Kano? an ancient city?s many tragedies
The suicide bombing at a motor park in Kano yesterday, once again, brings to the fore the many tragedies that have befallen North?s commercial nerve centre, writes Assistant Editor OLATUNJI OLOLADE
kano is breathtaking for once and only once; just past noon, while you are perching in the heart of the city centre, in a plane. In that space and at that hour, you get to see what the founders had dreamed many years before: pearl of the north, melting pot of commerce and culture, and long, open avenues forking into an ancient and yet metropolitan paradise ? all within the shining veins of a city with warmth like the return of better times.
However, cruising through the city, you get to see the perversion of that dream. Living in Kano is like sleeping in the folded petals of a poisonous flower. Ask Hafiza Shema, a traditional bone-setter. ?Life in this place has become very dangerous. Death is around the corner everywhere you go,? she said.
Yesterday?s suicide bombing in the ancient city, which left many dead and scores injured, sure confirms Shema?s view.
The bombings in Kano have seen many desert the city. It has suffered a record high death toll and human casualties as a result of sporadic bomb attacks and gun violence in recent times. On January 20, last year, a series of coordinated attacks on security institutions and federal establishments left over 200 persons dead. In the wake of the attacks, not a few residents of Kano, natives and immigrants alike, fled the city. While many natives fled to seek safe haven with close and distant relatives in neighbouring states, immigrants to the state ? from the Southeast, Southsouth and Southwest ? relocated to their home states.
The situation has deteriorated with every subsequent attack by the Boko Haram sect and every gun battle between it and the security forces in the state.
An atmosphere of fear prevails among the city?s residents as random attacks and mafia-styled executions render the city uninhabitable.
Not too long ago, the Joint Task Force (JTF) discovered a bomb depot during an early morning raid at Tudun Bayero by Tamburawa in Dawakin Kudu Local Government Council, few kilometers away from Kano metropolis. Shortly after the operation, Bassey Eteng, Director of State Security Service (SSS) in Kano, revealed that three suspected members of the Boko Haram sect were arrested during the operation that lasted several hours.
According to the SSS director, ?The operation was successful. We were able to discover 12-primed bomb cylinder, 12 hand held improvised explosive devices, army uniforms, some face masks, 10 electronic detonators, AK47 rifles, two pump action, submachine gun and seven bags of urea. Intelligent information also indicates that plans of these people were to launch attacks on Sallah day. Investigation is still going on.?
Perversion of Kano city
Life in Kano city has taken a
turn for the worse. Until the
first multiple bomb blasts rocked the city, residents lived without fear of being blown apart by deadly bomb devices. Today, however, every little sound causes the residents to scamper about in panic. The violence has virtually snuffed the once boisterous city of life. Residents lament total collapse of almost every industry in the city as a result of the violence and curfew imposed by the government. The usually busy streets are now deserted as early as 6.00pm. ?We have no choice but to close our shops and hurry home. Nobody wants to be harassed or molested by the soldiers on the street. Even with proper identification they still go ahead and molest innocent citizens. And if you are unfortunate enough to be outside seconds after Boko Haram strikes, they won?t ask you questions, they will simply shoot you,? said Bauwa Abubakar, an animal feed dealer.
The commercial business sector in the city has nose-dived. Banks, saloons, shopping arcades and even the local markets, to mention a few, are taking the heat as they are forced to offer skeletal services. Traders at the popular Kurmi market, for instance, lament very low patronage. This, they attribute to the declining number of patrons that visit the market.
Reality, indeed, corroborates the traders? complaints. For instance, the 600-year-old Kurmi market, fabled for its labyrinth of skinny alleys lined with stalls crammed with every imaginable object and enterprise, is in the throes of a record lull. Vendors and shop owners at the market blame it on the violence. Some of them, however, accuse security operatives of scaring away their customers by their overzealousness and transferred aggression on innocent citizenry in the wake of any Boko Haram attack.
Local artists and traders at the dye-pits equally complained of their inability to make sales. Many of them complained of having lost their most loyal customers, most of whom have relocated from the city to neighbouring cities and their home states in the wake of the violence.
Impact on agriculture
The violence has also affected the
state?s trade in Kola. The upsurge
in violence has made it difficult for farmers in Kano to market their produce due to persistent insecurity in the capital city. Consequently, lots of Kolanut remain unsold, according to Yaya Haliru, a Kolanut trader. Although many farmers in the state were expectant of a bumper harvest this year, many of them dread the situation whereby they won?t be able to find any market for their crops. ?If the current situation persists, it will severely hamper crop sales for many farmers,? stated Anid Bako, a large scale grocer.
