In the 1970s, Patrick Wilmot, Bala Usman and other progressive scholars instilled in their students the quest for justice. With that Nigeria supported anti-apartheid movement and the independence of nations like Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. No one ever asked whether they were Muslims or Christians.
Today, so many youths are taught to support injustice based on sentiments. On the one hand, many clap at the massacre of members of other sect as we saw in the Zaria massacre. On the other, many relish to see homes seized from and towers are collapsed on their Palestinian residents. Both are fed the toxins of sectarian politics by clerics and politicians.
A youth who does not hate injustice has lost the sweetest ingredient of life. He matures with a barren and dark heart. He grows to be like that blind dog that barks south of the Niger when blood is spilled and thousands are rendered homeless elsewhere.
There is no difference between Zionism and apartheid as Prof. P. Wilmot repeated said in the 1970s. I support Israel whenever it seeks peace with its neighbours. I even hope to visit it one day. But I condemn it strongly—and will continue to do so—on its Zionist agenda of apartheid and other forms of injustice to Palestinian Muslims and Christians. Be on the same page with me.
Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
16 May 2021
Politics in Nigeria as elites’ consensus, by Ibrahim Musa Na-Allah
Politics is just the affair of the elites. The voting population (‘the people’) are mere instrument for the realization of elites’ interest. Politics in Nigeria has been in this direction for many decades. It is the elites that determine who becomes who when and how or even get what when and how. Reading some fascinating books on Nigerian politics and governance will not only mesmerises you or leaves you standing akimbo on the way politics is played here but pushes you into high tensed political oblivion. Decisions and indecisions on who to or not to lead, rule or govern are taken solely by the elites with little or zero inputs from the ‘people’ and this is done for the protection of the people’s interest as elites would always say. In reality, a man who is not consulted can not be represented and a man who is not represented can never be given what he needed and he who is missing in these dots or circle (apology to Preisident Muhammadu Buhari) is just a mere follower.
The people are mere followers in the comity of national affair for many decades. After his emergence, the candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, the NPN, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari was determined to choose his running mate from the Igbo extraction. Shagari sought to place the name of the wife of a diplomat from Onitsha but elites from Southeast within the circle of NPN rejected her nomination. Shagari had to constitute a “search committee” which later came up with the name of another woman Mrs. Abigail Ukpabi, a lecturer from the Alvan Ikoku College of Education. As if Mrs. Upkabia was not from the Southeast, elites again demanded her nomination to be withdrawn citing today’s most controversial issue. Her gender! Mr. K. O. Mbadiwe, a party stalwart from the region met with President Shagari and told him without any equivocation that if the Vice Presidential slot belongs to the region, then it shouldn’t be “woman”. Because according to him in Igboland “It is the woman that goes to man not the other way round.” (Read Bolaji Abdullahi, 2017 On a Platter of Gold. How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria) if anyone were to doubt Mr. Mbadiwe’s claim one need to read or be reminded how Prof. Chinua Achebe presented Igbo woman in his book the “Things Fall Apart” as a subservient gender during the precolonial society. I can’t imagine what would happen if Dr. Christ Ngige stalled the nomination of a woman as Vice President from that region today. I believe another Aba women riot would have unfolded itself. The decision by the elites from the region gave birth to the emergence of Dr. Chief Alex Ekwueme as running mate to Shehu Shagari’s presidency. I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Ekwueme when he attended the inaugural lecture by Prof. Ifeoma M. Onyemelukwe of the French Department, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on the 14th October, 2015. Dr. Ikwueme jokingly said he regretted not becoming professor in his life. Now the rest is history.
