Against the backdrop of the recent dastardly attack by bloodthirsty Boko Haram terrorists in the Sabon gari area of Kano, it is important for the avoidance of doubt and for the purposes of both legal and historical purposes at this tragic crossroads in the nation’s bloodied history to properly situate the context and history of the seven decades of organised ethnic cleansing and mass murders in Northern Nigeria. The North as a region has long been embedded in a culture of violence. Prior to the arrival of British colonialists, there was an expansionist Islamic jihad that was awash in violence and mass killings. The arrival of colonial Britain halted the jihadist rampage of violence and started the evolution of the freak contraption we now know as Nigeria.
In the context of modern Nigeria, many are ignorant of the fact that a clear, organised and established pattern of mass murder-genocide started specifically in Jos, Northern Nigeria in 1945 in which several people were killed, several others maimed and property destroyed. Said to have been a protest against the amalgamation of the North and the South, this single act in 1945, pioneered acts of organised violence against other ethno-religious groups without precedent anywhere in Africa and became the beginning of a routine campaign of targeted mass murders since seven decades that has since metamorphosed into Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria.
In 1953, following the call for independence by Anthony Enahoro in the federal parliament in Lagos, Northern leaders who stridently opposed the independence call by the South, organised deadly riots in Kano that killed scores of people, injured several others and destroyed numerous properties. The only reason for this mass killing was the opposition of the North to independence. Thus from 1945 and subsequently in 1953, Northern leaders had begun the now routine pattern of organized mass killings of other ethno-religious groups whenever it suited their sectional calculations. Of particular note was the fact that the Northern region native authorities police who were supposed to maintain law and order participated in the mass murder of innocent civilians and wanton destruction of property which was to be a modus operandi they later employed and perfected in the pogrom-genocide of 1966.
In the years leading up to 1966, census rigging, election rigging, Tiv riots, thuggery, arson, violence in the Western region (wetie) and other acts of corruption and lawlessness occasioned a bloody coup by restive officers. The anti-corruption essence of the coup was quickly lost as Nigeria’s ethnic contradictions dressed the coup in tribal garments. The North already well entrenched in a culture of organised mass killings made good use of the tribalisation of the coup and in carefully planned attacks launched Africa’s first genocide in a secessionist counter coup (araba). By the time the dust settled, over 50,000 innocent civilians including women and children had been brutally maimed, raped and slaughtered for a political coup in which they had no hand. More troubling was the fact that all sectors of the security establishment including top Northern military and police officers who were supposed to maintain law and order were directly involved in the mass killing of civilians. The whole strata of Northern leadership from the emirs to the politicians and the military–police officers were implicated in the pioneering of the first African genocide, an event that later led to the civil-war. Long before the genocides in Rwanda, Sudan amongst others, Northern Nigeria had led the way in pioneering genocide in Africa.
After a brief interregnum in the aftermath of a gruelling civil-war, mass killings resumed in the North, continuing the long culture of mass murders and ethnic cleansing. Several bloody clashes leading up to the Maitsasine riots coloured the 70’s and early 80’s in blood with more than 10,000 people brutally slaughtered and countless properties looted and burnt. In the period between 1980 and 1999, several such organised acts of mass murder that led to the killing and maiming of tens of thousands were routine. In 1996, a particularly outrageous case was the beheading of Gideon Akaluka. His dismembered head was put on a spike and paraded through the streets of Kano by jubilating mass murderers.
Beginning in 2000, leaders of several Northern states demanded the application of Sharia law in direct contravention of Nigeria’s secular constitutional status, the ensuing crisis led to deadly clashes between Christians and Muslims, with more than 30,000 people estimated to have died from the carnage. Through the decade from 2000 to 2010, barbaric acts of mass murder were the norm. Most notable have been the unending Jos massacres that have since snowballed into a low intensity conflict, the 2002 miss world riots, the 2006 Denmark cartoon riots, the gruesome murder in 2007 of Ms Oluwatoyin Oluseesan a school teacher in Gombe state amongst others.
Thus, the arrival of Boko Haram and other terrorist organisations linked to Al Qaeda and operating with the same modus operandi as Al Qaeda with near daily suicide bombings of churches and other public places is only a graduation of a culture of mass killing that has since been cultivated and nurtured in the North since 1945. Boko Haram is a Frankenstein created by Northern leaders which has now metamorphosed into a more deadly organization determined to widen the scale and scope of mass killings. It is estimated that more than 500,000 people have been brutally murdered, another 600,000 maimed and property in excess of four billion dollars looted or destroyed in seven decades of ethnic cleansing-genocide in Northern Nigeria.
The mass killing of innocents in a bus park in Kano is a familiar pattern of seven decades of genocide against Christians and Southerners premeditated and sponsored by Northern political and religious leaders and very often with the participation of Northern security officers who are supposed to maintain law and order. Mass killing has for so long become embedded in the culture of the North that there can be no end to it. The only and final solution is the convocation of a sovereign national conference and a separation between the Muslim North and the South.
By Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu