On the 19th of may 2011, Sahara Reporters published an article describing a visit by Northern Nigerian leaders following mass riots that began after the presidential election. According to the article, “Northern traditional rulers and Islamic leaders, fearing for their safety, traveled to Abuja on Monday night to join a series of meetings with Goodluck Jonathan.”
The report also said the federal government booked several hotels to accommodate the leaders, yet it was reluctant to acknowledge their presence in Abuja. The traditional leaders were like wise unwilling to openly endorse the president’s 2011 victory, fearing repercussions from Hausa youths who were angered by the outcome. Forced to seek security help from the federal government, however, the group paid homage to the president in Abuja. This set the stage for the secrecy behind their trip.
While in Abuja, the traditional leaders condemned their jihadists, a rare gesture. Representing the delegation, the sultan of sokoto admonished his Hausa constituency, a difficult political decision that was however necessary to help President Jonathan restore order.
Since Hausa leaders seldom denounce their jihadists, it is fair to say the condemnation was made to appease President Jonathan in order to secure his favor. While condemning the riots, however, the sultan refused to acknowledge and congratulate the president’s victory. Delivered indirectly, his statement came via the president’s spokesman and it was as follows: “The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad III, had condemned in strong terms the post-election violence that erupted in some parts of the country following the declaration of the April presidential election results.”
As several news outlets invested untold energy into covering the circus surrounding the meetings between Jonathan and the Hausa leaders, they forgot to ask this profound question. Why and how did the subjugated Hausa Almajirai turn against their once revered masters?
An abridged answer to this question is–he who plays with fire often gets burned by it. You should recall after President Obasanjo won the 1999 election, Hausa leaders began to take measures which exacerbated the chaos in Northern Nigeria and The Middle Belt. First Governor Sani of Zamfara State audaciously introduced sharia law and his decision was copied by other hausa governors. This ill-advised initiative turned Nigeria into a nation of two laws, expanding lawlessness and disorder.
Not long after introducing sharia law, Governor Sani and his colleagues manufactured a threat against Islam and set out to defend it. To defend Islam and to protect Muslims in the 2003 elections, as they claimed, the governors decided to militarize all Islamic organizations. Reported in a September 3, 2001 edition of The Week magazine, Sani and his colleagues said they were collecting over one hundred million Naira to build an Islamic army which would be furnished with boots, uniforms and “working equipment,” a code phrase for weapons.
Besides inspiring the rise of bloodcurdling organizations like Boko Haram, their initiative created international terrorist like Abdulmutallab, causing the world to label Nigeria a terror state. Moreover, it triggered the second grand jihad, giving Hausa youths the impetus to raid cities and villages much like Uthman Dan Fodio did about two hundred years ago.
After Governors Sani and his colleagues introduced sharia law and militarized Islamic organizations, northern traditional leaders did not oppose them. They were likewise silent, as the groups began to unleash brutality upon non Hausa Nigerians. Viewing the jihad as an opportunity to capture The Middle Belt and tip the balance of power in favor of Hausas, the traditional leaders fueled the carnage. For example, the Sultan of Sokoto openly supported the Hausa erroneous political claims on the Jos Plateau, thus encouraging an unfortunate bloodbath. Salivating at the prospect of reaping the spoils of the jihad, Hausa leaders left trails of hideous activities that were more than war crimes.
While the Hausa traditional leaders participated in empowering jihadists to kill with impunity, they failed to understand the fact that they were also creating hooligans that could turn against them in the future. This strategic blunder left them running for dear life when the jihadists rioted because a few Hausa leaders congratulated victorious infidels in the 2011 elections. So ferocious was the beast they had help to create that the federal government concealed their location when they ran to Abuja for cover. Moreover, Hausa leaders could not divulge their quest for security aid from President Jonathan since their constituency viewed him as the infidel in chief.
The irony of their escape was that their palaces were ablaze, courtesy of the arsonists they had trained. While running out of the gates of their residences, they eluded large drag nets like the ones their jihadists used against poor villagers on the Jos Plateau. Having escaped the drag nets, they ran across fields littered with mines they had ordered laid. Trying to avoid the mines, the elders also found themselves leaping over deep pits which their devotees dug to trap enemies they had only fabricated. Even then, they were feverishly dodging the cross hairs of countless guns which they’d distributed.
At the end, they were lucky to avoid getting caught alive. If caught alive, they would have faced mutilation from their jihadists, since they had trained them to brutally and fanatically enforce the sharia law they’d help to introduce.
If Hausa leaders fail to embrace their role in creating the danger which they barely escaped, their dream of a pure Islamic north would be realized–but at their peril. They will wake up in a Northern Nigerian Republic–obviously without the south, but also without the Middle Belt. At that time they might understand how their quest for political and religious hegemony had created an ungovernable, poor, desolate and land locked nation. Like Somalia, it shall be a headless state which is riddled with clan warfare and reaping the fruits of the lawlessness they had seeded. There and then, they may realize how their woes are the product of their own making.