To the Hausa-Fulani politics is religion and religion is politics; the two are hyphenated in the emulsion of power.
Since the Uthman Dan Fodio jihad of 1804, when Hausa kings were deposed and Fulani emirates established, the north has always played sentimental politics. The sentiments of religion are rooted deeply in Hausa-Fulani political culture, evident today.
The reason for this is historical. The Fulani emirs, who replaced the Hausa kings, were people of strong religious interests. They were the disciples or relatives of Dan Fodio, and religious leaders in their own right. Politics and religion were then naturally wedded.
In the 1960s, Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto and premier of northern region, was the most important personality in the north, even more important than Tafawa Balewa, who was Nigeria’s prime minister. The reason was because he had both political and religious clout. He was even more appreciated as a religious totem than as a political figure in the north.
Ever wondered why President Muhammadu Buhari commands a fanatical following in the north? Simple! It is because of his support for Sharia during the religious crisis of 2003 under former President Obasanjo. He earned the street title ‘mai gaskiya’ for supporting the implementation of sharia in the region.
Ever wondered why Atiku Abubakar does not command such a fanatical following in the north, despite being Fulani? Simple! Because he has not worn religion on his sleeves.
Over the years, the voting pattern of the north has reflected a predilection for the conservative. This may be right or wrong depending on the divide.
As a matter of fact, having strong sentiments for religion in political determinations will not be wrong if Nigeria was Saudi Arabia. But we live in a very diverse country; hence sacrifices must be made for the common good.
Religion is the right of any individual or people. But the north must evolve beyond religious considerations in political determinations. The point is, competence should be the only sentiment in considering any candidate for office.
Incompetence affects both religious and irreligious persons. And bad governance is indiscriminate in the selection of victims.
The north must evolve beyond the primordial, beyond the native and beyond the conservative.
Nijeriya namu ne.
Nwabufo is an Abuja-based media personality.