By David Francis E.
It was Richard Dowden in his work, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracle (2008), who noted that Nigerians have a strong sense of being Nigerian, but they do not share with each other the same concept of what this means. Nigerians, for him, have never agreed or been given the chance to agree what Nigeria is (Richard, 451). Because of this historical confusion and identity, religion, overlaying ethnicity and culture, backs the cause of certain clashes, disagreements, terrorist acts and Jihadist movements.
Published with permission of the editor, “Seeker’s Delight” magazine , Kaduna.
However, given today that the heightened mistrust and suspicion between the Fulani herdsmen and certain farmland communities, it cannot be said that Nigerian Muslims and Christians are at war. This would amount to a fickle untrue generalization. The problem is rather that we have two groups of different people fighting for what they believe to be valid. The question now remains, “what do we do?” “How do we contain these two groups namely; Fulani herdsmen and Farmland communities?”
In a press statement published by “The Biafra Post,” the IPOB leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, noted that it has become imperative for concerned citizens to compel Gov. Dave Umahi, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Okezie Ikpeazu, Rochas Okorocha, Willie Obiano and Ohaneze Ndigbo to reverse their public proscription of IPOB, or else they will be held responsible for any major herdsmen attack anywhere in the South East or other parts of Biafraland.
By proscribing IPOB, the January 20, 2017 killings in port Harcourt, the March 15th, 2017 cold-blooded shootings of Biafrans in Onitsha/ Aba express and aiding the indiscriminate arrest, torture, murder and detention of IPOB family members in Onitsha and Biafran states at the hands of Nigerian Fulani law enforcement officers, these Igbo governors working alongside Ohaneze Ndigbo literally sacrificed Igboland and the lives of thousands of Igbo people to the marauding herdsmen. They not only opened the door for the invaders to come in, they knowingly aided the slaughter of hundreds if not thousands of innocent people in their quest to please their Fulani masters. Interestingly enough, the same Arewa leaders that prevailed upon Igbo governors and Ohaneze Ndigbo to proscribe IPOB have so far refused to proscribe their own Fulani terror herdsmen that are doing the killings in the South East, Middle Belt and other parts of Southern Nigeria.
With the alarming statistics of deaths, this article, hopes to unveil the surreptitious quest of Jihadists to legalize terrorism via Fulani militant herdsmen’s invasion into certain communities in Nigeria. It shall do this by suggesting a viable pathway towards launching an end to this carnage.
Fulani herdsmen. Google image
WHAT IS TERRORISM?
The concept of terrorism may be controversial as it is often used by state authorities (and individuals with access to state support) to delegitimize political or other opponents, and potentially legitimize the state’s own use of force against opponents (such use of force too has been described as ‘terror’ by opponents of the state). However, an abiding characteristic is the indiscriminate use of violence against non-combatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual.
Etymologically, terrorism comes from the French word terrorisme which originally referred
specifically to state terrorism as practiced by the French government during the ‘Reign of terror.’ The French word terrorisme in turn derives from the Latin verb terreo, meaning ‘I frighten.’ The terror Cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105BC. The Jacobins then cited this precedent when imposing a Reign of terror during the French Revolution. But after the Jacobins lost power the word ‘terrorism’ became a term of abuse. Therefore, terrorism has generally being agreed among scholars to be the systematic use of terror often violent, especially as means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no legally binding criminal law definition. Common definition of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetuated for a religious, political, or ideological goal, and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians) (cf. Isaac Shemang, ICT AND Terrorism. www.reasonchapel.com assessed 27th March, 2017). From the foregoing discourse, it would not be out-of-place to argue that Fulani herdsmen’s attack on communities as well as the muted treatment of the victims by constituted authorities could be, or is, the beginning of legalizing terrorism in Nigeria. But where did this rain begin beating us?
‘THE RAIN’ OF THE FULANIS
Along the southern borders of the Sahara, wherever the caravan trails ended or began, commerce by the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had long-established trading marts where merchants and cameleers, travellers and every kind of hanger-on would mix and mingle, linger or settle: Arabs and Berbers, Negroes and desert Twareg and Fulani (Basil Davidson, Old Africa Rediscovered, 1959, pg. 145). Early in the eleventh century, the Hausa States of what is now northern Nigeria were already in existence. Two hundred years after that conquest (holding out Mohammed Askia after the Songhai armies had taken Kano) another Sudanese people, the Fulani or Fulbe, would crown many wanderings and vicissitudes by establishing their hegemony over Hausa land (100). A century later the princes of the Fulani, assembling in jihad at the call of Usman Dan Fodio, launched their guilt-mailed cavalry on neighbouring peoples, and on the Songhai of Dendi among them (112).
I feel certain that Lord Lugard had understood to an extent this Western-Arab feud when he posted British residents at their courts but allowed the Fulani emirs to continue to police, tax and administer justice on their behalf much as before (cf. pg 6, Martin Meredith, The State of Africa, 2006). Meanwhile, Northern Nigeria is an area comprising three-quarters of Nigeria’s territory and was largely Muslim and Hausa- speaking, accustomed to a feudal system of government run by the Fulani ruling class. In fact, in 1949, the principal Northern leader, the Sardauna of Sokoto, observed while travelling to Lagos for the first time: The whole place was alien to our ideas and we found the members of the other regions might well belong to another world as far as we were concerned (75). History has revealed through its margins that Northern Muslims were long taught to regard Southerner as ‘pagans’ and ‘infidels’ and forbidden on both religious and administrative grounds to associate with southerners. These were the lessons that would later birth the invasions of ‘pagan’ farmlands, of terrorism and its journey to be legalized! This was the beginning of our being beaten by the ‘rain.’
