So I was looking through Facebook today, and I saw one article on the whole post election crisis in Nigeria that wasn’t inspired by hysteria, based on falsehood (whether partial or outright), designed to incite hatred, or full or ridiculous theories and postulations.
It was written by @elnathan, Abuja Based legal practitioner and writer. He’s a poet, writer (currently working on his second collection of short stories), blogger (http://elnathanjohn.blogspot.com/) and enjoys attending literary readings and critique sessions. Most importantly, he is single!
I caught up with him (wasn’t difficult at all) and I’ve reproduced our discussion (uncut), and then the article that caught my eye….
ME: First question, what makes you different from every one else?
ELNATHAN: I think that we essentially share the same humanity and are all different shades of the same color. I like to think that people are essentially the same. Apart from my name and distinctive dark shade, there is little else.
ME: Three things you hate?
ELNATHAN: I hate reality shows, hair on my head, and men that abuse women
ME: Nice! I wish I could pick up on men abusing women but that’s not the thrust of the discussion for today…
ME: Where did you grow up?
ELNATHAN: Kaduna, U/rimi to be precise
ME: I lived in Kaduna myself for a bit, matter of fact I am told that I could speak Hausa fluently at some point in my life. What was growing up for you like?
ELNATHAN: Growing up was sometimes confusing, depressing, but was mostly regular boring stuff. Go to school, sneak out to play football, sneak to the river with my brother and pray that my father doesn’t catch us. It was depressing because I questioned everything around me and didn’t get any answers. I grew up faster than my age. I remember at about 10 or so trying to force myself to imagine eternity, when I read about God not having a beginning or an end; I ended up with a massive headache. After those headaches I know better…
ME: lol! Do you still try to imagine eternity? What the after life holds?
ELNATHAN: Yes I still do, many times. I mostly imagine what it feels like to be dead…
ME: Now that’s not exactly a good line of thought is it?
ELNATHAN: Sometimes it is a necessary line of thought
ME: Do you think that people in Kaduna (and indeed other parts of the North) are thinking along those lines now?
ELNATHAN: I guess they would be thinking more about life than of death. A sad state of affairs, Kaduna; where humans strip themselves of humanity.
ME: According to your article, the trust the different cadres of people in the North had in their leaders has been eroded over time…
ELNATHAN: Yes, completely. The traditional institutions used to command so much respect and trust. These days people painfully aware of the betrayal of that trust on every level. Thus the leaders have squandered the goodwill they once had and are unable to be the stabilising force their positions demand them to be during trying and violent times like these. The political leaders have done nothing but loot the comm wealth and turned the political scene into a theatre of the absurd.
ME: In their minds, is Buhari’s loss at the polls an expression of that of that or is it a case of a sitting keg of gun powder exploding on relevant or irrelevant impact?
ELNATHAN: Buhari is the only one person in the entire sad equation of mistrust, mutual suspicion and injustice. Buhari’s loss at the polls was simply a trigger for the unleashing of a frustrated angry crowd of impoverished, uneducated people, whose condition is the result of a deliberate policy of Northern leaders to keep the people loyal and subservient to them.
ME: I asked that question because Buhari wasn’t necessarily popular in some pars of Nigeria, whether of his making or not
ELNATHAN: Buhari has long been a symbol in the North of clean politics, of integrity and of trust. He has a cult following in the North where people have lost hope in all their leaders
ME: What of other parts of the country? The other areas where he needed to win?
ELNATHAN: Well the unfortunate ethnic and religious divisions, deliberate misinformation, and dirty political propaganda has combined to make sure that certain parts of the country do not see Buhari as anything but a fanatical Muslim.
ME: I agree with that. Before I let my reader enjoy the beauty that is your article, if you had one wish now that were sure would be granted, what would it be?
ELNATHAN: Improved power supply in all parts of the country!
BUHARI, THE MANY NORTH’S AND JUSTICE
I have read many articles, intelligent and painfully ignorant, about the current crises, which any Northerner or perceptive observer could have predicted. I am neither shocked nor confounded by the riots and the killings.
I choose to ignore the ignorant comments especially from people who live on the other side of the Niger behind computers and blackberry’s who have no clue about the complexity of this ‘North’.
