BY ZACHARYS ANGER GUNDU
Gimba Kakanda has taken a swipe at Dr. Obadaiah Mailafia’s recent radio interview at which he carpeted the Federal Government and the Military for complicity in the killings in Southern Kaduna and the Boko Haram insurgency.
In the interview, Dr. Mailafia also identified the ‘Northern establishment’ as a complicit party in the killings and said he has intelligence indicating that a serving Northern Governor is a Boko commander. The DSS has since invited Dr. Mailafia two times for a ‘chat ‘ and the Kakanda swipe which appeared in the Daily Trust of August 16th 2020 is a ridicule and reprimand of Dr. Mailafia.
According to Kakanda, Dr. Mailafia’s ‘profiling’ of the ‘Northern establishment’ and the military as ‘masterminds’ of the killings in the North is an old conspiracy theory whose star is General TY Danjuma, a former Minister and Army Chief of Staff.
Kakanda argues that he encountered this ‘old conspiracy theory’ in 2017 at an event in Washington DC where a Nigerian pointedly claimed Boko Haram ‘were a Christian targeting cult’.
Kakanda accuses Dr. Mailafia and others who subscribe to ‘conspiracy theories’ on the killings in the North of abandoning ‘reason for sentiments’ foregrounded on ‘inventions of sincere desperation’.
He questions Dr. Mailafia’s intellectual and analytical credentials and accuses him of cherry-picking his case studies ‘to stoke ethno religious tension’. We are reminded that ‘Mailafia is what politics of desperation does to’ us. Kakanda argues that Mailafia’ refusal or inability to make sense of what is happening in Northern Nigeria is not social science but the ‘theory of nonsense’. Instead of proffering his understanding of the instability in Northern Nigeria, the Southern Kaduna killings, the Boko Haram insurgency and the seemingly complicit role of the Federal Government and the Nigerian Army in the insecurity in the North, Kakanda ends his swipe by ridiculing Dr. Mailafia’s Oxford credentials and applauding the DSS for inviting him over the radio interview and making him to realize that ‘he can’t be a licensed anarchist’.
Without some alternate perspective from Kakande on the issues Dr. Mailafia touched on in his radio interview, we are left only with Kakande’s personal disagreement and ridicule of Dr. Mailafia’s perspective.
Many Nigerians especially those from the ‘core north’ do not understand the grievances of the Middle Belt in the Nigerian project and in the formation called Northern Nigeria.
This is understandable because leading intellectuals of the core North like Dr. Ango Abdullahi have denied a Middle Belt identity, disfiguring it as an ‘imagination’ sponsored to undermine the North.
This lack of knowledge and penchant for misrepresenting the other runs deep in the core North and is foregrounded in history.
After the Fulani held up the Hausa States as an amalgam of bad Muslims and foisted a Fulani leadership on them in the name of a Jihad, spirited attempts were made in the writings of leaders of the Sokoto Jihad to also include the Middle Belt as the Caliphate’s ‘subordinate other’.
Mohammed Bello’s Infakul Maisuri according to leading scholars of pre-colonial Nigeria was the first treatise to sell the idea of a Sokoto imperial hegemony on parts of the Middle Belt. Maps of the Caliphate drawn by the Scottish explorer Hugh Clapperton incorporating parts of the Middle Belt as Caliphate land were drawn under the close guidance of Mohammed Bello.
His writings and the information he provided to Clapperton for these maps is the basis for the tradition equating the Middle Belt with ‘Hausa territory’. Though much of the Middle Belt resisted the armies of the Sokoto Caliphate successfully, because their resistance was interpreted as rejection of Islam, they continued to suffer aggression at the hands of the Caliphate including slave raids which depopulated the area robbing it of able bodied men and women.
Colonial policies that privileged the Hausa Fulani over and above other non-Muslim groups in the North exacerbated the situation and for many, the instability in many parts of the North goes back to years of exclusion and contempt.
Not many may remember but when General Yakubu Gowon fought the civil war and succeeded in keeping Nigeria one, the ‘Northern establishment’ hailed him as the good Northerner from Barewa College. The same establishment were soon to turn against him using the former Grand Khadi of the Northern Region, Abubakar Gumi and the media outlets of the Interim Common Services Agency (ICSA) to demonize him and ridicule him with names like ‘the missionary boy from Panshin’.
The core North has repeatedly sought to exclude the Middle Belt and non Muslims from being part of the North in recent history.
We may need to be reminded that when Lt General Ishaya Bamaiyi a Zuru Christian from Kebbi was appointed Chief of Army Staff by General Abacha, Muslim senior military officers campaigned scurrilously against him.
