Being a paper presented on behalf of the National Christian Elders’ Forum (NCEF) at the Africa Peace, Security and Synergy Summit in Washington, D.C. on 23-24 June, 2017
Permit me to begin this presentation by thanking Mr Emmanuel Ogebe for encouraging me to come to Washington, DC to make this presentation on the Nigerian question which we recognise as the conflict between Democracy and Islamism to Nigerians and other Africans in Diaspora that constitute the views of the National Christian Elders’ Forum (NCEF).
During the Berlin Congress of 1987, the General Act of 1885, Berlin, and West African Conferences of 1884, Africa was partitioned by people who never set foot on the Continent.
We are told the object of the partition was three Cs:
By 1912 – the partitioning was complete and except for Ethiopia, all other African spaces were in the hands of British, France, Belgium, Spain, Portuguese, Germany and Italy. The colonies were acquired and ruled with the three instruments of:
- Diplomacy and treaties with illiterate natives
Maxim guns, not trade or the cross, became the symbols of the colonisation age in Africa – battles were one-sided except against the Boers in South Africa. The Italians against the Abyssinians, atrocities were commonplace. Europe imposed its rule on Africa at the point of the gun. The colonist found the Muslims compliant except sectarian split of Sunni – Shia and chose to rule through indirectly through their Islamic structures while restricting Missionary activity in the north.
Colonial officers developed one line of policies only for their successor to overrun them and pursue completely different approaches which was a source of instability.
Indirect rule made the Kings and Emirs stronger in the perpetuation of injustice and human right abuse, some men on the spot were motivated by a strong evangelical Christianity, others were outright atheists, some were highly conservative while others were more liberal even radical but all were bounded by similar educational background, which led inevitably to the notion of class.
It is a mistake to think that colonial administrators were motivated by liberal ideals of democracy. In many cases, they chose career in the Empire precisely because they were not Democrats, they were elites – and had sought to wield power without having to go through the inconvenience of being elected. The Empire did not stand for order and rule of law as imperial orders were highly stratified and snobbish.
It was the very opposite of the egalitarian, plural and the liberal institution as some historians portrayed (Kwarteng 2011). He continued “among the administrators, there were the sons of Parsons, of university lecturers and of civil servants … from families, without the pride of lineage associated with true aristocracies. It was at the public schools and, to a lesser degree, at the universities that the elite swagger and famously lofty sense of superiority were cultivated”.
In the case of Nigeria, the North was administered by military officers that began their career in Sudan, the influence of public school applied to colonial southern Nigeria while Lugard the first Governor-General of Nigeria and Sir James Robertson the last colonial Governor had stints in Sudan. Nigeria seems to have been developed in the model of Sudan which explains the present ideological instability in the country. By independence in 1960, the south of Nigeria had over 800 schools while the north had less than 50 thus cementing the academic and developmental north-south dichotomy.
The title of this paper A Quest for Peaceful Resolution of the Conflict of Ideology, Democracy and Islamism is not a topic discussed in beer parlours in Nigeria. What most people (including educated Nigerians) do not know is the history of colonialism as it affected Nigeria and Africa as a whole. The younger generation of Nigerians is further disadvantaged because History has ceased to be a subject taught in secondary schools in Nigeria.
Historians tell us that the Amalgamation of the predominantly Muslim Northern and predominantly Christian Southern Nigerian protectorates took place in 1914, for three main reasons:
1. The coast had to develop the interior. The North needed the subsidy of the British to remain afloat, which was contrary to British colonial policy.
2. The Need to have one railway policy rather than two, especially when Northern Nigeria has no coast line, and,
3. The British policy that all colonies must be self-sustaining. This did happen when Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated to form one Nigeria.
In Lugard’s Statement announcing the amalgamation on January 1, 1914, he concluded thus “To-day Nigeria enters on a new stage of its progress—that the coming years will increase the individual happiness, freedom from oppression and raise the standard of civilization and the comfort of the many millions who inhabit this large country. To these sole ends, the efforts of my colleagues and myself, with God’s help will be devoted. J.D. Lugard”.
The Man on the Spot
Lugard, the man on the spot, faced with the complexities of Nigeria had to improvise which included the development of the indirect rule system that was already in use in India. In addition, he introduced a federal system which made the North twice the size of the South put together, with the minority population in the North constituting about one-third of the landscape and Muslim population. The same lopsided principles were applied to the minorities and landscape of the East (Ibo) and Yoruba West. It was suggested that Lugard had the vision of the British Isles in mind, England, Scotland, and Wales when Nigeria was divided into three regions. Fortunately, the British Isles has no minorities to be assimilated. The British lacked both the time and manpower to unite the over 389 various tribes into one united country. The tripod so created became the bone of contention for the rulership of Nigeria after independence. This led to the frustration of Nigerian leaders and this frustration is exhibited by such statements as, “The mistakes of 1914”. Nigeria is a geographic expression” and, perhaps the most significant, General Yakubu Gowon’s declaration that “the basis of unity is no longer there.” (It was not there in the first place.)
