By our Correspondent.
The people of the Middle-Belt of Nigeria have the right to existence and the right to self-determination just like other groups in the country, to enable them freely determine their political status and to pursue their economic and social development, in line with the policy they have freely chosen. They have been colonized and oppressed by Hausa/Fulani for too long and, therefore, have the right to struggle to liberate themselves from domination.
“Exploitation is exploitation, black-and-white; and is more revolting when suffered at the hands of one’s fellow blacks.” J.S. Tarka, at 1957-58 at the London Conference. Professor Robert Collis, a colonial health worker, emphasized that, “The jihad had no substantial effect on the Middle-Belt area.” He continued, “It was the British, however, who later, when establishing the Regions of Nigeria, included officially in the Northern Region both the Plateau and the Middle-Belt, e.g., tribes such as the Nupe, Tivs, Igalas, Idomas, and from the Plateau Angas, Birom and Fura.”
Middle-Belters were soon to discover that by lumping them together with the local imperialist Fulani, they were going to be worse off; hence they started the early struggles against perceived domination. From the beginning, the struggles started along tribal lines, but later metamorphosed into tribal and cross-cultural implosions.
The Tiv Progressive Union started in 1938; Birom Progressive Union in 1938; the United Middle-Belt Congress in 1937; the Northern Non-Muslim League in 1950; the Middle-Belt Zone League 1951; the Middle-Belt People’s Party 1953, and the revived UMBC 1955 at the famous Kagoro/Kafanchan Conference.
In June, 1957, at the conference held in Lafia, the UMBC elected J.S. Tarka as President-General, while Patrick Dokotri emerged as the General Secretary. According to Chris Abashiya, “The people of Middle-Belt area have two main religions, namely, Christianity and Traditional Religion. There are some Muslims scattered all over the area, but these are in the minority.”
What further flared up the Middle-Belt consciousness is a remark made by President Shagari himself, a Fulani, captured the nature of the Fulanis in this manner, thus: “The Fulani does not ordinarily come out openly and show his disappointment with a friend or a relation. He may even hate you, but he would never allow you to know and, if he wants to retaliate, he does it quietly, subtly, surreptitiously.”
Barrister Sebastian Hon, in his paper on ‘Political Economy of Resistance in the Cultural Middle-Belt’ at a conference held in Jos between 31st May and June, 2001, had this to say: “The South-South, in spite of their very sharp differences, came together in 1998 and, today, they have a constitutionally-recognized region of their own. The Middle-Belt cannot afford to be struggling for more than a century without achieving what it wants. All aboriginal Middle-Belters should search their consciences well, and act now.
What I think is realistic and possible. In the present circumstance, however, it’s just a conference of Ethnic Nationalities for the purpose. Government should necessarily shoulder the cost of assembling true representatives of every ethnic nationality in Nigeria under one roof. True representative, here, means that every ethnic group, no matter how small in population, must have a free opportunity to elect its delegate to that conference.” Being text of a Paper Presentation at Peoples of Cultural Middle-Belt Conferences on 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, held at Dadin Kowa Youth Centre, Jos, on 31st May to 1st June, 2001.
It is worthy of mention here that the people of the Middle-Belt continue to be worse hit by virtually all the problems we have had and are still facing. Again, it has been an impediment in uncountable instances where a candidate’s name automatically debars him or her from gaining admission into federal institutions/parastatals simply because it is not inclined to a particular creed and tribe.
This unjust system has made quite a number of them to adopt Moslem names so as to enable them have free access of employment into civil service and uniform services almost throughout the military regimes and continues up to today. That is an unjust system.
It is part of the strategy to Islamise Nigeria. What we are seeing today is the rate of unemployment, poverty, high rate of robbery, kidnapping, rape, fraud, terrorists and herdsmen brought by the present administration from foreign land, in order to win election, to Islamise Nigeria; promote gangsters, renegades, and religious fanatism, to mention a few.
One will not forget to mention the existence of cabal in the Villa, which is the product of Kaduna Mafia. The African Guardian News Magazine shares the view this way: “The Kaduna Mafia is a force manipulating governments and institutions, putting its wards in strategic political, economic and military bodies and exacting retribution for transgression against its will. In effect, it is a force that calls the shots, immaterial of who sits at the head of government. In general, it’s a truly Invisible Government.” Nothing can be more truthful than this.
Middle-Belters must constructively, physically, mentally, economically, culturally and socially be involved, body and soul, to help one another in the Middle-Belt Project. Those, who are better placed, should be their brothers’ keepers. In terms of employment opportunities, scholarship awards, admissions into schools and like privileges and empowering a fellow Middle-Belter should be considered. What is realistic and possible in the present circumstance is just a Conference of Ethnic Nationalities. For this purpose, government should shoulder the cost of assembling true representatives of every ethnic nationality in Nigeria under one roof, no matter how small in population, must have a free opportunity to elect its delegate to the conference.
Middle-Belters, old and young; male and female, Middle-Belter organizations, cultural, social, professionals, artists, politicians, religious bodies, sports men and women, should stand up and speak up against our marginalization, killings, raping, kidnapping and condemn the unjust system of this government.
Middle-Belters must stand up and, along with other organizations in the country speak up against the marginalization and nepotism where appointments only favour Fulani tribesmen. “ Those that refused to speak up during the period of crisis in the country should know that the hottest place in hell is reserved for them. ”