Save yourselves the burden of what and who an intellectual is – this is not an academic exercise, you are an intellectual inasmuch as you have a fringe of interest in the goodness of Northern Nigeria. This letter is long overdue.
In case it sounds harsh to your hearing and bitter to your taste or perhaps timeworn to your hefty and hectic brains, let it be known at the outset, I am full of rage writing this letter. I am very angry, with all of us. I have to tell us this without mincing words – we should all cover our faces in shame. We have failed our society, woefully! We fail to live to the expectations of our society.
Our ancestors must be very angry with the way we betray their trust. All hope is not lost, anyway. We can still turn things around if, and only if, we take a holistic invoice of our stocks; what do we have and what is in short supply? Where are we heading to and how can we reach there? Are we on the right direction? If yes, how can we sustain the momentum? If no, are we to have a 180-degree turn-around i.e System Overhaul, or we can sustain the momentum but change direction or continue on the direction but adjust the momentum? As an intellectual, your call is not that of a political thug that wallows in the pond of his ignorance.
Yours is not that of a monk that seeks solace in the solitude of his shrine. Yours is not that of a bigoted citizen who expresses his unenvious sophistry in exonerating his faults by heaping the blames on non-existing and better-imagined enemies. You are neither known to be intimidated by a mere barrage of insults, nor to succumb to superficial-cum-pedestrian scholarship. You weigh things, happenings and occurrences on their own merit and deduce your conclusion therefrom.
Your task, as observed by one of our finest thinkers, Sarki Muhammadu Sanusi II, “…is not one of blending into the opaque consciousness of the tumultuous mob around you, your voice drowned in a cacophony of misdirected protests. Your task is to remind us of who we are and what we ought to be. Our values are not to be taken from conduct of our adversaries but from the great heritage of our people”.
If the above is your calling, then, why do you find solace behind your screen? Why should you maintain silence in the face of threats to the general survival of your very community? Why are you at ease, given the existential threats of ignorance, poverty, intolerance, religious rivalry that are staring (or to be more appropriate, occupying) at [the] society? What have you done? Agreed that you are bound by limitations but could there be a stopping stage in salvaging the plight of one’s society? That one should even entertain the thought of bowing-out? I acknowledge the small that you have done and are still doing, but is that enough?
Yes, many of us are shielded from the ravaging and dispossessing poverty that has befallen our communities. Yes, many of us are insured against the dehumanising ignorance. Yes, many of us are very tolerant of diverse views, beliefs, traditions and philosophies. Yes, many of us will never succumb to the thoughtless ideologies that give birth to ragamuffins who will kill in the name of religion, political leaning, ethnicity or regional loyalty.
Dear Intellectuals, we have to acknowledge the role your parents played in making you who you are today. But, come to think of it, what will be your prediction if the circumstances of your birth are removed from your make-up as you are today? I am not making excuses for the failure of the failed citizens. But many of them are accidental victims. They could have been like you if opportunities have been provided for them to exercise their potentials.
And this is the crux of my letter to you. You can avenge their plight. You have all it takes. Sit down. Think. Articulate. Come up with something tangible. We shouldn’t subject them to further hardship beyond this one. They already suffer more than enough. To be ignorant, poor and tools at the hand of religious ideologues, political gladiators and ethnic jingoists is the greatest of all dehumanisation.
I choose this space to communicate my message to you because it is a platform that you can use to salvage the fate of many. You are blessed with the knowledge of languages, the writing skill: an instrument for ethical illumination, political consciencisation and social mobilisation. Like I said before, it is not that you have not done anything, no. You have done a lot and we applaud you for that. But is that enough? Can you relent? Absolutely no!
Why shall we relent when the sentiment-driven politicians are hell-bent on exploiting the poverty of the hunger-stricken masses? Why shall we relent when the god-forsaken-ethnic-jingoists are all-out to absolve their failures by beating the drum of war? Why shall we relent when crowd-maniac religious ideologues are feasting on the ignorance and gullibility of their religious followers?
If the above are hell-bent, never-tiring and rat-racing in advertising their devilish cause—a cause that erodes all sense of communal living, an antithesis to development and freedom—why shall we, dear intellectuals, be secluded from the marketplace of ideas and go into self-imposed hibernation in our comfort zones because of our assumed safety? My dear, you are not safe. We are all not safe. We are as vulnerable as the vulnerables. Ask Indimi if his riches could buy him access to his mansion in Maiduguri GRA.
We have committed most of our free time exhibiting genius and making trouble by banging on the doors of literary rhetoric, political correctness and isolationist mentality. But at best, we might have been blowing a mute trumpet. Of course, at another level, we could ask why, beyond the entertainment and artistic value of our writings, engagements, sophistry exhibitions, what is the value of our intellection? Who exactly are we intellectualising for and for what purpose? Why have our writings/engagements not effected any significant change in our societies? What is the scope of our narratives? We blame our politicians but in reality are they not doing much better than we are? Are there no lessons we can learn from the distances they cover to sell their messages? How is it that members of political parties crisscross the country in a way and manner that intellectuals do not?
Your being an intellectual is not for nothing. It is a burden. We owe the society a great deal. You are to challenge the propositions of religious ideologues, counter the narratives of ethnic jingoists and of course render the sweet-melodies of politicians to what it is, LIES.
I leave you with these lines:
Mu de hakkinmu mufada muku ko ku karba ko kuyi dariya
Dariyarku ta zamkuka gaba da nadaman kin gaskiya.