The eruption of mob and sectarian violence in Northern Nigeria, in protest at the victory of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan against retired General Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Elections of 16 April 2011, leadings to killings of civilians and of police personnel, the burning of churches, the burning of the palace of an Emir, torching of police stations and of houses of leaders of the ruling PDP, as well as offices of the Independent National Electoral Comission, INEC, which conducted the elections, locking fifty members of the National Youth Service Cops in a building and setting it on fire, a situation from which the corpers escaped, along with other acts of destruction of life and property, shares a number of elements in common with what has to be described as the culture of mob and sectarian violence in Northern Nigeria, a culture that suggests a group of people who are convinced that they have a right to inflect violence with impunity on other Nigerians .
This culture of mob and sectarian violence is manifest most markedly in the consistent horrors of Jos. It also emerges from time to time in other outbursts of violence in Northern Nigeria, as in the campaigns of Boko Haram. This manifestation of mob and sectarian violence on the news of the victory of Goodluck Jonathan is one of the most blatant yet.
During the crisis within the ruling PDP over the abrogation of the party's zoning arrangements which might have disqualified Jonathan from running for President, Atiku Abubakar, a candidate from the North, who was being sidelined, was quoted as prophesying the possibility of violence on account of these developments. After that, bomb blasts occurred in public places in Northern Nigeria, killing innocent people, one near a PDP rally in Abuja, perhaps one where the President spoke.
Why does this culture of mob and sectarian violence in Northern Nigeria continued to grow without fundamental challenge, apart from some perhaps palliative efforts by the armed forces and the police, and even as I write I can read of no comprehensive plan to stop the current crisis in Northern Nigeria apart from a curfew in some cities?
Might this be due to the probable domination of the Nigerian security apparatus, particularly the army, by people from Northern Nigeria?
Now, this suspicion of mine might have no truth in it. It is not based on research or any knowledge of the composition of the Nigerian army and the country's security agencies, such as the SSS. It is based, however, on deductions made about the militarisation of Nigerian government, largely by coup plotters from Northern Nigeria, from Buhari to Babangida and Abacha, along with the fact that the country has largely been ruled by Northern leaders, who share with other Northerners the dominant ethnic and religious roots that wield power in Northern Nigeria.
I suspect that the Nigerian army might be significantly pro-North in its composition and leadership after the Nigerian Civil War, in the location of arms consignments and the location and relative power and prestige of fighting units and commanders, and mechanised fighting equipment . Such imbalances might account for the apparent impossibility so far of dealing conclusively with the culture of mob and sectarian violence in Northern Nigeria.
Other reasons along the same line might be that it is just not thinkable yet to work out a comprehensive method of eradicating this problem because it would require compromising the interests of leading Northern politicians and power brokers, who rely for much of their support on the foot soldiers invoked in such violence . It also seems that these foot soldiers are kept even more impoverished than poor Nigerians in other parts of Nigeria, thereby leading to their availablity as agents of violence.
Another reason relates to the crisis of Islam in the modern world. This centres on the authority of Islam, like that of many religions, particularly the monotheistic Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as based on non-rational conceptions, described as being above reason, and one approach to which is to be absorb them in faith, without little or no critical reflection. These non rational ideas and attitudes, particularly in the case of the Abrahamic religions, often include discrimination against other religions, and particularly against other Abrahamic religions, those being their closest rivals. I have seen more of such discrimination with Christianity and Islam since they emerged in the context of opposition to Judaism, and in terms of mutual opposition between Christianity and Islam. This non-rationality often leads to fanaticism and violent behaviour, as expressed in the current burning of churches in response to Jonathan's victory.
Religions also often thrive in a culture of dogmatic political hegemony, in which allegiance to hierarchy is paramount, making it easier to manipulate people lower in the hierarchy. Without the active or tacit support of Muslim leaders in Northern Nigeria I doubt if this continual mob and sectarian violence would exist. Such violence occurs in Southern Nigeria in terms of the demonisation of children as witches in Southern Nigeria but does not go beyond that in large-scale terms.
