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There is nothing like farmers-herders clashes

By Obadiah Mailafia

THE National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Bello Abdullahi Bodejo, was recently quoted as saying that Fulani own Nigeria and will rule our country forever. He also revealed that their organisation had trained between 5,000 and 100,000 “vigilantes” that are being deployed throughout the states of the federation. He asserted that Fulanis are the founding-owners of Nigeria and do not need anybody’s permission to settle in any corner of the country.

It is the most provocative verbal diarrhoea I have heard in a long time. If anybody still has doubts about the hegemonic ambitions of these people, now is the time to abjure them.

During the lockdown, killings have been going on in the Middle Belt and beyond. Most affected are Kajuru, Adara and Godogodo in Kaduna State. They have been at the receiving end of genocide, rape, rapine and brutalisation.

The same goes for communities in Miango, Barkin Ladi and Bokkos in Plateau State.

The political authorities have done little or nothing. We suspect, in fact, what amounts to cold complicity. We are under the impression that the whole of Southern Kaduna from Kachia to Sanga land is being pledged as a gigantic Ruga settlement for Fulanis from Mali, Chad, Guinea and Futa Toro.

This is also why thousands of mercenaries camouflaged as Almajirai are being herded south. The game-plan is to station them in strategic outposts in the impenetrable rainforest in readiness for attacks, killings and occupation.

The greatest weapon of the oppressor is silence. People are killed. Silence. Rape and rapine are committed on a staggering scale. Again, silence. Thousands upon thousands of strangers are taking over the ancestral lands of the Middle Belt. Silence. The authorities are pretending that nothing is happening and that life is as normal as garri and groundnuts, or – if you prefer – fura da nono.

As a student of systems theory, I know for sure that no human or natural system can take such an overload of pressures without something giving in, sooner or later. We may be heading for a massive implosion but our leaders go on behaving with the recklessness of drunken sailors. Herders-farmers conflicts have existed since time immemorial. Some theologians have referred to the conflict between Abel and Cain as recorded in the Old Testament Bible as the first conflict between a herdsman and a farmer.

The firstborn, Cain, was a farmer while his younger sibling, Abel, was a shepherd. Cain slew his brother out of jealousy because Abel brought the best of his first fruits before God and received a greater blessing from Him. Some of my gentle readers would also recall the eighteenth-century Enclosure Movement in English history.

It derived very much from a similar conflict between farmers and herders; leading parliament to pass the Enclosure Act in 1773.

Conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and sedentary peasant farmers in Nigeria have been perennial in West Africa. They often begin with allegations of trespass into farms by Fulani and their cattle, resulting in destruction of crops. There are typically disputes over rights of passage, pasturelands and water resources. Over the decades, local communities have evolved effective dispute-resolution mechanisms over such matters.

Thus, a Fulani man whose cattle destroy a farmer’s crop would be brought before local community leaders and the matter would amicably be resolved through compensation in cash or kind. There have been cases where, unbeknownst to the farmer, a Fulani whose cattle have strayed into a farm and damaged the crops would report to the affected farmer and volunteer compensation for damages.

Herder-farmer relations were defined not only by conflict. On the contrary, they were mostly symbiotic. A farmer would invite a Fulani after harvest to bring his cattle to rummage the remnant while depositing much-needed manure on the farm. Fulani rarely eat beef; being also allergic to goat meat. Their preferred source of meat protein is sheep and chicken.

Whenever a cow or bull broke down, they would normally donate it to the local farmers. Their women sold milk and butter to the local farming communities while buying from them millet, corn, fruits and vegetables.

There was always the occasional kerfuffle between a farmer and a herdsman, but inter-communal clashes between them were virtually unheard of.

Inter-marriages were common and many Fulani were often fluent in the local languages. The primeval savannah of my birth was a peaceful and orderly world.

The highest a herdsman would have on them was the traditional stick and perhaps a dagger to stem off leopards and other wild beasts.

Today, a new breed of herdsman has emerged: an aggressive and murderous terrorist bearing sophisticated firearms such as AK47s and even rocket launchers.

This has been partly a response to the relatively new phenomenon of cattle rustling which was quite rare when some of us were growing up. But it is also because they become the mobile avant-garde army of political Islam in Nigeria.

Given the country’s porous borders, many of them are recent immigrants from neighbouring countries. Herdsmen Niger, Chad and Mali can walk across the border and immediately lay claim to all the sacrosanct rights appertaining to bona fide Nigerian nationals. They can demand land rights and even get registered to vote in elections for which they are not entitled.

The Jihadist wing of the Arewa elite, we suspect, deliberately allow a situation whereby millions of foreigners infiltrate Nigeria’s borders so as to boost their numbers, knowing full well that democracy is ultimately a game of numbers. In the 2019 elections we witnessed the spectacle of truckloads of foreigners being transported into the country by northern politicians ostensibly for political campaigning.

We are hearing noises these days to the effect that the North is now the electoral majority and, therefore, deserves to keep the mantle of leadership in perpetuity. If this situation persists and the influx of millions of illegal immigrants continues to be actively or tacitly promoted, I foresee a scenario in the near future when the various ethno-geopolitical blocks may well decide that they have had enough.

In 2014 the Global Terrorism Index, GTI, categorised the Fulani herdsmen militias as the fourth deadliest terrorist organisation in the world, just coming behind Boko Haram, Isis and al-Shabab.

Within Nigeria, it is currently estimated that within the last three years the herdsmen militias have killed more people than Boko Haram.

For one thing their attacks have covered at least 32 states, whereas Boko Haram has, at most, launched attacks in only 17 of the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.

With the onslaught of Boko Haram and Fulani militias, the painful divisions that characterise Nigeria’s political tapestry are becoming more pronounced than ever. Terrorism constitutes not only an affront to civil peace; it poses a direct threat to the sanctity of Nigeria’s federal union and the secular, multi-ethnic and multi-religious character, and, indeed, its survival as a political community. It is a danger that Nigeria’s leaders ignore to their common peril.

There is, of course, a big difference between Muslims and Islamists who use religion as a weapon of war. The late American scholar, Charles Tilly, a social scientist of the highest integrity, reminded us long ago that terrorism as a social phenomenon surfaces in a wide variety of cultures, institutions and political forces; and that it is certainly not a preserve of Muslims as the American neo-conservatives would have us believe.

According to him, “Terrorists range across a wide spectrum of organisations, circumstances and beliefs. Terrorism is not a single coherent phenomenon. No social scientist can speak responsibly as though it were”.

What we face today are the forces of Global Jihad – neofascist murderers that are committed to genocide land dispossession and enforcement of Caliphate hegemony over the rest of our country by force of arms. There have been Muslim victims in places like Zamfara and Birnin Gwari, but there is no doubting that the principal targets and the overwhelming proportion of the victims are the Christian communities of the Middle Belt against whom an undeclared war for conquest and territorial dispossession is being waged.

Those who use the term “farmers-herders clashes” for what is going on in Nigeria today must be regarded as tacit collaborators or accessories to murder and genocide. They should be ashamed of themselves.

VANGUARD

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A prolific writer of about two decades standing experience
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