Southern Zaria: Why CAN Should Beg for Peace
Abdussamad Umar Jibia, PhD
The history of Northern Nigeria has left it with two distinct groups of people who are living in anything but love and harmony. Of the nineteen Northern states, Muslims outnumber the Christians in 16, with Christians having the majority in Plateau and Benue states. The two religious groups fare almost equally in Taraba state. Of the 19 elected governors in the North, 16 are Muslims representing 84.2 % while three are Christians representing 15.8 % in the North and 8 % nationwide. In the North Central geopolitical zones where they nicknamed the middle belt, there are more Muslims than Christians. Four of the six elected governors in the North Central geopolitical zone are Muslims with the other two being Christians. The meaning of these figures is that Northern Christians are a very small minority compared to their Northern Muslim compatriots. Their number is even much smaller when the country is considered as a whole.
Despite their small number, Northern Christians have taken a centre stage in any Government whether it is headed by a Muslim or Christian, Southerner or Northerner. This is not by accident. It is well calculated and managed to fruition by those who benefit from the Northern Christian project. Over the past several decades, this cabal has devised several methods of sustaining their relevance. One of them is religious crises. From the mid 1980s when the Kafanchan crisis took place, thousands of lives and property worth billions of Naira have been lost, no thanks to this group of people who preach the message of hatred to their followers. An average ordinary Christian in the North has been made to believe that his number one enemies are the Hausa/Fulani who enslaved his great grandparents and still marginalize his people and must therefore be totally eliminated from areas considered to belong to the Christian minority. Their definition of Hausa/Fulani itself is dubious. One would be surprised that Kanuri, Nupe, Egbirra and other tribes with predominant Muslim members are also referred to as Hausa/Fulani when it is convenient to do so. This is why whenever the so-called minorities strike in their areas of dominance no Muslim, not even when he belongs to their own tribe is spared. This way several Muslim communities have been wiped out in Kaduna, Plateau, Bauchi, Taraba and other places. What follows such crises is usually setting up reconciliation committees and/or probe panels with equal number of Muslims and Christians, which is precisely what the perpetrators want - recognition.
To understand the mindset of the people of southern Kaduna state, one has to hear from a person like me who was born and brought up in the former Kaduna state and who thus lived, schooled and interacted with the people popularly called ‘southern zaria’. Yes, southern Zaria because they belonged to the Zaria emirate until chiefdoms were created for them by Makarfi administration as a way of cajoling them to stop their regular attacks on the people they consider settlers in their midst. The attacks were many. They started in Kafancan in 1987 and continued in Zangon Kataf I, Zangon Kataf II, Kachia, Kafanchan II, etc. The attacks and their aftermath have a regular pattern. The southern Zarians who live in the bush would attack a Muslim community, in most cases displacing the whole community destroying property, mosques and killing hundreds; there will follow minor reactions from the major cities of Kaduna and Zaria characterized by burning churches and beating up Christians. Thereafter police and Army will be deployed to deal with and arrest religious ‘fanatics’. Muslims will thus end up being the victims and the culprits at the same time. Kaduna state governors from Abubakar Dangiwa Umar have always set up panels of enquiry to investigate ‘the remote and immediate causes’ of the crisis but no one was ever punished. The reason is clear, the criminals are highly placed and untouchable Christians with the support of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), anti-Islamic press and all manners of human right hypocrites.
Like the popular Almutanabbi saying goes, innaka in akramtal karima malaktahu, wa in anta akramtal la’ima tamarrada’, that is “if you honour an honourable person you win him, but if you honour the dishonourable they become arrogant”. Makarfi overtures did not win the hearts of southern Zarians. Rather they saw it as a result of their violence and were thus encouraged to do more. For example, it was after they were given chiefdoms and key appointments in Government that they killed over a thousand Muslims in the name of post-election violence. The number of Muslims killed on one day in Zonkwa after the 2011 elections is more than the total number of people killed in Maidugri township by Boko Haram in that year. Yet, no one was arrested even though the killers could be identified in the pictures widely circulated on social media.
One of the biggest mistakes Northern Christians made is coining the term Hausa/Fulani to refer to the same person. All along their victims have been the Hausas, but because they believe that they are the same with Fulani they expect the same reaction from the latter as they have been getting from the former. The Hausa man is soft, accommodating and forgiving. The Hausas so easily forgive and forget that one can mistake them for fools. The Fulani are no fools. You can never get away with the blood of a Fulani man unless there are no other Fulanis around. While the Fulani may be encroaching upon farmlands and rustling animals, their presence has been a blessing in disguise for other Muslims in this part of the country. For example, they have so accurately checked the excesses of Biroms that the erstwhile killers of ‘Hausa/Fulani’ are now negotiating for peace.
My advice for the people of southern Zaria, other Northern Christians and indeed the Christian Association of Nigeria is to toe the line, apologize for what they did in the past and ask for peace. This will save them from more embarrassment and save lives and property. No one has monopoly of violence.