By Lasisi Olagunju
The oppressive one-North is on its death-bed. General Yakubu Danjuma sang the Nunc Dimittis on Saturday. But if the Middle Belt states are free finally, the credit cannot go to this taciturn General from Takum. The Fulani conquerors deserve the prize; they scored the golden own goal. It has taken the Hausa/Fulani and their Kanuri collaborators just three years of bloody indiscretion to unravel 104 years of one-North myth. The greedy mice of the tiny Fulani elite have peed into the North’s soup pot; everyone has now learnt to answer his mother’s name. We are at the threshold of a new phase in the struggle for a new Nigeria. But then, the battle has just started. The dying won’t let go of their inheritance quietly.
Beyond Danjuma’s Taraba, Benue and Plateau, is there anywhere else that is not feeling the pangs of Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri elite destruction? I call their abode the Core-North which is not interested in catching up with anybody. Its interest is in dragging everyone else to where it is – on ground zero. It sees beauty in the millions of untrained children milling its streets, maiming and killing for their sport. Northern Nigeria is the death of Nigeria and its destiny – we better be ready for the obsequies, the funeral rites. Look at that Dapchi school – did they not say it is a secondary school? I wanted to ask why none of those rescued girls could communicate in English. I saw a bold one on the CNN, an interpreter did the job for her. I wanted to ask why- but then, I remembered my father warned me a long time ago to seal my lips when sandstorms howl. “There are moments in every age when silence gives peace,” he told me. Just like his prayers, my father’s counsel has never failed me. They have surfaced to solve riddles for me at every crossroad of life. Today, silence is what the north demands from all. You heard what the president said last Friday? We are not to tell the sick that he is unwell. We will be silent.
But can I talk and sulk to myself now that the ship is off the radar? If the south wants to help the north, where will it start? How many years will it take those Dapchi girls to string alphabets together to make words? How do we help them mould the vague words of their lives into meaningful sentences? How long? Kaduna state governor, Nasir el-Rufai appears to have an idea of where the rain started beating his people from. He told State House correspondents last Thursday in Abuja: “If a child loses quality education, he is done for life. If a child doesn’t get quality healthcare in the first two years, he is destroyed for life.” The far north is that child. It is lost. Can it still be saved? Silence! Remember the world is not waiting for anyone, but the north is dragging the south into its misfortune of stunted existence. It educates only children of the royals. The hewers of wood are very happy scavenging in the woods; they are richly blessed, contented with their miseducation in Chibok and Dapchi.
North to south, Presidents and governors abandon the poor to fund their fancies. They borrow and spend tomorrow’s money building long bridges which lead to nowhere. American billionaire, Bill Gates told our president and governors this much last Thursday: if you build roads without educating and caring for the people, your roads and bridges are mere ornamental tragedies. Bill Gates didn’t know that we don’t listen to wisdom and truth here. Even our ancestors warned us: The child you left unbuilt will auction the brick and mortar you are investing in. Did we listen? We ignored the ancestors. We spurned them and their meddlesomeness. We are seeing this clearly in the north’s misfortune. The foundation is also being massively laid in the south by a generation of governors with strange ideas. Mega schools, zero education is the craze-concept everywhere. When you do that what do you get? What you harvest is an army of the miseducated, or the under-educated or even the uneducable. This odious collage will soon file out de-civilising humanity. That should explain how the north bred its current leaders- gentlemen who break bridges of peace with ease. The north’s cup is full. It is facing the consequences of its hereditary almajiri leadership. The long years of north’s mistreatment of its poor and the minorities have driven the chicken home to roost. The uneducated, the marginalized have become kings of the elite roads, the kabiyesi, abducting and releasing to get billions.
