Nigeria And The Mindless Mockery Of Memory
By Bala Ibrahim
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother coming to the rescue of a people with a rusty memory, especially a people that fall within the Nigerian geopolitical arrangement. But when, through action or inaction, such rusty memory is pushing the people in the direction of a holocaust, even poor students of history like me, may be compelled by the sense of patriotism to resort to evangelism. This is a call to duty directed by nationalistic responsibility and not revered religion.
In the last three months, and gradually coming to the last three weeks, Nigeria seems to be deteriorating from a position of robust friendly strength, to near the edge of a cliff. Things are happening at a pace that is not only threatening the peaceful existence of the country, but pushing it to the point at which something bad will inevitably happen. God forbid!
In the last quarter of last year, I had a privileged discussion with someone that is privileged to have privileged and confidential information on happenings in and around Nigeria. As a patriot, he asked me to pray without relent, on our country, Nigeria. He said the country is countlessly and constantly challenged by calamities that are capable of causing a catastrophe. The challenges are multifaceted, but he believed with prayers, something full of divinity could come to the rescue of the country.
I didn’t understand the danger or seriousness of his foresight until recently, when events began to unfold in the south western part of Nigeria. The cue word of the coming cataclysm, that may heighten to holocaust is, the HERDSMEN.
Like joke, a simple term is threatening to tear a country into a tribal war, starting with the attack and subsequent expulsion, killing and maiming of members of the Fulani ethnic group in particular, and the Hausa or even followers of the Islamic religious group in general, from the south western part of Nigeria. What is wrong with our memory?
I don’t want to go into graphic details of the gruesome murder of northerners in Sasa Market in Akinyele Local Government Area of Oyo state, where more than 20 people were reportedly killed, and an excess of 100 others were said to have sustained gunshots injuries yesterday, Saturday, the 13th of February 2021. Nearly an equal number of Northerners have been declared missing, sequel to a deadly and unprovoked attack by hoodlums and members of the regional security outfit, Amotokun. The attack coincided with the remembrance anniversary of the assasination of the former Head of state, in Lagos, Gen. Murtala Mohammed, a native hausa/fulani man from Kano. What is wrong with our memory?
Yes, in the south west, the Fulani man belongs to the minority. In the event of an upheaval, he would be crushed. By the same analogy, in the core north, the Yoruba man belongs to the minority. What would befall him, in the event of a reprisal, occasioned by that upheaval? Admiration or annihilation? What is wrong with our sense of reasoning or rational thinking?
I was taken down the memory lane by the article of Gimba Kakanda, thus: “Even though the North has the largest population among Nigeria’s three ethnically defined regions, it has the least people in other regions. So, it doesn’t make sense that these few northerners are not safe in other regions, as they pay the huger price of our mutual bigotry.
The North has also reacted irrationally in targeting members of another ethnic group, and that’s a shameful episode of our history. But we should’ve learnt the hard lesson of where this cycle of hatreds and bigotries lead us. This is what the road to Kigali looks like”.
My memory is still fresh about one of my early assignments as the BBC Hausa correspondent in Kano in the early nineties. Kano went up in flames, and I was employed to report the rampage.
On the invitation of the Christian Association of Nigeria, and the Kano State branch of the Reinhard Bonnke Ministry, a crusade was planned to be staged in Kano, where the German evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke would feature in the city. Bonnke had held similar crusades in Ilorin and Kaduna, where at the end of every programme, thousands were converted to Christianity. The event was heavily hyped.
For the people of Kano, a city seen as synonymous with strong and unapologetic Islamic faith, bringing Bonnke to preach and promote Christianity was blatant blasphemy.
Although pressure was mounted on the government by the Muslims to cancel the crusade for fear of riot, and it did, the Christians were undaunted and undeterred. They went ahead with the plan at a different venue, the compound of St. Thomas School in Sabon Gari.
The Muslims resorted to physical prevention of the crusade, through a violent and spontaneous protest that resulted in the death of as many as 1000 people. Some reports said over 2,000 people died. Many properties and vehicles were destroyed in the carnage. It was one of the ugliest incidences to happen to the city of Kano. And I had the burden of reporting such, as my early duty in journalism.
Sabon Gari, the regular place of catching fun by many, went under siege, as we saw former friends and allies fighting each other, and I was amongst those responsible with the reportage. No one had the time and sense of reasoning to say Bonnke is a German and not a Yoruba man. Bonnke simply sounded like Ronke, who must be killed, because of his or her ethnicity. What a shame!
Are some people with mindlessly rusty memory trying to hoist a repeat scenario on us?
May Allah put them to shame, Ameeen.