The crisis in the North has forced some of the crop farmers and pastoralists to abandon their lands and relocate to the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroun. In March, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said about 65 per cent of northern farmers had migrated to the South because of the insecurity they faced.
The agency warned that the country faced a famine by the end of this year because most of the small-scale farmers and mechanised farmers in the Nigeria?s northeast are threatened by terrorist attacks. ?The attacks on these farmers who produce beans, onions, pepper, maize, rice, livestock and catfish in the Lake Chad area for the southern states, have forced them to migrate since the Boko Haram insurgency broke out in Borno State in July 2009,? it said.
A countrywide food crisis, therefore, looms, considering NEMA?s disclosure. Since most of the foodstuffs consumed and traded in Nigeria are grown in the north, the agency warned about an impending famine. Incessant bombings and other violent attacks on local markets perpetrated by both the Boko Haram sect and Nigerian armed forces pose grievous risks to northern farmers, livestock breeders and dealers in farm produce, forcing them to migrate to new locations far from their farmlands, while placing additional burden on the transportation of food and farm produce to other states.
Consequently, prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed, particularly in the southern part of the country. The influx of migrants to the less volatile northern states and the south has made rental accommodation expensive, just as several families have been rendered homeless, and without medical assistance. The forced movements and relocations have devastated communities and disintegrated key social ties and networks. Though difficult to measure, communal support networks and social capital lost as a result of the forced disintegration of communities also comes into reckoning, according to Victoria Ohaeri, Executive Director at Spaces for Change, a non-governmental organisation.
?It?s a very sad situation. Kano used to be revered as the commercial capital of northern Nigeria, now we are known for violence and bloodshed. We no longer have the groundnut pyramids and our kolanut business is in the doldrums. I can?t remember the last time I saw our youths gainfully engaged plucking groundnuts or picking kola. All they do now is carry guns and bullets about. Many of us have fled the city. Many are still preparing to flee?I moved my family to Ibadan (Oyo State) in November last year. I stayed back because of business but now I have no choice but to relocate with them,? lamented Danladi Abu, a commercial transporter.
A history of violence
The first host-settler violent eruption in Kano occurred in 1953 following northern opposition to the Southern motion in 1953 for Nigeria?s political independence in 1956. The northern representatives believed that the country was not yet mature for self-rule. The South decried this refusal in disparaging language and booed Northern representatives on the streets of Lagos. The campaign for independence sparked off riot in Kano. The rioters attacked Sabon ? Gari and at the end, about 35 people were declared dead, while 251 were wounded. In the January 1966 coup d? tat led by an Igbo major, eminent politicians and high ? ranked military men mostly from the North were killed. The North perceived this development as an attempt by the South (Igbo) to dominate them and the promulgation of decree 34 for unification of Nigeria by an Igbo general confirmed their fear. On March 29, 1966, the rioters again attacked Sabon-Gari. The counter coup d? tat of July, 1966 produced similar attacks in other Northern cities killing thousands of settlers in the state.
After 1966, conflicts between the Kanawa and the settlers became more religiously defined. The 1980 Maitatsine riot and the 1996/97 Shiites attacks on orthodox Muslims were intra-religious conflicts with some political undertones between the fundamentalist religious groups and orthodox Muslims in Kano. Kano had played host to many Islamic fundamentalists scholars from Chad and Cameroon from the 1940s. Several clashes between them produced hundreds of casualties. In severe cases, death tolls were high. Intra-religious riots scarcely spread to other parts of Kano.
The 1980s and 90s were periods of inter-religious violence as well. Nigeria opened up to fundamentalist Christian groups in the 1980s. Many of them are found in Kano and their activities, especially their mode of preaching, are often considered provocative by the Muslims. Eruptions were moves to check their excesses and ascendancy of Christianity. The fagge crisis of 1982 was aimed at preventing the reconstruction of a dilapidated church located close to a mosque. Also, the Muslims, in 1991, detested the tone of advertisement for Reinhard Bonnke?s crusade. More so, the permission given to Bonnke to preach in Kano could not be reconciled with the government?s refusal to allow Sheikh Deedat from South Africa into Kano for Islamic revival. Riot broke out October 13 as soon as Boonke arrived in Kano. The1991 riot marked a watershed in the history of conflicts in Kano. For the first time, the Southerners launched counter ? offensive against their host. Again, both Christians and Muslims from the South were attacked unlike before when such attacks were restricted to the former. A riotous situation in 1994 following the beheading of an Igboman, Gideon Akaluka, by the Shiites for allegedly desecrating a Koran was quelled by the government.
