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Deleterious, Vacuous Imps And The Plight of ‘One North’

By

Ahmed Garba

“Here in the Northern Nigeria we have People of Many different races, tribes and religions who are knit together to common history, common interest and common ideas, the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us. I always remind people of our firmly rooted policy of religious tolerance. We have no intention of favouring one religion at the expense of another. Subject to the overriding need to preserve law and order, it is our determination that everyone should have absolute liberty to practice his belief according to the dictates of his conscience…” – Sir Ahmadu Bello source:http://www.arewaonline-ng.com/sardauna/legacy.html

When I came upon the quote above, it compelled me to start ruminating about the current state of affairs in northern Nigeria. A region once known to be united in creed, color, religion etc., but is now widely known, and sometimes mockingly referred to as another one of those far-off places with ‘stan’ in their names, as in ‘Arewastan’. A place where bombs and insecurity reign

Those who are old enough to remember Sir Ahmadu Bello often reminisce about a northern Nigeria that was cohesive; headed by a Premier known to even chide his christian friends if he found out that they had missed church services on Sundays, despite being a muslim himself. A Premier who was astute enough to realize that ‘Sultanate power’ was not all there was; broader, more inclusive strategy had better pay off. People often recall a Sardauna who did his best to nurture, promote and groom an all-inclusive cadre of educated people, military officers, public servants, and intelligentsia that would soon be dubbed, ‘the new north’. A Premier who strived to create a northern Nigeria where a Buba and a Michael got along fairly well.

Then what went wrong? How did the North become “Arewastan”?

To find out, we’d have to review the unfolding of Nigeria’s 4th republic and the role played by the baleful ogres that the ‘cat dragged in’; those who foisted themselves and their infernal, nefarious ideas on the nation or their respective communities. The adage ‘politics is a dirty game’ is more than axiomatic in Nigeria. In fact, ‘dirty’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, as that diabolical president once called it ‘do or die’. The wave of obtuse, dismal politicians who came in with the boat starting in 1999 also brought with them some calamitous ideas.

In order to demonstrate this submission, I will focus on two states where certain beggared individuals (former governor of Zamfara state, Ahmad Sani Yerima, and Governor of Plateau sate, Jona Jang) whose sense of politics is laden with cyanide got accepted. These individuals, who, no doubt constitute pernicious polar opposites may very well depict the affliction facing northern Nigeria today.

Shari’ah or Dirty Politics?

Let us not dwell too much on that little matter of Ahmad Sani Yerima’s inferiority complex, which possessed him to go clear across the continent to purchase, ehm, marry a 13-year old girl from Egypt for a goodly amount of $100, 000 as ‘dowry’; a sum that Yerima wouldn’t have paid to marry any of his undergraduate or graduate classmates at Ahmadu Bello University, or any other 13-year girl old from Zamfara. Why should he? They are not arabs, and they are not light-skinned enough or ‘muslim’ enough.

The Ahmad Sani Yerima that we need to talk about is the one who ran his governorship campaign not on the promises of growth and development, but on the platform of making Zamfara a shari’ah state. After taking the mindlessness temperature of the people, and their deceivability quotient, the man chose to give them shari’ah, as his main agenda. “Have shari’ah, will develop…Not!” should have been his campaign slogan. Ordinarily, shari’ah as a tool for development could work, except that it depends on the sincerity of the actors. After all, it may be synonymous with what secularists call ‘good governance‘.

Most people, especially southern Nigerians tend to believe that the shari’ah hullabaloo of 1999-2003 was the first time shari’ah will enter into political life in northern Nigeria. Far from it, shari’ah has been in existence in northern Nigeria as far back as the jihad of Usman dan Fodio, through the colonial era, and till date. In fact, Sardauna is said to be one of the architects of the shari’ah penal code, used during the rule of the ‘Native Authority’. The system had defined structure which even included an appellate court. However, the role of shari’ah was limited to ‘civil’ matters (e.g. marriage, divorce, debt, inheritance etc.); it never ventured into criminal law, and was never allowed to interfere, at least, egregiously with the life of non-Muslims. It was said that even when he found himself tempted or fidgeting with the idea of broadening the scope of shari’ah penal code, Sardauna maintained a keen awareness of the problem that might result. Consequently, he threaded wisely and carefully.

The care/caution that informed Sardauna’s politics was the same care/caution that Yerima threw to the wind, when he, along with a new wave of ‘questionable Salafis’ (Nigeria’s version of the ‘Tea Party’–Muslim faction) agitated for, and established broader shari’ah penal code in states where, though predominantly muslim, also tend to have non-Muslim populations. Granted, the proponents of shari’ah made some glib attempt to give their demand a somewhat innocuous coloration, by emphasizing that the whole matter was intended for muslims only. I wonder, wasn’t that how it had always been as far back as the colonial era and the time of Sardauna’s premiership? Oh, I forget, they needed to add that bit about severing the hands of thieves and stoning adulterers to death, especially, if they are from a lower station in life, or what the Americans call, “the other side of the railroad track”.

