So, Where is the North?
EDIFYING ELUCIDATIONS BY OKEY IKECHUKWU
There is now absolute silence from all those who, once and often repeatedly, spoke up for the bandits ravaging The North. They had no doubt, at the time, that they were defending the interests of The North. They said that we should not call them bandits. Sheik Abubakar Gumi was upfront in his many recommendations, including the demand that the Federal Government should liaise with, and pay, “good bandits” to help us fight the bad ones.
No one asked him the meaning of the word “bandit,” and how there could ever be a nexus between banditry and goodness. He would have us believe that it was a matter of talking to them, of seeing their point of view and of understanding that they are just pleasant people who “only kidnap people for ransom.” They are not killers, or anything of the sort, he declared repeatedly. He met regularly with them, to prove that they were accessible and reasonable, even as they ravaged the land.
Well, see where we are today? And we cannot see, hear or smell Gumi as The North trembles under the ungovernable trampling.
Perhaps, the likes of Prof Ango Abdullahi would like to answer the question “Where is the North?” No, let Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State please give it a shot. He is probably better positioned to settle this matter once and for all. Afterall, he boldly told us on national television that all Fulani from anywhere whatsoever in the world are welcome here. They should be left alone to roam and rave as they pleased, he said. No one should make any issues if they decided to occupy any place that caught their fancy anywhere in Nigeria. These “global citizens,” to use the governor’s words, should be allowed to graze their cattle and munch their way through people’s farmlands and gardens, all over the country.
Now, hold on! If you do not consider him a viable candidate for a comprehensive answer to the above question, perhaps you would then like to recommend Miyetti Allah? Yes, the leadership and its General Assembly might just rise to the occasion. So, what are they saying today, as the entire northern Nigeria stands devastated, traumatized, vandalized and routinely plundered? Resolute, relentless, redoubtable and unremitting trampling on lives is the norm. Burning of villages and merciless assaults on travelers and road users everywhere. Ungoverned spaces have since become ungovernable spaces. Re-desertification has taken over previously inhabited and cultivated lands.
The population of beggars in The North grows by the day. So does unemployment and unemployable youths. And sustained banditry beats time to the onward march of sociopolitical Armageddon in The North. Yet The North is in power, they say. How? By merely holding positions in government, heading various agencies, ownership of oil wells, and membership of choice Boards, while their homeland is overrun and they actually cannot go home?
Welcome to the views expressed on this page on April 17, 2019, under the caption “Anglo Abdullahi’s Tenor and Tenure,” Wherein it was said: “Professor Ango Abdullahi was recently reported to have assured Nigerians, and the world at large, that the Fulani in Nigeria and West Africa can take on all comers, overrun any place and emerge victorious in any battle. But he did not say how the Fulani would develop holistically as a people and become part of a forward-looking, 21st century world that is leaving behind certain modes of living.
He also did not say anything about the dangers faced by an elite that seems focused on breeding a younger, “replacement” generation that is not being tooled to follow in the footsteps of the likes of an Ango Abdullahi in education, or that of a Chanchangi, Dantatta and Dangote in entrepreneurship, business and industry. He is conjuring, instead, images of knife and gun wielding, scraggly-looking, persons; perhaps even triumphantly displaying decapitated heads, burnt out villages and farmlands as background to their group photographs. This is not what a professor, learned or not, should wish to bring up in a fractious society with strong disruptive tensions.”
I reproduce below, in substantial measure, the views expressed in the aforementioned article, as they adequately address some of the worries now further thrown up by the emerging security situation in the country. The write-up continued thus: “A man like Ango Abdullahi should, at this point in his life, be speaking with greater discretion and less like the average activist that could pop out of any street corner. An elder, and even a grand elder and former Vice Chancellor of one of the few universities set up in this country deliberately to develop the badly needed human capital for a section of the country, should be focused on development.
