Social Relations among the Indigenes of Kaduna State: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Ibraheem A. Waziri
Being a text of a talk given @ Hamdala Hotel Kaduna, on the occasion of the Youth Leadership Retreat, organized by the Global Peace Foundation.
(14th July, 2014)
My appreciation goes to the conveners under the umbrella of Global Peace Foundation for the creation of this forum; for the opportunities, slots given to young people – as my humble self – to be the lead presenters in its sessions. This indeed reflects the selflessness of its leaders and the strength, the coherency, correctness of their vision. Certainly, the future of Kaduna State and Nigeria in general, lies among their teaming youthful population. It is then imperative that youths be put at the center stage of debates and many times, social policy developments that should guide relations.
The subject of discussion is Kaduna State. Premised on the present turbulent moments of our history, I understand, I am expected to speak about social relationship among its indigenes. The persisting tension and mistrust between the largely Muslim indigenes of the Northern part of the state, and the largely Christian indigenes of the Southern part of the State.
When the issue is about social relations in the past, present and for the consideration of the future, there are basically two approaches. The first is the usual, comforting to our feelings and pandering to the spirit of the moment. It hovers around the concepts of political correctness, since a gathering of this nature is largely taken to be a platform for asserting or figuring out a political advantage. The discussion then tries to paint a rosy view of the past, ceding to the demand of the human drive to carve a perfect image of the past. Stories are told of how an uncle, a cousin or Muslim friend from the Northern part of the state was born or lived or schooled in the Christian Southern part of the state, and vice versa, in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Then a hasty move is made to acknowledge, that things are not the way they used to be now. Then, blame is rightly or wrongly apportioned to politicians and religious clerics for mismanaging the circumstances that led to this. We then clap for ourselves and go home feeling important and believing that a milestone has been recorded into a not so clearly defined journey.
The second approach is most discomforting, tortuous, philosophically engaging and most likely to bring forth the best of fruits. It suggests that the past was not as rosy as we want to believe it was. In fact depending on how far into the past we go, the present may even be better and holding more positive promises for our future.
Talk about the whole 19th century where the basic definitive index of the relationship between the many ethnic and non-Muslims religious group of the Southern parts of the state and their Muslim counter parts in the Northern part, was basically economic. Not economic in the sense of buying and selling of commodities or service delivery, but rather in the sense of stealing or trading, trafficking human beings for keeps or for sale at the shores around old Lagos. Not mentioning the wars and killings that were associated with those moments, certainly it was not a past those of us of ruminative minds and living conscience will find pride or consolation in. Yet as much as we were able to forgive the Caucasoid race that justified and premised its evil transactions in those days on the sentiment of racism, we should be able to forgive those at home who exploited the times for different reasons. We must also not allow our view of one another as victims or victors of those moments to color our present drive towards productive negotiations.
Enter the times of colonialism from the beginning of the 20th century to the moments of independence. There was a lot of missionary activities around the Southern part of the state that saw the many ethnic groups who were not Muslims prior to the times, converting to Christianity. This altered the social projections and the views of the different groups about one another. There are a lot of literatures and particularly from the active missionary then, Dr. Miller, who painted the Hausa Muslims in bad light and based on pure emotional premises and against the true Christian values, he came to spread. He and his likes are essentially responsible for the modern Christian perception of the Northern Nigerian Muslim in a supposedly new nation where all should be seen as equal pursuers of happiness and good tidings of living. The Christians see in the Muslims the image of the retarded lots who live in a concretized past and unable to make for citizens of a viable modern state. Whether this is true or not, the Muslim on their part, entertaining mistrust of the Christian colonial imperialists and their missionary friends, still see the chunk of Christians in their localities as agents of the departed white man and a constituted obstacle to the creation of the modern Eldorado in the Muslim world.
The truth is, the present turbulent times which first reached their crescendo in the physical clashes of the 1987, 1992, 2000, etc are as a result of the crystallization of these views among the two groups. It is true though that government has not played its role quite supposedly in sharpening the differing perspectives that will make for good co-operation and sustainable peaceful co-existence in the state. Religious leaders and groups are essentially and like all others, the properties of the government. Nothing is most powerful and should assume the dictatorship of the content of the public material of any sort than the government. In this regard it is my hope that the government will make the needed move to contain religious public and often private opinions as they relate to social relations. There is enough room for Muslims in Christianity as much as there is enough room for Christians in Islam and as far as social relation is concerned. The sentiment is live and true that everything or anybody good enough for a Christian is also good enough for a Muslim.
There is also the area that civil society can help. The most troubling situation is when a group perceives itself to be superior to another in a supposedly equal operational ground. In the market places, schools or any sort of public arena and especially the New Media, there are some Northerners who easily use ethnic slurs and other derogatory terms against other ethnic or religious groups. It is essential that bills are sponsored in our state house of assembly to make laws against these kinds of presentations; evolve mechanism for implementing the laws and prescribe appropriate punishment for the offenders. There is indeed nothing that generates offensive and ill feelings than what one says about the other. Word of mouth can be said to have been most responsible for the most devastating calamities of the human race in the past. It will be well for us to check it, if we are ever to realize a dream of a harmonious setting.
I remain forever grateful, I ask for forgiveness!