Borno Is Falling

Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima

September 12, 2014.


By: Musa Lawan

As a result of the many things I’ve been engaged in recently, not to talk of the shock from the series of heart-rending calamities that have fallen us, I have not been able to write my column this Tuesday. My brother, Musa Lawan, a literary genius, has poetically written the piece below, expressing his displeasure over the sad trend of events in a society that used to be a point of reference for peacemaking, and thus decided to feature him. Though I don’t entirely agree with some of his points, it spoke the minds of many. Those sending across messages hoping to get verification from me regarding the true state of things in Borno should bear with me till next week. Enjoy.

— Abdulhamid Al-Gazali


“The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” -James Baldwin

Once upon a time, in a continent full of darkness, the Arab merchants discovered light in a great kingdom: Kanem Empire. Marveled, they called her the “Baharnur;” the light of the sea. The good news spread fast and afar and she became a mecca. Her light shone proudly as people swarmed into her heart in search of knowledge, peace, truth and wisdom. Kanem became not only a house of scholarship but also of peace and hospitality.

Kanem Empire boasts of great literalists, diplomats, scholars and leaders. Once, she defeated a great army, not with sword but the might of her pen. She used to be indeed a great mother.

Her men are her strength. Many of them are either scholars, warriors, farmers, nomads, hunters, artists, etc. Tall and dark, they are strong and hardworking. Strangers marveled at the depth of their knowledge. The only black tribe with 100% Muslims, stainless and illuminating, she is a pride to Islam.

Kanem Empire has the most decent and modest women. Their women are well dressed and mannered, shy and soft spoken. They honor their men and treat the elderly with respect. Brabusco, one of their favorite food always bring their men back home.

Each year, she receive thousands of guest who come in search for light or to trade with her people. Her palms were always open for all to walk on. Hosting a confederation of tribal groups, she was indeed a great and a caring mother.

Kanem Empire grew in strength; politically and economically. Her influence threatened some and a great conspiracy was launched against her. It started when the White men came and used their guns to draw borders among her people. Like a torn rag, they were divided and spread across northeastern Nigeria, southeast Niger, western Chad and northern Cameroun. Thus, they became strangers by the gun and were made minorities in these foreign territories.

Notwithstanding the artificial borders drawn between them, the Kanem states, especially Borno in northeastern Nigeria continued to grow. Borno became Dar al Hikmah, House of Wisdom.

Bent on plunging Kanem into darkness, these conspirators studied the Kanuris in Borno and discovered that which they love most: knowledge and religion. Using religion, they stirred enmity and suspicion among the Kanuris and other tribes and launched a war against them using their own people. Thousands of them were killed and many are still dying everyday. They blocked them from all forms of education, destroyed their homes and massacred them. The world is watching. The leaders are watching. The media turned blind eyes towards them. The death of the people of Kanem is no longer news. Suddenly, their death becomes normal a normal thing. The nine tribal marks which the Kanuri once hold with pride now becomes a mark of suspicion, even among themselves. Surely, the conspirators are winning their battle.

This plague which has befallen the Kanuri people could be stopped only by the Kanuri themselves. They must reactivate their spirit of Kanurism in them and emulate the likes of Mohammed Al-Amin El-Kanemi and Idris Mai Alooma. These are not only great statesmen but powerful leaders. They are wise and intelligent. Although, the source of this problem might be foreign, the solution lies among the Kanuris for those who are bent of forcing them to extinction are the same Kanuri–if not, the leaders are from Kanem Empire.

Kanuri leaders need to unite. However, fear and complacency, a very rare trait in the Kanuris, have not only silenced the elites but also dragged them out of the Kanem Borno. The poor masses, who do not even understand anything or where the problem lies, are being killed on a daily basis. They have been left to their fates, to reap the fruits of a tree they do not sow.

Musa Lawan Kaga writes in from Lagos.