Liberation Of ‘Our People’: Religion, Strategy And 2019 Elections


I am particularly delighted for the honor done on me by the national leadership Of Ikulu Youth Association to have been invited to provoke discussions on Religion, Strategy and the 2019 elections, especially as it relates to the liberation of ”our people”. Like in our Holy Books, a lot of permutations, as well as prophesies had already been made about the coming few days. Pundits – especially at beer parlors, had, like the three wise men, relied on star to tell us where the “saviors” will be born. It is these saviors that are expected to deliver us from all our afflictions. And like the prophesy of Isaiah, those who live in darkness would now see a great light. Killings in the land will stop. Hunger will be replaced with abundance, while a national bazaar will be declared as a mark of a new dawn.
But before we ride on, permit me to clarify an expression that is now hitting us below the belt, namely: “our people”. What does the expression means? Where does the jurisdiction of this expression begin and end? Is it based on geography, ethnicity or religion? It is essential to make the clarification because the expression appears exclusive, especially when viewed within the context of a country where governance is a synonym for the distribution of the so-called national cake. Though the expression here obviously refers to Southern Kaduna, and in particular, the Ikulu Nation, I must confess that it is difficult to know what that means. And if anybody is in doubt, let him only refresh his mind on the reactions that greeted the choice of Dr. Hadiza Balarabe from Sanga as the running mate of Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai. I am sure that the reactions alone could suggest why it is difficult in understanding what the expression means.
And this segregationist distinction which has its origin from the day injustice was born, has a long history in Nigeria. While most minorities use the expression to attract attention to how they have suffered, for the dominant groups, it reminds them of their inherited privileges that must not be allowed to fickle out. Tragically, this has led to a harmful definition of citizenship across the country. For instance, while the North is defined based on Islam as if it is a caliphate, the Middle Belt appears to be a Christian colony. This was why when Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, in his homily at the funeral of late Governor Patrick Yakowa, accused Northern elite of running the region as if it is a Muslim state, Mohammed Haruna simply asked him to take a look at the elite of the North Central states, who have “become more adept and even more brazen in projecting their religion as the basis for power”. According to him, “it is this cabal members who were allegedly up in arms against a deputy governor becoming governor in the event the incumbent proves incapable of discharging his duties in Taraba state”. And this is why I doubt, that Southern Kaduna, like the North, the Middle Belt, etc., do not have a different definition and concept of citizenship.
There is no doubt that many northerners have continued to use the name of Islam, Sardauna or Arewa for their daily bread, and to inflict hardship on others, with Southern Kaduna not excepted, the condition of the weather in contemporary time seems to suggest the need to fly a different plain if we must all get to our destination safely.
There now seems to be an enlightenment among people that may bring to a terminal point the train boarded by ethnic and religious merchants. Only last week at the Kaduna state secretariat, I listened to a young Muslim narrating the antics of our northern elite when he said: “Nobody can deceive us again because we have now understood their tricks”. It is an eatery within the secretariat and the guy, after he had finished eating, told the woman that he wouldn’t pay for the food on ground that he is a friend to the late Sardauna’s grandson. When the woman asked what that has to do with the payment of what he had eaten, he said: “You know, when you want to get away with responsibilities in the North, all you need do is to call the name of the late premier.” He went ahead to narrate how he had watched a politician, faced with legitimacy crisis, shedding tears on NTA saying the North is sitting on a time bomb because it has refused to follow the footsteps of the late premier.
Yes, in spite of our bitter experiences, the foundations of which were laid yesteryears, with the ongoing enlightenment, Southern Kaduna ought to have defined the struggle in perspective by deploying a more inclusive strategy that will make our proposals for a just society realizable. Unfortunately, the struggle became faulty in both form and content and we are now believed to have presented either an ethnic or creedal budget as our Bill of Rights. This is why the ongoing divide- and – rule strategy of our imaginary enemy, as a means for political survival, is attracting support from the other divide that we had erroneously excluded in the struggle. Despite our common experience, which ought to have been the rallying point, they now see a reason why they should stick to their own with whom they share a common creedal citizenship, and who, in the circumstances, has given them a sense of belonging.
The “abuses” should not have been seen and cast as the implementation of a religious agenda, but as threats against our common humanity. From Southern Kaduna to Birnin Gwari, and down to Zamfara, there should have been a synergy to end human suffering based on the common denominators: kidnapping, murder, hunger, unemployment, etc. On the contrary, our reactions sold to the world the impression that we are out to the streets to seek fairness and justice, not for all men, but for our tribe and religion. To prove this to the world, our sister, who no longer worship with us, was, on our traditional slot of deputizing, chosen to represent us. And in spite of all these contradictions, everyone is expected to quietly comply as a mark of patriotism else he or she is declared a betrayer of the ambiguously undefined struggle.
