By Abdulkareem Haruna
Days ago, some a newspaper reports quoting Borno state governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, expressing displeasure over a fellow professor’s statement about alleged marginalization of other tribes in the scheme of things went viral.
The trending news article quoted the governor saying he felt insulted “for anyone to say he was marginalizing any ethnic group in Borno State.”
But Professor Bdilya, who made the controversial statement while delivering a paper as guest speaker during the Annual Bura Cultural Day which was held on the first of January 2023 at Marama Town in Hawul Local Government of Borno State, disagreed that his paper or his remarks about the plight of Bura people in Borno was targeted at insulting Governor Zulum, the man he said loves so much and wishes a “second term”.
”I see him (Zulum) as a courageous man, and my aspiration is that if the people of Borno do grant him a second term, he can deploy his courage to address the elephant in our room,” he said.
”This elephant has been slowing us down and it is now poised to wreak havoc for all of us. My intentions are good, and I come in peace.”
“But I wish to clarify the context in which the aforementioned article, which pitched me as an insulter of Governor Zulum, was couched. The journalist who wrote it apparently did not have enough time or space to present it.
“Governor Zulum in his address at the Bura Cultural Day held at Marama on January 1st 2023, did indeed expressed his displeasure about a statement that I made in my address as the Guest Speaker at the event. Among many statements that I made in the address, in the context which I now wish to clarify, Indeed I did state that the people of Biu, albeit of southern Borno, are marginalized.
The following is the context of my address:
“My aim, in tandem with the purpose of the Bura Cultural Day program, was to contribute to the continued development of Bura culture as a tool for promoting development. I did this by pointing out antecedents that have predisposed us as a people to operate sub optimally. According to the 1963 census the Bura/Pabir or Biu people is the 25th largest ethnic group in Nigeria. But due to the influence of alien civilizations or cultures (slavery, imperialism/ colonialism, Islam, Christianity, hegemony, etc), we today lack the clout that is commensurate with our numbers in the scheme of things. The alien civilizations have disaggregated us into small units that have made us easy objects of divide and rule, as well as domination. I accordingly wish to urge our people to consolidate and reclaim our clout,” Mr. Hassan said.
“Mr. Hassan added that his paper was Simply “to initiate honest consultations in order to avert reactionary interactions, as we are witnessing with IPOB and Odua. Let us mount this horse of change while it is still trotting and steer it. We should not allow it to start galloping at free will to undesirable destinations.
“The national landscape is now dotted with various nationalities struggling to liberate themselves from perceived or real dominance. The movements for Biafra and Odua republics are examples. There are then several others who are not looking for republics but equity. Some are already openly staging their struggles, like the Idoma in Benue state. Some have remained as ‘the elephant in the room’, who may sooner or later bolt and cause serious problems. An example of this is the hegemonic relationship between the Kanuris and the other ethnic groups/nationalities who have been merged to form Borno state. Over the past 100 plus years our coexistence has transited from exploitation/harvest, through control, to domination/manipulation and now transiting into partnership,” Mr. Hassan explained.
Mr. Hassan while extending his solidarity to the governor Zulum said he is not antagonistic to him or his administrations but see Zulum as a courageous man who, given a second term in office, can address the long historical imbalances in the state.
“I wish to assure Governor Zulum that as an individual I am not antagonistic of his administration or his person. I am playing on a turf which is more than a hundred years long, but because we are at the verge of an election, with political stalwarts having turned the Bura Cultural Day into a political rally, his attention was unavoidably focused on his administration, which is the last four years at the tip of this long turf. The marginalization that I alluded to is about the over 100 years of our coexistence in Borno. It is certainly not about Governor Zulum’s administration or person.
Mr Bdilya is professor of Geography and a major researcher on Lake Chad.