The North On Fire

410 views | Francis Damina | June 16, 2020

In the coming days or week, the media would be awashed with questions relating to happenings in Northern Nigeria considering the current fire of insecurity that is about to consume the region. The other day, it was Bishop Kukah reflecting on the danger of the current brand of Almajiranchi, and only yesterday, Mahmud Jega wrote about Fire from Borno to Sokoto. While Bishop Kukah called attention to the economic and security implications of over thirteen million abandoned children roaming the streets as almajiris, Jega, in his Daily Trust Monday Column titled ” Fire from Borno to Sokoto”, asked: ” When and how did Northern Nigeria become the Ground Zero of insecurity in Nigeria, playground for insurgents, kidnappers, cattle rustlers, bandits, armed robbers, epicenter of senseless killings, burning of villages and springing up of IDP camps in every available school building and open place?”

Recall that in 2017, the now dethroned Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had in a public lecture in Gusau, Zamfara state, warned that unless the people of the North change their culture, they will continue to be backward, poor, and victims of insecurity. He said, “The issue we have today such as drug abuse, Boko Haram, banditry and unemployment would be nothing compared to what we will be dealing with in the next 20 or 30 years.”He summed up the problem when he said:” The poverty level in the North is 80 percent while in the south, the percentage is 20 simply because of the culture of marrying many wives and producing many children who at the end are left on the streets to beg for what to eat.”

Sadly, the reactions to the Emir’s sincere comments were fast and furious (apologies to Dan Agbese). Obvious in the reactions was the collective insinuation that the Emir should be asked to exercise caution for challenging the perrenially immutable practice of the Noble religion as spelt out by the Holy Book. Infact, one Lawan Gamsuwa in an interview with Premium Times, said:” On his position on poverty and education, the Emir had merely supported the position of Southern Nigerians against the North because the South had always believed that the north was a parasite and the traditional ruler’s comments seemed to have supported that position.” He concluded by saying:” He (Sanusi) exaggerated the situation by linking our Islamic religion to the whole problem as responsible for our predicaments. Remember the south was talking only on the poverty and probably education but had never attacked our religion because they know the sensitivity of that.”

I have decided to paint this picture as a background to the fact that, at the heart of our predicaments in Northern Nigeria principally lies the issue of religious sentiments not for the sake of religion itself, but as a feeding bottle aimed at satisfying the greed of a few who have been pretending to represent the north and Islam. It is this few that are responsible for the 13 million almajiris roaming our streets, the avoidable antipathy between Muslims and non-Muslims, the suspicion on Western education, the Sanusi’s 80 percent poverty rate, the lack of intermarriages amongst Muslims and adherents of other Faith traditions as a means for social integration, Boko Haram, and other apartheid-like activities, policies and behaviors that have set us apart.

“By pursuing the politics of exclusion”, Bishop Kukah said about them, “these men and women merely destroyed both the noble Faith of Islam and the North that its founders dreamt of. Today, Nigerians believe that the only good public office holder is not the one who is most qualified, the most honest, the one with the greatest capacity to do good, but rather, the one who is a member of their circle of greed.” He concluded that: “Those who have projected Islam as the basis of power have created the condition that threatens the foundation of our society today. Those who used religion have left the North and its people poorer than any other part of the country.” And if I may add, more insecure than any other part of the country!

Few months back, I made effort to meet with Sanusih Maikudi who is currently the Managing Director of Kaduna State Water Board. During our meeting, I mentioned to him that apart from his humility, he is a very brilliant man to meet- anyday; anytime. But I had a problem with the interview he granted TVC’s Fireworks especially when he argued that the Muslim community in Southern Kaduna will one day have the numbers to produce a Muslim senator owing to the fact that, they, unlike Christians, are allowed to marry four wives. My worry now as then, is whether the obvious increase in the number of Muslims in Northern Nigeria via marriage has been a blessing or a curse apart from it’s electoral advantage to northern elite? In other words, should we be talking about the quality or quantity of life? Is this increase not responsible for the 13million almajiris roaming our streets? Is this increase not responsible for why the north has now become the only Bakery with the monopoly of feeding the rest of the country with loaves of violence? Is this increase not responsible for why Boko Haram has availably willing recruits? Apart from it’s electoral value, of what essence is the numerical increase? In this century, should we not, like Israel, be talking about capacity instead of the unqualitative number we often boast of?

To my mind, it is very easy if we want to sincerely know “when and how did Northern Nigeria become the Ground Zero of insecurity in Nigeria, the playground for insurgents, kidnappers, cattle rustlers,armed robbers, epicenter of senseless killings, burning of villages and springing up of IDP camps in every available school building and open space.”Of course, we are today where we are because of the activities, attitudes, as well as the policies of northern muslim elite who have continued to use the noble religion of Islam to lubricate their greed to the detriment of the rest of society the cumulative result of which is what we are now reaping.

Finally, we must not shy away from openly and frankly discussing where we have failed especially in our ‘resolve’ to rebuild a peaceful, progressive and united northern Nigeria where everyone feels comfortable irrespective of religion, tribe or political persuasion. As my elderly friend Malam Adamu Adamu – a respected journalist of Northern stock said in his article “Is the North a Lip?”, “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 should not be said or mentioned.” Similarly, it doesn’t matter if these problems to be openly and frankly discussed include the way we practice our Faith. Therefore, it is now time for the North to face the truth and act accordingly. Yes, Muslim theologians and elite in Northern Nigeria must begin this discussion by revisiting the issues of Marriage and the Family as earlier raised by the former Emir of Kano- Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. This, for me, is the way to begin.

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