Gadafi called them ‘miscreants’. The U.N. called them Libyan rebels. President Jonathan called the Nigerian version ‘miscreants’. I called them Rebels without a cause. Everybody else calls them Almajiri. If your ballots are stolen, and the Police and Courts do nothing, it is legitimate to go violent - like in Libya. NATO is supporting the Libyan miscreants bombing shit out of those that stole their wealth. In Nigeria, we vote for our thieves, our heroes.
Democracies are not won by words but by the blood of martyrs and innocents, because autocrats NEVER give up power easily - the English Civil Wars, French Revolution, American War of Independence – blood, blood, blood – and autocrats always call rebels “miscreants”. In Africa blood still flows. In Kenya 1000 died when Mwai Kibaki tried to cheat Raila Odinga. South Africa, Mozambique, Angola - their paths to democracy all soaked in blood.
Few countries got independence like Nigeria on a platter of Gold. But soon the Gold tarnished and the blood began –Operation Wetie in wild west, Coups, Igbo genocide in the North and Biafra, all because 1964 elections were rigged. In our present Democracy hundreds have died - Ekiti, Ondo, Uyo, Ebonyi? In Jos, they rigged a local Government Election on 28th November 2008. The Almajiri began burning and killing. They fought the police with machetes. The police shot over 400 of them. A cold kind of heroism.
With the Presidential elections the North exploded. The miscreant Almajiri were killing again. They were cursed for “irrational” violence but no one asked why the youth corpers were targeted? I want to change that debate, by asking – the Almajiri and the Youth Corpers, whose actions served Nigerian democracy best?
The Almajiri, uneducated in Western education but schooled in Islamic education, did something no army of internet warriors could dare. There is an internet group dreaming digital dreams of revolution. The Almajiri did not dream. They acted – with their own electoral revolution. They were the only people, it seems, that understood that defending their vote was a do or die battle and that those who impoverish the people by stealing their wealth deserve to die.
I decided to ask some Almajiris why the Youth Corpers were attacked. The answer revealed a political sophistication many Southerners lack. The youth corpers were easily bought. In a Nigeria were criminality is normal, youth idealism is dead. Corpers were caught thumb printing ballots. In the North, it seemed Southern Corpers clearly showed a preference they were willing to rig against Buhari, because of their Southern support Jonathan.
There is an even more dangerous dimension. Southern Youth Corpers are sent to the North without any orientation to explain the history and values of the place. They come with poor images of Northerners as primitive, dirty, cattle rearers, smelly bunch of megads, etc. The condescension is terrible and the Northerners know it. I have always wondered about the corper whose facebook post is now popular. “This CPC people .. “ it said. In that statement the contempt was clear. SOUTHERN YOUTH CORPERS WERE SERIOUSLY ANTI-CPC. And they did not hide it.
Southern Youth Corpers can be very visible and disliked in the Muslim Far North for their disregard of and misconceptions of Islam. Southern women youth corpers gallivant about, feeling superior, totally ignorant they are causing offence in manners and clothing and seen as easy whores. They openly show disgust at “smelly” Almajiri children. Just reading the posts of Southerners in Facebook reveal this. The ignorance about Islam; about the fact the Almajiri religious training system is teaching young people respect and kindness to the poor through a rigorous experience of begging, but they also learn Islamic political consciousness. The Southerners also lack a knowledge of the history of the North. The North had City States and empires in the Sahel and trade routes with the Arabs as far back as the 14th Century, long before Portuguese Sailors met Southern primitives at the Atlantic Coast.
It is these pent up anger against what many Muslim Far Northerners see as contemptuous youth corpers, the resistance to CPC whilst supporting PDP rigging, the rumours that many accepted quick money, made the Youth Corpers partisan in the territory of the “enemy” but they looked down on the "enemy" and thought he could do nothing being so primitive, uneducated, stupid, moo moo, etc. Yes the Corpers were not all exactly "innocent". Stories spread of the money that some took to betray democracy. It was said that in one State, the Governor gave each N30k to thumbprint – and such incidents soiled the names of the innocent Youth Corpers.
But Southerners just saw the death of Youth Corpers. Nobody saw the death of Almajiris - their mothers, somewhere, are crying too. They were defending our democratic rights. Through the night in Bauchi, they battled with machetes against police with guns. Many died fighting for their hero - “Sai Gaskiya” – the man of truth. They struck at those they believed were the agents of the Ruling PDP who had given them no education, no health, no future. They attacked their Emirs, whom they heard were bribed; the Emirs that oppressed them with false interpretations of Islam. They attacked the PDP stalwarts, their agents and the Youth Corpers that sold out. Then the real Miscreants took over to kill and loot.
I thought about the Almajiri and the Southerners that condemned them. I thought of the day I travelled with a Southerner into a Muslim area and left the car and doors wide open with my computer in the back. The Southerner was shocked. Lock the car she shouted. Look at all those boys, they will steal the computer bag. I smiled and tried to explain to her Southern mind, full of armed robbers and kidnappers, that my computer was as safe as houses. Those dirty boys will protect my bag with their lives.
It seems that Southerners do not really understand Northern concepts of honour and honesty. The Northern Muslim, can kill, yes kill, when his sense of honesty and honour is breached. Arabs have the same sense of blood honour. But what fascinated me most in the choices of the Southerners and the Almajiri, was that given a party of known thieves and two honest men, the Southerners chose the party of thieves whilst the Almajiri were willing to fight and die for two honest men - profound.
It would seem that the Almajiri are no fools. They targeted everything that represented their oppression. They knew that Jonathan was part of that Ruling PDP unlike Southerners who somehow think they voted for Jonathan (a good man) but not PDP (an evil party). What delusion. The Almajiri are far more politically astute. They know we need honesty and truth at the top to save our country – and were prepared to die for it.
As I watched the efforts made during this Governorship polls to be transparent, it occurred to me that the sanity was because of the action of Almajiri rebels. In the tally of the bloody cost of democracy, that was a small price to pay to clean up our democracy.
Nobody planned the Almajiri revolt. They are educated in Islam and know how to use mobile phones. Buhari had no idea. His vehicles were smashed in the mayhem because his convoy did not know of the uprising. Yet our PDP Ruling Oligarchy chose to behave like all autocrats. It was their rigging and bribery that caused the violence, yet they are using the highly compromised media to put the blame on Buhari. But who are to blame? Those that put the Youth Corpers in harm’s way and those who rigged.
I agree that a statue should be erected for Youth Corpers who honestly served democracy? But I also think of the hundreds of Almajiri who died in Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano. And inside me I formed a second statue, in memory of the Almajiri dead, of an Almajiri with a machete held high. And at the base an epitaph:
“I am President Jonathan’s Miscreant
No deadlier than his rascals that rant
My blood has flowered our course
For I am no rebel without a cause
I could be a Northerner. I could be a Southerner. The Truth has no tribe or religion. The Truth is Neutral. The Truth is Deadly. But the Truth shall set us free.