Francis Ulal Damina
A couple of days back, a friend called my attention to a link carrying a news based on a press statement made by a group known as the Arewa Youth Forum (AYF). The link, with a headline: “Nigerians will not support the re-election of president Muhammad Buhari – Arewa Youths”, reported among other things, that: “The Arewa Youth Forum,(AYF) has said Nigerians will not support the re-election of president Muhammad Buhari as his government has impoverished Nigerians”. The group also expressed concern on the ” escalation of communal attacks, killings and kidnappings that his administration has failed to tackle two years after steering the ship of state”.
Yes, there is nothing said by the group that is in anyway further from the truth. As I write this piece, while Benue state government is preparing for the mass burial of about 60 Benuelites, my paramount ruler, HRH Yohanna Sidi Kukah, is still in the custody of some kidnappers alleged to be Fulanis who whisked him away from his palace for almost a week now. Kukah, the paramount ruler who hosts the highest number of Fulanis in Southern Kaduna, lives only a few kilometers away from Ladugga; the largest grazing reserve in West Africa. And in spite of calls based on the glaring animosity between the Fulanis and most Southern Kaduna nationalities and groups that the monarch should get rid of them, His Royal Highness has remained tolerant and resilient. And this alone should make the national umbrella of the Fulanis to be practically at the forefront of the struggle for the release of the chief even if it is not true that he was kidnapped by Fulani gunmen. I am sure that how we deal with this issue will re-define our coexistence after his release. The hospitality of the Ikulu man should not be taken for granted. I therefore salute the courage of the Arewa Youth Forum led by Alhaji Gambo Ibrahim Gujungu for calling a spade by no other name. I have a feeling that how President Buhari handles the killings in the middle belt would constitute the new role of religion in the affairs of our nation in 2019 and beyond. But we can’t fold our arms and continue to wait until then. We must collectively do something to stop the impunity that has brought us to this Hobbesian cul de sac where life as in a state of nature, is nasty, brutish and short.
The AYF’s press statement has reminded me of a previous one issued by a similar group asking the Igbos to vacate the North. I was particularly pained because as an Arewa Youth, I was neither consulted nor did I agree with anybody that Ndigbo should be given a quit notice to leave the North. Why should a handful of sponsored charlatans then sit somewhere and issue a statement on our behalf? The scenario simply raises a lot of questions about the credibility of groups such as the AYF. For instance, who is Alhaji Gambo Ibrahim and where got him the mandatum to speak on our behalf? At worst, this is impersonation. And at best, another form of survival stategy. And this is what many in the North have been doing: using the name of Sardauna, Religion or the North as meal ticket.
There is probably no time that religious tensions have divided the North more than now. This is equally the best of times for conflict entrepreneurs: Pastors, Imams as well as Politicians who have continued to use the rot to raise capital for their transactions.
The religious suspicion, killings, arson, theft, lack of respect for human life, that we see today, are merely a cumulative of many years of the manipulation of religion by northern elite. Unfortunately, this has continued because of our inability to clarify the role of religion in society. As a litmus test to this, our debate on the secularity or otherwise of the Nigerian state is still unfinished.
And according to Adamu Adamu, “the disunity of the North was not simply the result of the exploits of parochial politicians, which from their personal, even if selfish, standpoint could well be justified. There are many uncomfortable reasons. Perhaps the first dagger thrown at Christian- Muslim relations in a way that would come to haunt the region was not the event at the College of Education in Kafanchan in 1987: it was the utterance of sheikh Abubakar Gumi following the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed in 1976. At that time, the sheikh said that Murtala was killed because he was a Muslim”.
Since then, interreligious tensions and suspicion in the North swiftly metamorphosed into what has brought us to where we are today. No thanks to especially the political class that has continued to manipulate religion to satisfy its greed. And while most people believe their is a plan to Islamize Nigeria which is itself not a crime provided the rights of others are not infringed, my take on the matter is that:”what has come to be referred to as” Islamic Agenda ” today, is nothing but an attempt, while riding on the shoulders of president Buhari, to nationalize the remains of feudal practices and survival strategy deployed by northerners who have been manipulating religion for control, relevance and personal survival “.
But as Adamu Adamu also said:”… we cannot afford to continue to live in fear of confronting our inequities. We will never be able to solve our problems if all we can do is pretend that they don’t exist, or that there is something that cannot be mentioned”. Therefore, me must develop the arsenals to confront the situation without trepidation.
Today, apart from lack of trust and the strong religious tensions that are gradually eaten the North, the rest of the country look upon us as parasites. And there is equally no evidence to show that we are not the most educationally and economically impoverished. While others have continued to build their future on investment in education, the North is comfortable in remaining the Bakery with the monopoly of producing loaves of illiterates to feed the rest of the country with violence at any slightest provocation. We must reverse this ugly trend.
This is why I have a conviction that the future of the North should not be determined by the so-called Northern youth groups that are merely meal ticket seekers, and who in the circumstance, are only concerned about the next elections and not about our future. We must sit down to define how we intend to confront these challenges. This will include, first of all, breaking the eggs laid by the chickens of fanaticism, violence, bigotory, greed,etc, before they are hatched to destroy us
Yes, Northern Youths who are “imbued with the true consciousness of God, respect for our common humanity, compassion for the human person and total abhorrence to injustice must bravely rise up to the occasion and retrace those unfortunate steps that have landed the North in this present religious, tribal, political and social quagmire – and rebuild the North anew”. These are the challenges that genuine Arewa Youth groups should be battling with rather than allowing selfserving groups such as the AYF that is only concerned about elections – and 2019 for that matter, to lead us into Kigali.
Francis Damina, a student of Religion and Society can be reached via. firstname.lastname@example.org