As the shari’ah debate became heated, those so-called intelligentsia that Sardauna had been grooming (some of whom were in their various state assemblies), along with those that can be described as ‘intellectual Salafis’, who could have been an effective counter-weight, in the true tradition of ijma (consensus) allowed the inane, zealot Salafis to ‘out-shout’ and overrun them. The result was the ‘mushrooming’ of ‘shari’ah states’ in the north; actually, a mockery, if not a caricature of shari’ah. In fact, judgement under shari’ah seems to vary with the madhab (school of religious law) that the judge subscribes to.

For example, both Hanafi and Shafii madhabs have more ‘liberal’ stance on homosexuality, but the Maliki madhab which is prevalent in sunni northern Nigeria recommends identical punishment for adultery and homosexuality (married or unmarried culprit), that is, death by stoning. However, in a recent case (http://zamfaraonline.net/go/zamfara/shariah-in-zamfara/113-shariah-one-person-sentenced-for-homosextuality) involving one Ahmad Muhammad charged with homosexual rape, in the state of Zamfara, the culprit was only sentenced to 1-year imprisonment and 100 lashes. This, in spite of the fact that most shari’ah proponents will agree that homosexuality is the most abominable form of ‘zina’; not to mention that this homosexual rapist is now housed in confinement along with other men, some of them young! Some shari’ah. Apparently, this case was not handled by a ‘Maliki’ judge.

One would think that even heterosexual rape should bag a culprit more than 1 year in prison, how much more if we add the despicable homosexual dimension. Yet, this is the same state that wanted to stone a woman to death for adultery; the state that cut off the hand of a lowly thief. If this is not a capricious practice of shari’ah, and therefore, a mockery of it, then it sure makes shari’ah look like a crapshoot. All that trouble heating up the polity only to settle for what appears to be varying, ‘whimsical’, arbitrary practice of shari’ah? Doesn’t this sound like an expedient use of shari’ah for political gain by deceitful, treacherous politicians?

The various adornments used to dress up shari’ah implementation and give it an appearance of full legitimacy (e.g. Council of Ullama, Hisbah Commission, Zakkat and Endowment Board, Sharia Research and Development Board, and the Preaching Commission) are just that, adornments, for we all know that corruption flows in the blood of many opportunistic public servants, including Islamic scholars/jurists, who sit in judgement!. As one muslim preacher once remarked, there is a distinction between ‘Malamfada‘ and ‘Malamin fada’. The former is a palace/royal courtier, an outright sycophant, looking out for his self-interest, but fronting as an Islamic cleric/scholar; while the latter is a spiritual adviser, willing and able to offer sincere advise, between man and God. Unfortunately, in the current state of muslim north, there are more of the former than the latter. I would imagine the same is true of christian north as well.

All through the furore over shari’ah, there was, if not an almost deafening silence of voice of reason, then a vacuum that should have been filled by those who should have vehemently called for the pre-conditions necessitated by shari‘ah law–even in an absolute muslim community–before its implementation. How about first creating a safe, productive, enabling, and nurturing environment for the people? Allah himself did not drop shari’ah in whole, and in one fell swoop on early muslims. Let’s recall also that, Sardauna, Tafawa Balewa, et al, navigated a similar scenario on behalf of the north when the ‘unprepared northern region’ was being dragged along during Nigeria’s independence struggle. They negotiated ‘soft landing’ for the north. Had they not taken into consideration, the prevailing realities of northern Nigeria, how would things have turned out, even for these zealot Salafis or their fore bearers?

So, “intellectual Salafis” should have demanded good governance first. For example, provide sufficient employment opportunities before cutting off the hand of a thief; or make sure that the punishment for fornication/adultery should not be rushed, or even entertained, especially when the knowledge of the offense is brought to light by an instigator–a fact that even shari’ah will frown upon. Lord knows that the couple of adulterers who suffered death by stoning during the life of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) were people who, not only self-reported and confessed profusely to the offense, but they also doggedly sought the judgement/punishment. It was reported that the Prophet dispensed the judgement reluctantly, with excruciating agony, since the loss of human life was involved. At least, this is what we know from various ahadith (sayings and practices of prophet Muhammad). To think that this hurried, inchoate, ‘half-assed’ implementation of shari’ah was carried out in a state as poor as Zamfara; a Zamfara where there was record unemployment; a Zamfara where, like the rest of Nigeria, corrupt elites go unpunished, is beyond mind-boggling.

