Nigeria’s Raw Ethnic Animosities, By Majeed Dahiru

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Nigeria's Raw Ethnic Animosities, By Majeed Dahiru



Governors Rotimi Akeredolu and Seyi Makinde, alongside Oyo State Police Commissioner, Mrs Ngozi Onadeko on a tour of the Shasa market after the recent violence. Picture credit: PUNCH newspapers.
The Shasa mayhem has once again brought to the fore the deep rooted animosity and distrust between members of the various ethnic groupings in Nigeria. A Nigerian federation structured along ethno-geographic fault lines has inevitable resulted in a set dichotomy between indigenes and settlers…
On the morning of Sunday, February 14, annually celebrated as the day of love, I woke up to sad news of hate-motivated killings in the suburb of Shasa, a commercial district in the ancient city of Ibadan, Oyo State of Nigeria. In what was widely reported as a physical altercation between two people, a Yoruba cobbler and a Hausa cart pusher, which unfortunately resulted in the death of the Yoruba man, this soon degenerated into a cycle of revenge killings by members of the two ethnic groups.
In the ensuing orgy of violence, an angry mob of the host Yoruba community, in a bid to avenge the death of their brother, attacked the Hausa people in the Shasa market, killing, burning and destroying their properties and merchandise, comprising mostly perishable agro-produce. By the end of the carnage on Saturday, which left about 10 people dead, the famous Shasa market had been reduced to a rubble of burnt buildings and charred bodies of livestock, with thousands of displaced members of the Hausa community taking refuge at the residence of their leader, the Sarkin Shasa.
This unfortunate situation is condemnable, both in its depravity and barbarism. It is even more painful when one realises that Hausa traders and artisans are among the most hardworking, peaceful, honest, God-fearing and humane groups of Nigerians, for whom crime and criminality is almost alien. Criminal activities, such as armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, banditry and forceful land grabbing, are generally not associated with Hausa people. Hausa people from northern Nigeria do not usually live in the forests of their host communities in the southern parts of the country but settle in towns and villages in the midst of their fellow countrymen, and they tend to legally acquire land and other properties for the transaction of their legitimate businesses.
Despite my sadness over the unfortunate orgy of violence that was visited on the Hausa community, the way and manner the Yoruba political leadership in the South-West has risen to the occasion to deal decisively with the unwarranted aggression of some of their irate kinsmen, has been quite heart-warming.
For a group of people who are known to be generally law abiding and who often integrate and assimilate seamlessly into their host communities, while adopting the languages of their new environments, respecting the norms and customs of the people, and who for several generations have strengthened the bonds of community through continuous inter-ethnic marriages, the violent attacks on the Hausa community at Sasha in Ibadan were inexcusable crimes motivated by a misdirected form of ethnic hatred. The altercation between the Hausa cart pusher and Yoruba cobbler, which resulted in the death of the latter was an isolated case of a criminal offence that had nothing to do with the entirety of the Hausa community of Shasa. Rather than embark on the revenge killings of innocent and defenceless people due to ethnic profiling, the culprit should have been arrested and subjected to the due judicial process of a trial, conviction and sentencing, in compliance with the relevant laws of the land.
Despite my sadness over the unfortunate orgy of violence that was visited on the Hausa community, the way and manner the Yoruba political leadership in the South-West has risen to the occasion to deal decisively with the unwarranted aggression of some of their irate kinsmen, has been quite heart-warming. Taking the lead was Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo, who unequivocally condemned the ethnic violence in Shasa, a place he described as a melting pot of Hausa traders from the North of Nigeria and their Yoruba brethren from the South-West, and cautioned against the resort of individuals to taking the law into their own hands. He also preached unity and called for peaceful coexistence between Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnicities, religions or places of origin. In the words of Vice President Osinbanjo, “when a disagreement arises between individuals or a criminal act is committed by one against the other, we must ensure that we see it for what it is,  a criminal act, which must be punished according to law. Not an ethnic conflict. Every Nigerian has a constitutional right to live, work and enjoy their lives  in safety, peace under the law. It is the duty of government through the police and other law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute any person who commits a crime against a citizen of this nation. It is the role of the citizen to assist the police to identify the criminals.”
While taking his turn to condemn the mayhem in Shasa, which he described as strange to Yoruba values, the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, who is also the chairman of the regional governors’ forum, specifically addressed his message of condemnation to his fellow Yoruba kinsmen, when he said, “As governor of Ondo State, who doubles as chairman, South West Governors’ Forum, it becomes very compelling for me to address all residents, in particular the Yoruba speaking people of our dear region as regards recent happenings bothering on security. Without doubt, the situation we have found ourselves as people is most despicable…and abhorrently at variance with the values and hospitality for which our people are known. We have been known for thoroughness. We have identified with legality over the centuries; and our ethos as a civilised breed of people is such that we do not identify with lawlessness, not even illegality.”
Six decades after independence, Nigeria remains a primitive country of indigenous tribesmen, which has not evolved into a nation of citizens where a Nigerian can be Igbo and Kano, Ibibio and Ekiti, Hausa and Oyo, Yoruba and Anambra, Kanuri and Bayelsa and Ijaw and Borno.
On the part of the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, he equally condemned the mayhem and has been on top of the situation by mobilising security agencies to the troubled scene to restore law and order, after imposing a curfew in the Shasa area. And 24 hours later, Governor Makinde in company of Governor Akeredolu was in the Shasa community to address the people of the area with a message of peace and unity, while promising to compensate the material losses of the victims of the mayhem. In the words Governor Makinde, “Please, I want you to listen to me clearly. You cannot resort to self-help to solve the issue on the ground. All of you who are here are doing business with one another in one way or the other. The last time I came here, about six weeks ago, some shops belonging to Hausa and Yoruba people got burnt. So, you have been living together peacefully and all I am pleading to you is, no matter what is making anyone angry, we will solve it with patience. I was reluctant to declare curfew here because I feel the economic wellbeing of everyone here is important, and because this is where you get what you use to feed yourselves. I will engage with your leaders this evening. One thing is, if you allow those who don’t have anything to lose here to blow this matter out of proportion, no one will be able to say where the crisis will end. By the grace of God, I pray we don’t lose any more lives. We must not lose any life needlessly anymore. What the government will do to ensure that those whose houses, shops were burnt, we will rebuild immediately. But please, I beg of you, let us stop fighting with ourselves.”
The Shasa mayhem has once again brought to the fore the deep rooted animosity and distrust between members of the various ethnic groupings in Nigeria. A Nigerian federation structured along ethno-geographic fault lines has inevitable resulted in a set dichotomy between indigenes and settlers; a situation that renders Nigerians residing outside their places of origin as outsiders inside their country. The forceful ejection of the Hausa people of Shasa from their shops, sheds and homes is not only dehumanising but takes away the pride of fatherhood from their men and of motherhood from their women. Most significantly, it takes away the innocence of the young children of Shasa who until now saw themselves as one people and part of the larger community of humankind.
Six decades after independence, Nigeria remains a primitive country of indigenous tribesmen, which has not evolved into a nation of citizens where a Nigerian can be Igbo and Kano, Ibibio and Ekiti, Hausa and Oyo, Yoruba and Anambra, Kanuri and Bayelsa and Ijaw and Borno. And until Nigeria evolves into a nation of citizens, the most populous black country in the world would remain at the bottom of the pyramid of human evolution, where life is nasty, brutish and short.
Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through dahirumajeed@gmail.com.

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