Opinion

Middle Belt: The intellectual and ideological underpinnings of the politics of TY Danjuma, Jerry Gana and others

Which explains why for instance, a Mumuye Muslim in Taraba State does not fit the definition of a minority by the mere fact of being Muslim. Or even a Karekare from Potiskum. However, a Dr. Yusufu Turaki, a Fulani, of ECWA, perfectly fits the definition

  1. Sometime during the early years of the Obasanjo presidency, TY Danjuma through Jerry Gana and John Darah financially supported a Centre for Middle Belt Studies, CMBS, then established by some intellectuals, journalists and CSO operators in Jos and Abuja. The arrowhead was Dr. Zabadi, from Adamawa, then a senior research fellow at the National Defence College, Abuja. The Centre, before it collapsed mainly due to internal disorganization and ideological differences, it caused to be published the 1985 University of Keele PhD thesis of late Dr. Paul Logams of the University of Jos, titled: The Middle Belt Movement in Nigerian Political Development: A Study in Political Identity, 1949-1967.

A very prodigious but intellectually skewed work, it articulated forcefully a religious definition of the Middle Belt, and argued that all parts of the North where there are Christians in substantial number are part of the Middle Belt.

Hence, brazenly he carved out the Southern Borno, the Zuru area of Kebbi, the Southern Kaduna, the non-emirate areas of Adamawa and Taraba, including the maguzawa settlements of Kano, Katsina, and plus the core Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, etc.as Middle Belt.

The definition of Middle Belt was for him not geographical in the sense of North Central zone, nor political, in terms of the minority question, nor even communitarian in terms of people sharing a specific ecological or cultural space.

No. It’s tied up with Christianity as the a defining imperative. Which explains why for instance, a Mumuye Muslim in Taraba State does not fit the definition of a minority by the mere fact of being Muslim. Or even a Karekare from Potiskum. However, a Dr. Yusufu Turaki, a Fulani, of ECWA, perfectly fits the definition.
It is this book that provides the intellectual and ideological underpinnings of the politics of TY Danjuma, Jerry Gana and others and their responses to intergroup relationships in Northern Nigeria. Hence, when Jerry Gana says Middle Belt will not be part of the North, its without doubt meaning Christians will not ally with Hausa Fulani and other Muslims in the region, period.

  1. During the 2014 Jonathan’s political conference, an effort was made still by Jerry Gana and his cohorts plus the support of late Oronto Douglas, head of Jonathan’s think thank, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, then chairman, NHRC, Dr. Sam Amadi, then Chairman, NERC, Dr. Chinweizu, a writer, and Yinka Odumakin of the Afenifere, to redraw the internal map of Nigeria by lumping Southern Nigeria with the Middle Belt as religiously defined and call it Greater South, as opposed to the Orkar’s demarcation of the Caliphal or core North.

By this, they reckoned they would change the political equation in Nigeria and isolate the so-called core North. It did not work, but the Map was selectively shared.

  1. As far back as 2011, some academics around former Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, notably Prof. Best, then SSG, and other younger ones prepared several memos about constructing a Southsouth- Middle Belt alliance. It’s still not clear why there wasn’t a push in this direction even when Jang became the factional NGF’s chair in support of Jonathan.
  2. Perhaps all that is going on is building on these efforts both failed and successful to forcefully severe the Northern Unity as we know it, with all the problems and contradictions.
  3. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Jerry and co. will construct political alliances, navigate the complexities of the middle belt politics and successfully negotiate for a Nigerian presidency, particularly under the tattered, bartered and discredited PDP that is in the grip of the same northern forces that they dread with passion.

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