This was a profound statement that was misinterpreted to score political points. The question therefore is, what can Nigerians do to solve the problem of lack of unity? Nigerians born before independence in 1960 and those born thereafter, have very different visions for their country, whether to be one or to break up. The NCEF’s firm resolve is that Nigeria must not be broken into bits as this would destroy the blessing of diversity. NCEF is also opposed to Nigeria becoming a one or multiple religious country that would promote theocracy. All Nigerians at home and in Diaspora must work for Democracy and Rule of Law. There are however other issues Nigerians must take into consideration to succeed in the quest for Democracy and Rule of law that will lead to the unity of all Nigerians. The 389 Ethnic Nationalities are the pillars upon which the Nigerian Nation can be built and not the tripod as envisioned by the British to assimilate the others. All 389 Ethnic Nationalities must be taken into consideration in the quest for the unity and cohesion of the Nigerian peoples.
It is pertinent to point out that the Fulani-Hausa and Kanuri Ethnic Nationalities spread outside the borders of Nigeria and, as Muslims, they combined to develop and promote an ideology of Islam known as Fulani/Hausa which means “a system of rule and society of which the most important ingredient is Islamic law” (Willink, 1958). It is on the acceptance of this sub-Islamic ideology that non-Nigerians - Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri, who embrace Islam, are permitted to rule over Nigeria. Examples include the situation whereby a Kanuri from Chad became the Head of State and a Hausa from Niger became Chief of Justice of Nigeria over and above Nigerians. This is as unfair as it is discriminatory. Once a Nigerian becomes a Muslim, he becomes Fulani/Hausa ideologically. It would appear that the present rulers of Nigeria the Hausa/Fulani, and most Nigerians, do not realise that Nigeria has become a colony and not a Democratic country.
Colonialism is defined as “the initial subjugation of invariable savages and the subsequent occupation of their land” (Wikipedia). This was what the Fulani did to some part of Northern Nigeria, and when the British came in 1900, they did the same to all the indigenous tribes of present day Nigeria including the Fulani. The history of colonialism we are told is “a history of human misery because imperial powers lack legitimacy and imperial powers govern irresponsibly relying mainly on arms, diplomacy and propaganda” (Pier Brendon, 1986).
Colonialism provides an unjust system of rule which condemns the indigenous natives to servitude under the arbitrary domination of strangers first by Fulani, then by the British and now by Fulani/Hausa. It is hoped that our countrymen and women of any tribe, under the cloak of Islamism or political Islam are not in the 21st century promoting a “modern” colonialism. How else can one describe Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen, who are on Jihad to promote the supremacy of Sharia over and above the Constitution? There is need to consider the three pillars of colonialism (arms, diplomacy, and propaganda) and its application in present day Nigeria of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Prevailing mindset in the north is to turn Nigeria into a caliphate. In the circumstance it may not be far-fetched to suggest that their policies were responsible for, promoted or established directly or indirectly, Boko Haram as an insurgency and Fulani herdsmen all in a bid to justify the theocratic agenda they have for Nigeria. One may ask why it was necessary that the leadership of the Armed Forces, Army, Navy and Air Force, the Police, Intelligence Services and most of the para-military - the NDLEA, Custom etc are headed by only Muslims. It cannot be regarded as blame game or hate speech if Christians in Nigeria conclude that security in Nigeria has become the prerogative of the Muslims because it is agreed by all that Nigeria has a population of 50% Christians who are protected by Muslims in their own country. The reported statement by the Governor of Kaduna State that Policemen who are Kaduna indigenes should be transferred out of the State, no doubt is tall order to other non-indigenes in the Police hierarchy in the State. This is a form of colonialism.
Islamists say that there exists a fatwa which provides that “a non-Muslim could not be allowed by Muslims to rule over the followers of the prophet” (incidentally a statement also made by a former military dictator who later became elected president).
Therefore when the military decided to drag Nigeria into the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) without consultation or referendum, what they expected us to do is to accept willy-nilly, this anti-Christian organisation without raising a finger? When the security and intelligence services turn a blind eye to the atrocities being committed by Fulani Herdsmen are Nigerians to fold their hands and watch? In the selective persecution of those accused of corruption do we allow Nigerians to be apprehensive? No, they must not. When huge sums are spent on security without visible Police Forces in the states and there is an escalation of insurgency, kidnapping, murders etc, Nigerians won’t be wrong to query the huge sums spent on security.
