Sometimes, in February this year, I found myself on the Kaduna – Zaria road – I was visiting the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria to collect a statement of result. A discussion on the incessant Jos’ ethno-religious crises came up inside the vehicle. A man in his mid – 60 s (by my own estimation) recounted how peaceful the city was a few decades ago. The man was Yoruba, but he has “lost” his Yoruba identity – he was born and raised in Jos!
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He narrated to us, how, while attending a boarding secondary school, all ethnic and religious differences would fritter away at the entrance gate into the school on resumption day to create a bond between all the students – they were practically each other’s siblings and nothing could ever come between them. The man recounted, almost in tears that while growing up in a neighbourhood in the ancient city, ethnicity was never a topic of discussion and religion did not determine what happened to their relationships (sic). He told us that in his neighbourhood, they blended with one another so much that Muslim boys had found so much comfort in churches and Christian homes. And that Christian boys were comfortable with performing ablution and joining Muslims praying in the mosques. Today’s average Nigerian would say: “They were children – they didn’t know what they were doing.” But they knew what they were doing – they were teenagers. And knowing their left from their right – they were simply brought up to understand that they were humans first before anything else. I am sure many people from either side of the “divide” have similar stories to share.
We can have this country back if we are honest and sincere about it.
Dr. Yakubu Aliyu is a lecturer at the Department of Applied Microbiology/Biology, Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa.