The culpability of the Northern Elites in the killings across the north and central regions of Nigeria
Against the backdrop of the senseless killings and wanton destruction of properties in the North and North Central regions of Nigeria by; terrorists, herdsmen, militias, cattle rustlers and their likes, with its attendant displacement of the population, I am in pain to lend my voice to the condemnation of this barbarism by other well-meaning Nigerians.
According to Amnesty International’s statistics, this year alone have witnessed the killings of 1,814 Nigerians across 17 States, and yet we have not ended the year. This figure mostly emanating from the North and Central regions of Nigeria doubles and still tops the number of deaths recorded in by the same agency, same time in 2017. Yet, it seems the government is paying lip service to it, because this whole “man’s inhumanity to man” is spiraling out of control, unfortunately. But this wasn’t always the case in these regions of our country, which before modern demarcations where known as Northern Nigeria. These two regions have been turned into killing fields and this leaves me to ponder about what happened to the North I fell in love with?
When I was growing up, my father used to give my siblings and I tales about the meek and hospitable nature of Northern Nigerians. Apart from the aesthetics and the weather up-north; we learnt how nice, friendly, accommodating and most importantly, how sincere the people of the North were. Apparently, this emanated from his many visits to the North, especially Kano, were he had some close dealings with the people on the occasions he visited. He would always tell us how they are the “sincerest people” to deal with. I must also add here that, during the time of his experience, that part of the country which is today’s Northern Nigeria were predominantly practicing the Islamic religion, and the South predominantly Christians, just as today’s demographics. Yet they always referred to him as their “brother from the South”, and Calabar in particular, even though he is from Uyo, they popularly referred to him as the “Calabar man”.
Hospitality was their watch word. Always enquiring about his welfare. They would always ask; “hope you are comfortable where you are lodging? I have a nice place, if you don’t mind, feel free to be my guest. My father was not a VIP and these Northern brothers where not either, these were normal everyday total strangers whose paths just happened to cross. Of course, they knew about his orientation, cultural ideology and religion, but they wouldn’t mind because those were non-issues at the time. This experience was not limited to my father who only visited once in a while, but to a vast majority of Southern Nigerians who came in contact with the Northerners, especially those who schooled there.
One of my mentors, a senior Pastor, shared the same views while sharing with us his experience as a student in University of Maiduguri, Bornu State. According to him, he felt this hospitality, love, and compassion up close and personal, when a fellow student, a Muslim, took him home after discovering he had come from afar but had no place to stay. He introduced him to his parents and siblings and accommodated him just like he accommodated those of his faith. But he had to leave shortly afterwards, not in an acrimonious manner, but because as a young believer his orientation then was; “if you must pray, it must be loud”. So, he became a little bit of a problem to them, hence, they mutually agreed to part ways. In fact, the Pastor reinstated to us that; it was ignorance on his part, and encouraged us never to let our believes become a problem to our neighbours.
This is not to say that Nigerians have always had it merry as a people. Our pre-independent differences and early post-colonial squabbles are all very well documented. These were peoples of different regions and ideologies led by their elites, seeking relevance on the national stage, and it is quite understandable. In the same vein, our post-colonial civil war was and still very regrettable, and unfortunate.
The point I am buttressing here is that; typical Northern Nigerians are naturally not vampires or bloodletters, but hospitable people even as we speak. They welcomed and accommodated our parents in the early days, and this is exemplified in the way they treated each other, and this encouraged some Southerners, especially the South Easterners of today’s demarcations to make the North their home. It is this same faith and line of thought that ensured the Ndigbos returned to their homes in the North after the unfortunate Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970. Again, there was a time in this country when Christians and Muslims in the North, Central and other parts, genuinely and mutually felicitated with each other during religious festivities.
What went wrong and who is to blame?
Prior to this era, the struggle for political relevance was the battle of the educated elites, being the representatives of the people. Knowledge was the key to power and superior arguments won victories in Parliament. But very quickly, the integrity and simplicity of Tafewa Balewa and his likes receded and the military juntas dictated the pace. Mediocrity found its way into the public affairs, and the unexpected ones made public policies, while the knowledgeable ones were silenced. For years they managed our common wealth but with no meaningful gains in the cardinal areas like; education, infrastructure and the economy. Meanwhile; they pilfered. Yet, they were worshipped by the army of ignorant they created. Sadly, at the time when gun powder alone could no longer hold sway, religion got introduced into politics. For them, mission was accomplished. Tragedy!
The worst thing that can ever happen to a people is to mix religion with politics. This days in Nigeria knowledge alone seems to no longer be the key to power and influence but religion. Karl Marx, the famous German philosopher once wrote that “religion is the opium of the masses”. The Marxist quote hold sway in Nigeria and unfortunately, religion has become a tool in the hands of our political elites. They have used religion to blindfold our people for their evil machinations, especially in the northern part of this country, as today’s reality depicts. They have made themselves comfortable with so much luxuries home and abroad, but deny the people basic amenities, but they can’t revolt. Their children are well schooled, home and abroad, and still; they implement parochial policies with the sole aim of denying millions in the North access to education. Why? Just so they could continue wallowing in ignorance and act at their beckon at all times. What a pity!
Why? Just so they could continue wallowing in ignorance and act at their beckon at all times. What a pity!
Little wonder why there is so much violence and insecurity in the North and North Central as we contemplate this. Before now, they manipulated the people to thinking that the non-indigenous inhabitants of their region, the opposite faiths, and in fact the other parts of the country as a whole, were their enemies. They enlisted them with the wrong weapons, using the most emotional aspect of their lives, thereby destroying the very fabric that holds the society together. Now we live in perpetual mutual suspicion. But there comes a time in our lives when lies don’t completely hold sway, and now the people have not only turned against their imaginary adversaries, but against themselves, still wallowing in ignorance. Now, the catastrophic outcome of the lies we sold our people is very evident for all to see. Who will bail the cat?
The mediocres, the elites, who used the youths over the years for their political gains, and then left them without at least education after gaining power, have to take full responsibility for this anarchy, we are witnessing in the North and Central region today. The tourism potentials of these two regions are being dampened on daily basis and the economy is floundering due to these crises, and to the detriment of the masses, yet the end is not near. It is high time the ‘equipped’ elites of the North, Central region and the whole country at large, stand up to this mediocrity and arrest this situation, before they get consumed. Enough is enough!
Arise! It is time to stand up against ill-tempered rhetoric by our political and religious actors. It is time to arise and disabuse the minds of our people. We must demand accountability, transparency and most importantly, people centered policies in governance. We must stand up and be counted for this country speaking truth to power without fear or favour.
Justice denied in the past and governments’ continuous inaction are the reasons why this impunity has persisted. The people must struggle and demand for the prosecution of those found culpable or behind these heinous crimes against humanity, they must be brought to justice. The ruling class must be made to understand that the people made them who they are, and can also take that power at any time for failure to pursue the right policies.
This is the only way we can start reversing these damages and threat to our corporate existence. I say again, Arise!
Patrick S. Jr.
Public Affairs Commentator
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