Much ado about Muslim-Muslim ticket

Nigerian opinion leaders like playing the ostrich. The argument about Muslim/Muslim ticket has suddenly become ‘the issue’ with pastors issuing warnings and failed political leaders threatening fire and brimstone in an attempt to hide under religion to cover up their failures.

But we must not lose focus of the problem. The nation’s scourge are herdsmen terrorists, bandits and kidnappers who hide under religion to wage war against the nation, sacrilegiously torching churches and mosques to massacre worshippers and attacking subsistence farmers and confiscating their farm land. They took control of our ungoverned as well as reserved forests from where they visit violence on our highway travellers and train passengers, kidnapping Christians and Muslims without discrimination for ransom.

It got worse under Obasanjo/Atiku Christian/Muslim ticket. It today threatens the survival of our nation under Buhari/Osinbajo Muslim/Christian ticket. Those heating up the polity over Muslim/Muslim ticket are therefore only begging the question.

We must not forget how we got to this sorry path. Our problem is neither Christianity nor Islam. It is the exploitation of the religious sentiments for political gains which started in the north, populated by Hausa/Fulani, 95% of whom profess Islamic faith. It became an art with Uthman Dan Fodio’s conquest of the Hausa states between 1804 and 1808 in the guise of promoting orthodox Islamic practice to a people that had embraced Islamic faith since the 11th century. But to prove it was a ruse to grab political and economic power, of the 11 Emirs, Dan Fodio, the revered Islamic teacher appointed after the pacification the Hausa states, only one was Hausa while the rest were his brothers, cousins and others of Fulani extraction.

Their defeat by the British did not change the narrative. While they lost to their British conquerors, political and economic power, they retained their control over religion, a more potent instrument of domination described Karl Marx describes “as opium of the people”, which ‘drugged, numbing their senses and disposing them to put up with their wretched existence so that they would be rewarded in a ‘mythical’ after life”.

The only serious threat to their iron grip on those treated as serfs through exploitation of religion sentiments, came from Awolowo who in the late 1950s tried “to bridge the educational gap between that region and the western and eastern region” because he saw “the lack of education as a stumbling block against political enlightenment of the whole northern region”. But Awo lost the 1959 election because ‘the voters could not make up their own minds and make their own choices. Rather, the innocent people of the north had to be dictated to by emirs and the elites who feed them on a regular basis”.

Although he was jailed by vindictive hegemonic power in the north partly for attempting to liberate those kept under servitude in the name of religion, he however predicted that “sooner than later, the leaders of the north will see the repercussion of their selfishness and carelessness in their attitude towards western education” when the northern youth start asking their leaders some hard questions.

The exploitation of northern poor in the name of religion continued unchallenged under successive northern civilian and military leaders including Babangida who unilaterally dragged the nation to Organisaton of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the fourth republic northern ‘political sharia’ promoters. For instance, Ahmed Sani of Zamfara State, claiming implementation of sharia will ‘assist the state to achieve social and economic transformation” on October 27, 1999 launched the sharia system in contravention of section 10 of the 1999 constitution which bars the federal government or the state government from adopting of any religion as state religion.

Other states including Bauchi, Niger, Katsina, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi, Gombe, Adamawa and Taraba soon joined Zamfara political sharia train. In fact, some of the hypocritical northern governors sponsored youths for indoctrination under Osama Bin Laden then hiding in Sudan with not a few radicalized graduates returning to form the nucleus of today’s insurgent groups.

The introduction of Sharia law according to one observer had only “forced people to withdraw into the womb of their religions since people’s religion and ethnicity today determine access to power, resources and privileges”. In Zamfara where it all began, Yerima and his successors after 20 years, left a legacy of a state under siege and in ruins where most schools have only a teacher each, where the state lost 20 doctors because of the state inability to pay salaries leaving 20 doctors to the state’s 23 hospitals according to one time Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole.

The story is not much different from other Sharia states where some of the eight million of out-of-school northern children have become easy but angry recruits for radical graduates of Bin Laden School of terrorism.

The chicken finally came home to roost as predicted by Awolowo. The neglected angry young men who found relevance only in terrorism are today making the north ungovernable. Overwhelmed by the new challenges, the response of some northern leaders was either playing the ostrich or, make some deliberate effort at exporting the northern self-inflicted problem to the south.

In government we have President Buhari’s ‘loyal gatekeepers’ and outside government the likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who in a statement issued on March 11, 2019 claimed that Nigerian Fulani herdsmen, rated by Global Terrorism Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world, coming after Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Shabab, “are peaceful and live in harmony with other ethnicities”.

We have Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who while threatening ‘more blood will flow in Benue if the ranching law is not rescinded’ during his May 30, 2017 Abuja World Press Conference’ called on Fulani herders in all of West Africa to come into Benue to help them reclaim their land’. We can add Alhaji Sale Bayeri who while demanding for an un-hindered grazing access in areas he identified as ‘trouble spots’ spread across 75 local government areas across 21 states warned that “the Boko Haram insurgency would be a child’s play if herdsmen and farmers’ conflicts are not resolved in a way that is acceptable to all sides”.

The good news however is that on the side are equally influential Fulani leaders. Here we have the tribes of Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna who is not only addressing the problems of Nigerian herdsmen but has also called for elimination of bandits and killer herdsmen he describes as “non-Nigerian Fulani from Niger, Mali, Chad and other such places”. We have Aminu Masari of Katsina and Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano who are rehabilitating herdsmen from their states.

The solution to or current challenges is not going to come from a northern vice presidential candidate from northern 5% Christians but the 95% Hausa/Fulani Muslims and their leaders with pan-Nigeria outlook. With those identified above, Nigerian stakeholders can start from where Awolowo stopped by blackmailing northern political sharia states to embark on free and compulsory education for their youths.

Police as a vital state institution often defines a society. Nigeria stakeholders can have new partners in these new northern leaders to instituionalise community policing that can draw a balance between public safety, social order and individual liberty and freedom, hitherto frustrated by those holding President Buhari hostage.

And finally, since the national question is what often defines identity and loyalty, with President Buhari’s failure to seize an historic opportunity to become a statesman by restructuring the country, I think there is now a window of opportunity for Nigeria’s stakeholders to join hands with these new northern leaders towards saving our country.

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