•Middle Belt people should vote candidate that’ll liberate them, protect their religion, culture, land
One of the conveners of Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-determination (NINAS), Prof Yusuf Turaki, has advanced reasons for the rejection by some Northern Christians of the same-faith ticket adopted by the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the Middle Belt leader called on the people to vote a candidate that will liberate them and protect their religion, culture and lands.
Nothing is heard of your group, Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-determination (NINAS) that was all over the place sometime ago. Has the group been “settled” in the Nigerian way? What is your position today, even as election is by the corner?
NINAS is not a political organisation, but seeks to correct the military constitution-making since January 15, 1966. The military regimes ignored the federating units that made up the federation; the ethnic nationalities that constituted Nigeria. They turned a federation into an authoritarian bureaucratic state. They replaced regional autonomy with a central powerful government. The full fruition of this central authoritarian bureaucratic government is the 1999 Nigeria Constitution. It is a fraudulent document imposed upon Nigerians by the dictatorship of the military. NINAS aims at calling Nigerians to go back to the historic processes of constitution making from the 1914 British Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria to the 1963 Republican Constitution. Nigerians are dissatisfied and have called for restructuring and a new constitution. A proper and valid constitution making must be done by the federating units that make up the federation. Any thought about NINAS by some Nigerians apart from this primary goal, is a distraction from its goal and objectives
Our objection is the fact that the constitution was fraudulently skewed for the benefit of the few Nigerians by the elites. Those who benefit would not condemn it.
As campaign has started, the presidential candidates are crisscrossing the country wooing people and groups. Has any of them met with your group or what will your group demand from them?
As I stated earlier, NINAS is not a political organisation, but one that seeks the goodwill of politicians and not their political goods. We will be happy if they can join us in seeing to it that the 1999 Constitution is replaced by a legitimate one by Nigerian federating units. Organisations that receive bribes and on account of that abandon their just cause are only deceptive charlatans.
We have seen the candidates engage in mudslinging. What should be the issues in this campaign?
We have the fraudulent 1999 Constitution plagued by conflicting ideologies: liberal democracy and Islamic theocracy. The execution of the 1999 Constitution is creating more problems for Nigeria than envisaged. The calls for restructuring, self-determination, insecurity and endemic corruption, all point to the need for a more viable and a unifying national constitution.
Next is the issue of insecurity. What practical and workable plans do politicians have to solve the problem of insecurity? Politicians are to proffer lasting solutions to the prevailing, pervasive and the incessant nature of insecurity. The other issue is education. We have had an eight-month ASUU strike that has exposed a serious national neglect and callous attitudes towards the educational sector. We want politicians who will raise the national education budget to be above 25 per cent. Before the military took over power in 1966, a professor in the university earned the same salary as that of a minister. If professors can earn a reasonable salary as much as politicians, they may not be tempted to leave this noble profession for politics. Which of the politicians are willing to correct the maladies of the education sector?
Another issue is the divisive nature of the Nigerian social environment and society. Nigerians are historically divided along ethnic, religious and regional lines. The political culture and practice as created by the colonial administration are founded upon divisive pillars of ethnicity, religion and region. We need politicians who will create a new political culture and practice that will transcend the proclivities and parochialism of divisive ethnicity, religion and region. It is not enough to campaign and win election, and later lead the nation into ruins and woes, as we are passing through and experiencing now. The routine and empty campaign policies should have taught Nigerians on how to assess the qualities and qualifications and their competence and skills. Nigeria needs transformational political leaders that can transform the people in acquisitions of human skills and developmental skills of the creation and environment.
The other issues are tackling agriculture, environment, and social crimes. We need politicians that can develop and transform both the people, and the Nigerian social environment and society.
Some groups hold the view that the next president won’t make any positive impact unless the country is restructured. Do you share in this sentiment?
Yes, in their lifetime, they have never seen a Nigerian messiah, because the Nigerian society is characterised by scepticisms, underdevelopment, degeneration, decadence, indiscipline, crises and social crimes. We need politicians that can develop and transform both the people, and the Nigerian social environment and society.
Some Northern Christians are still very aggrieved over the Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. How can he appease the Christians in the North?
By the way, I look at this issue differently. Power is neutral; it depends upon who uses it. It can be used for the good or for bad causes. Christians of Northern origins have lived under oppressive and domineering political power, and they know by experience how political power has been used consistently against them in the North. The reactions of Christians of Northern origins is based on historical experiences of how the powerful use political power to subjugate, dominate, discriminate, persecute and marginalise them. Experience is the best teacher.
Imagine how committed Christian members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) would define themselves being sidelined and placed under an awkward position in the party?
The reactions of Christians may be given all sorts of names, but it is genuine expressions of their objection. It is up to the party and Nigerians to judge the validity of this vis-a-vis national unity and fair play.
We learnt that Tinubu did not announce his Muslim-Muslim ticket in Lagos, but in Daura, the seat of current political power. This fact speaks volumes to Christians. Those who schemed out the Christians of Northern origins are not Southerners, but Northern Muslims. Historically, a Northern Muslim has never given a Northern non-Muslim a befitting status and role. Historically, the Northern establishment – colonial political officers, emirs, Northern elites created an inferior status and socio-political role for the non-Muslim groups in the hierarchical structure of the Northern Region. It is this Northern political group that did not want a Christian running mate as vice president. Let me explain so that Nigerians can understand how Nigerian politics is being played at the centre. Political power is shared at the centre (then Lagos, now Abuja). A Yoruba politician goes to the centre with one card, an ethnic card, as a Yoruba man. He is there not representing any religion, but his ethnicity. When he votes, he may not vote for an Igbo man or a Middle Belt man, but surely a Northerner. Similarly, an Igbo man goes to the centre with one card, an ethnic card, as an Igbo man. He is there not representing any religion, but his ethnicity. When he votes, he may not vote for an Yoruba man or a Middle Belt man, but surely a Northerner. On the other hand, a Northerner goes the centre with two cards. The first card is Islam. This card has two faces: religion and identity. At the political centre one is identified as a Muslim, not as Hausa, or Fulani, or Kanuri, or any other. The Northerner does not have an ethnic identity, but a religious one. The second is North-ism, a political geographical card called North. This card carries two social factors: Land mass and population mass. With these two social factors, a Northerner intimidates a Southerner of having a large land mass and population mass.
At the centre, a Northerner plays with the two cards. He is there as a Muslim who has massive land mass and a population mass. Wouldn’t a Southern politician be intimidated?
A Middle Belter at the centre is a loner; he is alone as a minority Christian, or Muslim, or traditionalist. He is stamped with a minority status. This inferior status can hardly earn him recognition from a Yoruba politician, or an Igbo politician, or a Muslim Northern politician.
The political predicament of a Middle Belt politician is historical, as rooted in the colonial Anglo-Muslim rule in the Northern Region of Nigeria. Historically, Middle Belt is both ethnography and geography. Its ethnography is non-Hausa-Fulani-Kanuri. Its geography is non-Hausa land and non-Bornu land. The irony is the Muslim North uses the land mass and the population mass of the Middle Belt as the bargaining chip or as a power broker with the Southern politicians. Historically, it was the connivance of the British and Muslim rulers that denied the peoples of the Middle Belt their political and cultural independence and region. As of today, as it was in history, three major warfronts have been created against the peoples of the Middle Belt. The first warfront is Boko Haram. The second is Fulani militias, bandits and kidnappers. The third warfronts are the federal and state governments. Their policies, administrative practices and attitudes have earned our people inferior status and socio-political role. The Muslim-Muslim ticket and the reactions of Christians of Northern origins are loaded with salient historical, geographical and ethnic social factors. It is fraught with many nuances.
My advice to all peoples of the Middle Belt: they should vote for candidates that will liberate and emancipate them and protect their ancestral lands, religion and culture. Do not follow politicians and political parties for the sake of just playing politics, but engage the candidates and find out our genuine liberators and emancipators, who can meet the political aspirations of the peoples of the Muddle Belt. Do not vote for politicians who will take your ancestral lands and give them to foreigners who will definitely become thorns in your flesh. Scrutinise them thoroughly to ascertain those who love the peoples of the Middle Belt. Ignore the propagandists who scoff that Middle Belt does not exist. We know why and the cogent reasons for them to perpetuate their dominance and slavery.
Some people say those championing the Northern Christians fight against the same faith ticket are opportunists and self serving politicians, that their grouse was because they didn’t get what they wanted in the party. What is your take on this?
The issues are of ignorance of the historical roots that have given Northern Christians an inferior status and socio-political role. Such eclectic statements are rooted biases and the stereotypes of ridicule in order to demean a person. This was what the British did by dismissing the genuine grievances of the peoples of the Middle Belt in their demands of a region. Every genuine reason was dismissed as psychological. The reactions of Christians are not psychological, but real and cannot be dismissed. This is an historical denial of Northern Christians their political rights and expressions. Such forms of ridicule are not new to Northern Christians.
