The Boko Haram (BH) claims it is avenging the "extra-judicial" killing of its leader, Muhammed Yusuf, who died at the hands of the Nigerian Police in 2009, during the presidency of the late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua – a Northern Muslim. BH waited for Jonathan, a Christian, to become president before taking terror to a new level. It added to its manifesto the annihilation of all Christians in the North; the removal of all churches and all businesses associated with Christians from the North; the introduction of Sharia law throughout the rest of Nigeria (13 Northern states now have Sharia law); the removal of all symbols of Western-styled democracy; and the abolition of Western education altogether. This manifesto could be dismissed as the wishful thinking of a deranged group, except that members of BH are dead serious (no pun intended) about achieving these goals. They have essentially made Borno and Yobe States ungovernable. They have the presidency on its heels, sweating and fretting; they have the security agencies hobbled and in shambles; they have all Nigerians restive and pensive; and they have the international community paying rapt attention.
To the rest of the civilized world, BH's activities exemplify the very definition of "Ethnic Cleansing", genocide or Jihad. It happened in the old Yugoslavia and now there is no more Yugoslavia. It happened in Sudan, and now we have the countries of Sudan and South Sudan. It happened in Germany…the infamous Holocaust…and now we have the new Israel.
It has happened in Nigeria before…this wanton killing, maiming and destruction of properties. Ah, you forgot? You forgot the Northern pogrom of 1966 which was the precursor to our first civil war? I say "first" because I think we are headed for the second one. During the pogrom, hordes of Hausa/Fulani people, like flies, invaded the homes of Igbo people in the North, slitting their throats and clubbing them to death…without provocation, and with utter impunity! I didn't read this in a history book. I witnessed it with my own eyes as a kid in Zaria. I lost my innocence then. My family was spared because my father had one of those tribal marks native to Ibadan, and he was a devout Muslim.
So, today, suppose a group springs up in Enugu under the aegis of Christianity, with a name like say…Eastern Sons of Christ (ESOC), and begins the killing and maiming of all non-Christians, especially people of Hausa/Fulani extraction, along with some of their Yoruba collaborators. Imagine the ESOC laying explosives in and around businesses, mosques and homes owned by people other than members of the ESOC tribe. Imagine a similar group, under the name of say…Western Sons of Christ (WESOC), stands up its operations in Ibadan, targeting all Hausa/Fulani Muslims, along with their Yoruba collaborators (there are many Muslims in the Yoruba kingdom). Imagine yet another group springs up in Port Harcourt, under the name of say…Southern Sons of Christ (SOSOC), killing people of Hausa/Fulani extraction - Muslims, along with their Yoruba collaborators.
If the ESOC became a terror group like the Boko Haram (BH) has become, it would be justified. It could claim vengeance for the thousands of Igbo people that were, without provocation, ruthlessly massacred by the Hausa/Fulani during the pogrom. It could further justify its actions by claiming more maltreatment during the ensuing civil war (1967 – 1970), and yet more maltreatment following the so-called "No Victor No Vanquished" truce evident in the continued marginalization of the Igbo in most spheres of influence in Nigeria.
If the WESOC became a terror group like the BH, it could claim that it was tired of being caught between the Hausa/Fulani Vs Igbo (Muslim/Christian) fights. WESOC could say that it frequently suffered with ESOC each time the Northern Muslims embarked on one of their barbaric extermination missions and that ESOC never gave it enough credit. Instead, ESOC blamed WESOC for not joining in the Biafra cause. (WESOC can't even claim any monolithic Christian stronghold in its geographical area, and can't state with any degree of certainty which of the two major religions enjoys a numerical superiority in its communities.) WESOC can further claim that when one of its illustrious sons, a strong Muslim for that matter - MKO Abiola, won the election for President, the Hausa/Fulani Muslims, before morphing into BH, killed him rather than allow him to rule.
And if the SOSOC was to become a terror group exactly like the BH, it could claim that its previous acts of blowing up oil pipelines and kidnapping for ransom did not fully achieve SOSOC's goal of 50% oil revenue allocation. It could argue that "our oil" was being used to build skyscrapers, mansions and "six-star" hotels in Abuja, Sokoto, Maiduguri and Yola, while "our people" in the Niger-Delta couldn't fish or farm without fear of pollution. It could argue vengeance for the brazen, state-sponsored killing of one of its illustrious sons - Ken Saro-Wiwa, during the presidency of a Hausa/Fulani man and the desecration of his body by pouring acid on it.