Even now, Nigerians woke up to learn the country had joined a coalition of Islamic countries against terrorism led by Saudi Arabia when Nigeria is not a Muslim country and we were not consulted.
Muslims have the responsibility to stop the adulteration of their faith. It will be wrong to blame other Nigerians for Islamism.
It is unfortunate that anybody can suggest that Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen are mere miscreants engendered by poverty when Islamist teaching provides that all lands over which Muslims have passed through or settled upon throughout the world are sacred space for which Muslims must conduct a jihad and, if necessary reclaim. Cattle grazing routes in Nigeria that were established by the Sardauna in the years before independence in the Middle Belt, have since been declared sacred space which the herdsmen are required to reclaim. If this is incorrect why are the Herdsmen so violent in complete disregard of the sanctity of lives?
A prevailing narrative that conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and their Christian victims are mere "clashes between nomads and farmers over land" due to global warming is perpetuated by western governments and academics who are afraid to recognise what is happening as a "clash of civilisations."
We, in NCEF, are of the firm view that Democracy is antithetical to Islamism, making democracy difficult to operate in Nigeria, we submit, because of its effect on Islamism. Islamism does not admit of middle ground, it rejects rational basis for argument. Islamists in Nigeria are being portrayed as victims of marginalisation of a "prosperous south", in spite of the clear political domination of the country by the North, as a result of the propaganda promoted by northern Intelligentsia and their agents and proxies that include some compromised Christian clergy and western liberal analysis.
Time to develop the basis of Unity
Please permit me at this stage to digress in order to make one quick point. My late uncle Senator Dahlton Ogieva Asemota OBE who died as a Senator of the First Republic in 1962, was the first African manager of the United Africa Company (UAC) founded in 1900 by Lord Scarborough who said that “the coast ought to pay for the development of the interior (Nigeria) and any other way will be a suicidal policy”. The NCEF is of the firm view that indigenous Nigerians in the Diaspora are in the best position to liberate Nigeria from what we term “colonialism” of the 21st century. We use the word colonialism because Jihad may be offensive to some Muslims who tell us that Jihad is a personal quest to reconcile oneself to the teaching and practice of the Prophet.
In 1960, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe the first indigenous Governor General and President of Nigeria said that Nigeria obtained independence “on a platter of gold”. We have no doubt the gold was genuine and not fake. We, however, cannot understand the meaning of the return of the caliphate standard. Sir Ahmadu Bello in his autobiography “My Life” wrote “About twenty miles upstream of Sokoto and on the north bank-that is, on the opposite side of the river from Sokoto-is the little town of Rabah. It was here that I was born in 1910. My father was the District Head. There are forty-eight District Heads in Sokoto Emirate and he was one of them. Only seven years had passed since the British drove out the Sultan Atahiru from his own capital, chased him across Nigeria and eventually caught up with him and his devoted followers on the borders of Bornu. Here, he made a last stand, on a deserted hillside, and died fighting, far from his people and his home. His standard was found near his body. It was folded up and taken to England. Only this year, after Independence, was it brought back and formally restored to the present Sultan at the distinguished ceremony. It had been very well preserved and given back in a large and handsome frame”. The question we ask is whether this return of flag was mere symbolism or a return of Northern Nigeria plus Southern Nigeria as a gift to the Caliphate that partnered the British with respect to indirect “rule”. We now need redeemers, stabilisers, liberals or unifiers.
Now that the Nigerian foundation is cracking, it is the view of the NCEF that indigenous natives of Nigerians in the Diaspora must come together to liberate their fatherland from 21st-century colonialism or Jihad. The above facts are indictments on all Nigerians including members of the NCEF. It is time we, as Nigerians, join hands to tell the colonialists and Jihadists to back off. What 21st century Nigeria needs is the reconciliation of all Nigerians and this can be achieved through the South African model of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Some say that such a commission might divide us further. This we reject because we know that Taqiyya (deceit) has played a very important part in governance in Nigeria. We are convinced that knowledge of the truth will unite Nigerians. President Muhammed Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo must set up one. The result, no doubt, will identify the points of agreement and disagreement as to what constitute “facts”, “ideology” and “human persona” and how they were exhibited in the past and present to guide our future. The Commission will strengthen our institutions against future onslaught by strong men, whether Christian or Muslims.
God Bless Nigeria, God Bless Africa.
God Bless the United States.
Solomon Asemota, SAN
Washington, DC, USA
June 22, 2017