Now, I saw these photos of Dapchi folks embracing abductors of their girls. I wanted to ask questions. How did we get here? I wanted to ask about the north and how northerners think in that queer corridor. Journalists were barred from covering the return of the girls last Wednesday. Again, I felt the urge to join the troublemakers who were asking why. Why should we open our gates to the masked men of Boko Haram and shut out witnesses to good tidings? But then, I remembered: What you see and must not tell is what the Yoruba call Ariigbodowi. A report said the Dapchi abductors brought the girls at dawn, at 3am. But I saw photos with shadows of persons shaking Boko Haram hands. What cast those shadows before daybreak? The sun, the moon or the stars or what? It is safe to keep quiet and stop asking questions about the Nigerian state – especially about northern Nigeria. Some nations value and venerate silence. Today’s Nigeria is one of such. The silent ones, the ones who see no evil and who say no evil, are the saved here. The deaf and dumb are the wise; they never lack anything money and positions can buy. They live long too to enjoy the fruits of their silence. In the public sphere, they won’t ask why Dapchi mothers and fathers hail their tormentors; Why the abductors of priceless daughters suddenly became saviours. The wise won’t ask questions and they will have peace.
Nigeria shares so much with Lloyd Jones, author of A History of Silence. For Lloyd, the family trait is silence. All around him he feels it. He knows that willful forgetfulness is what “the shamed bestows upon the progeny.” And he could see great wreaths of silence wound around his life and those of his siblings. You cannot live in Nigeria of today and not feel like this scholar of Silence. Like him, in the windows and hallways and highways of our lives are conformist garlands. Only those who know how to keep quiet get decorated. Golden prizes wink at every repented troublemaker in this republic of wonders. I wish I could keep quiet too. People who close their eyes and seal their lips enjoy the breeze of salvation here.
There is a competition of silence going on. Who is financing Boko Haram and fueling their vehicles of violence? Silence! A Dapchi girl was reported by The Guardian of UK saying she and her colleagues were “flown in planes and taken over rivers in boats” on their way back to freedom. Whose plane? Which airport? Silence! The pursuit of silence, argues George Prochnik, “begins with a surrender of the chase; the abandonment of efforts to impose our will and visions on the world.” So many things happen same time – or rapidly, one after the other. And in the maze of the confusion, we drop the glove; we surrender. What is the need struggling with a Nigeria that is beyond repairs? With every change or solution comes an even bigger headache. Boko Haram used to enter villages and spill blood; now they enter and shake hands. They used to abduct and marry off or sell girls; now they return the girls intact, free of charge – without ransom. We thought Boko Haram was enough; now we know there is something more mobile everywhere called herdsmen; Danjuma called them ‘armed bandits’ with official cover. These ones know no geography- everywhere is their land of claim and blood. They are powerful and untouchable. Even policemen are afraid to call them by their names. They are spelt and pronounced in silence. And after the huge noise of Chibok, we thought nothing gross like that would ever happen again. But it happened; Dapchi happened – a clone of its inglorious precursor, but the noise was muffled. From abroad, interest in this version of Chibok was weak. The vocal cords lost their strength because this is 2018 Nigeria where noise is a crime.
Ugliness is the beauty of northern Nigeria. The core north sees nothing unhealthy peeing in the pool. It does this and serves the water to its thirsty minions. It also drinks from the pool showing off its magenta dentition. The shameless elite of the north is interested only in power, money and virgins. They are not bothered about anything else. The north’s life of disasters exposes other parts of the country to mortal dangers. But it doesn’t know it has any problem; it is drunken in the awesomeness of the powers it assumes it has. It won’t grow and won’t let others grow. The north is acutely stunted in form and content and you wonder why? Is what we see today the vision of Ahmadu Bello and Abubakar Tawafa Balewa? Those leaders were sound and well and coherent in thought and deeds. After these worthy ancestors, what else can we see? Rotten tomatoes repackaged for national consumption. And the northern elite still tells us others cannot live without them. Did you not hear Ibrahim Coomassie of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) proclaiming his people’s indispensability? The South cannot survive without the north, he says. Why should blood-soaked Afghanistan declare itself indispensable to its sane neighbours? When was the last time the north gave Nigeria a reason to smile? It is a huge lake of blood; a field of stupid deaths; a world of unusual disasters; a parade of scented ugliness; a diseased region. And what do experts do with ailments that have no known cure? Unfortunately, the healthy south is a helpless detainee in the north’s leper colony. Greedy leaders have made the south an abductee of Lugard’s “well-conducted youth” of 1914. Bonded victims of the Fulani north can’t be free; they will go with this dying north.”