I have read many articles, intelligent and painfully ignorant, about the current crises, which any Northerner or perceptive observer could have predicted. I am neither shocked nor confounded by the riots and the killings.
I choose to ignore the ignorant comments especially from people who live on the other side of the Niger behind computers and blackberry’s who have no clue about the complexity of this ‘North’.
This crises is a bit different in my estimation from the other mindless religious conflicts that have visited the north. For the first time in the North(especially the Muslim North), I heard young uneducated men expressing hope that for once there is a worthy man on the ballot; that at last their time has come. For the first time, there was actual trust in a person to whom they bequeathed all their dreams. This man was General Buhari. Anyone who speaks Hausa and knows the Hausa speaking people will know the importance of the concept of ‘amana’. Trust. It is the one thing that is cherished above most things in the Muslim North. It is not uncommon for you to meet a Hausa petty trader to give you goods without money or collateral, regardless of whether he knows you or not. In fact I still remember how my mother at the market in U/Rimi in the North of Kaduna city, would stop a Hausa motorcyclist (she always insisted on a Hausa man) whom she had never met, give him her shopping sometimes worth thousands and describe her house to him. She would pay him and not fret about the things reaching home. My mother always only bought meat from Hausa Muslims because she trusted that it would be fresh and that it was not a dead animal. In Hausa communities, shops would be left open when people went to say their prayers. Amana. Trust.
This is the trust that has been squandered by Northern leaders, notably in the past 12 years-members of the PDP led ruling class, and before that, military and traditional leaders. These Northern leaders have destroyed every level of trust given to them without questioning by their people. One man seemed to rise above all the filth, above all the distrust. They noticed his lifestyle. They didn’t see flashy cars in his drive way. They didn’t see his kids drive around town recklessly with loud music spending plenty money on their pre pubescent girlfriends. They didn’t hear scandals of massive overseas accounts. They met him at petrol stations. They saw an honest, straightforward, religious man. So when they went to the streets, they went first after their own leaders who had squandered this trust and those who they perceive had abetted them. Sadly, as with all mob actions, it provided the perfect cover for criminals, miscreants and those with sinister agendas (and there are plenty in this North- politicians, thieves and fundamentalists). So eventually, churches were burnt and innocent people killed.
However, the man is a Muslim and unapologetically so. He has not been afraid to express his ‘Muslimness’ in public. This alone is enough to constitute a problem in the North. For we are not one North. We are many North’s. There is the Muslim North. The uneducated rural North. The aristocratic North. The cosmopolitan North. The Christian North... each with its own interests and sometimes as different from each other as people from different countries. The marginalisation of minority groups in the North has also hurt Buhari who is seen as the face of the oppressor by at least some in the Christian minority. The countless religious crises have divided the North and created mutual suspicion, further highlighting the fact that the idea of a single united North is a myth. Some have suggested that Sardauna created one North and that we only recently created divisions. This is far from the truth. The facade which was One North was in fact a mix of dominant and dominated people, peace existing only because the quiet grievances of minorities like non Muslims had not concretised into vocal movements for the exercise of rights. The Jos crisis is a classic example of the manifestation of decades of frustration among the minorities. That manifestation though reactionary is more than a knee jerk reaction. It is minorities paranoid about the increasing dominance of the majority and taking rash actions to hold onto power, land and resources in a region where the dominant sentiment among minorities is that if you are not Hausa Fulani or Muslim, you will be marginalised.
The decades of injustice meted out on Nigerians by their leaders have made eventual violent reaction inevitable. The many poisonous variables in our polity which have been allowed to interact under the lazy watch of Nigeria’s thieving political class have fixed themselves firmly in our polity. What we are now dealing with are just the early warning signs of a cancer that is malignant. Our mutual suspicions make us easy to exploit and set against each other, so that while we are fighting over whose god is bigger, our government loots the commonwealth. Where there is no justice there cannot be peace. An aggrieved man is many times an irrational man. It is wrong to always judge a reaction, which is unplanned, when you do not judge first, the action, which is planned. A reaction is many times worse than an action, for it is delivered without a sense of proportion, only a sense of wanting release. There is usually more passion in a reaction. He who sets a ball rolling should prepare to follow it wherever it rolls to.
This government has a choice. To move beyond its rigged landslide victory and actually give its citizens a semblance of justice. To move from the hawks that now have it by the scrotum, namely PDP party investors, and work for its citizens- give them roads, electricity and rule of law. To provide infrastructure and stop the massive looting of government resources that is now going on. Or. To oversee the early days of the disintegration of a Nigerian state that has miraculously held on for the past 50 years.