Elites have been the alpha and omega in the politics and policy decisions in Nigeria, in 1998 when the military administration of General Abdussalami Abubakar (Rtd) determined to hand power to the civilian rule another power tussle within the elites circle unfolded. Northern elites, the ‘Kaduna Mafias’ a most powerful elites in the history of politics in the country had the latitude to select who will replace the military administration. The formation of political party has since paved way for the selection of candidates that will participate in the country’s 1999 general election. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP having being the favourite by most of the First Republic bureaucrats and politicians on one hand, and retired senior military officers in the region on the other hand begun permutations and combination on which of the faction would have his candidate in the ballot paper. The Generals’ favourite was their fellow General in struggle while the retired First Republic bureaucrats such as Malam Adamu Ciroma and Ahmad Joda had Dr. Ikwueme as their candidate. Where is the ‘people’ the over hundred million Nigerians whom the civilian administration, the “democracy” seeks to served? The elites have taken everything and living everything to themselves. The Chiromas’ faction had since forgotten their fellow Comrade after noticing his show during the 1999 Jos Convention. It was reported that Igbo community appeared in their traditional regalia dancing and singing ‘kwenu’ which systematically or logically sent a message that the country’s leadership is leaving a united Nigeria to a particular community that neither forgive nor forget the incident of civil war that took place with its people. The deep seated animosity that characterises the community was quite open to notice. And this is how President Olusegun Obasanjo got the ticket on a platter of gold. Although, Gen. Obasanjo was not the favourite of his community, the support he received from Northern elites gave him a reason to win the 1999 Presidential election leaving Olu Falae, a fellow Yoruba from the Southwest complaining of election malpractices.
Prior to this, the 1993 power tussle which saw the Chief MKO Abiola on the ballot paper was purely elites consensus. Although Abiola was known to be a most acceptable candidate in his time largely due to his philanthropic activities, it was the consensus of the elites that paved him way to emerge winner of the presidential ticket of Social Democratic Party (SDP). The Jos Convention of the 1993 returned him the leading contestant with a 3, 617 votes while the second and third contestants scored 3, 255 and 2, 066 respectively. This meant that a run off election would have to be conducted if consensus was not reached. A consensus was reached under the supreme guidance of another Northern elite General Shehu Yar’adua who forced his political godson Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to step down to MKO Abiola but to be given a running mate slot. Unfortunately, Atiku couldn’t make it to the ballot box in 1993 until six years later when the same elites that scuttled his first Vice Presidency felt the need to compensate him. Although, Abiola emerged ‘winner’ of the country’s 1993 Presidential election, elites consensus saw his coming as unwise decision. So he never came and the rest is history now. But the question to ask here is where is the ‘people’? Where is the so called mandate of the people? Elites have agreed within themselves to consume it. But, even the recent posthumous recognition of his victory was a consensus reached by the elites for the realization of their political interest.
The power tussle that saw Late Umaru Musa Yar’adu, a younger brother to one of the Nothern elite, General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, the former Second in command under the military administration of General Obasanjo was entirely elites consensus. The emergence of the former Katsina State Governor, an alleged ‘sickler’ as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2007 general election was largely due to the connection he enjoyed with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, an elite in his own right. Although it was apparent to Nigerians, Obasanjo hand picked Umaru despite many contenders, elites within the circle of the party reached a consensus before his emergence. General Buhari defeats were not without the interest of the elites. Although his inability to belongs to a national party or a party that had a national outlook had been a contributory factor for his earlier predicaments, his 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections defeats were largely a consensus reached by the elites.
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan emerged President after a consensus had been reached by the country’s elites. Jonathan rode to power as Vice President when the Presidential candidate of the PDP felt impossible to work with Obasanjo’s annointed candidate Peter Odili. Odili was the choice of the outgoing President Obasanjo as per as VP slot is concerned, but Umaru feared Odili will not be loyal to him looking at his exposure and age. Umaru could not tell his godfather this but had people around him to guide him on how to approach the matter. Former EFCC boss, Malam Nuhu Ribadu was quite handier in this fight. Ribadu used his office to remind President Obasanjo Odili’s case with the EFCC. Obasanjo could not do better than to stand on his preferred choice but Ribadu maintained that Peter Odili’s case reached alarming proportions to the extent that the United Kindom and United States of America became aware of it. At this juncture, President Obasanjo had nothing to do but to allow for the choice of different person to work with Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Jonathan came into being when Ribadu identified him as a humble guy who neither interfered nor intervened in the processes of investigating his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Jonathan sworn in as the Governor of Bayelsa State when the State Assembly impeached his boss. GEJ was invited to the Villa for the purpose. He was intimated of the purpose for the invitation but rejected the nomination as it was presented to him. A well acknowledged humble man said, he was satisfied with his governorship position. After given it a second thought, GEJ accepted to work with Umaru as running mate. The long term health issue and the subsequent transition on to glory of President Yar’adua created room for elites to converge again for consensus. The persistent calls by the elites from different circle of power in the country to relinquish the office of the president to GEJ on acting capacity created a lot of political commotion in the country.