The lost economy
Kano was a major producer
of groundnuts. In fact, Kano
produced about a half million tons which was about half of Nigeria?s groundnut production. Oil replaced agricultural commodities as the main source of foreign exchange and government revenue.
The oil boom of the 1970?s made the government to neglect agriculture. Many of the rural dwellers rushed to the cities in search of ?greener? pastures now they are fleeing the city for fear deadly bomb blasts.
Commercial activity in Kano received its first encouragement with the establishment of Kurmi Market by Sarkin Kano Muhammad Rumfa in the 16th century. Subsequent leaders made contributions to the emergence of Kano as a leading commercial center in Africa. For example, the first two Emirs of Kano, Sarkin Kano Ibrahim Dabo and Sarkin Kano Sulaiman in the 19th century encouraged traders to move from Katsina because of Maradi raid. This was one of major contributing factors that made Kano the richest province in the Sokoto Caliphate.
The Jihad leaders of the caliphate encouraged Kolanut trade and Kano was the greatest beneficiary with an annual turnover of about $30 million. Kano merchants were also very innovative and they were able to integrate commerce and craft industry during the pre-colonial period thus making substantial contribution to the prosperity of the province. Kano was producing an estimated 10 million pairs of sandals during that period because of economic harmony. Sarkin Kano Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi established the Bompai Industrial Estate which was the first of its kind in the state through a loan guaranty that was later used against him by the Northern Regional Government.
Kano State is the most important and largest commercial centre in Northern Nigeria. With about 10 million people, it provides a stable and continuous market for both manufactured and semi processed goods. The volume of trading activities conducted on daily basis in the markets, notably Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi Market (Sabon-Gari), Kwanar Singer, Kantin Kwari, Kurmi and Dawanau signify the state?s great potentials as a market for various products.
In addition to the large and unique markets, Kano is also blessed with plentiful and various kinds of agricultural products which provide huge raw materials for Agro-Allied industries.
Agricultural products like Maize, Guinea Corn, Rice, Cotton and Groundnut are readily available to serve as raw materials for oil milling, flour and textile industries. Other agro based raw materials are Gum Arabic, Livestock, Hides and Skin, Cowpeas, and Citrus fruits.
A governor?s prayer
Worried by the wanton
destruction of lives and
property in the state, the Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, has promised to ensure peace and stability in the state. His reassurances come at the heel of government officials? and clerics? conference to pray for peace in the state.
The prayer gathering which was held in the wake of the January bombings, attracted some 200 Muslim clerics and political leaders to a mosque in the palace of the Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, for special peace prayers.
?I will pray to God that we should never re-live the catastrophe that resulted in the deaths and maiming in our city?We are working seriously to ensure peace in Kano State, and by the grace of God. I want to assure you that we have seen the first and the last of these attacks in Kano State. Kano will not explode again,? promised Governor Kwankwaso.
Despite his heartfelt prayer, by 5:30 p.m. every day, the ancient city of Kano goes berserk with impatient motorists making hurriedly for home; the air simmers like draft from a stubborn harmattan fire and that is just the subtle city war renewing itself for another day. Unlike the major gun wars and bomb attacks, it is comparatively light on actual violence but intense with dread and bad feeling.
You have to be pathologically insensitive not to sense the impacted rage and despair, impotent gnawing resentment that has turned Nigeria?s ?Centre of Commerce? into a bloody battlefield.
There, every bomb blast and gunshot reverberates in the hearts of the natives months after the last boom had gotten silent. Nothing so horrible ever happens in Kano that?s beyond prayer and cheap consolation.
You did either meet an optimism that no violence could daunt or cynicism that eats the cynic empty every day until it turns hungry and malignant on whatever it could, for a bite. A skilled psychiatrist would call this ?lashing out,? but the average Kano resident would call it ?survival.? The people are so traumatised that these days, they talk as though killing a man was nothing more than depriving him of his vigour. Thus is the tragedy in Kano.