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By Salisu Shehu PhD.
On 18th June,2001, that was 12 years ago, Ethno-religious crisis erupted in Tafawa Balewa town that led to loss of over 100 lives and property worth millions of Naira. In the recent years, that was the fourth in the series of premeditated aggressions against Muslims by their Christian neighbors. The previous ones in the recent years were in 1991, 1993, and 1995. But much earlier since before independence, such kinds of aggressions had been occurring. As if it were meant to celebrate a ten-year anniversary of the 2001, and twenty-year anniversary of 1991, the Christians carried out yet another aggression against the Muslims. Like in the previous cases, Muslim have fled the town, having been overpowered by the Christians who poured into the town from their southern villages to reinforce their kinsmen, while the Muslims could not get such kind of reinforcement until they were subdued. For three years now, there have been no Muslims in Tafawa Balewa, and invariably, no azan is being called, not to talk of salatul Jama'ah, or Jumu'ah, or EID.
What is however, instructive is the fact that, in 2001, after the crisis, I wrote a booklet and gave it the title: TAFAWA BALEWA: THE MAKING OF PALESTINE IN NIGERIA. It is now 12 years since I wrote that booklet. But the issues I raised therein are still ripe. In fact, the warnings I made have then, having been neglected have not only been proven right, but are fast consuming us knowingly or unknowingly. The most important point I made then was that, the Palestine problem has successfully been reduced by the Zionists to a Palestinian problem, not that of Muslims all over the world, and so, Muslims no longer have any serious sympathy for the Palestinian cause not to talk of being committed to it in anyway. Similarly, the Tafawa Balewa crisis has been narrowed down to being that of Tafawa Balewa Muslims, as in say, "it is their own palaver". Just like the fact goes, it is only when Muslims all over the world realize and accept the fact that Palestine is a problem that affects every Muslim would the war be won against Israel. Similarly, the Tafawa Balewa crisis would only be overcome when the entire Muslims in Nigeria accept that it affects all of us, just like the Prophet (s.a.w) says in a Hadith that says: "the similitude of the believers in their love, compassion, and sympathy for one another is like a single body. Whenever any limb is ill, the whole rest of the body shows support to it (that limb) with fever and sleeplessness". And for the umpteenth time, I would like to repeat that it is utterly naive and illusionary to think that if Tafawa Balewa is wholesomely and finally taken over by the Christians that it is finished all over. NO! It is not going to stop their. Once that is done, all Muslim villages, towns and cities would have been exposed and made vulnerable. ANDALUSIA (MUSLIM SPAIN) should remain our most important historical reference point. One is not a Prophet of doom, but one certainly has the obligation and also the liberty to draw historical analogies, or better still, to invoke the lessons of history to warn one's brothers in faith. So, just like the believer among the courtiers of Fir'aun was forewarning his people, I would say: "
Having laid the above background, it is pertinent to present excerpts of that booklet published in 2001, i.e. 12 years ago.
Page. 5 "In actual truth, against the background of the fact that the place is crisis-ridden for nearly half a century, it would be valid to liken it to the a middle-east. Taking a mischievous model from the Jews, the Sayawa Christians not only intend to cleanse other ethnic and religious communities in Tafawa Balewa to achieve their so-called self determination, but they also want to change history. They want to do this certainly not through intellectualism and legalism but through violence, terrorism, and savagery."
"Thus succinctly, Tafawa Balewa can be likened to Palestine. This description becomes all the more accurate and clear if the issues involved are analyzed. For one, just like Palestine, peace has eluded the place. Andnasnifnit were a calculated coincidence, both places have now been engulfed by trouble for almost the same length of time - half a century or thereabout. "
"Perhaps, the most fundamental issue that brings the crises in the two places into close resemblance is THE DISPUTE OVER THE OWNERSHIP OF THE TOWN".
"In addition to the above, one other issue that likens Tafawa Balewa crisis with that of Palestine is the fact that it is a case of recalcitrant minority (Christians) that has been fighting a helpless (disorganized and docile) majority, that is the Muslims. "
"This is a minority that has taken terrorism, aggression, and belligerence as Its way of life, and thus, persistently precipitated trouble and violated all the rules and dictates of collective living and pluralist existence. It is also ungrateful to benevolence and good neighborliness. The majority however, has been helpless, and sheepishly law abiding".