Having completed the remainder period of his boss, GEJ indicated interest to contest for the first time the office of the president which he was occupying. His decision to contest had caused serious lamentations from the ‘people’ specifically from the Northern extraction. Elites within the Peoples Democratic Party gathered yet again and reached consensus within themselves that President Jonathan should contest the office. He contested and won by the power of elites’ consensus. Before consensus that paved him way to contest was reached, elites had agreed within themselves that power should move to the Northern part of the country. Upon the fulfilment of his six years in office, GEJ was reminded of the agreement he entered with party’s elites before he was accepted to go for the highest national position. Having surrounded by a faction of the party’s elites from across the country, he was advised not to listen to the callers, they are merely power mongers whose ‘born to rule’ mentality will never corrode. Jonathan heeded to the ‘assurance’ given to him and contested for the second time but elites consensus was against his ‘selfish’ ambition. Jonathan paid for not fulfilling the promise he took during the elites’ consensus and he had his name tarnished as the most corrupt and clueless president to preside over the national affairs. Moreover, GEJ lost his power to the opposition candidate Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd).
But even the emergence of President Buhari in 2015 was not without elites intervention or in the real sense of the matter it was purely elites’ consensus itself. Post election antecedents would remind us how he became a periodical customer of election tribunal. From 2003 to 2011 Muhammadu Buhari registered his grievances on election malpractices that saw him a loser of those elections. After series of disappointment, elites from different circles and parties across the country reached consensus to support their arch rival this time round, to at least ‘save’ the country from the incompetency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration. Elites agreed within themselves to support Buhari in order to defeat Jonathan and he was defeated handsomely.
Elites consensus has been the definitive term or a determination factor of winning or losing political seat in Nigeria. At all levels of government, elites’ consensus determines who wins or loses in every contest. The over 200,000,000 population are more of noisemakers whose voices are hardly heard or at most heard in disguise because even the recent ‘direct primaries’ by the APC was acknowledged to favour the interest of the elites. Politics in Nigeria is indeed a consensus reached by the elites for reaching their selfish interest.
Written by Ibrahim Musa Na-Allah
25 June, 2021.
My message to the Nigerian media By Kadaria Ahmed
It is with a heavy heart, worry about Nigeria and a sense of impending doom that I am sending this message to my colleagues in the media.
Let me begin with a question, what exactly will we gain if Nigeria descends into war? How does it advance us, if our fellow citizens turn on each other and begin large scale ethnic killings, against each other? Let me even assume that a few of us don’t believe in Nigeria anymore and want to see it broken into its constituent parts. How does enabling ethnic strife help achieve this objective in a way that guarantees the outcome you want?
For sometime now, many of us have thrown away the book on ethical reporting, propelled by emotion, we have betrayed every moral consideration that assigns our noble profession a role so significant we are seen as the last hope of the common man, so much so our jobs are constitutionally protected.
Despite numerous examples that exist which have proved, including not too long ago in Rwanda, that the conduct of the media can help in, promoting, starting and perpetuating violence and ethnic strife, we have turned a deaf ear to pleas to not become a tool that enables hate. But we have failed to heed these warnings.
We have given platforms to the worst among us, the extremists and the blood thirsty. We have turned militia leaders and criminals into champions. Instead of us to lead calm and rational discuss on the existential challenges we face with a view to promoting actionable solutions, we have succumbed to hysteria and the next exciting click bait headline.
And yet for many of us, especially media owners, this place called Nigeria has been relatively good.
This country has given many of us more opportunity than the majority of our fellow citizens. We have reaped a bountiful havest from this place. We have done so well that, if God forbid, this country is consumed, and chaos reigns, many of us will hop on a plane and bugger off to the many different countries abroad where our families live in peace, even though they are not native to those places.
We will run off and leave our foot soldiers, our reporters and headline writers, who we allowed maybe even ecouraged to go down this path to navigate a country at war, alone and perhaps without the ability to fully protect their families both immediate and extended from the horrors that will follow.