But those who are familiar with the struggles for freedom elsewhere should have been courageous enough to call the attention of those leading us. They should have explained to them that this was not the path followed by other nations, as there is no one route to the Promised Land. And only recently, the Pope called for the “demilitarization of the human heart.”
Without going far, South Africa should have been handy. To bring apartheid to its knees, the African National Congress didn’t rely on one strategy. There was the Early Resistance in the 1940s organized by the Communist party which had to do with bus boycotts and protests against housing policy, strikes and civil disobedience. There was also the Nonviolent Confrontation. It is important to note here that ANC’s resistance remained largely nonviolent throughout the 1950s. By 1952, the Defiance Campaign involved people volunteering to break the law by, for instance, entering “whites only” parks, breaking curfew and refusing to carry their identity passes. Many got arrested while others went to jail.
The Armed Resistance was as a result of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 when police killed 69 protesters and wounded over 180. As a result of this, attitudes within the ANC began to harden. In 1961, activists, including Nelson Mandela, formed an armed wing which initially focused on acts of sabotage such as the destruction of electricity pylons, while in the 1970s and 1980s, the campaign escalated to include attacks on police stations and bombing of cars. Again, those leading our struggle should also have been told of how the ANC mobilized the International Community as another strategy when the Armed Resistance failed. The international community was encouraged to pressurize the South African government for change by imposing series of boycotts. For example, overseas tours by all-white South African sports teams were met with protests and South African athletes were unable to compete in the Olympic Games between 1964 and 1992.
And based on how others now see us as trouble shooters, despite our enviable tradition of being hospitable, emphasizing on the nonviolent resistance of Mahatma Gandhi would have saved our image. Our opponents are now quick to remind us of how we protested against the choice of our son – Ambassador Nuhu Bajoga as Governor Mukhtar Yero’s deputy. And that, before then, the convoy of another illustrious son, Governor Patrick Yakowa, was, for over an hour, held hostage by hundreds of youths and women who were protesting the killing of two women by unknown gunmen. Therefore, that they weren’t surprised when in 2014, hundreds of half nude protesting women booed and threw objects at the convoy of Governor Yero as they also did to Governor Elrufai in 2016. And only recently, in an interview with Channels Television, the Kaduna state Governor, made reference to how we have been literally throwing stones at his deputy who is also our son.
But something must be wrong. It must be wrong because as a civilized people who are associated with the Nok civilization, and on whose chest many world bests were nurtured and sustained, – the Matthew Kukahs, Chris Abashiyas, Ashafas, Bagobiris, Andrew Noks, Bala Bantexes, Alex Yayocks, among many uncountable brains, it will not be believed that it is because we are unaware of the effectiveness of nonviolence of which Martin Luther King Jr said: ” It avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit”. And that “The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent, but also refuses to hate him because at the center of it stands the principle of love”.
Yes, it should be clear to everyone now that we are out to defeat injustice and not persons who may be unjust. Neither their religion nor political parties. Unfortunately, the experiment during the last local government elections showed the contrary; we showed hatred to good and just people because of where they belong(ed) while we placed our stamps of approval on some criminals on ground that they are from platforms approved in our indigenous market square. This is probably why in the case of Zango Kataf, Hon. John Hassan is now seen as the best chairman we never had. But that singular act was not only wrong; it is a classic example of how politics should not be played. As a game of interest, what matters is not the political party, tribe or religion of the individual, but his inclusiveness, ability to do justice, accountability and fairness to all. And the question must now be openly asked: after that singular act of shame that was at best, a reflex act, what has the Ikulu nation benefited from it? As we hear, even the tradition of allocating the position of the office of the local government scribe was breached by those who claim to be our comrades and who, since the creation of the local government, have not allowed us to chair it as if it is an altar that we are unclean to approach.
As the elections begin in a week’s time, it is our responsibility as youths who are now enlightened, conscious and committed to the common good, to ensure that: one, development is what we want and not tribe, religion or party. Two, we organize ourselves to enlighten our people to walk through the paths where our interest lies. Three, we and the Anghan people must come together to ask whether we have been ostracized since we are the only ones without basic amenities such as electricity and pipe borne water. Four, we must review the dividends of our marriage with our political allies to see the fruits it has yielded in determining whether we need a divorce or not. These, for me, are the guidelines to the 2019 elections.
Finally, unlike other socio-cultural groups who have already taken their stands as to where their votes should go, we should avoid the monumental mistake by prayerfully and wisely diagnosing our interests and how we intend to achieve it, knowing fully that politics is a reward system and that, one cannot reap from where he never sowed. Four years is a long period and we do not have the capacity to bear the consequences of a misinformed choice.

Damina can be reached via:

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