"It (the majority) has consistently, (like the PLO), reposed its confidence in the constituted authorities. It has always showed obedience and loyalty....... Unfortunately however, the authorities have always (consistently ) been shying away from justice. like the Palestinians' case whereby Israel persistently ( and with impunity) kills, maims, incarcerates, and brutalizes the Muslim Palestinians without attracting strict sanctions (from the UN), not to talk of allied armada and (collective) bombardment, the Sayawa Christian aggressors have never been brought to book by any government in Nigeria whether state or federal."
"The World is no longer horrified by Israeli brutalities againś armedless Palestinians. Its reactions to such wickedness are increasingly becoming colder by each day that passes. Even fellow Arabs have since abandoned their hostile postures against Israel. A number of them have restored diplomatic relations with it. Instead of forcing Israel to kneel down before the law and face its wrath for her atrocities, the United Nations and its monitors and self-styled patrons (e.g. Uncle Sam) have been campaigning for reconciliatory approach to resolving the conflict. The Arabs have capitulated in this regard, and have accepted to keep on chasing a shadowy peace,man ever elusive peace indeed."
Strikingly similar is the situation of Tafawa Balewa Muslims. In 1991 when the Sayawa Christians massacred them (the Muslims), Nigerians (regardless of faith) all over condemned their aggression. People's reactions that time really showed how highly sympathetic they were. But like the case of Palestine, Nigerians have become used to it, and our sympathies have similarly been fading away and waning. Like the UN, both the Federal and Bauchi State governments have continued to evade the path of justice, the path of legal retribution and punishment on the wrong doer..... The Sayawa Christians, like the Jews have become sacred cows".
"On a final note, it needs to be made clear that by comparing Tafawa Balewa with Palestine, we do not intend to put them at par in terms of sacredness and virtue (e.g. The Quds). The two are works apart in this particular regard . However, there are striking similarities in the issues involved, their dimensions and the circumstances surrounding them., as has been demonstrated above. It is therefore, against this background that we finally demonstrate here another point of similarity between the two. "
"In the case of Palestine, the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Quds) is not only a historical monument or edifice. It is to the Palestians and indeed to all Muslims, a symbol of faith and creed, an epitome of a worldview and civilization and indeed a sacred mosque, third in the ranks of virtue and sanctity after the Ka'aba and Masjid al-Nabawiy as the first and second respectively. Even for the sake of it the Palestinians would not abandon Palestine and would be ready to make all sorts of sacrifices to protect it against Israeli invasion and sacrilege."
"IN THE CASE OF TAFAWA BALEWA MUSLIMS, THEIR MOSQUES MUST NOT BE ABANDONED TO BE DESECRATED VY THE SQYAWA CHRISTIANS.ONE WOULD NOT LIKE TO IMAGINE WHAT MAY BE THE FATE OF THESE MOSQUES. WILL THEY BE TURNED INTO MASHAYA (where burkutu and goskolo-local wines would be sold and drank)? OR WILL THEY BE CONVERTED TO SLAUGHTER HOUSES OF DOGS AND PIGS? These are the things that cannot be contained by the heart of any conscious Muslim.. By now, all the Jumuah mosques, including all Musallahs (small mosques) in the unguwanni (wards/quarters) within the town and surrounding Muslim villages have been burnt down. ThemChristians are celebrating that they have taken away the town From Muslims. That there will no longer be azan (call to prayers) and no Khamsu salawat any more in Tafawa Balewa."
"Putting aside all other things of the town, this particular issue - Mosques and indeed, Islam- cannot be foresaken in a town originally founded, established, and named by Muslims-the FULBE."
"This comparative approach has been used in order to propound the correct and most accurate perspective of the Tafawa Balewa problem. It is believed that, after reading this far, the reader would have gotten a better and proper appreciation and understanding of the issues, dimensions and intricacies involved in the Tafawa Balewa crisis".
And their saying was no other than that they said: Our Lord! forgive us our faults and our extravagance in our affair and make firm our feet and help us against the unbelieving people.