And there is no doubt it will be horrific. The play book is written and tested. We saw it in Sierra Leone, in Liberia, in Rwanda and more recently in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
There will be killings in the thousands, limbs will be chopped off with machettes, women and girls will be raped, food will be scarce, fear will reign. The most brutal among us will take charge. And their word will be law. They will not tolerate journalists who try to hold them accountable.
And these horrors will not always come from the bogeyman we have been at great pains to create and project. It will come from the militia leaders fighting to take control of our neigbohoods and increasingly scarce resources. This is not a film script. This is the reality of war.
Our job is to hold power accountable and it is exactly what it should be.
The focus on those in charge, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, should be relentless and loud and insistent.
But when the killings happen and they seem to have already begun, it is not the President’s family, nor that of his Ministers nor indeed anyone with any kind of serious influence that will mostly die.
It is regular folks, people already forced to travel and move in order to eke out a living , settlers, across all of Nigeria.
The ignoble role we are now playing in bringing this country to chaos is at odds with most of our history. We have always being the ones Nigerians could rely on to lift our voices, together for the betterment of this country.
Our proud history of fighting colonialist masters, carried on with the fight against military dictatorship, to standing up to civilian governments that tried to perpetuate themselves in office.
I don’t know at which point we decided that a focus on ethnic profiling despite the repeated warnings about where this leads, would be a good idea.
So here we are today about to be consumed by the hate we have stoked.
They will write about us , just as they wrote about our colleagues in Rwanda. That we fanned the flames of ethnic hate, and enabled them consume our country.
They will write about us in the first person, because we live in a digital age and the internet never forgets and records last forever. They will identify us individually, and sooner or later a few of us will end up before an international court.
What we do today and what will count is whether we had the courage associated with our profession to buck the trend, jump off the bandwagon and do what is right instead of getting swept away by the moment, forgetting ourselves and the ethics that should guide us all .
In the end, we all die, but while we live, we write our legacy. It is not too late to make it one that saved our country from the brink.
By Kadaria Ahmed
Fulani: The Unfinished Work of Danfodio By Dr. Aliyu Tilde
The Fulani in the past few years are in our minds and news for the wrong reason—the banditry that has plagued the Northwest countryside. In the North today, Fulani in popular parlance connotes the cattle Fulani, whom I humorously classified as Fula naturalis in my 1999 column. Unlike their cousins, the town Fulani—Fula domesticus—who have enjoyed and partook in building civilizations across West and Central Africa, F. naturalis have very limited contact with civilization. Their life is defined by cattle and forest.
The cow—the master of the F. naturalis—is their sole merchandise and currency. It defines their geography. They follow the master to wherever its interest of pasture and water lead, thus denying them a permanent address or nationality but assuring them over the centuries of an enduring economy that sustains their republican disposition and freedom from political subservience of numerous city states and empires. With the guide of this master, they witnessed the rise and fall of ancient Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Borno and the Hausa States and negotiated the Continent’s savanna forests from Senegal in the West to The Sudan and Ethiopia in the East and Congo in the South.
When they lose the master—or the master loses them—due to natural disaster, war or religion, they become sedentary and morph into the domesticus species. Within the first generation of settling, the F. domesticus integrate into society and engage in civilizational pursuits like trade, scholarship, politics and war. They acquire a new master—the law—which they must obey, as do other peoples, in order to survive and propagate.
The acquisition of a permanent address guarantees them national identities, rights and the opportunity for industry and to indulge in capital accumulation. Thus, since they started to settle in the Chad and Rima basins in the 16th Century, the Fulani became farmers, traders, court clerks, magistrates, local chiefs, emirs and in-laws to millions that are attracted by their morphology, economic status or political position so much so that the Fula DNA today is inextricably embedded the cells of the majority in Hausaland.
From the F. domesticus stock came the 19th Century inventor of the Sokoto Caliphate, Shehu Usman Danfodio. The Jihad he waged contributed in unifying Hausaland—for the first time in its history—and opened up for the Hausa and others lands beyond theirs and sustained an order that guaranteed the civilizational opportunities of peace and industry throughout the 19th Century. The F. domesticus, except in towns and the numerous settlements they formed, have become culturally swallowed by the Hausa through the principal agent of Hausanization—the Hausa language. Thus, the ultimate fate of the F. domesticus in Hausaland is the acquisition of a new socio-political identity called Hausa-Fulani or just Hausa as they are collectively regarded by others.