It is hardly incontrovertible to say that the push for incipient, haphazard shari’ah implementation–ignoring its broader consequences–by Yerima and company, together with its concomitant tumult, may very well be the one thing that started sounding the death knell of ‘one north’. One thing is also certain, when Yerima left the governor’s office, and moved up to become a senator, he left the state of Zamfara, not a whole lot better than he found it–still under-developed, poorly educated, and lacking in industrialization; all against what shari’ah would have wanted. And this fact is true to some extent with respect to other “shari’ah states”. Quite noticeable too, we have not heard much, not even a ‘pip-squeak’ from fraudster, Yeriama, since he became a Senator. Unfortunately, however, as long as governor Yerima is biding his time in the senate (despite knowing fully well that there is no immunity clause in shari’ah), we can only wait to see which of his appurtenances, the EFCC (assuming they sincerely do their job) may soon recommend to be severed.

In fact, it may not be out of place to suggest here that, the Nigerian judiciary should have the option/discretion to prosecute and punish any public official on the basis of shari’ah law, if such culprit is from a shari’ah state, and is a muslim, especially, if the individual also voted in favor of shari’ah. After all, you would think that such individual should have the courage of their conviction; stand up and be counted; take one for ‘team shari’ah’. Interestingly enough, one hardly sees ‘aggrieved’ politicians from shari’ah states demanding to challenge their disputed election results in a shari’ah court, even for local elections in their own states. That should be enough to shed more light on the cruel and calculated hoax that they had rendered on the north.

Indegene vs. Settler: Politics of Division

If Yerima and his band of ‘zealot Salafis’ constitute one side of a coin, Jonah Jang (governor of Plateau state, a.k.a Czar Jang, the Tiny) is the flip side of the same coin. Here is a man who barely escapes the classification of a dwarf, but appears to be packing full venom, for a politician. That is, a politician who revels in fomenting trouble; a man who appears to take delight in ethnic division and destruction; a man known to whip up tension surreptitiously and provoke mayhem with reckless abandon. This is the miasmic man, who ran his campaign almost entirely on hate for Muslims as well as hate for Christians from tribes other than his. It appears he is determined to leave a legacy that says, “Berom ruled!”, as opposed to “I moved Plateau forward and made it better”.

Plateau state is a multi-ethnic place having perhaps, more than 30 ethnic groups, with a rather large muslim population. In fact, some reports indicate that the city of Jos alone has up to 40% or so of Hausa-Fulani/Muslims as its population. The table below shows a much more detailed picture:

Muslims by ethnic group in Plateau State’s LGA

LGA Muslims by ethnic group
Bassa Majority of Muslims are Fulani with some indigenes and few Hausa.
Jos North Majority of Muslims are Hausa/Fulani followed by Yoruba and few others.
Jos South Majority of Muslims are Hausa/Fulani with some few indigenes.
Jos East Majority of Muslims are Fulani with some indigenes and few Hausa.
Riyom Majority of Muslims are Fulani. Very very few Muslim indigenes.
Barikin-Ladi Majority of Muslims are Fulani and few Hausa and Kanuri. Very few indigenes.
Bokkos Majority of Muslims are Fulani. Few Hausa and indigenes.
Mangu Majority of Muslims are indigenes followed by Hausa and Fulani.
Pankshin Very very few indigenes are Muslims and followed by few Fulani.
Kanke Majority of Muslims are indigenes followed by few Hausa /Fulani.
Kanam Majority of Muslims are indigenes followed by Hausa and Fulani.
Qampan Majority of Muslims are indigenes followed by Hausa and Fulani.
Shandam Majority of Muslims are indigenes followed by Fulani and Hausa.
Mikang Majority of Muslims are Fulani with very very few indigenes.
Lantang North Majority of Muslims are Fulani with very very few indigenes.
Lantang South Majority of Muslims are Fulani with very very few indigenes.
Wase Majority of Muslims are Fulani or Hausa/Fulani now counted as indigenes in Wase LGA, and few others.

Source: http://www3.qeh.ox.ac.uk/pdf/nrn/BP4Modibbo.pdf

The glaring spread of muslim populations across the state shown in the table above, does not stop Jang the Tiny from running an exclusively Christian-dominated government, with special preference for his own tribe of Berom. Depending on who you want to believe, anywhere from one-third or more of the 28 permanent secretaries in the state are from the Berom tribe alone! But more importantly, what is shown by the table above only scratches the surface of the reality of things in Plateau state. As they say, the ‘devil is in the details’. The bulleted points below amplify the reason Plateau state is perennially consumed by ethno-religious conflicts; why it is the epicenter of ethnic and religious conflicts in the country:

“• The incumbent Governor and his Deputy are Christians. 

