… If power shifts south, the vice president must be a Muslim from the north
… Tinubu is rich, experienced in wisdom, politically connected but with baggage
… Fayemi is young, energetic but not well known
… that the north can favor
… How can we solve the problems of the Fulani herdsmen?
By Emmanuel Aziken
Professor Sahabi Danladi Mahuta, head of the Congress of All Progressives, is a renowned Islamic scholar and professor of environmental biochemistry at Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. Mahuta is also president of the Kebbi Development Forum, KDF, a forum that attracts leaders from various sectors of society.
After a meeting of Islamic leaders in Abuja, Professor Mahuta in an interview spoke about contemporary issues in politics. Excerpts:
Northern Nigeria has been taken over by bandits. How do we get here? Finding solutions to the problems that afflict the North and charting the way forward is why we are gathered here. To answer your question, basically two reasons are responsible for these problems; low literacy rate and youth unemployment.
The Fulani problem in the north is historical and a proper understanding is necessary before a solution can be offered. The way Western missionaries were accepted in the South, they were treated with rejection and suspicion in the North. BOKO literally means western education, but if a Hausa man says that you want to use Boko for me, he is no longer talking about western education, but “deception”, which is the pejorative meaning of boko. So from the very beginning, there has been suspicion about western education from the north and that tells you why the level of literacy is low, because the western education offer by the west was viewed with suspicion.
Have government efforts addressed these ailments?
Not at all, because they have not been sincere and determined to find a solution to the problem.
At the root of these social problems is the Almajiri system, which offers regular streams of recruiting bandits, Boko Haram and kidnappers. What do you think can be done to address the problem?
First, the government should recognize the existence of Almajiri as an education system in the North, at least by establishing a database of all Almajiri schools in the country. You see, those who leave their pupils in the Almajiri schools see their action as a religious obligation because the search for knowledge is a religious duty. We all know that the Almajiri educational system is flawed because they simply memorize without knowing the meaning. To know the meaning, you have to go back for more education, but this educational system can be made effective by introducing English writing, math, and business skills that would make them useful to society.
Thereafter, any further intervention can follow. Both systems worked well in other countries, so it may work if it is well integrated in Nigeria, but it is dangerous to ignore the Almajiri problem. Loosely linked is the problem of herders, cattle thieves, bandits and kidnappers in the north.
General Babangida initiated the nomadic education policy, but was arrested after leaving office. That strike practically put the Fulani herdsmen out of touch with government, civilization, and out of reach even for Islamic scholars.
They were released. They felt abandoned. He is someone who ignores education, the government, abandoned in the mountains, following cattle anywhere. For them, every human being is evil and oppressive. The government must stand up and find a solution to this great social problem of Almajiri and the Fulani herdsmen.
As a renowned Islamic scholar, is there a role that religion can play in solving the problem of the almajiris in the north?
Yes. As a commonly acceptable learning system among Northern Muslims, in order to change it or at least modify the educational institutions of Almajiri, the proper Islamic channel and concepts must be understood and instilled so that it does not seem like a desecration of the belief system.
We only postpone the bad day if we do not start with an educational and social system that integrates Pastors Almajiris and Fulani into society effectively.
The reward system for political stalwarts seems very flawed at APC, do you see this as a problem as we move towards 2023?
The lack of a reward system for political stalwarts will be one of APC’s big problems when 2023 arrives because those who worked for the victory of the party have been left in the lurch because this winner takes the whole party syndrome. Unfortunately, there will no longer be a Buhari gathering votes from the north for the party.
Power is expected to shift southward in 2023. As a renowned politician and Islamic scholarar, do you expect a change of power only on a regional basis or also on religious grounds for effective representation?
Once religious factors enter the power shift equation, there will be a problem, but we honestly can’t escape that. You see, after eight years of power in the hands of a Muslim from the north, it would be appropriate to switch to a Christian from the south. However, a Muslim from the South can aspire if people from the South-South, Southeast, Southwest, and Middle agree and are comfortable not having any supporters of their faith on the ticket.
However, what is not acceptable to us in the North is for a Muslim from the South to elect a Christian from the North as their vice presidential candidate.
Are you indirectly asking for a muslim / muslim ticket?
People would point to the 1993 MKO Abiola / Kingibe ticket, but I can tell you as a major player in the north, that 2020 Nigeria is not 1993 Nigeria. We are too fragmented and religiously divided for a monoreligious ticket to fly. now. Second, there are no MKO-type politicians alive right now.
The southwest is the stronghold of the APC in the south. Given the repeated mention of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Governor Kayode Fayemi, how do you rate them in the North?
One, neither politician has announced an intention to contest, so we can only guess. Tinubu is elderly (in terms of experience and age), politically well connected, and wealthy, which is an important factor in Nigerian politics, but carries a lot of baggage that is not unknown to us. Fayemi is young and energetic, but she is not well known to many. The power struggle between the duo (the old warhorse and the newbie) is a generational struggle if I must say it.
Let me use Kebbi as an example of this generational battle. Tinubu became governor in 1999 and thus is close with Adamu Aliero, who is now a godfather, but Fayemi is friends with Atiku Bagudu, who is the current governor. Can you see why I said it’s a generational battle? After the Buhari experience, northern thinking now favors younger, more educated leadership, and Fayemi scores higher in that area. I am not sure that we are ready for someone the same age as President Buhari again in light of our current experience.
That doesn’t take anything away from Atiku Abubakar and Ahmed Tinubu, but age is definitely not on their side anymore. In America, they can have a Trump or Biden because they have institutions that run on autopilot, we don’t have that much luxury here, so we can’t continue to recycle older people and end up with semi-senile leadership.
Even in the north, there is great turmoil over the generational power shift.
Our system is still susceptible to ethnic, religious and other abuses, which is why we need agile and attentive monitoring around the clock. Health, integrity, age and education are fundamental requirements in this regard. As I said before, if people from the south are comfortable with a Muslim / Muslim leadership, they can run a Muslim presidential candidate, but the one coming from the north must be a Muslim from the north. That is not negotiable.