To further understand this, we must realize that, the world from the point of view of Islam, is divided into the “House of Islam” and the “House of war,” and the only future devout Muslims can envisage is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, subjugated, or killed (Sam Harris, The End of Faith, 2005: 110). Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, one of the clearest writers and thinkers of modern jihad and the founder of Pakistan’s fundamentalist movement had written; Islam is not a normal religion like the other religions in the world, and Muslim nations are not like normal nations. Muslim nations are very special because they have a command from Allah to rule the entire world and to be over every nation in the world (Gabriel Mark, Islam and Terrorism, 1998: 81). Having said this therefore, it is the case that a Fulani herdsman who is also a devout Muslim will, not just search for grass and land for his cattle, but as a conquest for Allah; for it is a world between the ‘house of Cattle’ and the ‘house of unbelievers.’
TOWARDS AN ANALYSIS
In 1804, Usman Dan Fodio led a great Jihad of which within 50 years swept all Hausa rulers off their thrones and established Fulani hegemony in most of the present day northern Nigeria. The emphasis by Dan Fodio was on justice, including the removal of unfair taxes and the need for Islamic education. The challenge was polytheism and syncretism which were prevalent in the Hausa states at that time. Usman Dan Fodio intended teaching and spreading an uncorrupted Islam; Musulunci Sahili, and the establishment of a system of government based upon the Sharia law by overthrowing the non-Muslim or superficially Islamized systems in Hausa land and neighbouring territories. The spread of Islam
was imminent, it was birthed! Describing the situation of Islam under colonial rule, Joseph Kenny writes: “…the immediate effect of French and British occupation was to stop Jihad warfare and slave raiding. The main difference between the two colonial powers was in their policy towards established Jihad states.
The French dismantled their structure and set up direct rule, using Sufi brotherhoods as intermediaries for any matters touching on Islam. The British instituted indirect rule, notably in the emirates of northern Nigeria. Both policies, curbed overt military expansion of Islam, but in the long run colonial rule was advantageous to Islamic expansion and consolidation (J. Kenny, West Africa & Islam, 2000, pg, 108).” This was the situation that birthed the possibility of a growing tension between the northern Muslims and the rest of the country. Today this tension has also been strengthened consequently by Fulani herdsmen’s invasions into certain farmland areas.
To further understand this analysis, we also need to understand that these tensions are not just religious in its entirety but also as a result of a clash of civilizations – Westernization and Arabianisation. ‘Westernization’ entails the process of bringing the ideas or ways of life that are typical or Western Europe and North America to bear on other countries, whereas Arabianisation involves the process of bringing the ideas or ways of life that are typical of the Middle East or North Africa to other countries. The Western-Arabian feud in Nigeria has deep historical root. It was the contest for the conquest of West Africa provoked by western activities around the coast of Africa that attracted a counter-conquest by the Arabs who felt ousted by the Westerners. Given this background, it becomes clear that the 19th century jihad movements were efforts to rid the West African societies of mixed practices of Islam with Christianity or with traditional religions (cf. Dr. Henry Ukavwe, APT journal, 2013).
Fulani herdsmen: Google image
FACING THE FUTURE TOGETHER
The hasty generalization often premised on the prejudiced opinion that because the violence we have experienced in recent years is precipitated by people who profess the Islamic faith, then all Muslims are extremists! (Most Revd. Ignatius A. APTs journal 2013). Many Nigerians hold this opinion to be indeed ‘sacrosanct.’ Some (including the Christians) would, if opportunity shows itself, shoot at sight any Fulani herdsman. Whether he intends harm or not or whether the weapons or guns he wields is licensed, is of no consequence. The number of deaths recorded by the media in Kaduna
, Benue, Enugu and in other places, especially the muted discourse/reports of the 15th March, 2017 killings, justify these fears and prejudices by the Nigerian citizenry (especially the bereaved).
In a paper presentation by Prof. Musa Maina at St Augustine Major Seminary, Jos on the 9th of March, 2017, the Fulanis, he noted are of two types namely; the nomadic Fulanis and the settled Fulanis. Each of these groups totaling about 24 million in West Africa alone; a number any serious government ought not to take for granted. These majorly light skinned Africans (Fulanis) also have their cultural heritage, a language, means of livelihood, religion, as well as a unique kind of civilisation. Because of these attributes, values and norms, they too, like the rest of Nigerians have and ought to enjoy their human rights, freedom of movement (especially with regards Cattle rearing) and religion.
The author in a discourse about the Fulani herdsmen with Prof. Maina and the students of Saint Augustine Major Seminary, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria.
Having therefore taken note of these basic principles and rights accrued to the Fulanis by virtue of their being human, it is also necessary to protect others or deny if possible, any means through which violence thwarts the rights of others in a given community. Terrorism must be contained, should be contained, by addressing diplomatically and intelligently any group or clash in both civilisations, ideologies and religion. The Fulanis (both the nomadic ones and those settled) must through democratic ways (which ought to marry and bridge the Western-Arab feud) be patiently taught that they do not all possess a ‘cattle rearing gene.’
They must be taught increasingly, the language of democratic inclusiveness which shall aid in unique reforms; reforms devoid of violence, anger and manslaughter; reforms that will bring to bear the rewards of education or the possibility of choosing a life different from traditional ways; reforms that punish terrorist activities and disrespect for human life; reforms that assert that the Jihad is not superior to life itself. This voyage of reform is expected to be successful if there shall be a conspiracy of institutions led by both politicians and religious leaders; a conspiracy that will help bury the single story of the Fulanis today, and build a truly democratic Nigeria where everyone is protected or punished by law.