Nigeria: The danger of playing the religion card

October 12, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Abdulyassar Abdulhamid



On Monday October 1, 2018, Nigeria celebrated its 58th independence anniversary. There were, and still are, heated arguments on whether the country deserves this grand anniversary or not. Nigerians are divided into two opposing groups based on the country’s performance or otherwise. A group, building its argument on the assumption there is still a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel, thinks the anniversary is worth celebrating. To this group, one’s patriotism can only be measured by the love one shows to the country. The other, citing numerous failures, incessant killings and poor leadership, argues that there is nothing to celebrate and the whole celebration is a scam or at best a “white noise” meant to drown Nigerians’ wailings.


I am among those who strongly believe in celebrating the Independence Day. Why? This is because at least I have no any other country to call mine save Nigeria. And, I do not want to boast, will not stop me from paying my allegiance to this great nation.


If there is anything that forcefully stunts Nigeria’s growth at this stage, it is the tribal-cum-religious stereotyping politicians and malevolent human rights or activists have adopted as a divide and rule strategy to create more fissures in Nigeria. They set one tribe or religion against another. The happening in Plateau State is a clear case in point.


Nigeria has been divided along religious lines more than ever before. Each camp goes for the jugular of the other. And most of the followers of the two major religions have been reduced to being hate-filled. Only goodness knows when true Nigerian nationalists will succeed in turning things around. The chance of Nigeria being a truly united country is a slim one. Remember the west had predicted the break-up of Nigeria several times before.


One cannot help accusing media and some international organizations for Nigerians’ woes. They have succeeded in dividing downtrodden Nigerian citizens at the latter’s peril. The same strategy had been employed in Rwanda and Sudan. When in Rwanda it had yielded casualties, in Sudan it led to the creation of South Sudan, which today is war-torn.


While the so called media bulls are window-dressing false and black-painting the truth, some human rights groups are ill-intentioned. They are doing the bidding of their pay masters who are hell-bent on a mission to give Nigeria a coup de grace (blow of mercy) – to bury the remnant of a once great nation.


For instance, when the attacks allegedly carried out by herdsmen in different parts of the country were going on especially in the nerve center of herdsmen attacks: Benue, Plateau and Taraba States, many Nigerian media houses, both online and mainstream media, especially the southern media, created a special appellation and took to the streets placing billboards of tribal and religious cards in order to frame a particular religion and tribe they hate so much.


It is true there is prejudice in journalism. Perhaps that is why a larger chunk of our journalists thrive only on sensationalism. Some even doctor headlines from the comfort of their chairs. There is no doubt “who pays the piper”, they say, “dictates the tune”. But isn’t one ashamed of himself to connive with others to destroy the only country he has?


Fulani herdsmen, as they are called, became synonymous to attacks, bloodshed, kidnapping or robbery. Those media and journalists refused to call terrorists by their actual names: “terrorists”. They resort to using religion and tribe cards. This has led to the lynching of many people either because they looked like core northerners, Muslims or sounded like Fulani or Hausas for no other reason than passing through communities attacked by the so called Fulani herdsmen.


What those media refused to tell the world is that although I am Hausa by tribe and Muslim, I might have been kidnapped or lynched if I were to be at the mercy of those they call Fulani herdsmen.


However, many well-meaning Nigerian intellectuals had warned of the danger of this dangerous play. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. A terrorist, even from the blues, should be called one. The suspicion is this religious card is effective only in the northern part of the country. And it is gradually overwhelming the whole region. A person who was born and raised in the north has no right to pass through some parts of Plateau State. What a generation!


Take for example the recent concluded Lagos State All Progressives Congress governorship primary election. The Jagaban, Bola Ahmad Tinubu, singlehandedly turned his back on a sitting Christian governor, picked Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the party flag bearer and all the party members including the deputy governor followed suit. At last Ambode was defeated. Neither Governor Akimwumi Ambode nor religious bodies there decried any attempt to eclipse Christian hegemony. In fact, consciously pedantic observers have been waiting for one outspoken Yoruba man to call this sudden u-turn an attempt to Islamize Lagos State; but there is none.


Now the dust of “Fulani” herdsmen has subsided. Ironically the killer herders are on vacation. The attention of those media houses and human rights groups turned election observers have significantly turned to party primary elections and the much talked-about 2019 general elections.


In this trying time, when Nigeria is trudging, came the search for a top-brass military officer, major general Idris M. Alkali, who was declared missing by the Nigerian military. The issue lacks wider coverage because General Alkali belongs to the wrong religion.


Major General Alkali retired from service on 7th August, 2018 and was declared missing two weeks later on his way to Bauchi from Abuja through Jos, Plateau State. Intelligence report, as the army claimed, tracked his phone to the DU, Jos South Local Government Area.


Despite attempts by locals to disrupt a task force comprising officers and soldiers from 3 Division Quick Response Team, NEMA as well as local divers, constituted by the COAS General TY Buratai to search for the missing general dead or alive, the task force pulled out the general’s car from a pond in Lafendeg, Du, Plateau State. Reports have it that more cars have been found in the pond thereafter.


The most interesting thing about this sad development is neither the missing general nor his suspected murderers received either religious or tribal tags in the sickly trending newspaper headlines. Some media houses skillfully skirted the whole saga. International organizations – like Amnesty International – have lost their growl. Perhaps General Idris Alkali’s case is a non-issue – a wrong case at a wrong time.


Of late, those media and human rights groups kept on pressurizing the government to secure the release of our dear, innocent “Christian girl” (this is how most of the headlines read), Leah Sharibu, the only Christian girl among the 101 abducted school girls in Dapchi, Yobe State.


Conversely, in September Saifura Hussaini Ahmed, one of the tree health workers abducted by Boko Haram on March 1, 2018, was gunned down by a member of the “Islamic” State West African Province (ISWAP), a faction of Boko Haram to the sheer agony of the viewers. One surprising thing about this inhuman act is no religion or ethnic card was played. Who is at the receiving end? Aren’t the poor Nigerians? Perhaps MURIC and the sultanate were not aware of Siafura’s abduction.


From all indications, there are some unseen hands on this earth working unrelentingly to hound poor Nigerian souls to their early graves by hook or by crook. If things continue this way, I am sure, however sad it may be, the end is not far off. In this nation one either belongs to the elites or downtrodden. There is no other way round.





Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid, Kano based, is graduate of B.A English from Bayero University, Kano. He is a budding writer, social analyst, freelancer at Sunrise Language Practitioner (SLP) and regular contributor to Nigerian dailies. 
His writings have appeared in The Communicator, a magazine published by Kano State Polytechnic and in Dailytrust, The Triumph and The cable newspapers. He has a strong interest in literary theory.

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