By Musa Aliyu
This week too, I am republishing the second part of my October 2013 letter; again with little editing. Since the letters were written I am only rereading them now and it is with total shock that I realise that many of the issues highlighted were swept under the carpet.
For example the serial killings that happened in schools were never properly investigated nor were the victims ever given any special mention. No one has compensated their families. They are simply forgotten.
More worrying, the killing spree has continued in more complicated forms, while the country bleeds profusely. On our part, we have embraced hate speeches and turned hatred for our compatriots and neighbours into a favourite pastime, which explains why our country is unbelievably divided.
Our leaders, as always, are the biggest beneficiaries of our division. They worry more about their interests and often do everything to mend fences and cement their unity.
On the contrary we are often too quick to demonise each other, too quick to accept the stereotypes that our leaders, by means of privileged access to the media, retail to us of others and, acting on our psychologically choreographed loathe for those ‘others’, we are too quick to spill blood. The land is drenched with the blood of our innocent compatriots. It’s such a messy situation, but it’s still not irredeemable.
Recently marauders who claimed to be Boko Haram insurgents torched primary schools, the very few still not in total ruins, in Yobe and Borno states. So, children who should be in school were either harmed or kept out of education at a time states in other regions are making basic education not only free but also compulsory. Those behind the dastardly acts are never brought to justice, nor are the victims ever compensated.Then secondary schools became a target and teenage pupils were slaughtered heartlessly.
We all continue to bury our heads in the sand. Terror, now emboldened by our conspiratorial silence, goes for the jugular; it invades tertiary institutions to vent its sadism on poor students. Last week it had a stopover at the College of Agriculture, Gujba in Yobe State, callously taking the lives of no fewer than 50 innocent students.
Not unexpectedly though, we have carried on with life as if nothing happened. The government, in its usual show of disinterest, went on partying to mark another independence anniversary, as if internal colonisers are holding the nation hostage.
But do I blame the government? I don’t. You are silent; we are mute as if we have nothing to lose. I do not believe in reincarnation but if, for the purpose of this discourse, the late Sardauna were to come back to life what would he say? How would he feel about this brazen betrayal?
Sardauna, as we all recall, did not anoint successors for himself and his generation from his family and friends. He chose you because he trusted you to not betray his dream, our dream. He did not amass wealth, enough to last several generations, for himself and his family because he knew the vanity in that and, above all, he did not want to create a class of a few superrich in the midst of an overwhelmingly poverty-stricken majority.
He did not use religion as a tool of convenience nor did he use poverty as a weapon to enable him dehumanise the people he called his; none of his contemporaries, a few of whom may still be vaguely around, did any of those. He did not divide the ranks of his followers on the basis of tribe to allow him rule for as long as he wished. He was a just leader, a father to all whose aspiration was a united north devoid of the sort of poverty that breeds the kind of terror miserably tearing us to pieces today.
Terror in the form of the Matatsine cult, Boko Haram, Ombatse and many others feasts on the cannon fodder your act of betrayal offers. Unlike Sardauna you amass wealth forgetting that poverty, as scandalously rampant as it is in your immediate environment, exists. You are so cloaked in your comfort that you care too little whether those left in your care survive or die. All that matters is you and yours – your very close ones – and your wealth.
As pivotal as education is to human development in this age (and always) it does not matter whether those masses of people around you acquire any of it or not. For there is always a use for the ignorant, like employing them during elections as thugs to intimidate the opposition, harass the electorate and manipulate the results. And the fruits are what we reap today. No one begrudges us, though.
Public schools, as far as it concerns our clime, are artefacts of bygone days. So, you build gigantic structures which you furnish with state-of-the-art learning kits, import expatriates to teach and charge extortionate fees, which you know full well only the few in your class can afford. For the rest of the population underneath mango trees or what remains of those structures you once benefitted from serve as their schools. And you sleep soundly each night.
Sirs, I know I have been very uncouth but I still beg your indulgence. Let us be sincere for once and do a soul search.
First, how did we end up with people like Muhammadu Marwa Maitatsine, Musa Bakaniki, Muhammad Yusuf, Abubakar Shekau and many dubious characters as our champions? You probably can’t remember. But I have an idea. You abdicated your responsibility and rogues stepped in.
Once upon a time, at the uttermost of your nonchalance, many of us gave up on hope and took to hooliganism because it was a safety valve for our frustrations. And because it favoured you, you encouraged it. So cults under such nomenclatures as ‘yan daba, ‘yan gunda, ‘yan kalare’ ‘yan sara suka, ‘yan dawa, ‘Ecomog’, etc. conveniently sprouted.
For you it seemed a win-win situation as you used the army of thugs they supplied to fight your political battles and comfortably kept the downtrodden as minimum a threat to your dream hegemony as possible.
But you did not realise it would all boomerang some day as it obviously appears now. So, the same thugs you used began hunting you because they know all your ‘behind-the-scene’ acts and, even though not everyone has contributed to ‘their making’, they vent their anger on all, bringing those scenarios Thomas Hobbes once captured in his Leviathan concept nearer home than one would ever have imagined.
More baffling though, we all stand still, hoping in hopelessness, as we watch the ship head towards the rocks, to the delight of our ill-wishers. But you could, if you wish, stop the wreck.
(To be concluded)