An elder and professor from a section of the country with an average poverty index of over 73%, with most of them being progressively wiped out by marauders on a daily basis, should be worried about the fact that his part of the country houses some of the poorest people on earth today. The poverty is not genetic, or an indication of some kind of inferiority. It is the result of misrule, as a simple look at the statistics on literacy and other indices of development show appalling details.
Prof. Ango Abdullahi should not just speak of “his” people, but should speak of how the current capacities of the people in question would guarantee their long term survival in a world of galloping technology and climate change. It should occur to him that he is denigrating his own people when he presents them as largely a marauding, warring band of survivalists, who are ever ready to mete out inhuman killings at the slightest provocation. It should also occur to him that he is adding to the growing negative profiling of the Fulani person today. This new profile is progressively overshadowing the fact that we have lived peacefully with the Fulani for decades here.
The strength of the criminals all over the country today, some of them Fulani from outside Nigeria, actually comes from the fact that they are unchallenged for now. When the government of Ghana took concrete and firm steps to contain their excesses it became obvious that they had no capacity to do anything. But that is because the Ghanaian State took its own survival seriously. The Fulanis, and Myetti Allah, did nothing when Sule Lamido, as governor of Jigawa State, forbade open wandering of cattle in his state.
They also did nothing when Lamido authorized every citizen of Jigawa State to kill and barbecue any cattle found roaming in the city. No one heard their whimper about this “Lamido’s free gift to the people of Jigawa State,” as it was then called. And Lamido is Fulani, and of the right breed if you like, like the professor.
So how come that Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who should be thinking of Sir Ahmadu Bello’s dream of a developed Northern Nigeria … is mistaking the contrived impotence of the Nigerian State for the invulnerability of his Fulani kinsmen? How come he is taking the reluctance of the government to deal with a matter that can be clearly seen for what it is, for a superior survival template for a people that are in danger of being left behind by the march of history? If Ango Abdullahi actually believes that his thesis has the strength of a feather, let him contemplate the following questions:
(1) How many bullets do you have in a fully loaded AK47 magazine? (2) How many people will a man holding a loaded AK47 kill, assuming every bullet hits the mark? (3) How many such magazines, loaded or not, does the average gun-wielding herdsman have on him at any time, as he walks farmlands and ruins their crops? (4) Can any of the presumably impregnable Fulani herder with a gun engage in a full-blown, 10 minutes, non-stop shooting war without needing reinforcement? (5) Will such reinforcement come quickly enough to guarantee his survival? (6) Can he have two days of sustained engagement, even with the reinforcements coming via bags of garri, etc. stuffed with bullets and guns? (7) Will he not soon run out of bullets, men and other resources if he takes on even unarmed villagers and his escape routes are cut off?
Look at Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara, Borno, and most other northern states and tell us how these places would be in 10 years’ time. Zamfara State has one of the lowest education enrolments, one of the lowest school retention rates, one of the lowest positive education outcomes, and one of the highest school drop-out rates. Many in the Ahmadu Bello University, particularly from the South, remember Ango Abdullahi’s tenure as Vice Chancellor.
The ratio of 10% of admissions for the entire South and 90% for the North was rigorously enforced under him. “Go to the University of JAMB” was sometimes the refrain during registration, for successful candidates with letters of admission from JAMB, but whose names did not appear in the ABU admissions list.
The School of Basic Studies (SBS), set up to quicken direct entry admissions through the Interim Joint Admissions Matriculations Board (IJMB), was handy. So were Certificate programmes in disciplines like Law, Islamic Law, Library Science, etc. for candidates with barely tolerable O’Level papers. The certificate course qualified them for admission into Diploma programmes, while the Diploma led to degree programmes. The question for Ango Abdullahi today is: “Are we developing the North,” assuming there is still a “North.”
Returning to our original question, “Where is The North?” the worry here is that many terrible things have been allowed to fester for too long. The transport Minister mentioned the possibility of using fighter jets to escort the Abuja-Kaduna train service. Please, at what cost per trip? At what speed will the aircraft be flying? And who will be escorting road users, other trains and also protecting hapless villagers who are being routinely wiped out by marauders? Just asking.