For timeworn, ethnicity, tribalism, and religious bigotry has been the clog in the wheel of instituting a peaceful coexistence among us in spite of our human miscellany. The fact has always been that humanity supersedes any other thing, but despondency does not stop some ethnic and religious bigots from propelling pointless disputes and acrimonies between humans nay brothers by craftily masking themselves under the needless ethnic, tribal, and religious pods.
Nigeria being a multi-ethic society where most states are a melting pot of ethno-religious differences, it is rather unfortunate that so called civilised men will stoop so low as to fan discordant embers, while they kowtow to their self-centeredness, allowing such a negative emotion to determine their actions and inactions in every sense of engagements. This becomes the foundation of rabblerousing and agitations that recur with the slightest of ignitions. Unfortunately, the nation’s fault lines are often deployed to achieve selfish ends.
The case of Gombe state is extremely worrisome. It pains many of us to see how a few people in Gombe South are taking undue political advantage of the demography and other polarising pointers to cry marginalization in clear misunderstanding of the rare privilege of birth as a right of entitlement to the many shades of limited opportunities within the state. To these proponents of polarisation, virtually everything must be colloured using ethnic, tribal, and religious shades.
A case is the recent appointment of Gombe state chief judge. It’s despising to see how this appointment was given a needless political, gender, ethnic and religious colouration as if someone’s right was violated. Where were they when a Christian from Gombe South, Justice Hakila Heman, spent 20 years as the CJ of Gombe state and no Muslim ever raised an eyebrow?
Undeniably, to all those familiar with this terrain, Gombe state is a multi-ethnic society that consists of the dominant Fulani and Hausa tribes, who inhabit the northern part of the state comprising Dukku, Kwami, Funakaye, Nafada, and Gombe local government areas. Also, the Central Senatorial District which has Akko and Yamaltu Deba is densely populated by Muslims while, the Southern zone with four local governments of Billiri, Balanga, Kaltungo and Shongom, has the highest Christian population but with virtually every household having a native and biological Muslim relative.
Furthermore, most prominent and successful political leaders Gombe South has ever produced are Muslims. People like late Shehu Awak, Sen. Idris, Sen. Ajuji Waziri, Sen. Uba Ahmed, Yunusa Kaltungo among others. It’s, therefore, surprising that someone will allege being marginalised because of religion or anything else. This is, for want of a better term, preposterous an disconcerting.
The gentleman arrangement where the slot of deputy governor is always thrown to Gombe South is just a privilege accorded them and not a right. Politics is a game of numbers and Gombe South has never acquired the requisite numerical and political strength to intimidate other parts of the state. The zone gave only 15 per cent votes to former President Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 presidential election. This is not entirely because the Christian South does not love the erstwhile president, it is simply a testament of their numerical deficiency. This was how the voting pattern was done on the basis of one’s religion.
Today, after giving them critical positions like deputy governor, secretary to the state government, chairman of State Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and in summary, only six out of the 37 appointments given to the sons and daughters of Gombe South are Muslims, 31 are Christians yet, they are still murmuring that Muslims were favoured by the administration of Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya. When have we become that fanatical in Gombe?
The Yahaya administration has been magnanimous enough to site, within one year, projects worth over N5b to Balanga local government alone, while larger, more densely populated LGAs like Yamaltu Deba have just around Noon projects to show for their numerical strength and wholesome voting patterns. They aren’t complaining about developmental projects because that has served them better, why then the frenzy over religion?
Also, in comparison, one polling unit in Akko local government has over 6,000 votes, while in areas like Shongom and other southern local governments, a state house of assembly member is emerging winner with only 3 to 4 thousand votes.
In effect, the more the Southern part of Gombe state realises that a prospective candidate from either the North or Central zone can pick a Muslim running mate from the one of the two zones or even from one of their local governments and overwhelmingly win an election, the better they stopped these needless furore about religious and ethnic chauvinism.
It was first believed to be a political suicide in Kaduna when Architect Barnabas Bala Bantes was strategically dropped as El-Rufa’i’s running mate but it turned out to be a better political option for El-Rufai’s reemergence. Thus, if Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i will break the jinx by handpicking a Muslim running mate from Southern Kaduna, a zone which is predominantly Christian, adopting same method in Gombe by any prospective candidate will not be without merit as I believe that will give him or her an edge over other candidate(s) who think picking a running mate from Gombe South is sacrosanct. It’ll serve as a bitter lesson by those fuelling the divisive commentaries on marginalization and I contend it will serve them best.
Gombe is the only state we can call ours in spite our respective zones and the pointless agitations by the people of the Southern zone will only expose their numerical weakness if they continue to harp on that. Democracy is a game of numbers! Though, this article is not meant to steer or promote division among us, however, I think it will serve our collective re-emergence better if we begin to encourage politicians from Gombe North and Central to reciprocate the Kaduna gesture by picking a Muslim running mate from Gombe South. If the whole Christians of Southern Gombe will vote against a candidate and she/he still end up securing 75% of the votes from Gombe North and Central, nothing will stop them from winning any election. Why then the furore! Let this serve as a wake up call to all those agents of division caught in this dangerous dance. They either desist or face total and political annihilation. Their choice! A stich in time saves nine!
Comrade Yusuf Bala, Gombe.