By Sumner Shagari Sambo
In the wee hours of last week, I got a distress call around one (1) am from a friend who resides in Kaduna city calling for help and asking me to use my connections as a Journalist to inform the police and military hierarchy in the state that the environment where she lives in Nassarawa and other areas like Dirkaniya and Kakuri were being attacked as a result of the reprisal attacks and counter-reprisal attacks that greeted the three bomb blasts which rocked churches in Zaria and Kaduna on Sunday.
As if that was not enough, she asked me directly for the police contact and when I logged in online to scout for information on the incident from the social media, I found her comment already waiting for me on my newsblog, NEWSMAN. It read: “Shaggy (a nickname many call me) is there a way u can reach security guys? Tell them to deploy men to Nassarawa, Trikania and Kakuri. Please.” I quickly obliged her request.
The scenario quickly reminded me of the recent comments last month by a retired army general, Gen. Theophilus Y. Danjuma at a forum in Abuja where he said that despite his optimism on the ability of Nigeria to withstand difficult times like the present insecurity challenges, the recent bomb blasts were making him to have a rethink whether the country is not heading to a failed state like Somalia. Hear him:
“As far as Nigeria is concerned, I am an optimist. Each time we seem to stumble as a nation; I tell my self we shall muddle through. But in the last few months, I begin to wonder – our house is on fire.
“The Somalialisation of Nigeria is taking place right now. We need to sit down and get to the root of the problem to find a solution to it. Let us not deceive ourselves; the chief security officer of a state is the governor. Where are our northern governors? Borno is a failed state, Jigawa is almost a failed state. Kano is threatening to be a failed state. Where on earth are we going? You hear talks about multimillion naira fences around government houses, what about the people?”
While this is a courageous statement from one of our civil war heroes, I will like to however disagree with the general in some instance. To the cursory onlooker, it is Northern Nigeria and not necessarily the entire Nigeria that is actually being Somalialised because while the rest of Southern Nigeria is going ahead with giant developmental strides, the North especially the far-north, is pulling down its own house and heading towards anarchy as a result of the mixture of intolerances and religious fanaticism with governance.
While the Niger Delta militants were fighting against the Nigerian state, they never destroyed mosques, churches, schools, public buildings or killed security operatives at random. Instead, they targeted the heart of the Nigerian government – oil facilities and the kidnapping of foreign oil workers thereby leading to international pressure on the Nigerian government.
At the height of the Niger Delta insurgency in 2008 and 2009, the militants were careful not to annihilate their own people while fighting the government. Even when criminals hijacked the original idea and used militancy as a cover for bunkering oil or committing criminal acts, their leaders were rest assured that the roof would not collapse on the people of the Niger Delta. In fact, they still listened to the master’s whistle whenever the need arose.
But what do we have in the North? An amalgamation of the ruling party’s politicians in search of a candidate to foster their warped ideological views promise Nigerians hell if their anointed candidate is not allowed to hoist the party’s flag during the general elections. From a mere party issue, they systematically elevate it to a northern agenda. After refusing to even back a fellow northerner from another party in the general elections, they brainwash some innocent talakawas or commoners to work against the same elected government of their party whose candidature they dislike. At the zenith of the crises, they keep quiet. And just when these brainwashed talakawas make a decoy and engage in terrorism activities beyond their mandate, everyone is now feeling the heat across Northern Nigeria…including their masters.
It is no news that the nation’s number one chief intelligence officer, Gen. Andrew Azazi (rtd) described the ruling party as the greatest bottleneck hindering the quick resolution of the Boko haram crises facing Northern Nigeria. Wole Soyika also referred to the party as a nest of killers.
But one thing that surprises the writer is why these misguided northern elements are balkanizing northern cities themselves. If you have a problem with the central government, are you not supposed to be targeting national structures, its officials or institutions? Why a mix of it but with more focus on destroying a religious minority in your region? Why kill innocent worshippers on Sundays? Why the entrenchment of religious ideas in what is a pure political battle? Why use other tribes or former adherents of the opposite religion who converted to Islam as a cover for destroying churches so that it will seem that Christians are the ones destroying their own churches? Why destroy the very schools your children need to reduce the wide educational gap in the region?
The lack of appropriate control mechanisms to cut-off the wings of the Ecomog and Sara Suka boys who were used by some north-eastern governors for elections finally led to the boys being subsumed into what we now know as Boko Haram’s 1, 2 and 3. Professor Ango Abdullahi, a former Minister aptly classified them as religious, criminal and political Boko harams of which Gen. Muhammadu Buhari later re-echoed the same sentiments too.
These uncontrolled marauding beasts and savages have now been allowed to roam northern Nigeria freely, killing adherents of both dominant religions especially Christians on a Sunday-Sunday basis, killing villagers in Jos and Zamfara mercilessly, annihilating Muslim clerics who dare to preach the truth, systematically killing journalists, killing public officials, destroying police, military and other security formations and massively killing the rank and file of security officers.
One is tempted to believe that the three church bomb blasts that occurred in Kaduna State on May 17, 2012 were designed by the terrorists to instigate Christians against Muslim adherents via reprisal attacks as have occurred which has led to innocent lives dying while the Boko haram high command led by Abubakar Shekau sits back to laugh…“Mission Accomplished.” In fact one believes the blasts were timed to coincide with the return of many Muslim adherents who had gone to Minna, Niger State on Friday for a religious event commemorating Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass and were expected to return back to their various states through Kaduna on Sunday. The idea I guess was to make them a ready-made army for the pitched battle in Kaduna between Christians and Muslims while the Boko haram terrorists sit back to watch the theatre of blood and death that will ensue.
Having noticed a weak President and presidency at the centre, I strongly believe that the ultimate aim of the so-called Boko haram is to polarize the North with warlords and criminal gangs thereby allowing the area to become ripe for its declaration as a separate country just like Tuareg rebels did recently in Mali after destabilizing the central government and capturing northern Mali, which they renamed and proclaimed as Azawad Republic.
This carnage and others have destroyed the economy of the north with an estimated daily loss of about 25 billion naira and has led to its systematic Somalialisation as earlier expressed by General T.Y. Danjuma. The North, especially the North-West and North-East, is now a pariah among the constituent parts of Nigeria.
The component parts of Southern Nigeria are building new cities and other infrastructures on ocean-reclaimed lands or former forests, mega malls, mega flood pipe-jerking systems, building e-libraries, constructing new airports, giving free education, curbing child and maternal mortality, lifting small businesses, creating employment, attracting investments and entrenching good governance. What is the Northern political class in its entirety doing? Almost nothing…other than the usual politicking and forging of alliances on how to capture or return to power in 2015. Where are the mega projects in the North? None! Except for the sprinkle of hope in Jigawa and some Middle-Belt states like Benue, Plateau and the FCT. The North has indeed become a developmental burden to the rest of Nigeria.
This road to Somalia did not just start today, many experts saw it coming long ago when the National Bureau of Statistics and the Soludo’s and Sanusi’s of this world kept reeling out outrightly negative economic and poverty indices from the North-East geo-political zone, which today is the home of Boko haram. Even when national efforts were made to reduce hunger, poverty and increase access to education and healthcare through the NEEDS and SEEDS programmes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government, the governors of those states were unserious and more interested in politicking, sending party supporters to holy lands or buying expensive mansions in Abuja and Dubai.
The Northern Governors Forum like many other persons hold strongly to their hearts the conspiracy theories that the Boko haram insurgency and multiple blasts going out like knockouts in the North is a well-calculated attempt by those who hate the region to bring it down on its knees. But if one may ask Governor Muazu Babangida, the Chairman of the forum: have the signs not always been there that the north is failing or that northern elites have cornered what belongs to the poor? Also, is it the evil machinator against the North that is holding northern governors from delivering the so-called dividends of democracy to their people? I guess it is time for the governors to wake up from their slumber and play politics of sustainable development and not politics of deception or bitterness.
As we reminisce and try to find solutions to the war-torn zone that the North has become, we must ensure that we retrace our steps from where we were headed to before the triple blasts occurred in Kaduna, for even the people of Somalia have come to realize that they can no longer continue to allow themselves to be stateless or governed by gangs, warlords and tribal lords.
Therefore, the North must press the reverse break from the road to Somalia. We must converge a gathering or summit of all traditional rulers (who lost their respective powers in the 1976 Local Government reforms) in the region for a one week dialogue in a neutral environment away from any northern state with all political actors and groups who tacitly or openly have grievances against Christians and Muslims, minority tribes or the Federal Government present.
The North is no longer one but the traditional rulers can make it to become one if all constituent parts are given equal opportunities without the North-West always lording it over others. A negotiation and agreement for peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance must be signed between the North-West, North-East and North-Central. Also, ethnic minorities must be accommodated and not be denied of access to basic amenities or seen to be tolerated in all facet of government or social life in states especially where the Hausa/Fulani are the largest. The minorities must also ensure that they live peacefully with the majority tribes or religions.
Traditional rulers are important here because the North has always thrived more under their leadership, as was the case before losing their powers to local governments in 1976. I support the desire by many that the constitution should return some of their powers back to them.
The North after putting its house in order must ensure that it commits itself to the Nigerian project by supporting the Federal Government to help realize the ideals of forging a better and united Nigeria. The Federal Government must also invest massively in the region.
The National Assembly through the ongoing constitutional review should also devolve powers to the states or even abolish states and revert back to the provincial system through a six province structure that adopts the current geo-political zones: North-West, North-East and North-Central, South-East, South-west and South-South. Many governors of these zones are presently working towards realizing a regional agenda. The centre should only coordinate.
Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja should also be given a “special state” status. Out of the 8000 square kilometres in the FCT, the indigenous natives encircling the city centre should be given a second-tier status, and the rest 2000 sq km, known as the Federal Capital City in the Abuja Masterplan, should continue to serve as Nigeria’s capital. This structure for the FCT is deliberately added because if the current problems of the FCT indigenous people is not solved and they continue to remain stateless, then a more bigger guerrilla warfare than the last Niger Delta challenge or the current Boko haram insurgency will consume not only the North, but the Nigerian nation at large. The destruction of the nation’s capital by the indigenous people of the FCT may thus lead to the final end of the Nigerian state.
Editor’s Note: Sumner Shagari Sambo is a journalist and Editor of NEWSMAN, an online newsblog on Facebook.