During the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, Dr. Ango Abdullahi accused President Obasanjo of making appointments ‘along religious lines which disproportionately targeted Muslims’. This was the Northern establishment’s reaction to the appointment of General Victor Malu as Chief of Army Staff.
We can go on and on. The point must not be lost that attempts to exclude the Middle Belt with disdain in the privileges that come with the Northern toga are part of why there is tension and instability in Northern Nigeria.
While the Northern establishment understands the ‘twisted logic’ of grabbing ancestral lands from the Middle Belt and other Nigerians for the Fulani of the whole world in the name of grazing reserves, they are unable to comprehend why a people would resist such uncharitable move.
When Fulani militias were murderously prowling the Benue Valley after open grazing resources, the Northern establishment was largely silent and more concerned about ‘cattle rustling’ in Zamfara and other places. Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State had confessed running after the killers of the people of Southern Kaduna in several countries just to pay them off.
Dr. Ahmed Joda and his Pastoral Resolve have reportedly warehoused billions of Naira for the establishment of grazing reserves (not ranches) across different States of Northern Nigeria including those in the Middle Belt where the Fulani have no appreciable presence.
It is only those who have no first hand knowledge of the killings in Kaduna and elsewhere by Fulani militia and even Boko Haram that will blame Mailafia for crying out and saying he does not want to belong to any North.
A responsible Government will not allow even one single individual in a modern nation state to be killed in the circumstances people are being killed in Nigeria every other day.
This is no matter the provocation or excuse.
Nigerian Government spokesmen are telling us the killings are about vengeance and criminality. No person wants to know how long we can allow this vengeance and criminality to continue.
We also seem to know that some of these killers are not Nigerians and no one seems to be asking who their Nigerian accomplices are and how they can enter the country, travel deep into the Middle Belt and murderously go after communities and disappear into thin air.
Any Government that allows this level of ‘vengeance and criminality’ with incessant impunity without holding anyone to account cannot escape the charge of complicity especially from people and communities at the receiving end.
On Boko Haram, we must not loose sight of the fact that Government has been after them for more than 5 years.
The Nigerian Civil War was fought between July 1967 and January 1970, a period of three years. Is our Military that bad? What is really happening here?
No one will deny the unfortunate deaths of Sheikh Jaafar Mahmud Adam, Sheik Muhammad Awwal Albani Zaria, Retired General Mohammed Shuwa and Emir of Gwoza, Idrissa Timta were by Boko Haram but flagging these deaths in the face of non Muslims to assuage them that the sect is not targeting them is missing the point.
The Islamic establishment in Nigeria has been slow in condemning Boko Haram.
More importantly, Boko wants to set up an Islamic Caliphate in Nigeria and are committed to conversion by the sword.
Leah Sharibu and others are today not still united with their families because of their refusal to become Muslims by force.
We should also not forget the nature of Jihadi Islam. In 1804, Uthman Danfodio held up the Hausa States as an amalgam of bad Muslims even though he had the Islamic scholars of Yandoto and the Kanem Bornu to contend with.
After his armies defeated the Hausa States, we are contending with the Islamic orthodoxy of the Caliphate.
If Boko Haram were to overrun the country and establish their Caliphate, the worst that may happen to Nigerian Muslims is to hold them up as an amalgam of bad Muslims while non-Muslims will suffer worse fate.
Nigeria is a secular state and as long as Government allows potentially disruptive portraits of the divine with tendencies bordering on theocracy and force to hold sway, we are heading for self-destruction.
We must moderate our vocabulary of faith and restrain the fire in us to fight for the gods.
We can instead channel that fire against our leaders who are literally ‘armed bandits’ pilfering the common purse.
We must together clarify what religious freedom means and what portrait of God is useful and healthy in a multi religious society. We cannot allow for portraits of God that hold others to ransom nor threaten their wellbeing, safety and freedom.
On the alleged complicity of the military in the killings in the North, Kakanda dismisses even the concerns of the star of these allegations, General TY Danjuma.
Good enough, we are not talking about Oxford degrees here or career tracks in the Central Bank. We are talking of a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Minister of Defence. TY Danjuma is not a frivolous person and a Kakanda profiling him over his allegations against the Nigerian Army must answer to the charge of peddling high nonsense.
Kakanda also forgot to remind us that Mailafia’s accusation of a serving Governor being in the ranks of Boko Haram commanders is not new. Lt-General Onyeabor Azubuike did not only accuse one Governor, he went on to identify him by name.
While it is important to investigate whatever Dr. Mailafia said on the radio interview, there is no way you can understand where he is coming from unless you know and see the carnage in Southern Kaduna and other parts of the Middle Belt.
Those who have elected to profile him as an anarchist do not understand that he is crying for his people and there is no known format for crying when you are down. Let the tears flow.