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(79): The Reign of Bigotry, Disunity and Provincialism in Nigeria

Muhsin Ibrahim

This is a compilation of the 2 posts I made on Facebook on December 3rd, 2016 on two related and burning national issues. Enjoy:

On the Deaths of Corps Members

There was a furore in the news Friday (02/12/2016) that a female corps member, Ifedolapo Oladepo, died in the Kano orientation camp. No doubt, her death is unfortunate and very heartbreaking especially for her loved ones, but how the story was/is told left me dumbfounded and shocked. The whole saga was territorialised, regionalised, and localized as if the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme was a state business. Thus, Kano is blamed. It’s, after all, Nigeria, and the North is almost always portrayed in bad light. To some southerners, nothing comes out of this ‘Almajiri-populated’ enclave.

My suspicion was corroborated by the reaction ‘generated’ by yet another death of another female corps member identified as Miss Elechi Chiyerum. This occurred not in the North but at the Bayelsa orientation camp. There was/is silence; no uproar, no condemnation of either the state or even the federal government. Rather, the deceased is blamed for “non-disclosure of ailment”. The NYSC officials in Kano said the same as the cause of Miss Ifedolapo’s death, but her mother, sister and largely the public disagreed. Therefore, many, including some highly educated people on the social media, are blaming the state, and, technically, the people of Kano.

I believe such myopic look at national problems will not help us a bit. If there is a broken health care system in the Kano camp, the same is very likely to be obtained in all other camps. I served in Katsina in 2011. I swear the camp felt a lot like one was in Enugu, or Rivers or any other southern state for, we, the northerners, were the significant minority. Likewise, if it’s the drills given to the Otendos (the new corps members) by their soldier-trainers, the same/similar is what others all over the country go through. And, if, as also alleged, it was the absence of a doctor to attend to her at the local hospital she was rushed to at Gwarzo LG was the cause, it’s a general, even normalised practice, a wrong one though, that doctors don’t stay in the rural hospitals except during work hours, etc. There is no rationale, whatsoever, to shift the blame squarely at the state. Let us, rather, talk about the overall problem bedevilling the nation, and seek for ways to address them squarely.

I hope that the central government will make better and proper arrangements for the upcoming corps members to avoid the recurrence of the situation. To save lives. The death of a loved one at an orientation camp, or as a corps member must be very painful, for so much is expected of him immediately after the service. I pray to the Almighty God to comfort the families of the deceased, and to protect other corps members presently in the camps across the country, amin.

On the Fulani Herdsmen Rampage

For a starter, I am not Fulani. Although I have relatives and friends who are Fulani, I know no more than a word or two of the language. I am Hausa from Kano. I don’t and won’t absolve the alleged Fulani herdsmen who murder and maim people and ransack their villages in the North and other places in Nigeria. But comments such as Mr. Sam Omatseye’s (attached below) and by other should-be respected, educated and intelligent people are appalling, uncalled for and numbing. By calling on the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to arm its members in southern Kaduna, or similar divisive, treacherous commentary, I think the Nigerian security agents should arrest and quiz him.

Mr. Omatseye is the Editor of the Nation, a national newspaper, a columnist and a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters. Looking at how bigoted and bird-brained he wrote numbed me. Is Nigeria this cursed? He is not alone. There's yet another professor I follow (on Facebook) who calls Governor Nasir El-Rufa'i names for negotiating with the ‘faceless’ Fulani predators and gave them money to stop the killings of his people in Kaduna. Yes, the Southern Kaduna people have been murdered, no denial, but are they the only ones being slain by these murderers? No.

First of all, let’s not forget that Boko Haram insurgents did not release the Chibok girls unconditionally. They were, allegedly, paid a huge amount of money, and we all hailed the government for doing that. Powerful and developed countries like France, Germany, Japan, etc. pay terror groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda ransom to release their nationals. This is not an unprecedented practice. It’s a common deal done, though not necessarily the most effective one, to free captive. But it works.

Second, which is more baffling, is how we largely ignore the rampage those same Fulani herdsmen do in other places in the North. Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi, and even parts of Kano, etc are examples. Last week alone, they killed scores in Katsina. That merely made headlines in any newspaper. In Zamfara, too, the stories have almost lost newsworthiness as the killings occur on a virtually weekly basis. But once they attacked Agata, the media went agog. Why? I wonder what that Professor and this thoughtless editor friend of his have said on those killings. Probably nothing, for the victims, were most likely Muslims.

Third, which is equally relevant, is what I think this editor missed or is ignorant of. In Christianity, you don’t respond to murder by murder. Even in Islam, one should rather exercise patience. Yes, in both religions, self-defence is allowed, nay, encouraged, but if everyone (in Southern Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Adamawa, Kebbi, Kano, etc) picks up weapons, only anarchy will reign. May Allah forbid! There has to, in fact, must be a way out. Taking arms by all will only exacerbate the situation, and lead to more chaos and unrest.

Nigerians really have a lot to do, a long way to walk and much to bury for the country to move forward. We, of course, have differences, which will forever remain present, but exposing them and capitalising on them is unhealthy. It’s all scarier if our intelligentsia leads in the polarisation. I hope we are not doomed, I really do.

I am very angry and disappointed. I didn't want to write this, but I believe it will help at least a few to rethink and ponder and shun being bigots, acrimonious and provincial. May peace reign in my beloved country, amin.

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