‘What is really going on in the mind of this meat seller with his sharp knife? Is that the same knife he uses to hack human parts during their riots he’s using to sell me meat?
At the extreme, thoughts like these have become common place in the minds of the average Nigerian, especially those who have never been to, or spent time in the Northern parts. To these people, that region or more directly stated, the states that accommodate the HAUSA man, represents an axis plagued by illiteracy, riots, and religious intolerance.
Now thanks to the growing insurgency, if anyone asks: How does one become Boko Haram? The answer becomes quiet simple. Wear a Kaftan, save a beard, raise your trousers, live in a northern state, or to put it simple, look like a Hausa/Fulani man.
Today the roadside HAUSA man has a new name. Unlike the years past where he is either a Mai-guard (Security man), or Mai-Shago (Shop Owner) or a Mai-Ruwa (water-seller), or a Mai-Goro (Kolanut seller) or Maiturare, or Mai-Nama, things have become different. He is no longer that Achaba man, he is no longer the Keke rider, or the black man carrying heavy loads from trucks at the market place, he has even gone beyond being a strong La Liga fan, and most importantly his habit of gathering with his peers during a bike accident is no longer cause to worry. The typical HAUSA man is now perceived as the embodiment of the most dreaded terrorist group in Nigeria. Technically speaking, today, what we have now been made to believe is… HAUSA MAN = BOKO HARAM.
This awful stereotype isn’t only done in Nigeria, the HAUSA man has also become the topic of Media agencies all over the world in cases related to religious extremism, raids, robberies, riots, arson, religious conflicts and terror attacks. In completely Northern towns like Kaduna military personnel are more likely to carry out a stop and check on a vehicle if the driver is a HAUSA looking man. The situation is worse at other states. In Abia, over 486 Hausa traders including 8 women were apprehended as Boko Haram operatives alleged to be operating terror cells east of the country. In Asaba just last week a Sokoto Line bus carrying traders was stopped by policemen who immediately labelled them Boko Haram and took them to the police station, the DPO after being briefed about the situation screamed in shock ‘Where did you say you kept the bus?’
In the middle belt states of Plateau and Benue, the HAUSA/FULANI are accused of grazing on people’s farms with their cattle, stabbing villagers at random and organizing raids in small villages where women and children are killed en-masse. The sad irony of all this is that, in near and distant northern states, these same HAUSA people are being bombed and killed in astronomical numbers by unknown gun-men alleged to be members of the terrorist group Boko Haram or shot randomly as terror suspects by the JTF.
So in other words, the HAUSA man has no safety in his home and is not welcome in any other part of the country. The HAUSA man has been alienated and cut-off from his civil rights as a citizen of Nigeria simply because he is HAUSA. Now the easiest thing to do under these circumstances is to ask questions such as whether there exists a hidden agenda against the HAUSA or FULANI people of Northern Nigeria, but that would be likely to create the same problem we have now.
Of more concern is how it came to pass that the HAUSA man has fallen from the grace of respect by the everyday Nigerian to become the thing we dread the most? When did the HAUSA man stop being the hospitable, warm, honest, God-fearing, and simple citizen they used to be? When did these people who established trade routes with Yorubas in the late 1800s and have opened their homes and lands to Nigerians the most become the enemy? To this question most people will refer to the Civil War, but my answer would be different. I am more inclined to believe a lot of this can be attributed to the complexities of the 2011 elections.
We have always known that the levels of illiteracy in the northern areas were disturbing, always accepted that poverty and fighting had fostered there for a long time. But before 2011, this almost strange ailment was finding its cure. Fighting in Jos was slowly a dying trade, Kano began to witness growth and stability, Kaduna had begun to understand that continuous tension would tear it apart from within and had become comfortable with the majority/minority quota. It was all progressing slowly till 2011, the dawn of the politics of tribalism.
The crisis which merely began as a case of a fragment of people aggrieved with their governor in Maiduguri was politicized along ethnic lines and spilled from state to state. It coincided with a campaign strategy that exploited religious and ethnic differences alongside growing instability in the northern political class. With the 2015 elections approaching slowly, the fate of the HAUSA man was sealed. As we speak today the description of Nigeria’s problem is being discussed internationally with the catch phrase ‘Muslim North and Christian South’
In truth, the HAUSA man is not the only victim of this political drama. When you say northerners most Nigerians and foreigners as well mentally connect it to mean HAUSAs and FULANIs. But this isn’t altogether true. When you say Northerners, in the political sense, you refer to the Eggan people of Nasarawa state, the Jukun people of Taraba, the Nupe people of Niger, the Tiv and Idoma people in Benue, the Bassange, the Ebira, the Igalas, the Kabbas, the Oworo, the Birom, and millions of Nigerians who constitute the minority groups along the North-central, North-East and North-West regions.
This new perception of one or more ethnic group as the cause of the nation’s insecurity will only deepen insecurity further. Our ills as a country are piling up and we are creating more internal enemies day by day. From large conflicts such as the civil war, to pockets of violence in places like Odi, Zaki-Biam and Maiduguri, the fate of Nigeria has consistently taken dangerous turns. But nothing would take it more downwards; nothing would spell more destruction, than in the heat of the struggle, at the peak of our problems, we turn inwards and begin to destroy ourselves. Boko Haram is not a Hausa man. Boko Haram is not a Fulani man; it is a menace, and a security threat to all of Nigeria.