Unspoken Truth Of The Northern Minorities Struggle And The Question Of Equality By Justin John Dyikuk
When a dog bites a man, it is no news but when a man bites a dog, it hits headlines. This popular saying among our people brings to the fore the unspoken truths cracking the walls of the very foundation of our nationhood even as we celebrate ‘Democracy Day’ today (29, May 2013). Do our minority tribes have a voice? Can they
speak out and be listened to? This piece makes a case for northern ethnic groups in this country that have been forced under the emirate system. Ekpo in an article ‘Nigeria,tribalism and economic development’ rightly observed that: ‘Nigeria, surely, is a complex entity consisting of several tribal/ethnic groups sometimes referred to as
nationalities’ (Cf., Akpan Ekpo, Nigeria, tribalism and economic development in TELL Magazine, May 27, 2013. Pg. 27). Perhaps the assumption that Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo are the three major tribes in Nigeria reveals this complexity which may have paved way for the suppression of other tribes regarded as minority. That many of these tribes have been bullied and are constantly being bullied is a cause for alarm. That they are constantly denied fundamental rights and privileges of being Nigerians by the emirate system/Fulani rule of the northern enclave calls for a state of emergency in this area.
As young people who were born after Nigeria got her freedom, we never chose to be born here nor were we there when our heroes past sought and fought for our independence from our colonial masters, Britain. Thanks to history and literature we are able t o remember the Tafawa Balewas, the Awolowos and theNnamdi Azikiwes among other nationalists who gave all to ensure our liberation from the shackles of western imperialism. Here we are, but the question that readily comes to mind is, was this freedom of ours for total emancipation of our people from the bonds of subjugation or further suffering in a State rife with survival of the fittest and the elimination of the unfit?
With hindsight, January 1, 1914 saw the amalgamation of Southern and Northern protectorates into Nigeria by Great Britain which brought the estimated 250 tribes/languages together. Monday February 4, 2013 witnessed the flag-off of a year-long programme to mark that centenary which will culminate next year. Interestingly Tell magazine titled a special report on the amalgamation thus: ‘Nigeria at 100 – Celebrating Unity in Diversity’ (Cf., Tell February 18, 2013, pgs. 50-52). A word-selection of this caption is expedient. ‘Unity’ is the soul of any nation under the sun while ‘diversity’ is the God-given rainbow that beautifies our society.
Perhaps we are afraid of confronting headlong the various challenges that stand in the
way of our being a one, united nation. Our greatest undoing is parochialism. As a people, we easily remove our ‘thinking-caps’ when religion or ethnicity is mentioned. The ruthless political class knows this too well, hence, political shenanigans and divide and rule. Hardly do we engage in meaningful discourses, debates, dialogues and colloquiums as Nigerians. Patriotism and a sense of national consciousness have exited our struggle for a strong and vibrant country. While some Nigerians are busy calling for a Sovereign National Conference and subsequent referendum/plebiscite, others are fast-tracking a possible amnesty deal for the northern insurgency.
The question of environmental degradation in Nigeria’s rich Niger Delta and marginalization of the South-East and Middle Belt in the political landscape are hot bites on the tongues of countless Nigerians.
Essays on bribery and corruption are legion on print and broadcast media in the way of engaging society to reform. Human rights activists and feminists always hit news captions making one case or the other.
all these, we are either afraid, have forgotten or seem to be uninterested about the status of northerners who are marginalised and continue to struggle for equality in a country they call their own hence, ‘Unspoken Truths of the Northern Struggle and the Question for Equality.’ Same with the ‘Nigerians’ suffering in Bakassi without identity. Have we dared to confront this issue in our national discourses or do we treat it as ‘their problem?’ Aren’t we our brothers’ keeper anymore? Is our national pride, social and cultural integration and federalism mere lip service? Certainly the world is watching us! At the heart of the evil bedevilling northern Nigeria are post-colonial hangovers.
An overflow of what saw many ethnic groups submerged under the emirate system. A system blessed and incensed by our colonial warlords who used it as a platform for milking the former’s rich heritage and resources. In a position paper presented by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Northern States to the Northern Governor’s Forum meeting held on 7 May, 2009 at the Gen. Hassan Katsina House, Kawo – Kaduna, the body listed 35 ethnic minorities forced under the emirate system.
ü The Yungar
– Song LGA; Emirate system, Adamawa – still under Yola Fulani rule
– Madagali LGA; Emirate system, Adamawa – still under Yola Fulani rule
– Hong LGA; Emirate system, Adamawa still – under Yola Fulani rule
– Ganye LGA; Emirate system, Adamawa –
new (sic) independent
– Fogure LGA; Emirate system, Adamawa – still under Yola Fulani Emirate
– Zangon Kataf LGA; Emirate system, Zaria – Revolted and new independent
– Kafanchan LGA; Jama’a Emirate system- still under the Emirate rule
– Potiskum LGA; Potiskum Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
–Potiskum LGA; Fika Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Katagun LGA; Fika Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
(sic) Kona –Jalingo LGA; Muri Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– K/Lamido LGA; Muri Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– K/Lamido LGA; Muri Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Jalingo LGA; Muri Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
Balewa – Tafawa Balewa LGA; Muri Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Bwari (FCT); Formerly Suleja, now autonomous – co-existing systems (Gagji
– Danboa LGA; Borno Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Chibok LGA; Borno Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Kafanchan LGA; Jema’a Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Kajuru/Kachia LGA; Zaria Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Chikum & Kaduna LGA; Muri Emirate
system – still under Emirate rule
– Lere LGA; Zaria Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Makarfi LGA; Zaria Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Fofure LGA; Adamawa Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Fofure LGA; Adamawa Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
people – Jemeta LGA; Adamawa Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Jemeta LGA; Adamawa Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Gwoza LGA; Borno Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Moro LGA; Ilorin Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Asa LGA; Ilorin Emirate system – still under Emirate rule
– Zuru LGA; Zuru Emirate system – still under Warrant Emirate
– Askira LGA; Askira Emirate system – still under Warrant Emirate
– Iloria (sic) LGA; Ilorin Emirate system – still under Warrant Emirate
– Ilorin LGA; Ilorin Emirate system – still under Warrant Emirate
– Zangong Kataf LGA; Zaria Emirate system – Revolted now independent (Cf.,
‘APosition Paper’ presented by the
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Northern States to the Northern
Governor’s Forum meeting held on 7 May, 2009 at the Gen. Hassan Katsina House,
Kawo – Kaduna. Pp.6 & 7).
are the implications of this kind of unpopular arrangement?
1. Loss of cultural identity and language
2. Rape of traditional institution in that their rulers are looked down upon, not recognised by government or forced to embrace a culture different from their pedigree as criteria for 1st or 2nd class chieftaincy titles
3. Denial of freedom of worship or land acquisition for private or religious use
4. Denial of admission for students into schools or compulsory change of names for acceptability
5. Frequent use of derogatory names and approaches on these helpless people
6. Having little or no access to political and economic power
7. Maltreatment by some southerners who regard every northerner as Hausa/Fulani
8. Psychological torture as a result of inferiority complex and being prisoners in their country
The current situation of the Sayawa people of Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Local Government Areas f Bauchi State presents us with a classical example of the issue under discussion. In an article, ‘Sir Abubakar and Tafawa Balewa Town: A Tale of two Titans’this writerhadearlier reiterated this. The powers that be have decided that these people must continue to be under the Muri emirate rule even against their wishes thus, the constant affronts/attacks on these communities and endless crises. The current headquarters of Tafawa Balewa has been moved to Bununu, again against the people’s wish. Although there are litigations on the Sayawa course, enough has not being done or said to liberate these people from the clutches of pharaoh.
To say this unholy union was injurious to the culture, values, norms, language, tradition and language of these helpless victims is to remark mildly. This rape of a people’s cultural systems is a sin needing the divine. Suffice it to say that this cultural balkanization truncated the distinct identity of these minority tribes and eroded their values. Again, is that not the reason why most Southerners refer to anyone north of the Niger as a Hausa wo/man?
Is it surprising why there are various conflicts in the region under review? While we answer that, the above mentioned paper listed about 95 communal clashes in the middle belt zone of this country with the following statistics: Benue(9), Kaduna(6), Kogi(4), Kwara(3), Plateau(9), Nassarawa(2) States; others include: Abuja(1) FCT, Adamawa(2), Bauchi(6), Borno(6), Gombe(2), Yobe(4) and Taraba(6) States.
What manner of inglorious feat! Mind you, there are recent conflicts that werenot listed here; only these were reported in the media as at May 2009. Asa nation have we ever cared to ask or bothered to make an inquiry or a caseagainst this subjugation? How else do we hope to make a name in the League of Nations with violation of cultural rights like these? The 21st century may not forgive our sense of selective perception in this country; nay posterity. The banal Nigerian mentality of ‘If it does not affect me, I don’t care’ sickens this writer. There is a big hole on the wall of this home-state.
Recently, Asari Dokubo made (un)guarded statements insisting on Jonathan’s 2015 bid. Was he replying Aliu Babangida’s (Niger State Governor) resolute reminder to Mr.
President of his initial statement that he won’t run again? The atmosphere is pregnant – with moral paucity I must opine! To all intent and purpose, the issues of equality for every Nigerian must be brought to the front burner of our national discourse. We must be bold to speakout the unspoken truths of not only the northern struggle and the question of the equality of all before the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but our tussle for national unity. In all matters, let the Constitution be our holy book.
This open subjugation in the 21st century is indeed one that calls for public penance. While the world is watching, we urge the Senate President and other Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to as a matter of urgency sponsor a bill to put this misnomer to an end. May the media in her gatekeeping/watching agenda never fail in voicing out the unspoken wails of the voiceless.
This will be the best Democracy Day gift we can offer these Nigerians! Mr. President, the Houses of Assembly and Representatives, major stake holders, human right groups and the international community must step in to affirm the fundamental rights of these ethnic groups. In all important matters drawing us back to the slave trade era, let professional journalists and (amateur) citizen journalists alike engage; Television, radio, Facebook, tweeter, whatsApp, BBM and a host of other new media facilities to bring about social/societal change. Are some Nigerians or Nigerian cultures superior to others? If you don’t have the answers keep asking…Happy Democracy Day, Nigeria(ns)!
Fr.Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic priest, freelance writer/poet and Public Affairs Commentator writes from,Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication (CESACC), Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he is a
post-graduate student in Communication Studies/Pastoral Communication!
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