This crisis is a bit different in my estimation from the other mindless religious conflicts that have visited the north. For the first time in the North(especially the Muslim North), I heard young uneducated men expressing hope that for once there is a worthy man on the ballot; that at last their time has come. For the first time, there was actual trust in a person to whom they bequeathed all their dreams. This man was General Buhari. Anyone who speaks Hausa and knows the Hausa speaking people will know the importance of the concept of ‘amana’. Trust. It is the one thing that is cherished above most things in the Muslim North. It is not uncommon for you to meet a Hausa petty trader to give you goods without money or collateral, regardless of whether he knows you or not. In fact I still remember how my mother at the market in U/Rimi in the North of Kaduna city, would stop a Hausa motorcyclist (she always insisted on a Hausa man) whom she had never met, give him her shopping sometimes worth thousands and describe her house to him. She would pay him and not fret about the things reaching home. My mother always only bought meat from Hausa Muslims because she trusted that it would be fresh and that it was not a dead animal. In Hausa communities, shops would be left open when people went to say their prayers. Amana. Trust.
This is the trust that has been squandered by Northern leaders, notably in the past 12 years-members of the PDP led ruling class, and before that, military and traditional leaders. These Northern leaders have destroyed every level of trust given to them without questioning by their people. One man seemed to rise above all the filth, above all the distrust. They noticed his lifestyle. They didn’t see flashy cars in his drive way. They didn’t see his kids drive around town recklessly with loud music spending plenty money on their pre pubescent girlfriends. They didn’t hear scandals of massive overseas accounts. They met him at petrol stations. They saw an honest, straightforward, religious man. So when they went to the streets, they went first after their own leaders who had squandered this trust and those who they perceive had abetted them. Sadly, as with all mob actions, it provided the perfect cover for criminals, miscreants and those with sinister agendas (and there are plenty in this North- politicians, thieves and fundamentalists). So eventually, churches were burnt and innocent people killed.
However, the man is a Muslim and unapologetically so. He has not been afraid to express his ‘Muslimness’ in public. This alone is enough to constitute a problem in the North. For we are not one North. We are many North’s. There is the Muslim North. The uneducated rural North. The aristocratic North. The cosmopolitan North. The Christian North… each with its own interests and sometimes as different from each other as people from different countries. The marginalisation of minority groups in the North has also hurt Buhari who is seen as the face of the oppressor by at least some in the Christian minority. The countless religious crises have divided the North and created mutual suspicion, further highlighting the fact that the idea of a single united North is a myth. Some have suggested that Sardauna created one North and that we only recently created divisions. This is far from the truth. The facade which was One North was in fact a mix of dominant and dominated people, peace existing only because the quiet grievances of minorities like non-Muslims had not concretised into vocal movements for the exercise of rights. The Jos crisis is a classic example of the manifestation of decades of frustration among the minorities. That manifestation though reactionary is more than a knee jerk reaction. It is minorities paranoid about the increasing dominance of the majority and taking rash actions to hold onto power, land and resources in a region where the dominant sentiment among minorities is that if you are not Hausa Fulani or Muslim, you will be marginalised.
The decades of injustice meted out on Nigerians by their leaders have made eventual violent reaction inevitable. The many poisonous variables in our polity which have been allowed to interact under the lazy watch of Nigeria’s thieving political class have fixed themselves firmly in our polity. What we are now dealing with are just the early warning signs of a cancer that is malignant. Our mutual suspicions make us easy to exploit and set against each other, so that while we are fighting over whose god is bigger, our government loots the commonwealth. Where there is no justice there cannot be peace. An aggrieved man is many times an irrational man. It is wrong to always judge a reaction, which is unplanned, when you do not judge first, the action, which is planned. A reaction is many times worse than an action, for it is delivered without a sense of proportion, only a sense of wanting release. There is usually more passion in a reaction. He who sets a ball rolling should prepare to follow it wherever it rolls to.
This government has a choice. To move beyond its rigged landslide victory and actually give its citizens a semblance of justice. To move from the hawks that now have it by the scrotum, namely PDP party investors, and work for its citizens- give them roads, electricity and rule of law. To provide infrastructure and stop the massive looting of government resources that is now going on. Or. To oversee the early days of the disintegration of a Nigerian state that has miraculously held on for the past 50 years.