At the advent of his Jihad, Danfodio looked up to the Fulani stock and appealed for their support. The F. domesticus answered his call from all regions of Hausaland, Borno Empire and the Gongola valley. They became his students and bearers of his flag. Within few years, they conquered the entire Hausa states and engaged the mighty Borno in unending battles in the Northeast for the next 100 years. The disciples of Danfodio and his F. domesticus followers enjoyed the benefits of conquests and became rulers of Hausaland and beyond until they were stripped of power by the white man.
A portion of the F. naturalis answered the call of Danfodio to Islam, some to his appeal to kinship and the rest to the promise of prosperity that his conquests started to fulfil. However, their majority who were still pagans, by the accounts of some historians, refused to substitute their master with Danfodio. They stuck to the cow, lived in the forests, paying cattle tax sometimes, and moving farther away from the areas under the effective political domination of the caliphate, avoid the restraints of religion and constraints of the law—the master in the civilizational order commanded by Danfodio and other F. domesticus cousins.
Danfodio was not happy with the rejection from his cousins, the F. naturalis. He abandoned their chase and said, according to oral tradition, “Go and continue to live the life of nomads, in which you will never settle down.” The words of the Shehu took effect. From the highlands of Adamawa to the basins of Chad, Rima, Niger and Benue rivers, the old and new F. naturalis enjoyed the bliss promised by the forest and the wild order associated with paganism. Over they years, many were compelled by circumstances listed above to abandon the master, settle down, embrace Islam and move with civilization. Most, however, remained pagans and nomads until of recent when a new political order in post-colonial Nigeria encroached into the forests.
The New Order
The new order introduced high doses of the downside of civilization—corruption and poverty—and gave back little of its benefits—equity, rights and prosperity. In some places the F. naturalis is denied even dwelling the forest by ascendant forces of ethnic nationalism that finds expression in tribal politics and mass killings. In others, population explosion and desert encroachment have colluded to deprive the forest of pasture and water. In some, still, the entire forests were sold to urban bourgeoisie who want monopoly of its gold and other mineral resources. Such acquisitions usually come with the attendant depopulation of the forest by fomenting crisis to make the areas ungovernable, as we see in most mineral rich regions of the world.
That is how Fula who fled from the theocratic government of Danfodio are today faced with the monster of a government that is set to wipe them out altogether. Their protector—the forest—is itself a victim and their master—the cow—cannot take them anywhere as all forests have come to be within the reach of this monster. They are trapped. They must, as any living thing would do under the dictates of its survival instinct, fight back with all the tools at its disposal. Ignorant of precepts of religion and the refinement of law, the forest species of the Fulani does not respect order. To him everything is about strength. Looting, killings, rapes, whatever, can be employed to revenge or to acquire.
Here lie the foundations of the extreme savage behaviour of the F. naturalis in the ongoing banditry of the Northwest that no Hausa or F. domesticus can ever contemplate. Had they answered the call of Danfodio or had the 19th jihadist had the fortune of taking civilization to the forest zones, this banditry would have never occurred. Had nature today been as generous to the savanna as it was yesterday and kept the desert at bay, had we the civilized lived according to the dictates of civilization and being the disciples of its egalitarian concepts of equity and public interest, the forests would have remained, yielding the promise of prosperity to its natural inhabitants and shielding us from the savagery of its population.
In the task of carrying civilization to the forest population or forcing it down their throat, I see as well defined the roles of different stakeholders, if we are serious about ending the ongoing savagery.
That of government is as clear as daylight. It must enforce the law as much as it can. Nothing must prevent it from applying it on anyone abusing the rights of other Nigerians to live peacefully with their lives and property. No compromise. No excuse. This must be applied without respect to any ethnicity—to the Fulani as it is to the Hausa.
