Umar Ardo, Ph.D
I am constrained to write and respond to the above-titled article by Chief Femi Fani-Kayode published in the Vanguard Newspapers of Sunday, November 8th, 2015. Ordinarily I don’t join issues with people, but to allow concocted and sensational lies and falsehood, mischievously and deliberately aimed at and capable of rising one section of the country against another,hipped on the nation in the name of truth is to be complacent in the destruction of society; more so given the level of the author’s intellect, educational attainment and the high position held in the country as a minister. They say when evil is done by the wicked silence of the righteous is complacency and God shall not find the latter guiltless. Not to speak is to speak; and not to act is to act. To this end, a simple deed of drawing attention to the facts of the past so as to lay bare the lies contained in the write-up can very well catalyze removal of the evil therein. This in itself, I believe, is a huge service tothe country.
One good thing about truth is that it always surfaces no matter who tries to hide it.At all times, truth is complete; always full. There is no such thing as half-truth. Therefore, in any intellectual discourse where one tries to argue the pros of a point he must have to also face the cons of it, because the two complete the truth.
They always go hand-in-hand. But in arguing an issue, if one side is taken and the other side left out the inevitable result is that it brings out the lie of the argument. This is an academic truism; and this is what befell Chief Fani-Kayode’s argument as hetries unsuccessfully to put up the pros and hide the cons. Given that the central thrust of his article is to illustrate that ‘the ocean of blood shed in the name of a united Nigeria’ wascarried out by Northerners, particularly the so-called Core-North or the Hausa-Fulanis, he lists what he claims as undeniable truthof massacres perpetrated by these Northerners as follows:-
“The truth of the Jos massacre in 1945 where hundreds were slaughtered cannot be denied. The truth of the Kano riots in 1953 where thousands were butchered cannot be denied. The truth of the pogroms in the North in 1966 where hundreds of thousands were killed cannot be denied. The truth of the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians, women and children between 1967 and 1969 during the Nigerian civil war cannot be denied.
The truth of the Asaba massacre in 1969 where 1,000 little boys and old men were rounded up in the town square and shot in the head cannot be denied.
The truth of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Christians and ethnic minorities all over the North and particularly in the Middle Belt throughout the 80s and 90s cannot be denied.
The bitter truth of Boko Haram and the relentless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent Nigerians by Islamic fundamentalists in northern Nigeria from 2009 up until today cannot be denied. The truth of the murder of dozens of young NYSC members and hundreds of other people in the far North in 2011 cannot be denied. The truth of the brutal slaughter of innocent Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen over the last 20 years and up until today cannot be denied”.
Now the truth is that all but one of these claims can definitely be denied; and I so deny them. Not only Fani-Kayode manufactures lies for truth, but also twists whatever truth therein upside down. Firstly, there was no any massacrein Jos in 1945 where “hundreds were slaughtered”. Against the nationwide labour strike of that year, the British authorities were able to divide the ranks of the workers on North/South basis. In Jos, northern workers were willing to go back to work but were prevented by their southern, mainly Igbo, co-workers. This created tension between the two groups which, on June 22 culminated into fracas over Jos market space in which 8 people, 5 southerners and 2 northerners, were injured. This is what Plotnicov terms as the first conflict in Jos between Hausa and Igbo.Yes, there was the 1953 massacre in Kano, but it’s a viciouslie that “thousands were killed”. Page 21 of the Official Report of the Kano Disturbances of May 1953 set up by the British Colonial Government gave out the number of persons killed at 36 in all; 15 northerners and 21 southerners. So where did Fani-Kayode get his figures of thousands from?
Similarly, the pogrom of 1966 did not get “hundreds of thousands dead”. While nothing can excuse the terrible deeds in the North, and the reprisals in the East, even Ojukwu, and later Biafra’s propaganda machine, did not play such a dreadful ‘number game’ as given out by Chief Fani-Kayode in his write-up. For example, in the foreword of the Eastern Region’s booklet, Pogrom, Ojukwu spoke of ‘more than 7,000 dead’. At the Aburi Conference in 1967, long after all the casualty returns were in, he said 10,000 had died. Also, using the death figures to justify secession, Biafran propaganda had claimed 30,000 killed. But as stated by the veteran European journalist, John de St. Jorre, who covered the civil war, “while the true figure will probably never be known but most reliable estimates put it at between 6,000 and 8,000”, thus tallying with Ojukwu’sAburi figure. On the face of these, therefore, one can categorically deny Fani-Kayode’s so-called truth of ‘hundreds of thousands killed’.The same St. Jorrein concluding his book The Nigerian Civil War,posited that “the pursuit of Nigerian unity killed between half a million and a million Nigerians. And based on consensus of informed opinion I personally feel that around 600,000 for total deaths may be nearest the mark” during the entire war. I take this figure of St. Jorre who was on ground, which in any case tallies with mostfigures of the civil war literature, to denyFani-Kayode’s blotted millions.