There are a number of reasons why mob and sectarian violence are not a feature of the largely Christianised social worlds of Southern Nigeria. One of these involves the contrastive relationships between Christianity, Islam and modernity. Modernity may be understood as the integration of social forces compelling a fundamental realignment of values, perceptions and of means and outcomes of production, leading to social systems significantly different in outlook and organisation from their historical origins. In that light light, Islam is still caught between the currently globally dominant mode of modernity, largely of Western origin and emerging from fundamental changes in the relationship between religion, public consciousness and social organisation marked by the Reformation, and the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions and the more dogmatic elements of Islam which seem to be the most prominent globally, as suggested by what seems to the overshadowing of politics and philosophy by religion in Islamic cultures.
Christianity, on the other hand, has integrated Western modernity, creating a context in which even though superstition is, in my view central to the massive influence of Pentecostal Christianity in Nigeria, this culture of superstition goes hand in hand with an understanding of the good life in terms of a secular, often materialistic culture which idealises Western civilisation, including a delight in material well being, perceptions at odds with large scale violence and destruction, contributing to creating a populace more urbane in their outlook than what seems to obtain in Northern Nigeria.
Another reason is the ethnic consciousness and the settler/indigene dichotomy. I get the impression that a strong current of opinion in Northern Nigeria is resentful of the presence of non-Northerners in Northern states and conflates Christianity and ethnic alienness, leading to communal violence on ethnic and religious lines against people non-Northerners and Christians.
I wish I could suggest a comprehensive solution to this culture of mob and secvtarian violence in Northern Nigeria. The solution is likely to involve concurrent work on a number of of interrelated aspects of the Nigerian polity. The scope, volume and quality of formal education, economic empowerment, and general quality of life need to grow dramatically in Northern Nigeria. Education needs to integrate both Islamic and Western approaches, distilling the best of both, and certainly including the critical thinking and disciplinary scope of Western education at its best and, ideally, the sophistication, breadth and depth of the best of Islamic and Arab civilisation. Women should be allowed maximum education both for their own sakes and because the mother is vital to the upbringing of the child and the upkeep of the home, influencing the family hugely, even in patriarchal societies. Child marriages, described as common in Northern Nigeria, are not in the interests of society. Female children are sometimes married as early as 13 and divorced in their teens, according to this very sad BBC report on youth in Northern Nigeria, particularly girls: http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/world-africa-11427409. What kind of children will such children give birth to and bring up?
The Nigerian state as well as the Northern political and economic elite need to address Northern development as a matter of the utmost urgency. This elite needs to refocus their power base on the empowerment of their people. One of the world’s richest people, Aliko Dangote, is from Northern Nigeria and built his fortune through a social base in that locality. Yet, in sheer comparative productivity levels, income and general quality of life, the impression is emerging that the same environment that produced a Dangote, even in the context of the limitations of Nigeria and Africa generally, cannot compete with Southern Nigeria. But then, what is the social impact of Dangote's business compared with Mike Adenuga, his billionaire counterpart from Southern Nigeria?What is the relative impact on their environments of the business concerns of these two men on their immediate geographical constituencies? What is the relative impact on quality of life of telecommunications of Mike Adenuga, who pioneered the Glo 1 cable link that impacts broad information technology penetration in Africa to Dangote's cement business, multinational in scope though that is ? Perhaps this consideration is irrelevant since both men operate nationally and internationally.
Underlying all these issues is the question of the character of the nation as a political entity and social framework composed of diverse ethnicities, and potential nationalities, welded together by an arrangement that was not designed with the interests of a self sustaining nation in mind but created to serve an external power, while the country is largely beholden to external interests, particularly in relation to energy-oil and electricity.
Genuine self determination needs to emerge from the commitment, particularly from the elite, to work together to create a unified, self sustaining nation.