Government must also rush to protect what is left of the forest. That will ameliorate the situation as it will revamp hope of successful free-range husbandry among the forest Fulani. In addition, additional economic benefits can be applied through improving the genetics of the stock and the processing of its products. The animal husbandry component in our agricultural policies, programs and projects need to be scaled up. So far, the Fulani gains nothing from them. I cannot find a single centre where I can acquire a $1 straw of virile semen for artificial insemination of my cows, not even in Vom. Government makes perennial noise about fertilizer but has never cared about animal feed and drugs beyond the demand of poultry conglomerates. Grazing reserves and other facilities needed to sustain the health and virility of our large ruminants which were established between 1960s and 1990s are all abandoned, encroached, dysfunctional and dilapidated. That is not to mention security of their cows and lives of their families which are plundered and killed at advent of every crisis especially in Northcentral Nigeria. The cattle Fulani have been on their own.
The activities of miners that allegedly precipitated this crisis and the unmitigated expansion of agriculture into forest reserves need to be checked by local and state governments. Land grabbing and mineral prospecting without environmental impact assessments that would foresee and avoid the consequences of such commercial activity in our forests must be checked by our state governors and the Federal government. Experts on the crisis in the Northwest have specifically implicated this institutional banditry of the elite as its cause—and it goes unabated in other areas as well.
Government must also undertake mass campaigns of educating the forest Fulani. The nomadic education schools invented in the 1990s are moribund and underfunded today, as all attention from Universal Education Board and its state branches—the SUBEBs—focus on schools amongst sedentary populations. The nomadic schools are abandoned in every state, even in states non-hostile to the Fulani. Education is the principal vehicle of civilization. All the bandits arrested confess to having no education, formal or informal, western or Islamic. And they all fall within the age category that would benefitted from our Nomadic Education scheme.
Government must reach out to the forest populations with campaigns and establish its presence there. Broadcasts over radio in their languages and increasing the presence of law enforcement agents and military encampments will go a long way to effacing the safe haven status of such forest. The presence of government must be felt everywhere. With military and police presence, the availability of modern surveillance and communications technology, the F. naturalis cannot be beyond the reach of government as he eluded Danfodio 200 years go.
Finally, government must also prevail on its agents, especially the police, from exploiting the ignorance and helplessness of the forest Fulani to extort him and deprive him of his property. The cows appeal to the primitive acquisition instincts of police officers. Once they arrest a Fulani, they are sure that they have hit a goldmine that will last them months. This too is among the major grudges of our forest stock. Unfortunately, they are not alone. Other Nigerians daily fall victims of this exploitative practice. It is only worse with the Fulani.
The second stakeholder is the Nigerian citizen who comes into contact by address or business with the forest Fulani. In this world, we get what we give. The reaction of the Katsinawa Hausas in Zamfara worsened matters during the early stages of the crisis. Banditry started in the Northeast and Northwest in the mid-1990s and it heightened in the Northeast just after 1999. The northeast approached its purely from the point of view of criminality and its governors controlled it through law enforcement. States like Kano and Kaduna to a large extent also treaded the path of the law and the banditry in places like Falgore forest was stopped.
In Zamfara, however, banditry became ethnicized by the Katsinawa Hausas there. After the police failed to control the banditry, the elites mobilized illiterate village vigilantes who attempted to stop it through meting brutal treatments to the entire ethnic Fulani, not just the suspected culprits. The vigilantes were the law, the police, the judge and the executioners all in one. Settlements were rounded up and massacred; ardos—Fulani leaders—were humiliated before being executed amidst their family members. So collective was this treatment that the Fulani fled the area and migrated southward into the forests of Birnin Gwari and Niger. There, they acquired, and trained in, firearms before returning to their previous homes in Zamfara some few years later. Tam! 😳 They started their revenge by picking on leaders and members of the vigilantes who meted injustice to them in the past.
Then the crisis moved to a collective level on both sides. For example, at a meeting of Katsinawa vigilantes a resolution was passed to kill any Fulani wherever he is seen. The news instantly leaked to the Fulani who quickly responded by attacking the venue and killing anybody they could reach. Hordes of Hausa passengers returning from markets could be ambushed and killed just as the Fulani were killed by the vigilantes.
The crisis escalated beyond the police and the Yari government did not do sufficiently much to stop it by alternative means. The Kastsinawa elites in the South too did not show interest in stopping the crisis as they frustrated the reconciliation effort of late Sheikh Abubakar Tureta Committee which brought peace in Northern Zamfara for two consecutive years. Even as I left Gusau in 2014 after a four day assessment visit, my contact narrated to me how a 71 year old Fulani was killed the previous day after selling his bull and the N145,000 seized by his Hausa vigilante murderer in the glare of the market, just 20 kilometres outside the state capital, Gusau.
