Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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Of the three original regions that came out of a colonized Nigeria, the North was the most complex and sophisticated. You could donate the West to the Yoruba ethnic group, the East to the Ibos, but not the North.
In frustration, we came up with the double barreled pseudo ethnic group called the Hausa-Fulani. Nothing could be more fake than this. During the second republic- (1979-1983) – I was involved in running the constitutional order in Gongola State. Our government gazette of the ethnic groups in the state listed 104 of them. This did not include the Koma, later to be “discovered” by Col Yohanna Madaki, the military Governor of the state and Tiv who for inexplicable reasons were considered none indigenes in defiance of all documentary evidence.
If one component of the whole North was made up of over one hundred ethnic groups, how could we say everybody in the north was a member of an ill-defined group; the Hausa-Fulani? Because of this cosmopolitan mix, anything that touches the north has ripple effects in the whole country.
The biggest gift to the north by the Goodluck Jonathan administration was the state of aggravated insecurity in the north. Boko Haram, kidnapping, farmers herdsmen clashes, ethnic and `religious clashes took over the whole northern landscape. If the Buhari challenge attracted some of us, it was the hope that he would tackle insecurity in the north and by extension the whole of Nigeria.
In my speech at a public political meeting in Wukari in the run up to the 2015 presidential election, I spoke of Buhari’s credentials as a war tested general who had the capacity to tackle all security issues. It was a tackles blunder. My audience, largely of Christian faith expected me, a Christian, to make a case for a Christian candidate. Wukari was at the time fighting a brutal war between Muslims and Christians. So irked were some of my Christian audience that they plotted to lynch me. I took mental note of their plot and fled.
There are many more fanatics of Buhari who took far greater risks than me in the bid to make him President because they believed he was going to secure their lives. His choice of military commanders at first looked very impressive. The chosen few looked like hardened military men who were equal to the task at hand. Then a closer look at them by critics revealed that they were predominantly northerners. A case of nepotism, of favoring the north, was raised against Buhari.
I remember having a heated argument with my former boss in the News Agency of Nigeria, Willie Bozimo, the lively Willie Bee over the issue. He felt Buhari was favoring the north in is military appointments. I told him the president was favoring certain individuals and not the north. If by the appointments only the north turned out to be more secured than the other regions, then he could be accused of favoring the north. At the time of our argument, the north was still smarting insecurity inherited from Jonathan.
The insecurity in the north and the whole country has since our argument gotten worse. The accusation now is not that the military commanders are predominantly northerners but that they are dishonest, heavily compromised and hopelessly incompetent.
Worse hit are the three geo-political regions of the north – North-east, North–west and North-central. Banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, ethnic and or religious clashes have become the order of the day in our north. Boko Haram which the government declared was technically defeated, whatever that means, is still very much alive and kicking. In a spectacular strike only last week, the terrorists killed about 85 people near Gubio in Borno state. At the peak of Boko Haram deadly activism in the North East, the North West was relatively safe; not any more. Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Sokoto, Zamfara are now the killing fields of Nigeria where the elites like traditional rulers and the ordinary ruler folks are butchered as a matter of routine. The survivals are either on the run or living in perpetual fear of their lives.
The north east has been saddled with an additional security problem in Taraba. For over one year, the Jukun with evident assistance from the Taraba state government have embarked on a military campaign to push the Tiv ethnic group out of the state.
In the North Central region, kidnapping has suddenly become a popular hobby and lucrative industry for the criminal elements in the state. Prominent government officials, traditional/rulers are kidnapped as a matter of routine.
In neighboring Benue state ruled by Governor Samuel Ortom who in his good old days, when he was battling itinerant herdsmen awarded himself the title of ‘defender of the Benue valley’ is now busy trying to settle violent land disputes between Tiv clans. His close aides on security have been accused of embezzling huge sums of government funds put in their trust and are currently under arrest. The EFCC and the ICPC plans to dock them in courts of law very soon. The defender of Benue valley, a long stretch of country that starts from Adamawa, passes through Taraba, Bauchi, Benue, Nassarawa states and finally terminates in Kogi is now demoted to the defender of Benue state.
All over the north, it is a sad story of blood and fire. Some of us who have a little knowledge of Nigerian history are watching this development with trepidation. It may just become a wild fire that will catch the whole country. When the army officers started their ‘revolution’ in 1966, they spilled a lot of blood in the north and or of northerners. The end result was an avoidable civil war that cost millions of additional lives. May history not repeat itself.