Nigeria boasts of many religions and languages. The reason for this may be attributed to what epistemologists call Correspondence Theory, which establishes that religion develops from language. The same link explains the dominance of some languages and regions over others.
Islam and Christianity, and their various variants are the two major religions in Nigeria. The nation remained a secular state without any religion elevated to a state religion until October 1999 when Zamfara State adopted Islam as a state religion following the institution of Sharia as the body of their civil and criminal laws. As of 2012, eleven other states in the North had followed suit. Little wonder, these states have remained the enclave of Boko Haram and the newer mutations of insurgents.
The link between language and religion stretches further down to religion and politics. Are we surprised that our religious leaders are also our political leaders? This is the bane of our politics. Religious zealots have taken up the mantle of state leadership and governance, and have classified Nigerians into two groups of “Believers and Unbelievers (Infidels)”. And “unbelievers” are meant to die, just for their unbelief.
In the words of late President Nelson Mandela, ‘Our world is not divided by race, colour, gender or religion. Our world is divided into – the wise people and the fools, and the fools divide themselves by race, colour, gender and religion’. Late American Civil Rights Activist, Martin Luther King Jnr stated that the evil of racism (classification into believers and unbelievers) breeds the other two major evils of poverty and war.
Many public statements from many of Nigeria’s current state actors have not been salutary. From President Muhammadu Buhari’s classification of Nigerians into two groups of ‘those that gave him 97 percent votes’, and ‘those that gave him 5 percent votes’ in 2015, to his immediate past defence minister, Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali telling the people of Benue state to surrender their farmlands to Fulani herders for their lives, in January 2018, and the recent claim by Kano State governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje that Northerners own Nigeria, because, as he further claimed, “they make up 80 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Igbos and Yorubas are 20 percent”. Which population census gave this wicked and devilish statistic? None. What is the population of Igbos and Yorubas resident in Northern Nigeria? Ganduje does not know that number, but for his selfish purpose, they are now northerners. Neither does he consider the population of other ethnic people in Southern Nigeria. To him, maybe, they don’t even exist. These religious zealots surreptitiously emerged as the nation’s political leaders. Does it not amount to hypocrisy that a state governor who unleashes his local police outfit to destroy the beverage distribution businesses (worth millions of Naira) belonging to other Nigerians in his state, under the guise of protecting the state religion, will go cap in hand, before the finance minister, to receive from the sharing of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on alcohol beverages?
The seed of discord and hatred planted by these wicked and foolish religious cum political leaders have grown and taken roots in all parts of Nigeria. The very enterprising Igbo who have lived in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria, suddenly became re-christened as ‘Biafran’, the typical northerner, who has been welcomed everywhere as aboki (friend) suddenly became branded first, as ‘Fulani herder’, and finally as ‘Fulani bandit’. The suffering and hardworking herder has become an endangered species, jittery to move his flock from the arid north to the luscious southern vegetation where the herd would have the luxury of picking and choosing among the nutritious grasses and weeds for good milk and beef production, just because some accursed religio-political leaders had inculcated in the poor herder, the evil of classifying the people on the other side as ‘unbelievers’. Likewise, the ‘unbelievers’ are being brainwashed by their self-centred and cowardly leaders that the poor, bedraggled herders are coming, only to occupy and usurp the ancestral lands of the indigenous citizens. This is codenamed, ‘Fulanization’: hogwash. While the charlatans and clowns who are the current political leaders benefit economically and politically from the ensuing divide, the Nigerian masses whose socio-economic woes have been compounded are no longer free to move about in safety, to eke out a living.
As they say, evil does not sleep. The century-old strategy which the forebears of these present leaders used to helm Nigerians into two main religions – Islam and Christianity, is being re-invented to group Nigerians into two main political parties of “believers” and “unbelievers”; Muslims and Christians, to be represented by APC and PDP. If this ongoing model specification sails through 2023, we shall sing Nigeria’s Nunc Dimittis.
The current spate of insurgency, banditry, killings, kidnappings, hatred, and rancor in our national life will abate if and only if we acknowledge the truth – renounce our hate and divisive utterances. The 9th National Assembly which has made zero impact to date can lead in the task of re-uniting Nigerians by passing a bill prohibiting the arrogant use of such derogatory names/classification as ‘unbelievers’, ‘infidels’, etc by one Nigerian against others. The executive, as represented by the president and the state governors should focus the remaining two years of their lackluster administration on re-uniting Nigerians. Just like the president, many of the governors have not gone from their domain to any other state in the last two or six years, save for foreign trips (for estacodes in US dollars). Mere solidarity and sympathy visits to troubled states, irrespective of political parties, will help in assuaging frayed nerves. To rekindle the people’s confidence in this government, the president may consider dropping those loquacious aides whose insidious statements have made them antagonized by millions of Nigerians. In this solitary group are Lai Mohammed, Isa Pantami, Festus Keyamo, Femi Adeshina, Garba Shehu, Lauretta Onochie, and a few others.