OUR VANISHING NORTHERN NIGERIA
6/27/2012 5:16:38 PM -
Memories! Memories are like soothing balms that heals an emotionally charged human mind and drives it to the blissful experiences of the past even as the troubled spirit begins a journey of recovery and psychological balance.
Fond memories are even more comforting and psychologically rich and have remained one of the best known panaceas to healing a human mind devastated by the existential realities of unprecedented scale of bloody violence and man's inhumanity to man in our contemporary times.
In one of those sober moods of fond memories, my troubled mind travelled like an adventurous strange bird from the increasingly fearful vicinity of the nation's capital city of Abuja to those violence ravaged Northern Nigerian towns, villages and hamlets that formed substantial parts of my childhood as a Nigerian of Igbo parentage who was born, bred and educated in Northern Nigeria of the late 1970's and early 1980's.
Fond memories of Northern Nigeria came flashing and flooding down towards my sub-conscious as I reflected extensively on the imports of some weighty comments on the ongoing terror-related violence and bombardments in Northern Nigeria as made by the senate President David Mark, Alhaji Kashim Sheftima of Borno State and even President Goodluck Jonathan.
These prominent political office holders made their respective interventions on the terror-related mass killings in the North at the recent retreat of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which took place in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Before proceeding to examine the statements made by the aforementioned political heavyweights in Nigeria, a reflection into what some knowledgeable persons wrote about the concept of memories are as important as they are relevant in Nigeria of today.
James M. Barrie said thus; 'God gave us our memories so we might have roses in December'. Saul Bellow is of the considered opinion that; 'everybody needs his/her memories. Memories keep the wolf of insignificance from the door'. Not wanting to be intellectually surpassed in his comprehension of the beautiful concept of memories, another thinker, Libbie Fuldim captured his thoughts on memories thus; 'Recall it as often as you wish, a happy memory never wears out'.
I ask, how true is it that happy memories of the past regarding my childhood Northern Nigeria will not wear out even when the realization is true that I am no longer safe traversing those same memorable places in Northern Nigeria because of ongoing bloody violence unleashed intermittently in places of worship by armed Islamic insurgents in Northern Nigeria?
But from the same beautiful book titled 'Quotes worth Repeating', authored by Bob Kelly, I later learnt that Charles Kuralt said thus; 'The good memories are all of stopping and staying a while. I realize I have always driven too fast through life, carrying in my baggage too much impatience and apprehension, missing too many chances, passing too many good people in the dust'.
In complete obedience to the above statement of universal truth by Charles Kuralt, I have therefore decided to suspend my overwhelming apprehension and impatience occasioned by the unprecedented state of insecurity in our once beautiful Northern Nigeria with the belief that the fond memories of some good experiences, people and places I encountered in my growing up years will serve as the healing tonic to encourage me to keep writing and working for lasting peace, religious freedoms and security of lives and property of citizens to be restored to our increasingly diminishing Northern Nigeria. Oh God may I be right.
Memories drove me elegantly like a harmless Butterfly to Kafanchan in Kaduna state which is my place of birth and I recall going to Aduwan one primary school, formerly, Saint Peter Claver primary school with dozens of my childhood Hausa/Fulani, Berom, Bajju, and Kataf speaking Childhood friends whereby we will learn in convivial and happy serene environment with an expansive football pitch whereby some of us little boys back then would try our innocent footballing skills amid jeers and jubilations of childhood years.
Memories drove me to recollecting some friendly encounters I had as a child with some beautiful Hausa/Fulani girls who showed undying love to learn to speak my language of parentage - Igbo, since in their understanding I already know their first language which is Hausa that was widely spoken even in our class rooms.
Memories indeed! Fond memories took me to my secondary school days at the Teachers College Kafanchan whereby several of my bosom friends were Hausa/Fulani's, indigenous people of Southern Kaduna, Yorubas, Gwaris, Idomas, Igalas, Igbos and a sprinkle of some few Ijaw speaking co-students who exhibited exceedingly good fraternal communion with all.