• The House of Assembly which consists of 21 elected members has only 4 Muslim 

representatives. 

• Of the 17 elected Local Government Chairmen two are Muslim. 

• The Executive Council which consists of 18 commissioners has two Muslims only 

while the rest are Christians. 

• Out of 28 Permanent Secretaries in the various Ministries and Parastatals, only two 

are Muslim. 

• All three of Plateau’s senators are Christians, as are six out of eight of its 

Representatives. “

Source: http://www3.qeh.ox.ac.uk/pdf/nrn/BP4Modibbo.pdf

Can we say stupendous marginalization? Yes, we can.

In volume 14, July 2011 of Africa Security Brief, entitled “Nigeria’s Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Conflicts”, Chris Kwaja, Lecturer and Researcher in the Center for Conflict Management, University of Jos, makes some interesting observations:

“The Nigerian constitution, adopted in 1999, and the Federal Character Commission, a statutory body established to ensure equality in the distribution of resources and political power in the country recognize the validity of indigene certificate. These bodies also accept the authorities of local officials to issue the certificates to constituents whom officials deem qualified–a practice that first originated in the 1960s……Defining indigeneship is extraordinarily arbitrary. For instance, a Hausa, Igbo, or Yoruba–groups that tend not to be from Jos–could legally be termed settler and denied a certificate, even though this family has lived in Jos for generations….In 1990, several local jurisdictions, in Plateau, including Jos began to restrict the distribution of indigene certificates”.

So, the ‘teeny-weeny ‘indigeneship’ provision intended to be a side note of the 1999 constitution; a provision meant to rectify the consequences of numerical disadvantages for minority tribes, was pushed front and center by Czar Jang especially, and used for full frontal assault against the populations that he arbitrarily considers as ‘settlers’. As the report notes, indigeneship classification “..has often been used to determine who “belongs” to a particular locality, which in turn determines whether citizens can participate in politics, own land, obtain a job or attend school….”. It is this fact that enables Jang to disenfranchise people who, on ‘any given Sunday’ can be classified as ‘settlers’. Never mind that he himself might have benefitted from the all-inclusive policies of the likes of Sardauna. Now he makes it tenable for any divisive, daft, obtuse, corrigible urchin pretending to be a politician to start throwing up the claim of indigeneship, in order to justify some senseless, ill-advised, alienating agenda. As Kwaja highlights:

Nigeria’s statutory framework grants local officials authority to extend or deny basic rights to citizens in their jurisdictions, thereby creating incentives for the politicization of ethnicity and escalating intercommunal violence”.

One glaring evidence of such violence was that under the watch and/or command of Czar Jang the Tiny, Nigeria witnessed, in plain sight, an unbelievable act of real, unadulterated cannibalism. The event of 2011 Eid’ul Fitr, where Muslims conducting prayers, were attacked, killed, roasted, and eaten was beyond belief. Religion historians have told us much about the Christian Crusaders (1095 to 1291 C.E.), who attacked and sacked Jerusalem; piled up the dead bodies of Jerusalem’s Muslims and a few Jews, and ate some of these bodies right under the watchful eyes of the Knight Templars. This seemingly mythical story unraveled right before our eyes on the day of Eid’ul Fitr, 2011, in the city of Jos, under the watchful eyes of JTF, STF, as the Knight Templars; Jonah Jang as Pope Urban II; and some of the ‘indigenes’ of Plateau state collectively as Emperor Alexus!

Who would have thought that, while the Fang people of Equatorial Guinea, known for their cannibalism are giving up the practice in the 21st century, there will be Berom people in Nigeria who will take delight in reviving it? Worse still, the absentee governments–state and federal have not been willing or able to redress this atrocious matter, despite the copious amount of available video evidence of the incident. Thanks to ‘indigene rights’, I suppose. Again, the Africa Security Brief report notes:

”….the ethnic or religious dimensions of the conflict have subsequently been misconstrued as the primary drivers of violence when, in fact, disenfranchisement, inequality, and other practical fears are the root causes. Capitalizing on such conditions, many political rivals have instrumentalized the ethnic and religious diversity of Jos to manipulate and mobilize support”.

It is indeed a shame that masters of perfidy, such as, Ahmad Sani Yerima (mijin balarabiya) and Czar Jang the Tiny have been riding their dark horses into the governor’s mansion, tearing up the northern region along the way. Intentionally, or inadvertently, they may have put the nail on the coffin of ‘one north’, or, at the very least, they may have handed over the mantle to Boko Haram–the Muslim and Christian chapters. Now, who is the Hercules that will clean the ‘Augean stables’? And can the Hercules find his own Alpheus and Peneus rivers? In order words, can the north pick up the pieces and clean up this blight? That is the question.

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