The 2011 General Elections have come and almost gone. As at the time of writing this, the first two rounds had been concluded: the National Assembly and the Presidential Polls. An exercise that was generally acclaimed to be free, fair and credible brought joy to the faces of Nigerians who, once again, began to believe in the power of their votes. However, that joy was cut short by the post-election violence that erupted in parts of the North when results started showing that local favourite, General Muhammadu Buhari was trailing his main competitor, incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan. Matter of fact, these crises began before the results started coming in, raising suspicion whether there were spontaneous or pre-planned. This question, however, is beyond the scope of my study. I will leave that to the security agencies and the judicial panel of enquiry that will be constituted by the Federal Government to find out.
In the ensuing crises, revered traditional and religious leaders such as the Emirs of Kano and Zazzau (Zaria) were targeted; so also were homes of PDP chieftains such as the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na’Abba and the PDP governorship candidate in Kano State, Alhaji Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso. Even innocent people, many of whom who voted for CPC were stopped and their cars burnt, their only crime being more financially comfortable than the rioters. It was a class revolt. Then in a most dangerous twist, the crises turned religious as churches and Christians found themselves under attack, because as the thinking of the rioters went, they voted for their ‘fellow infidel’ to rule over them. It took all of 5 hours for all the churches in Funtua, Katsina State to be razed. From Dadin Kowa in Gombe State to Kwaya in Borno State, no church was left standing. Passengers on the highways between Kaduna and Abuja, Kaduna and Keffi and Darazo to Jos were stopped, asked their religious faiths and the Christians were lynched. Then the reprisals began: in parts of Southern Kaduna, mosques were sacked and Muslims attacked. All in all, it was a totally gruesome episode and once again, we found ourselves in the news for all the wrong reasons. Once again, our ethnic, religious and regional divisions were expanded.
The big question that has been lingering on my mind is after this crises and elections, what next? I have pondered over this and have concluded there can only be two outcomes:
One, these crises sets Nigeria on the path towards the disintegration of the Nigerian nation as predicted by the United States Central Investigation Agency (CIA), which set an expiry date of 2015 for our dear country. Southerners are peeved by the fact that northerners will go into violent protests merely because a Southerner had won the presidential polls at the expense of a Northerner. This is in addition to the fact that Southerners almost always fall victims to riots: their properties are looted and destroyed and they count their people among the casualties. In this year’s episode, about 11 NYSC members were killed in Bauchi, all from the south. This has heightened the fears of graduates from the South coming up North for their national youth service. In fact, there are calls for them to come home and a few states have started evacuating their ‘indigenes’.
On the other hand, the mutual suspicion between Christians and Muslims in the North is at an all-time high, in the midst of the crises and rumours of large-scale attacks to ‘annihilate’ Christians in predominantly Muslim areas. Personally, I am also at the point where I am saying Enough is Enough. Christians in the North have been victims of violence for far too long, even when the cause is not remotely connected to religion in the least way. I recall last year in Kazaure, Jigawa State an incident involving a traffic policeman and a truck driver. The traffic policeman had flagged down the truck driver and he refused to stop immediately. After a bit of a chase, he finally stopped. The traffic policeman, in a manner not unfamiliar with Nigerian cops, beat him up until the man went into a coma. The driver finally died in the hospital. Kazaure youths went on rampage and destroyed all the churches in the city, except for one which was saved because the emir went and stood in front of it, daring the enraged youths to carry out their heinous act. Ironically, both traffic policeman and truck driver were Muslims.
In this presidential election, I know of many Christians that voted for CPC and even campaigned for the General. An uncle of mine is one of the founding members of CPC. Say, why then turn against Christians, sometimes ignoring even the staunchest of PDP members who were Muslim? All these threats to our lives and property are in addition to the fact that Northern Christians are routinely overlooked for public service appointments and school admissions because of their faith.
My belief in a united Nigeria has been shaken to its very core in this last one week. I have lost count of the number of sleepless nights I have had, thinking about the young men who lost their lives when they had nothing to do with elections, thinking about what configuration will our break-up take, thinking of how our lives will change when, not if, Nigeria should break up. At that point, I forgot about the reputation I had built for myself as a passionate believer in the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria through my notes on Facebook and NIGERIA:UNITED, the youth-based movement I had founded in 2009 with a few friends. It didn’t matter to me anymore. There is no way we can continue to talk about a united country when our lives were at risk; when while we want a better, united Nigeria, others want Nigeria to be theirs. The constitution guarantees us freedom to worship, freedom to live wherever we chose within Nigeria, and most importantly, freedom to live. However, the insistence of some people to deprive others of these rights poses dire consequences for the continued existence of this country.
However, on the bright side, let us look at the possible fall-out of these crises: it is the fact that the web of lies and deception that the Northern elite have used to suppress the masses has finally been exposed. For decades, Northern leaders have used religion and a class system to keep the masses subservient to them, depriving them of equal-opportunities to excel. While the children of the elites go to the best of schools, they refuse to provide even the most basic form of modern education to the talakawas. All they are left with is Koranic education, which though it is beneficial for spiritual growth, does not give them the strength to compete for jobs in the public or organised private sector. These kids, called almajirai which means disciples, are taken from as young as 4 years and taken to a far place and kept in the ‘care’ of a mallam who is expected to give them religious instructions and cater for their needs. Many a times, the number of kids in the mallam’s care is overwhelming and he is unable to meet their most basic needs. They are then sent out to beg, exposed to all the hazards of rough living. These kids grow up without any parental care or family discipline. By their early teens, they have become full-fledged street urchins, and begin to turn to drugs and other deviant behaviours. It is these kids, who a few years were innocently hanging around your car with a bowl in hand, asking for change that are now used by politicians and extremist religious leaders to wreak violence on their own community. In all this while, the children of the elite have gone through school, taken up good jobs and come back to become the new lords over these impoverished children. The deception goes on and on: from immunisation to family planning, all calculated to ensure that a large percentage of their population are dependent on them, and are unable to think for themselves. In other words, what they have been grooming are automated humans that will do their bidding. Until now.
Now that there has been this class revolt, in which they turned against their own ‘leaders’, the wool has fallen from the eyes of both the masses and the elites. The elites cannot afford to continue to ignore the abject poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in the North. Any government coming in at the states must immediately look into these problems and begin to provide solutions. There will have to be massive education programs and employment schemes, preferably in agriculture since we are not short on fertile land for agriculture by any means. The only security the elite class can get is to make sure that they provide opportunities for the masses, lest these violent imitations of revolutions continue at the risk of being hijacked by opportunists who use it to unleash their hate against some sections of the community. The elites I keep mentioning refer to political office holders and people of means and influence in the communities. We shouldn’t always wait upon the government to act; we should start acting as individuals and groups.
With the grace of God, I have been able to start recovering from the depressingly low state of mind I was in in the previous week and start looking at the bright side of things. Nigeria must not break up because there cannot be a clean break-up and all we will end up with will be the Somalia of West Africa, a place of total chaos and anarchy. At the same time, we cannot remain in one spot and since we have to move in a certain direction, it better be in the positive direction.
May God help us all.