Why are Northern Christians so much worried about same faith ticket unlike their Southern counterparts?
I am not sure of Southern Christians being not bothered. Political parties have a way of locking in their party members, even against their will. The strong reactions from Northern Christians show how much they loved the party. It is simply a reaction that has both positive and negative ramifications. The political character trait of a typical Northerner is different from that of a typical Southerner.
In a country with mutual suspicion among ethnic groups, if a Fulani Muslim succeeds another Fulani Muslim, what message does it send to other ethnic groups?
I have stated already that the British colonial masters created the Nigerian political culture and practice based upon three foundational pillars of ethnicity, religion and region. Nigerian politicians are born, bred and nurtured in this divisive political culture and practice. Nigerians need to be rescued from this besetting historical root of divisiveness. Which new national political philosophy or ideology that can liberate Nigerians from ethnocentrism and primordialism, religious and cultural bigotry? Are Nigerians ready for the change for the better, or are they stuck in this quagmire of endless suspicions and latent hostilities against each other?
Some analysts posit that the Muslim – Muslim ticket wouldn’t have been an issue, except the alleged Islamisation and Fulanisation agenda of the Buhari government. Do you agree?
Many of our politicians do not have any idea of the historical roots of our national problems including Islamisation and Fulanisation. Politicians need to know historically and socially how Nigeria was created by the British, what values and institutions they used to build Nigeria and also their long-term consequences in both colonial and post-colonial Nigeria.
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Most of the contemporary socio-political, economic, ethnic, religious and regional issues have their historical roots in the legacies of African ancestors, Muslims, British, Christian missions, and the post-colonial politicians and soldiers.
Just a few years ago, President Obasanjo raised the issue of Fulanisation of Nigeria and Islamisation of Africa. Only those who do not want to look deeply and examine the Buhari government can deny what is obvious. The ostrich puts its head deeply into the sand and denies that no one sees it. Staunch denial of blatant truth is always a propagandist tooltip to blindfold the masses.
The Middle Belt is where the action is; and the determinant or decider. Take a look at the presidential candidates and the running mates of the four strong political parties – APC, PDP, LP and NNPP. The Middle Belt has no presidential candidate or running mate. How do you think the candidates will perform in the North Central or Middle Belt that has no stake?
Much earlier, I explained how politics is played at the centre. The Yoruba and the Igbo go there with an ethnic card, while a Northerner goes there with two cards: Islam and North-ism. The politician who dislikes the Middle Belt the most is the Muslim Northerner. The Yoruba politician and the Igbo politician are not likely to vote for a Middle Belt politician for obvious reasons.
They usually vote for land mass and population mass. The religion and ideology of North-ism swallows up the Middle Belt, because it does not believe that the Middle Belt exists. Thus, in national politics at the centre, the Middle Belt politician is a loner, with no political backing. You have analysed the plight and the predicament of the Middle Belt. Middle Belt is only remembered when it comes to elections, because every politician likes politics of numbers. Whenever the sharing of political booties is considered, the Middle Belt is often forgotten.
That is how the Middle Belt was created by the British colonial masters. When it took the British only three years to defeat both the Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of Kanem-Bornu, all the claims of possessions of these two caliphates over others ceased as a new nation was created. But, what the British did was that they took both the peoples and their lands and subordinated them under the Anglo-Muslim rule. The British preserved and protected the lands of the Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and Kanuri.
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No Nigerian can go to Hausa land, Bornu land, Igbo land and Yoruba land to claim indigeneship, except the Middle Belt, where all Nigerians can claim their ancestral lands as indigenes. How then should the Middle Belt vote? They should not vote politicians who when they get political power take their ancestral lands for foreigners. Since their lands and populations are for grabs, they need to scrutinise and examine the political policies, government practices and attitudes thoroughly so that they do not hand themselves willingly for further slavery in Nigeria. Beware of the hidden agenda, deception in politics. Be very cautious and sceptical of your politicians who are ready to sell you to the highest bidder.
How will you describe Nigeria at 62, the journey so far? Anything to celebrate, and what should we do to forge ahead as a nation state?
Without transformational political leaders, Nigeria will be greeted by pockets of self-determinations and balkanization. May God raise good men and women of integrity to lead Nigerians into the new Nigeria.
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