Today, I put up the second Ted-Post by Mark Amaza. I met Mark (Twitter handle: @amasonic) at the Zain Africa Challenge in 2009. In the 3 years I’ve known him, Mark’s passion and fierce patriotism have inspired me. When I got the idea for the Ted-Posts, I knew it would be incomplete if he didn’t write in. So here. I present his piece.
I have always been very proud of my heritage and my roots as a Nigerian first, then a Christian and a Northerner next. There is always pride in my voice when I meet people from the South and I tell them that I am a Christian from Borno State, and how I tell everyone how multi-religious my extended family is, the fact that my maternal grandfather is a Muslim and was even the muezzin of his village till old age caught up with him, and how I have numerous uncles and aunts who are Muslims, some of whom grew up with us.
But this nice story of religious co-existence is not everywhere in the North. As a child growing up, I also got used to taunts about my faith; being called ‘arne’, which means infidel in Hausa; living in the perpetual fear of not going out on Friday afternoons, lest religious crises start and I am caught up in it. I saw and continually see qualified Christians denied government appointments or not being elected to offices because of their faith, the closest to me being my own dear mother who went through an almost life-shattering ordeal of persecution in her workplace. I also experience the mutual distrust that exists between Muslims and Christians in the North to the point that a few years ago, I came to the shocking epiphany that a Maiduguri boy like me barely had any Muslim friends at home.
I do not know which one is worse: the fact that the constant persecution and maltreatment Christians in Muslim-majority Northern states have faced has gotten us to the point that we do not even aspire to be anything more than just exist and get by; or the fact that once I cross the Niger and go South or I meet Southerners, I am accused of being a conspirator in what is perceived as a grand plan to annihilate all Southerners in the North. To my accusers, the fact that I am a Christian makes little difference to them. I am a Northerner: that is all that matters.
In retrospect, it is the combination of all these things that make me who I am today: my background, the sum total of all my experiences, and lastly, how I have responded to them. I have always devoted my writings and political ideology to creating a society where each and every person is afforded equal opportunity, not less or more because of his religious faith or ethnic background, issues which he had no control over. I always dream of a country where, to paraphrase the words of Dr King, ‘we will be judged not by our religion or ethnicity, but by the content of our character.’ For me, the dream that one day, my children would feel free to walk down the streets of Bauchi or Kano or Maiduguri on a hot Friday afternoon, worrying about the sun’s intensity and not about their safety is one I continually hold on to.
The thing that gladdens my heart is that there are millions of others, even across the religious divide that are hoping and praying for this egalitarian society, and also thousands of others who are willing to lend their voice and efforts to see this become a reality. No one deserves to live in such circumstances as I, or millions of others did, being constantly reminded of our second-class citizen status, and in some instances, at the expense of our lives.
It does not matter if we are Christians or Muslims. In the end, we are all children of Abraham.