I do also remember going to Katsina, Daura, and Zaria all in the old Kaduna state as part of sporting teams from my secondary school to participate in the inter-school games which were beautiful memories.
These fond memories were interjected by few sectarian skirmishes between followers of the two dominant organized religions of Islam and Christianity. But these disagreements were soon settled before much blood was spilled.
As children, then in Northern Nigeria, I remember invading some fresh fruit farms with my childhood friends mainly of Hausa/Fulani origin to pluck mangoes, oranges and cashew fruits to fill up our little hungry stomachs on our homeward journeys from our Teachers' College Kafanchan that was like 30 minutes of hard trek to town where most residents stayed peacefully then. Today, Kafanchan is split into two equal segments with Christians and Moslems staying apart in distinct districts of the once lovely town. Today Kafanchan have three markets for Christians, Moslems and Igbo Women.
In the early 1980's, I remember vividly when I first travelled to Maiduguri, Borno state in one of my early secondary school adventures to know some uncharted territories to meet new friends and know new places. Those days were very peaceful and people had great respect for the African cultural values of hospitality and respect for life as sacred gift from the Divine creator. Not anymore.
Those beautiful days are far gone now in Northern Nigeria with the large scale killings by armed religious rebels in most parts of Northern Nigeria which very recently sparked off retaliatory killings of Muslims by Christians in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria. The Christians for the better part of the last two years have faced a barrage of bombardments and terror-related targeted bomb attacks from professed armed Islamic insurgents.
I indeed weep for our vanishing Northern Nigeria the same way that editors of the globally respected Newsmagazine-'The Economist' lamented the melting of the Arctic and extensively reflected on what this ugly phenomenal situation means for trade, energy and the World Environment in a special edition of June 16th-22nd 2012 which they aptly titled 'The Vanishing North'.
I am not alone in my lamentations of the quickly vanishing Northern Nigeria since even President Jonathan, Senate President David Mark and Governor of Borno state Mr. Shettima Keshim have also collectively joined the chorus although in different undulating tunes.
Ensconced in the serene and peaceful environment of the retreat center in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, far away from the Northern states that have become war zones whereby Southerners and innocent Northerners have come under threat of bloody violence, theses politicians weighed in on the ongoing Northern violence and warned of imminent national disaster.
David Mark of the entire speakers at the Uyo, Akwa Ibom Senate retreat made the better intervention when he promptly warned that if the killings by armed Islamic insurgents in the North are not effectively checked and defeated, then Nigeria is on the speed lane of imminent break up just like the over speeding underground train that has failed break.
David Mark gave his verdict thus, 'The way the exercise is going at the moment, if Boko Haram is not halted, it may result to the breakup of this country and God forbid, because people will not take it for too long.'
On his part, President Jonathan who recently fired his National Security Adviser General Owoaye Azazi and Defence minister Mr. Haliru Bello and hired a northerner, Retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki as Security advisor, blamed opposition politicians for playing politics with national security matter.
I think some politicians in Nigeria are mischievously celebrating the unprecedented state of insecurity in the North as the demonstration of People Democratic Party-led Federal government's failure, I do also think that the Jonathan administration has so far not effectively implemented proactive security measures to stop the bloody violence which has shifted to churches with the attendant devastating consequences on the lives of innocent worshippers. This is a war crime and crime against humanity as was recently acknowledged by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
On June 26th 2012, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria met and issued detailed findings on the Northern Nigerian violence whereby they collectively called on government to arrest the widespread insecurity and mass killings.
Their words: 'It is the primary duty of government to ensure security of lives and property of citizens all over the nation. There can be no excuse for failure in this primary duty. There is evidence that the state has been doing a lot to arrest the situationmuch more need to be done in the area of intelligence gathering, analyzing, interpreting and security equipment procurement. The terrorist must be identified, engaged, and disarmed'.
Our worst fears of imminent break up of Nigeria would be arrested and our fond memories of a nation whereby all citizens will freely exercise all the fundamental freedoms including freedom to worship, movement and right to life would remain inviolable and sacrosanct only if Government takes the right steps to stop the mass killings.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, writes from www.huriwa.blogspot.com.