Unending war of Fulani and Tiv Bantu immigrants

With scores killed during the violence that broke out in in Kajuru Local Government last Friday and renewed Sunday killings in Zikpak, about two kilometres from Kafanchan which host a large consignment of soldiers, it was yet another dark week in besieged southern Kaduna. The renewed violence came shortly after the killing of 21 people during a wedding ceremony in Kukum-Daji village in Kaura Local Government Area.

Garba Shehu in his July 21 statement issued on behalf of the president saw ‘the problem in Southern Kaduna as an evil combination of politically-motivated banditry, revenge killings and mutual violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious grounds’, while Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who had during his first term attributed the crisis to ‘the refusal of past governments to implement recommendations on security which in turn encouraged perpetrators of nefarious act to continue’, now says ‘the attacks, were laced with ethnic and religious colourations’.

But there is more to the southern Kaduna age-long violence. Absence of justice and fairness are potential sources of hate, violence and resistance by marginalized people. Instead of playing the ostrich, many believe the president and the governor are uniquely positioned to address issues of justice and fairness in order to end a regime of hate and violence that have defined their tenure since 2015.

Victims of herdsmen violence finger government as the problem. For instance, Saleh, member of federal house representing southern Kaduna, during Channels TV’s Morning Ride programme last Monday, ‘blamed federal government security forces who instead of bringing the perpetrators of violence to face the law’ only emerge after each killings to arrest local youths. Chawangon Nathan, secretary of CAN, Godogodo zone, blamed the federal government for ‘over 102 people’, he claimed “have so far been killed, 50, 000 houses burnt, the over 10, 000 displaced people and over 30, 000 hectares of land destroyed deliberately by Fulani herdsmen within six months”.

The Southern and Middle Belt leaders Forum, (SMBLF); the coalition of labour and over 80 civil society groups; Zamani Lekwot, chairman and Peter Buba, the secretary, Southern Kaduna Elders Consultative Forum (SKECF) all put the blame squarely at the doorsteps of Kaduna State and federal governments.

Sa’ad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto, at a meeting of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council (NTRC) and Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) insisted violence has continued to thrive in northern Nigeria and Middle Belt because ‘no one is punished for the criminal doings they commit’. Just as John Onaiyekan, a cardinal and Catholic archbishop of Abuja diocese, warned of a situation where those who have been badly damaged and who are being killed daily “will organise themselves, not because they are Christians but because they are human beings, who cannot sit down and allow themselves to be killed”.

Both the president and the governor are not seen by victims as impartial arbiters. The fixation with the use of the military as against community policing universally acceptable approach to fighting crimes at the community level only increases suspicion of the governed.

Buratai’s “We are here to keep the peace, we are not here to take sides in the conflict…we want to ensure that there is peace so that people will go about their normal businesses” pledge during the establishment of a military formation remain a mere wish after three years of increasing violence.

Garba Shehu’s ‘Southern Kaduna enjoys comprehensive security deployments, including the Army, Special Forces of both the Army and the Air Force, surveillance aircraft by the Air Force and mobile police units that are on the ground on a 24-hour basis to forestall criminality and keep the peace” remains a forlorn hope.

And Buratai’s “There is a long historical connection, you cannot separate the herders from farmers. It is a long-time history, the better we live in peace, the better for all of us” during his establishment of yet another military base in Jema’a Local Government Area, was part of the reasons military approach will always fail. Statements that insist on status quo and seal the hope of the aggrieved only strengthen the will to resist injustice.

Unfortunately, successive Nigerian leaders have continued to play the ostrich instead of addressing the quest for self-actualization of the people of the Middle Belt region. With the conquest of the Hausa states by Uthman Dan Fodio Jihadist between 1803-1808, Fodio confiscated Hausa lands and installed 12 of his Fulani kinsmen and one Hausa as emirs. However, the defeated Fulani lost their claim to the Hausa land with Frederick Lugard’s 1903 declaration that “the power once exercised by the defeated caliphate had reverted to the British” after sacking of Sokoto Sunni Muslim Caliphate founded in 1804.

And just as Herbert Macaulay did when he took Chief Oluwa’s case against government to the Privy Council in London which upheld Chief Oluwa’s appeal over the acquisition of his family land and compelled the colonial government to pay him full compensation of 22,500 pounds, Macaulay also in 1908 successfully launched a campaign against the Hausa Land Ordinance which gave the colonial power an unlimited right to acquire any land.

But unlike the Hausas that allowed their Fulani overlords to hold their land in trust for them, the native Tiv, Idoma, Berom, Angas, Kwalla and Taroh people of Benue and Plateau states and Southern Kaduna took ownership of their land following the collapse of Sokoto caliphate they had sustained with slave labour of about two million slaves.

They have continued to fight descendants of Uthman Dan Fodio that lust after their land including Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the north who according to Alfred Rewane told Awolowo who was fighting for the creation of a Middle Belt region that “those whose freedom Awo sought were his great grandfather’s slaves.”

President Buhari’s pan-Nigerian agenda has never been in doubt. But his ‘delegation by abdication’ approach to governance has allowed some of his political appointees and Fulani kinsmen who according to his wife, neither supported his election nor understood the APC manifesto to hijack his government in the service of other tendencies.

It was too much a coincidence that the desperate battle for the luxuriant Benue /Plateau Southern Kaduna land became intensified after Buhari’s 2015 victory with the war according to El Rufai being viciously waged not by our Fulani compatriots but by Fulani immigrant herdsmen from outside Nigeria.

And by strange coincidence, the President’s Fulani minister of defence blamed victims of herdsmen killings with the excuse that colonial grazing routes were blocked by farmers; the open encouragement of Fulani herdsmen by Lamido Sanusi, the deposed Emir of Kano, to disobey Benue State grazing laws; Myetti Allah cattle breeders rejection of modern grazing methods while insisting that open grazing is part of Fulani culture and then the midnight attempt to illegally erect a RUGA settlement in Benue without consulting the governor.

All these fitted well into the conspiracy theorists’ claim that the president is providing a shield for Fulani land grabbers as well as the apparent false narrative by his political enemies –Afenifere, Ohaneze, the Middle Belt Forum and the Ijaw National Congress that he is the big masquerade behind the surreptitious move by migrant stateless Fulani to take over Nigeria.

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