It is only on the Asaba massacre of 1969 that Fani-Kayode’s 1,000 figure is near the mark, as 800 men and boys were killedwhen the federal troops entered the town after fierce fighting. However, this coldblooded act was carried out not by Northerners but, to Fani-Kayode’s probable consternation, by “an Ibo-hating major” from the Midwest. Again, “the‘truth’ of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Christians and ethnic minorities all over the North and particularly in the Middle Belt throughout the 80s and 90s” can be denied in terms of both figures and twisting of facts.The first major crisis of this nature was the Kafanchan uprising in 1987.According to the New Nigerian of 17 April 1987, the Kafanchan crisis claimed 19 lives.Then there was the ZagonKataf disturbances of May 1992.In sum, 471 persons were officially confirmed killed in the disturbances. This official figure may, however, represent an understatement of the scale of casualties and destructions. Indeed, the presentations of the Zangon Hausa community to the investigation panel included names of some 1,528 members of the community who reportedly died in the disturbances. There were several other uprisings in Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Nassarawa, Bauchi, etc. which, according to Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, claimed an estimated 8,211 lives. And, interestingly, over 5000 of the dead are said to beHausa-Fulani Muslims viewed as unwanted settlers in the lands of indigenous autochthons. So while Fani-Kayode’s figure of ‘hundred thousands’ is a refutable far cry, the majority of those killed were also not Christian minorities but Hausa-Fulani Muslims. Equally, the same Wikipedia put the total number of death by the terrorist Boko Haram insurgency at over 17,000. Given that the main theatre of their activities is in predominantly Muslim areas, it is elementary logic to guess that Muslim casualties will be by far higher in this conflict.
While I cannot deny the regrettable killing of innocent dozen NYSC members, along with many others, in the wake of the 2011 general elections, it can be asserted however that the issue of Fulani herdsmen is a very recent phenomenon. And even at that the herdsmen kill just as they are themselves been killed.
Please let me not be misunderstood; I am not defending, excusing or justifying these heinous crimes perpetrated by our people – they cannot be! Every life is sacrosanct and whosoever takes the life of another must both be condemned and brought to book. But where someone tries to create a false impression of putting the entire blame on one group against the other, then it is a duty on all of us to correct that impression. Why didn’t Fani-Kayode mention the Lagos booing, pelting and insults of Northerners in March 1953? Why didn’t he mention the brutal uprisings in the Western Region in the wake of the 1965 elections? Why didn’t he bring up the murderous coup of January 1966? Why didn’t he bring up the deadly Ondo uprising in the wake of the 1983 elections? Why didn’t he bring up the vicious OPC brigandage in the Southwest? And why didn’t he bring the killings by the Niger Delta militants and the MASSOB in which Northerners have been victims?
He didn’t do so simply because it would illustrate that some of what he mentions were reactions to unmentioned previous actions. For example, there certainly wouldn’t have been the Kano May riots without the Lagos March episodes of 1953. Similarly, it was unlikely to have had the 1966 pogrom,and probably the civil war all together, without the January Coup selective killings. And without the pogrom and the war, which widened the doors of murders and butchery, there might not have been these subsequent killings in the country as enumerated, albeit falsely, by the author.
I think I know Fani-Kayode’s problem – I honestly believe he is a victim of what we call in History as ‘the Kisra Effect’ – i.e a conscious, deliberate and systematic distortion of historical facts in order to respond to a perceived or real present danger as a means of protecting and advancing certain unmerited acquired self-interest. This is usually driven by fear and/or inferiority complex. It sets in motion a process in the mind leading the heart to be diseased against the truth; programming it to see no good in certain people; and taking it upon itself to propagate jaundiced belief that certain people are naturally evil against others. But like all false propaganda, it feeds the unsuspecting members of the public with only one side of the story – the side that will make them boil with hatred against the people it is programming them to hate!The other side that it hides makes up the real truth, which the public needs to recognize and draw object lessons from to avoid ruin. The earlier the victim also cleanses his heart of this vice the better for him and the society.While it is only truth that can set the heart free of such malady,it is also for the victim to reconcile himself with the truth of his situation.