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What’s in it for the Middle-Belt?

By Sam. Onimisi 

It was a new dawn for the Movement for National Reformation when the Middle-Belt delegates led by retired D.I.G. Potter Dabup stormed the convention of MNR in Benin.

Not a few southern delegates wondered why the Middle-Belt became so enthusiastic about MNR.

The 37-man strong delegates were drawn from Middle-Belt States such as Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Kwara, Taraba, Nassarawa and Gombe states, while some came from southern Borno, southern Yobe and southern Kaduna States all of which are parts of the cultural Middle-Belt.

The attraction of MNR, according to a chieftain of the Middle-Belt Progressive Movement, is its aims and objectives, which are the same with most groups in central Nigeria. Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of a restructured Nigeria would be the Middlebelters. This is so, because they would have their own region with two zones in an eight-zone arrangement proposed both MNR and MPM.

D.I.G. Potter L. Dabup (rtd) – National Chairman of Middle-Belt Progressive Movement and leader of the Middle-Belt delegates to MNR Conference.

When achieved, the Middlebelters would have been liberated from their subjugation under the so-called North-West, North Central and North Eastern geopolitical zones into which they were forced by the government of the expired despot, Sani Abacha; in which cases, Middlebelters in Borno/Yobe southern axis could easily have their dream of Savannah State; the Tafawa Balewa/Bogoro LGAs of Bauchi state would join their brothers in Platea state, while Southern Kebbi will return to Niger state, which they naturally belonged. Of course, Southern Kaduna would then have their own state without let or hindrance.

While the above objectives have no time-tag as to when they could be accomplished, there is the need to chart a realistic path towards attaining the objectives, and the MNR appears best placed to offer the platform.

The MNR, led by Chief Enahoro, abhors any form of subjugation anywhere in Nigeria. Hear the venerable Chief: “ethnic subjugation and sub-ethnic domination of the mini-nationalities must be eliminated from our polity. Those who try to play down the quantum and impact of ethnic domination in the developmental process are either naïve or unrealistic or even deliberately mischievous.”

Dr Joshua Maina – Middle-Belt leader from Gombe State.

The mainstream of conservative Igbo, Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba ethnic groups are too pre-occupied with their own agendas as to notice the trauma of subjugation and the religious bigotry with which the Middle-Belt is being assaulted.

Many Middlebelters, who one would have relied on to lift hands of help, are deep into the bosom of the oppressors for the proverbial crumbs from their masters’ table. Instead, they now constitute the enemy within.

This is because in their quest for money and relevance, they betray the noble cause of emancipation by collaborating with the enemy without. A glimpse of the terrible plight of Middlebelters will suffice to convince skeptics about the need to support the Middle-Belt cause.

“Where can I start; I don’t know where to start,” began Dr Joshua Maina, a medical practitioner and former Commissioner for Health, based in Billiri in Gombe State, and a delegate to the Benin convention. “Over the last ten years now, I have been involved in the struggle to free our people from the clutches of feudalism. For example, you find University graduates with second degrees being forced to work under semi-illiterates, just because the former are from minority ethnic groups, and are probably Christians.”

“Religion is being used to manipulate public policy and programmes in favour of Islam, and my state is one of those areas where one is considered a second-class citizen by reason of ethnic nationality and religion,” said Dr Maina.

Dr Maina said that the workforce in Gombe state consisted mainly of these minorities, who constituted a sizable proportion of the population; yet, they are looked down and maltreated by the authorities.

“Let me tell you, briefly, that the real Hausa/Fulani in Gombe state account for about 15% of the population. Others who pretend to be Hausa/Fulani are not; they so pretend because of their adopted religion and the benefits accruing to them from such pretensions.

Group photograph of Middle-Belt delegates to the MNR Convention.

“And out of the 15 percent, 90 percent are immigrants, who came here as itinerary traders, or cattle rearers, immediately before or after independence in 1960. The Aborigines of Gombe state, who are non-Hausa/Fulani, make up the remaining 85% of the population. And if you look at Gombe South, about 96 percent are Christians; and if you take an average, you’ll find that about 60 to 65 percent of the people of Gombe state are Christians.”

Dr Maina said since the authorities have been using Islam as a tool to perpetuate certain interests, the issue of Sharia became very paramount. “And those, who want to cling to power forever, have now sponsored a bill, which is right now before the House of Assembly. But for a few of us, who resisted it until now, it would have been a foregone conclusion long ago,” said Dr Maina.

With this type of oppression on the basis of ethnicity and religion, the way out seems to be an alliance between the minorities of the South and of the Middle-Belt and, together with the help of PDP progressives, they may be able to shake off the stranglehold of feudal predators.

Culled from Our Vision magazine, September, 2001

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