As if to worsen an already bad situation, criminal elements among the Fulani who were used to cattle rustling introduced kidnapping into the mix and it soon gained currency among the Fulani and, to a lesser extent, the Hausas as well. In a short time, it spread to neighbouring states of Kaduna, Katsina and Sokoto. The hands of the Fulani became full with ethnic revenge on the one and the lucrative business of kidnapping by their criminals on the other.
It is now too late to waste time apportioning blames. A resolve by both ethnicities to make the law their master will go a long way in resolving the crisis. Community leaders have to be mobilized. Present governments of Zamfara and Katsina States have largely succeeded in taming most of the kidnappers but there are many who for economic reasons are still defiant. Governments, in addition to the many roles we listed above which their overarching position necessitates, must preach and practice the law and encourage mutual respect and forgiveness between the two groups in order to avoid lasting consequences of the ethnic divide.
A week ago, a lady sent me a video showing how indigenous Fulani are increasingly evangelized by Christian preachers. I told her it is a good development. They need religion—Christianity or Islam—to refine them and tame their unbridled orientation. Both will teach them the existence of God, Judgement and restrain them from evil, at least notionally, and where possible cultivate in them a level of piety. They need religion to drag them away from the vagaries of paganism and introduce them to civilization the same way it saved their town brothers, Fula domesticus over the past millennium.
It is wrong to associate the Fulani with Islam as we often do. The Fulani are just as any African folks. Though overwhelmingly Muslim, an allowance must be created in our minds for some becoming Christians, just as there have been many Europeans and Americans converting to Islam.
Here, as Dr. Ahmad Gumi noted recently, the ulema are found wanting. They have not continued with the work of Danfodio with the required vigour. That there are still many pagan Fulani in Nigeria is indicting of their failure. Instead of attending to their self-chosen mission, many of the ulema are today engaged in the race for material accumulation, which shamelessly makes them guests of government houses and agents of political parties! All the kidnappers arrested answer Muslim names but hardly know anything about Islam. The forest is yearning for Islam. The ulema must hearken to its call. If this will be done, a lot will be mitigated.
The detachment of the F. domesticus from his forest cousin is most disappointing. Few town Fulani bother to know the conditions of the indigenous Fulani they left behind in the forest and come to their aid. They learn about their extortion by the police but do nothing about. They see their ignorance, poverty and primitivity but fail to help them overcome them. Instead, the cultural organizations of the F. naturalis join in the fray of extortion and negligence. The F. domesticus are preoccupied with material accumulation—building the tallest houses, riding the best cars, marrying their choice and having the fattest accounts amassed through corruption—the complete antithesis of the Danfodio jihadi principles.
The Fulani respect kinship, pulaaku that is almost religion in status amongst them. It is a lever that can be used to raise them to the level of civilization where their town cousins are today. It can also be used in conflict resolution as seen in the go-between role played recently by the National President of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) to resolve the Kankara students abduction crisis. The goodwill that the Fulani has in Northern Nigeria must be harnessed to solve the problems facing their indigenous stock. From the exalted position of the Emirs to the respected position of the ulema and intelligentsia, the opportunity exists to salvage the cattle Fulani from the precipice they stand on today.
Sheikh Tureta through his reconciliation committee in Zamfara had proven that before his death. He wondered why the noble stock of the Fulani would be allowed to degenerate into lawlessness. He went to Zamfara and against even the cooperation of the police braved the fears and travelled into the forests to meet with the forest Fulani. A success story followed his effort. It was a huge loss that he died when his courage, scholarship and pragmatism was most needed.
It is time for others to rise and be counted. We must be the voice of the indigenous Fulani, seeking to establish his rights to education and social amenities, guarding his right to the forest and a large chunk of the agriculture budget of all tiers of government, building bridges of harmony between him and the multitudes of ethnic groups he lives with, etc. Only when the Fula domesticus rise to the occasion would Danfodio’s work be completed. Otherwise, the task will remain unfinished and the nation will continue to taste the unpleasant consequences of our failure for some time to come.
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
19 December 2020