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The castle

By   /  April 29, 2019  /  No Comments

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IT is an emblem of what northern Nigeria is becoming. Kajuru, a few months ago, was alien to many people. But it has registered its name in blood and fear. We know it for its many predations, of herdsmen versus Christian neighbours, of vain recriminations, of government impotence. Machetes slash, guns blare and huts burn. In the aftermath, human flesh roasts like forbidden suya.

It is a narrative where whodunit is not as important as who won? The answer is: My people, or your people. But all of them are supposed to be our people. That is, Nigerians, fellow Nigerians. Yet, what put the whole matter in telling potency was the recent tragedy in a castle.

The Kajuru Castle is a tourist fascination, with its towers, medieval architecture of breath-taking archways and quaint rooms. It nestles on a rocky hill and offers a guest a view of its scenic efflorescence of gleaming pools and verdure. But last week, blood spilled and stained its ancient name, its warm air and memories, its rocks and pristine facades. Mooney Faye, a white woman who worked with an NGO as well as Matthew Ogwuche, were the two souls who fell from the brazen bullets of bandits.

Yet, what happened in Kajuru Castle is not merely about the loss of a tourist potential, or the deaths of two precious lives. Our tears for them. It is not just another tale about the frigid air of unease enveloping a northern state now increasingly prostrate from the marauding goons. It is more about a changing north, about a class struggle, about the denial of the incremental meltdown of a feudal rampart, of the passing of the torch from the old guard. But to whom? It is a north that has to come to terms with the fortitude of a new and anarchical generation of young men who would not take no for an answer, and whose only voice for such insurgency is not in turenchi or the white man’s language of oppression, or even in Hausa or Fulfulde, or in the literature of familiar northern journalism, or in the radio that is the popular agency of mass communication.

It is a new rally of a revolutionary hue, a cry of blood and guns and machete. It taps into the root of faith and history, and it gets there and distorts and it is happy for the mangling. It is not happy with memory and so it changes it and turns it into dark chapters that inspire the young.

Its enemies are the present leaders of the north from the monarchs to the political class. If we say, Zamfara State has refused to chill, it is because there is a mordant rage against class. They want gold and they must have it. They are no longer content with the upper class taking away all the riches and making most of them al majiris and allowing them to age as mai guards and cooks and cleaners, et al. They saw their fathers die poor, their grandfathers fade as beggars. They want the castle.

They want the soft comfort of its settee. They want the five wives around the pool, and their children not as girls of VVF but scholars from Harvard and Oxford, who will return to the luxuries of cars, designer clothes and shoes after landing the footloose perquisites of a government agency. Not al majiris who, bowl in hand, prowl the streets for today’s crumbs of life.

Boko Haram is part of that narrative. The rash of abductions of the rich as well as the insecurities on the highways, they all point to a new and quiet rumble. They want their own castle. From Kano to Kaduna to Sokoto to Katsina to Maiduguri. As Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima often says, “if we don’t take care of them now, 10 years down the road they will take care of us. They are the Frankenstein monster that will consume all of us.” Hence he has responded with a suite of schools and road and housing infrastructure to set the tone for a revival.

The castle is a medieval signature. Not only in Africa but also in Europe and Asia, that ancient architecture is the symbol of oppression but also of alienation, of the cocky comfort of medieval lords.

So, when the goons struck the castle, they might not have known the symbolic meaning of their barbarity. The north, for one, is now running short of the big men of feudal stature who held the talakawas captive. Since the Sardauna, the men have come in smaller packages, in the form of Shagaris, Umaru Dikkos, el Rufai, Yakassai,et al. We have never had any until the rise of Muhammadu Buhari, who seemed to embody the resurgence of charisma in the quintessence of the northern sheik. Buhari was hailed and worshipped for many years.

The 2015 election was an affirmation of the 2011 drive of the northern poor for a man of absolute charisma. But Buhari became president and had the opportunity to turn around their lots. The last election while, for any other election, would have been a commanding showing, it became a sort of let-down by comparison. Places like Sokoto and Kano and Bauchi where he rode as though a monopoly, his numbers fell precipitously.

His myth has diminished if he is still the reigning king. His charisma has been reined in. He has four years to undo that stature. But more significantly, the exit of Buhari in four years promises no northern successor of such commanding presence. So, there is not one, no force to pass on the torch. Feudalism never passes the torch. It collapses on its two knees.

So, the north is at a crossroads. The young are now exposed to what the west has offered, an internet and a knowledge base that do not need a college certificate. They know the oppression and they are bursting in rebellion.

They cannot articulate what they want. They can get everyone’s presence. Will they pull down the castle? They are anarchists, but cannot spell the word. They are the feisty version of the anarchist in Ivan Turgenev’s novel Father and Son, who was asked when he said all he wanted was to pull down the system: what would you replace it with? He said, let it come down first.

Or are they in a futile zest like the character in Kafka’s The Castle, who wanted to get inside the castle but spent all his life trying in vain to get in. He died trying. But these northern young men have no Kafkaesque self-restraint. They would, like the young men of the French revolution, take the Bastille.

In northern Nigeria, they are taking it down one shooting, one kidnap, one village at a time. The signs are writ large. And scary. 2023 will tell.


An Elder and metaphor

He calls himself an elder, but did not write as one. His first name is Solomon, but he showed none of those lofty things for which that wise man was known. He was made a SAN, and he was guilty of what lawyers call red herring. His is what is called logical red herring. Strange for a SAN because when Solomon, sorry Elder Solomon Asemota, replied my column, he ran out of bounds writing about what I did not address. I pointed out that he contradicted himself by saying that CAN should wait till court verdict before congratulating Buhari. At the same time, he congratulated Atiku by showing disdain for Buhari. His elders’ forum lost their soul by seeming impartial first and taking sides later. He failed as SAN in this rejoinder, and has failed as a senior advocate of the faith. He is just like the fellow from Benue, who wrote that I erred by saying that Benue and Plateau were neighbours. Do you have to share a border to be neighbours? Are we not neighbours with Ghana? do we share borders? And I said the two states come “together without a joint.” He does not understand figure of speech and yet he is spokesperson. Hence, he is peddling falsehood about a failing governor.

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