Religion and nationalism are the most powerful forms of indoctrination and, in the name of these two, many injustices can be done so that our idea of a shared humanity [in terms of religion and nationality] is thus contradicted and ridiculed. Nationalism is theoretically the healer of a colourfully diverse country possessed by the ghosts of hatred along the lines of the things that highlight differences, from the shapes of our places of worship to the colour of our skin. And where nationalism fails, where the love for country and appreciation of its diversity are dominated by our allegiances to personal and private interests, conflicts set in, sometimes irredeemable ones, other times those repairable through diplomacy. But where the latter fails and the former is unanimously understood, cartographers are invited to demarcate the geography of our conflicts. Like the split of India and Pakistan. Like the split of North Korea and South Korea. Like the Split of Malaysia and Singapore. And, yes, like the attempted split of Nigeria into two unequal halves.
If our history of the last 50 years is not a memo on how not to run a country, I wonder how this growing sectionalism can be tamed. What’s happening in Nigeria today is a repeat, though reversed, of those dark years where a set of people became the scapegoats for an atrocity carried out by a few aggrieved or deluded citizens who are members of a persecuted ethnicity or region. This is what made the deportation, over the week, of 84 “northerners” by Imo State government very devastating news. On suspicion of terrorism, they said. The deportees, who were in Owerri to study at Imo College of Advanced Professional Studies, ICAPS, had reportedly camped on the premises of a newspaper house while awaiting their registration procedures before their identity became pronounced as the enemies, northerners, “terrorists”, and thus they had too be deported “for fears that they might be members of the dreaded Boko Haram.” A few days before that, it was the case of Igbo youths attacking Hausa traders in Onitsha. Their crime? “(A)lleged killing of a staff of the Anambra State Transport Agency, ASTA, by a trailer driver of Northern extraction (sic)” – Vanguard Newspaper (15/01/2015). Isn’t this, this careless scapegoating, the root of our deepened sectionalism?
The earth almost folded when Lagos State’s Governor Babatunde Fashola, in one of his anti-people policies, deported some Igbos to their home state. The streak of condemnations and especially the screams of marginalisation among Igbo political and intellectual elite and the compliant masses, was deafening, and I must add, frightening. The Igbo deportees have dragged the Lagos State Government to court, and this week they declared their demand for a billion naira in damages. None of us supported Fashola. Interestingly, none of these “human rights activists”, who had shown us the shade of their ethnic activism, bothered about the ill treatments of perceived northerners in the hands of the same Igbos. Only the empathy of a bigot functions is such a manner.
And when some of us stepped out to highlight these issues, there are murmurings about attacks on the Igbos too in the north by Boko Haram insurgents. Is Boko Haram a legitimate advocate of the north, Hausa-Fulani or the Muslims? Isn’t it an enemy of state, against any people, organisation or interest averse to its heavily flawed and misrepresented ideals of Islam? In the lash of its many crimes against humanity, has Boko Haram not killed uncountable innocent Nigerians, as it targets churches, mosques of non-cooperating Muslims, schools of both Muslims and Christians, boys and girls and also public institutions where religious affiliations are not tattooed on workers’ foreheads? Permit me to ask: is the emir of Kano, a frail old man who escaped death in gun attack and now living in fear of the terrorists, a Christian – and an Igbo? Are the young men here in the north called “Civilian JTF” who have risen to fight the terrorists also Igbos – and Christians? Were the murdered retired military officer and elder statesman, General Mohammad Shuwa, and all the northern elite and technocrats lost in this madness Christians and Igbos? And was the father of Kano State’s Governor Kwankwaso who was attacked just last week a Christian and an Igbo? If Boko Haram has enjoyed the backing of the north as is being touted by hate-mongering commentators who do not even know that the north is a region of 19 expansive states, why are indigenous northerners and Muslims also targeted alongside the Christians?
Now where are the northern governors? And where are the so-called representatives of the northern interests, especially the Arewa Consultative Forum? So there is no screaming and calling for Governor Rochas Okorocha’s explanations and apologies, and, threatening to retaliate? Our Governors, especially Katsina State’s Governor Ibrahim Shema from whose State the “terrorist” suspects hailed, must carry out a needful measure, in the fashion of Anambra State’s Governor Peter Obi’s confrontations of his Lagos counterpart. They must prove to these boys that they are indeed elected to represent them. If those prospective students have been suspected to be of the Boko Haram militants and potentially considered threats by the clairvoyance of the security personnel in Owerri, why weren’t they handed over to the “appropriate authorities” as our bail-abusing policemen are called in friendliest references?
Well, the next election is just a calendar away, you may chant “Sai mai sallah” again in abusing your franchise having been hoodwinked into sectional alignments. What have these political “masu sallah”, those representative of your own religious values and ethnic identities, done for you now that you’re being hauled as worthless third-class citizens with no political representatives? Thank you, Governor Okorocha for exposing that the Boko Haram insurgents from the republic of northern Nigeria now carry identity cards around. We thank you, sir. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)