In the movie adaptation of the Yoruba epic, Afonja, which tells the story of how Ilorin became a mixed Yoruba and Fulani town. There is this scene where the eponymous main character Afonja while meeting with his nemesis Alimi, exclaims “How are you my Gambari (colloquial Yoruba term for a Hausa person) friend?” Alimi replies him indignantly “I am Fulani, I am not Gambari. You Yorubas are very funny people , after all these years you don’t still know the difference between Gambari and Fulani”
When I was a NYSC member in Minna, Niger state, I lived in a lodge with six other corpers who also worked in my PPA. For three of us it was our first time of living in Northern Nigeria, so we couldn’t communicate much in Hausa. we had two northerner corpers then whom we turned to for our Hausa needs, Abu from Nassarawa State and Mohammed from Kano State. However we soon noticed that whenever we asked Abu the Hausa for a particular expression, Mohammed would disagree with whatever answer Abu gave us, and the two of them would carry on hours of argument over which Hausa expression is and which is not correct. Then one day Mohammed flat out told us to stop asking Abu the meaning of things, because Abu’s Hausa is not up to scratch. We thought he was merely being spiteful, until Abu himself explained to us that the reason why his Hausa was not up to scratch as Mohammed had said was that since He was Afo by tribe, he had a latent dislike for the Hausa language and only spoke it to his non-Afo speaking friends in order not to look provincial or like a snob. His confession shocked me to say the least, but it also opened my eyes to the fact that I had also fallen into the same trap that Afonja was caught in centuries ago, I had felt Because the duo both wore the Babariga and the Cap and the two were muslims from the North, then they are the same.
The Northeners are the same myth is one that can be debunked with something as simple as a Google search for a map of Nigeria’s ethnic groups, yet people especially, Southerners seem to perpetuate it for some reason, but the nearest reason that can be given for it is that for so long the North has produced the series of Military generals who have ruled Nigeria with an Iron fist and the fact that the state creation process has given the North nineteen states to the South’s seventeen, an inequality created by crafty Northerners in order to keep the whole of Nigeria under their thumbs. If we go back to the ethnic distribution map, while keeping in mind that Nigeria has more than five hundred Ethnic groups. The six states that constitute the Southwest are exclusively populated by Yorubas except for tiny parts of Lagos and Ondo. The five that make up the South East are populated exclusively by the Igbo (this means only two ethnic groups have eleven states between them, which is normal for their population, leaving more than five hundred to share twenty five states), the South South’s six states have just about two hundred plus ethnic groups between them. What that means is that the North’s nineteen states are populated by more than three hundred groups. In the South the Ogoni is quick to distance himself from the Ijaw and the Binis get angry when they are identified as Itsekiri, yet everyone of them joins in glibly labelling anyone up North as Hausa because they wear the Babariga they all speak the Language and they are Muslims. Again even that classification is defective because it fails to take into account the non muslim Northerners of Benue, Taraba and Plateau States. When people started to clamour for the rule of minorities, the radar of the nation immediately went to the Niger Deltans because they produce oil, forgetting about the Kanuris, the Fulani, the Jukuns, do they not also have a right to self determinism? Or are some minorities more important than others because they produce oil?
The thing about the “Northmen are the same myth” is that it allows us to perpetuate our distrust of people who are different from us, thus the Jos crisis for example is less about the Fulani and the Berom/ Angas fighting over land ownership, it is just Northerners killing one another for no reason, which cements their status as barbarians. When we actually bother to do a bit of research and we find out that Yakubu Gowon probably has less in common with Umar Musa Yar’adua than Nnamdi Azikiwe has with Goodluck Ebele Jonathan or that Shehu Shagari has about as much in common with Ibrahim Babangida as Olusegun Obasanjo has with JTU Aguyi Ironsi, it will probably make our preconceived notions of a cabal of Northerners who are out to turn Nigeria into their permanent stomping grounds look silly, it will also explain why some parts of the North are more developed than others. These are, uncomfortable facts in the face of our beliefs, so we stubbornly hold on to our notions of the Northern cabal, even though the truth is only a Google search away. It is amazing that with the level of technology we have we and ability to get information in seconds, we still chose to believe in the kind of preposterous stuff our ancestors believed in that made us label them as primitive.
It is not my intention to bash anyone, but when people, instead of admitting the fact that Goodluck Jonathan has been a poor leader in his years as president, and Nigerians were simply fed up of his cluelessness, continue to argue that He is a victim of a Northern cabal who want to make sure Nigeria remains their private property, it fans the flame of needless bigotry and tribalism. If Jonathanians had just bothered to look up an ethnic distribution map of Nigeria, they would find out that if they actually want to be fair in the clamour for minority rule, the “North” actually deserves to rule more than the “South” given that the region simply has a higher number of ethnic groups.
I am not arguing that every Northern leader is a detribalized, peaceloving, open minded individual who puts others before himself, but to argue that there is a northern conspiracy to keep Nigeria’s power at all costs is as moronic,and has no basis in reality, as saying the world is controlled by Illuminati reptilians, because there is nothing like an “homogenous north” every northern ethnic group is fighting for power just like every southern ethnic group is. Here is a quick history lesson for Northern Conspiracy buffs, the Ijaw are less then ten percent of Nigeria’s population, (approx 15 million) but the have exactly the same number of presidents (Goodluck Jonathan) as the Hausa (Murtala Muhammed) who are more than double their number. (about 30 million plus) There is just no way that Jonathanians or anyone else can create a northern cabal with all those ethnic groups, unless they want to play the religion card again, in which case… well I have no words.