the motherland. I doubt if anyone would ever question the sincerity of his commitment, or his love for his nation. He stands tall, amongst many other unsung heroes, as an epitome of the new-breed Nigerian, LEADING by example and well-equipped for the 21st century.Focused, diligent and determined to succeed
Impervious to ethnic, religious or class distinctions
Effectively contributing to nation-building
Willing to rise through the ranks like everybody else
Standing stalwartly in defense of the motherland
Focusing on, and being a part of the solution, instead of focusing on, and being part of the problem”
MY FRIENDS, LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS?