The Oasis Reporters
October 29, 2018
The middle belt of Nigeria sits atop a two-thousand-foot-high plateau of brown table land. It is the region where the Savannah meets the Sahel. Christianity meets Islam and North meets South. It is a major fault line.
From the inception of civil rule in 1999, more Nigerians have lost their lives in the middle belt violence, than in any other part of Nigeria. This fact is usually lost. The middle belt has borne the major brunt of the pastoral nonchalance of Fulani herdsmen. It has also borne the greater scar of the inter-religious crisis in Nigeria. Resentments run deep among the different antagonist in this region. The fact that the two major religions in Nigeria are intermingled here has hardened the edge of each faith in this region.
The middle belt could have been an earthly paradise, but it is not. There is a perpetual civil war going on there, from Plateau to Nassarawa, from Benue to Kogi, with spillovers. Ambush with fatal consequences is the modus operandi.
My fear is that these fault lines have so much weakened the Nigeria society, though the political super-structure appears to be intact. It is a Potemkin polity. The last election also showed a deeply divided nation.
The middle belt votes were largely split in the states where the fault lines are most evident (Benue, Nassarawa, Kogi, Plateau).
The south-west was also split 6:4, while the former Biafran nation and former Sokoto and Borno empires went over 90% for their ‘son’.
I want Nigeria to survive. But I want it to survive as a just, fair, equitable nation, that is built on merit and opportunities.
We must tell ourselves and tell each other the truth. This experiment of an almost equal Christian and Muslim polity has never worked anywhere before. It is a product of British imagination.
In India, the British attempted to create a single nation of large Hindu and Muslim constituents. Mahatma Gandhi, the idealist, supported the plan. Thankfully, a political pragmatist, in the person of Ali Jinnah, was able to persuade the colonialists that the formula was a ticking bomb.
This was why Pakistan was carved out for the Muslims, as a Muslim nation. And India was left for mainly the Hindus. Yet India and Pakistan have fought five wars since 1947. Imagine if they had been one country.
The British made a similar mistake in Iraq. It was an artificial creation of incompatible groups: Kurds, Shiite Muslims, and Sunni. They had only been held together by oppressively forceful regimes since 1958. Ethnic and sectarian animosities were forcefully suppressed for decades. Today,Iraq is the global hotbed of vicious violence.
Nigeria has to look at all these nations, to confirm what does not work. The current structure of Nigeria’s politics, economics, and society is not sustainable. We have to look at nations like the UK, Canada and India, to learn how to manage a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious democracy.
But my fear is that current leaders are too busy fighting yesterday’s battles while the iceberg keeps getting closer!
Written by Frank Olisa Akukwe