By Martin-Hassan Eze
Before I empty my plate, let me quickly make haste to make some disclaimer. Even though I am a catholic, I have met and interacted with civilized, humane and urban Muslims. I am also in love with the philosophy of Muslims political leaders, like Alhaji Aminu Kano and Nasir El-Rufai.
I know I am traveling the unpopular road or risk doing the unpopular with this treatise but who cares? A writer’s job is not to be politically correct but to act as the voice of the voiceless, the conscience of the society or what some people refer to as “Senior advocate of the masses” in all times and in all situations not minding if he steps on the toes of sacred cows.
As a Nigerian I have been fortunate to have a dual heritage, a Northern spirit and an Eastern blood. And, I think it is from the vintage position that I have commented our socio-political cum religious affairs. It is the Sultan of Sokoto and the president of National Council of Islamic Affairs who opined that “there is no problem between Islam and Christianity, but there is a problem between Christians and Muslims in certain places”. As a catholic who was born and brought up in Northern Nigeria, I cannot but subscribe to the idea canvassed by the Sultan. I have argued in various fora of articulate commentary that Islam and Christianity are two good religions but the Nigerian adherents of these religions have over the years distorted the doctrines of these religions for political gains – talk of the politicization of religion. Nigeria in general and Arewa in particular is in total mess because merit is sacrificed at the altar of religion.
If the situation is true of Nigeria it is even truer in Arewa where being a member or adherent of a particular religion gives you a visa to enjoy certain privileges while identifying with another religion denies you the enjoyment of your fundamental human rights. The northern part of the country have had the opportunity of having the largest portion of the national cake yet Arewa is a perfect representative of the land of poverty and scarcity in the midst of plenty. What did northern political class at the federal, state and local levels of government do with the large allocation they get from the national purse for thirty-four years they have been controlling federal power? Pitiably, instead of promoting rule of law and constitutionalism and altruistic development, popular education for the masses, most political actors of northern extraction have espoused mis-governance and have succeeded in using religion to cover up their messy and ugly steps.
Why on earth will a governor appoint a stranger as an Emir and impose him on a people because he share the same religion with the governor even when he is not the people’s choice? Why should a governor use the state resources in a pluralistic and secular state like Nigeria in sponsoring pilgrimage from one religion to Holy Land while denying adherents of other religions the same right and privilege? Why will a bonafide citizen of Nigeria become a personal non-grata or second class citizen in his state because he does not believe in a particular religion? The joy that greeted the death of Patrick Yakowa the first Christian Governor of Kaduna State and the violence that welcomed his emergence as governor speak volume about the evil of politicizing religion in Northern Nigeria.
If Boko-Haram succeed in Northern Nigeria, it is because Northern leaders and political class failed. If the elites had promoted human and infrastructural development, the North-East could not have become the breeding ground for extremism and mindless killing in the name of religion. When the haramist were busy dishing out the menu of sorrow and death by burning Christian worship centres and villages in the country, most northern political actors never condemned it until it backfired. It’s not funny that it took the Northern Governor’s Forum (majority are Muslims) more than four years to summon a meeting over the harvest of blood in the north. Here, one may not resist the temptation of asking if the Haramists had centred their inhuman actions against Christian communities in north, will we have witnessed instances of condemnation and efforts made to curtail the monster now?
The Nigerian flag have started flying in most towns that the Haramists occupied in Borno State. Nigerians who were indigenes of such towns but were living in displaced people’s camp have started returning home only to discover to their dismay that political leaders want to re-colonize them by imposing a new political structure that takes no cognizance of the indigenous citizens who are in majority but are not Muslims. Haramists ripples are yet to settle in Gwoza and there are strong indications that the storm is not yet over with the Islamization policy of Christian towns and villages in Southern Borno by Kashim Shettima.
The Gwoza Christian Community Association in an open letter to the governor raised concerns about the wicked and inhuman conditions that Christians are subjected to. It is of interest to state that out of the 13 wards of Gwoza Local Government nine are predominantly Christians yet Shettima has decided to impose Muslim Emirs, Village Heads, Local Government Chairmen, Councillors and other political appointees on them. Why will a state government force Christian students to learn Islamic religious knowledge and deny them the opportunity of learning Christian religious knowledge in government secondary schools in a local government that is over 80 percent Christians? How can somebody convince me that Islamic agenda is not in play here?
It is nothing but primitive ignorance not to realize that all humans were created by God. God did not out of foolery create a pluralist Nigeria or Borno State. If he wanted an all-Muslim world he could have done so. Why the persecution and victimization of Christians? Governor Shettima and other Islamist in North-East must realize that “at this critical point, Nigeria and Africa need leaders who will mend the broken spirit and resuscitate the collapse morale of founding continent and original cradle of mankind. This is the crucial significance of what appears to be a new beginning in Nigeria” – Apologies to Tatalo Adamu. Democracy and modernity demand that we migrate beyond the stage of religious politics to welfarist and popular participatory government.
Martin-Hassan Eze wrote in from Kaduna
By Martin-Hassan Eze