BY PROF. S. A. ZURU
It is with profound nostalgic tears in my eyes that I undertake this conversation. Growing up in my native Zuru, I had the best experience that life could offer; the unadulterated nature, geniune mutual community spirit amongs families so much so that, every child was a community treasure rather than a family property, the friendship of peer groups, the sincerity of religion, God and faith, the patriotism and the consummate peace of the community.
After primary school, I proceeded to a Secondary school in Zuru. The atmosphere was the same; peace with reassuring community spirit, solidarity and friendship. However, what was amazing about my class then was that, there were only two of us dakarkari in the class; me and one Ahmed Usman nevertheless, we were all brothers. The other members of the class were from the different regions of the Country; the South West, the South South and the Middlebelt region of the North so also was the composition of the teachers in the School. The atmosphere was astounding, we ate together, we read together and played together, we were brothers joined together by fate and pursuit of opportunity.
Ironically now (with pain), my best friends and study group in the class then were; Gideon Ishaya from Taraba State, Joseph Kimsa from Numan in Adamawa State, Peter Magaji Achigili from Benue State, Paul John from Plateau State, Dada Edward and Dick Opkagboro both from old Bendel State, Kemi Balogun from Ogun State and Yunusa Mustapha from Oyo State. The bond between us was incredible; the geography of where we came from and the God we worship were immaterial to the relationship. Although, it will be tempting to dismiss this background as childish nostalgia, well, it is not, it was the foundation of greatness of this Country hijacked by greed, ethnocentrism, bigotry and stupidity of purpose. I am pained to admit that, under the ambiguities of today’s reality, if my class had the misfortune or the tragedy of being in secondary school today, we will probably be brothers created by God but enemies separated by hate, apartheid and religious bigotry.
About 10years ago, I was visiting home when a group of people visited me, after exchanging pleasantries, we sat down for a while without saying anything, then suddenly, the leader of the group said Dr., we are here to inform you and to ask you to join a movement meant to liberate our people from the colonization of Hausa Fulani……he continued, you know we are minorities in Kebbi State therefore, the future was in the Middlebelt.
I was shocked and petrified by his hate speech but, I kept my calm though, my anger could have betrayed my composure abit. I then asked them, so the future was in the Middlebelt? He defiantly said yes Sir, I then asked them how old was the movement, their sponsors and the venue for their meetings. The leader of the group responded by asking why did I want to know? I was still maintaining my calm ofcourse before the fireworks. First, he mentioned some names to me and secondly, he said the venue for their meetings was in Jos.
Armed with this charter of planned hate campaign, I then articulated my responses. First, I asked them so when did the hausa fulani become your ENEMY? They were stunned and quiet, I then asked them, so you people are minorities? They kept quiet, I then said I am not aware that the Zuru people are minorities because, so long as I live, I am not a minority because I don’t have complex and as much as I know, you are only a minority when you are a failure. They were quiet, I then said, beyond religious bigotry and racial hatred what else connected you to the Middlebelt? I then asked them, did you know that all my wives are Hausa Fulani and therefore, by biology of birth my children are half Zuru and half Hausa Fulani? They were still stunned and quiet, I then concluded my comments by saying, I will not assist or join a campaign of pure hatred that defied both common sense and logic and please I further admonished, do not make my innocent children the endangered species of your pathological hatred and insane racism.
My candid fear is that, politics has certainly exacerbated the hatred and distrust amongs us, in truth, it is the conquest mentality of some supremacists and demagogues in the North that has brought us to the present state. In various States in the North, the politics of minorities and majorities deployed by desperate politicians and apostles of comparative demographic advantage has destroyed the very fabric of Northern Unity. In their myopic wisdom, demographic imbalance should permanently foreclose democratic equity and justice. Undoubtedly, this is one of the sources of tension among ethnic nationalities in all the Northern States that sometime degenerates in to ethnic conflicts. It is sad to reconcile with the fact that, the once giant and the jewel of Nigerian project, the North of my forefathers have become a dangerous playground where, my brother is my enemy.
This reminds me of a title of a book……the ugly ones have refused to die, I may eventually die but, I wont relent until I recover the conscience of my brother.