In essence, we could have anarchy all across Nigeria, not just in the Northeastern States and Abuja, and no one would have peace. These groups could all find nebulous excuses to justify unleashing mayhem on the rest of the country like the BH is now doing and we would have our second civil war.
We had the Maitatsine riots of 1980, largely in the same Northeastern area. We have had other similar incidents in the intervening years, all aimed at building a homogenous, Islamic caliphate in Northern Nigeria. The military governments of the day easily put down those riots and attacks. But that was before the advent of the use explosives as weapons of terror. In 1980, Maitatsine rioters, progenitors of the BH sect, used knives…long knives…to attack Christians. Now they use guns…machine guns…and explosives to mow down innocent, unharmed people. Then they brazenly take onto the internet to claim responsibility for their dastardly acts. And like Al Qaida, they have amorphous, nameless and faceless leadership.
It is clear that since Nigeria's amalgamation, the Hausa/Fulani Muslims of the North thought of themselves as superior beings, compared to the Christians of the South, and particularly the largely-Christian Igbo people. In fact, if you have the trust and confidence of a Northerner, you will frequently hear him derisively refer to Igbo people as "impure" and "lower-than-dogs". This may sound like I am fanning the embers of ethnic crisis here. But I am stating the facts. I know that Igbo people in power today are aware of this, and so are their Yoruba and, of course, their Hausa counterparts. They are just too timid to say it in the open. I am not in power and I am not timid. I grew up in Zaria as a practicing Muslim. I attended Arabic/Islamic evening classes, lived in Kano and Maiduguri and finished my elementary school in Bukuru, near Jos. I also speak Hausa better than I speak English. So, before anybody castigates me as a basher of the North or of Muslims, they better take cognizance of the fact that I had firsthand experience. Notice how no Hausa/Fulani of significant profile, like say…the Sardauna of Sokoto, the Emir of Zaria, the Emir of Gwandu, the Emir of Maiduguri, Ibrahim Babangida, Mohammadu Buhari, Abubakar Atiku, Abubakar Umar, etc…has come out to openly denounce the BH sect. Their quiet acquiescence should not be interpreted as cowardly or coincidental. It is calculated.
The hatred of Igbo people and Christians by the Hausa/Fulani people remains palpable. Northern Muslims just manage to tolerate them. If they thought they could harm a Christian or an Easterner and get away with it, they would do it in a jiffy, without compunction and without remorse. And they would do it in the name of Allah. I have read the Qur'an, to include the Hadiths, and I have not found any portion of it where the Prophet Mohammed (PBOH) enjoined, sanctioned, urged or ordered adherents of Islam to destroy believers of other faiths. Of course, we have ultra-right-wingers in all religions, including Christianity, but none is waging such destructive and bloody war against "non-believers" like our Northern brothers. I think it is even tantamount to heresy referring to them as "brothers" those who have taken self-righteous indignation beyond any scintilla of reason. They are reprobates.
So, if the West, the East and the South conclude that the North has gone beyond redemption, why not grant the North its request? Why not draw a real, physical border with the North and allow it to rule its people like it wishes? By now, we all should know that no attempt at placating the Hausa/Fulani people would prevent them from sliding into their banal recidivism. I have absolutely no problem having to apply for a visa to visit my Alma Mata in Zaria or Bukuru. By their acts, the BH sect has vindicated Odumegwu Ojukwu and proved the venerable Obafemi Awolowo wrong about Biafra. Awolowo fought to "keep Nigeria one" but it is now clear that the task had always been only one-sided. The North obviously did not get that memorandum and so did not share the same objective. We need to quickly adorn the Ikemba of Nnewi with rose-bedecked garlands for being brave and visionary enough, as far back as 1966, to attempt Biafra. Ojukwu, who was humiliated, harangued, vilified and exiled for knowing (that far back) that the North was always going to be implacable, should be celebrated as a hero and rewarded as such before he passes on to the great beyond. And I am not being facetious or sarcastic.
The North now wants its own country – one ruled by Sharia and devoid of any semblance of Western civilization. We should let them have it peacefully. Those who have called for a Sovereign National Conference should redouble their efforts. Nigerians need to talk amongst themselves now so that they can peacefully decide how to coexist. Otherwise, the inevitable combustion will swallow everybody. If you have not been directly (or even remotely) touched by the BH attacks, you may not appreciate the urgency of deciding peacefully the future of Nigeria. If you have never seen a full blown war firsthand, I hope that you and your family continue to be protected from finding out how it feels. It is not a pretty sight.
By Abiodun Ladepo
Los Angeles, California, USA,