Climate Change or Clash of Culture: unmasking Fulani herdsmen crisis in Nigeria

Five definitive points that show Nigeria’s farmer-herder conflict, popularly known as Fulani herdsmen attacks, exists as an agency of dominance.
Reading time < 23 minutes
Published by The Welfarist on
March 9, 2021
Last modified 7 months ago

Bandits and Fulani herdsmen–used interchangeably to describe terrorists that hide in Nigeria’s forests–pose the country’s worst security threat currently. At the root of this insecurity is a crisis tagged farmer-herder conflict in Nigeria, triggered supposedly by resource contestations and situated largely within the global narrative of climate change.

We should ask why climate change 'decides' to restrict this crisis only within the West African borders. Or to be more inquisitive: how are other regions of the world managing the impact of climate change on their farmer-herder relationship?

New reports find that climate change offers inadequate explanatory framework and therefore only palliative and temporary solutions to this crisis. Lasting solutions can only come when the crisis is properly situated and explained.

A 2020 report by the International Institute for Environment and Development “show that looking at the increasing violence through the lens of 'farmer-herder' conflict is overly simplistic, and makes [an] assumption about causality which have no foundation.”

The facts below, extracted from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations 2019 data show that a global phenomenon like climate change could not have been the principal driver of a regional crisis like violent farmer-herder clashes.

There are about 1,511,021,075 cattle in the world and only about 24 percent of them are in Africa and just about 5.3 percent in West Africa, the hub of farmer-herder crisis.
For aggregated data from 1993 to 2019, Africa produced only 8.3% of global beef production and no African country is on the top 10 producers’ list.
France, with lesser cattle stock than Nigeria is the 8th top beef producer in the world.

Fulani herdsmen attacks: a better explanatory context

A study of the pattern of violent crisis shows that countries that are mono-ethnic have low records of farmer-herder crisis. Thus, West, Central and East Africa, an expansive region with high ethnic diversity, is the hotbed of this crisis.

The raging farmer-herder crisis therefore sits better partly within Karl Marx’s Social Conflict theory–which “views social and economic institutions as tools of the struggle between groups or classes, used to maintain inequality and the dominance of the ruling class”–and partly within Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisation–which is “a thesis that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world… that future wars would be fought not between countries, but between cultures.”

Countries that are not mono-ethnic but have effective constitutional protocols for managing conflicts cope better with farmer-herder clashes. For instance, Kenya and Tanzania have coped better with the semi-nomadic and pastoral Massai tribe that occupies Northern Kenya and Southern Tanzania. Let us look at Kenya’s governance system.

The country is run by the National Government and 47 county governments. The two levels of government work in close consultation as espoused in article 6 subsection 2 of the Constitution of Kenya which states that “The governments at the national and county levels are distinct and inter-dependent and shall conduct their mutual relations on the basis of consultation and cooperation”.

It means that the subnational governments in Kenya can take charge and resolve any conflict without any overbearing influence of the central government.

Conversely, in Nigeria, the national government is constitutionally superior to the sub-national governments and where there is a clash of interest, the Constitution demands that the sub-national government kowtows to the demands of the national government. This all-powerful federal government structure provides a fertile ground for Marx’s theory of using “social and economic institutions as tools to maintain inequality and dominance”.

From the Nigerian account of the conflict, is it therefore any surprise that increase in violent clashes have coincided with the regime that is perceived to use agencies of national government to exacerbate inequality? Although farmer-herder violent clashes are notably increasing, especially across West and Central Africa, no country experiences the nation-wide incidences that occur in Nigeria - the possibility of another civil war now dominates Nigerian digital media spaces. 

Climate change therefore is grossly deficient in explaining the Fulani herdsmen attack in Nigeria. We present here five points to underscore that what is going on in Nigeria and which is tagged a "farmer-herder conflict" is actually a clash of cultures. The conflict is an agency of inequality and dominance.

Five reasons why culture, not climate, is fuelling Fulani herdsmen attacks

1. Land resource - the Bangladesh example


wdt_IDCountryCattle StockLandmass
1Nigeria20,664,069923,768
2France18,150,620643,801
3Pakistan47,821,000796,095
4Bangladesh24,187,000148,460
5Kenya20,898,769580,367

Bangladesh is similar in many respect to Nigeria. It is recognised as "one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change." If we superimpose Bangladesh in Nigeria, according to the data in the table above, its 24 million cattle will fit conveniently into Niger and Borno states and still have enough space to contain about 160m people.

Both Niger and Borno States have a combine landmass of 147,261km². Pakistan has more than twice the cattle stock of Nigeria, less land mass than Nigeria, and higher human population of almost 217million people.

We should therefore interrogate why there must grazing routes or cattle colonies in all the states of Nigeria as it was proposed in federal government’s “Bill for an Act to establish Grazing Reserve in each of the states of the Federation of Nigeria to improve agriculture yield from livestock farming and curb incessant conflicts between cattle farmers and crop farmers in Nigeria”.

Everyone that has a recommendation on how to resolve Nigeria’s farmer-herder conflict has this same proposal that all the 36 states and the FCT should relinquish land for grazing. There appears to be a subterfuge agenda hidden in this proposal, if the words of the National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Bello Abdullahi Bodejo, count for anything.

All the lands in this country belong to the Fulani, but we don’t have any business to do with land if it doesn’t have areas for grazing; If the place is good for grazing, we don’t need anybody’s permission to go there.

Alhaji bodejo
Bello Abdullahi Bodejo, National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore

Mr. Bodejo has been consistent in the media with this view and added in an earlier interview that “Is it not a good idea to also settle the Fulani herdsmen? This will be a solution to the herders-farmers’ conflicts Insha Allah.”

Certainly, Mr. Bodejo's view, stated above, is not enough to draw a conclusion on this supposed subterfuge agenda. However, if we conflate his views with those other leaders of Fulani or Northern Nigeria extraction - especially the recent outburst of the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed - then the unanimity in the proposals being advocated to resolve farmer-herder conflict becomes suspicious.

If Nigeria is indeed serious about exploiting the economic value chain of cattle rearing, should it not be looking at the models of countries that are nurturing more cattle stock using less landmass? In Bangladesh, waste products of farming activities–straw and bran from rice and wheat–form the basal feed for the cattle and cattle dung fertilises the rice farm. This solution really is a straightforward decision as it is currently being used by Kereksuk, Nigeria’s second largest rice farm.

The only solution that appeals to the Fulani herdsmen and the federal government is the reactivation, reallocation, and gazetting of old grazing routes and/or the creation and gazetting of new ones. It does not concern them that government gazetted the old grazing routes by fiat and without the consent of the land-owning communities.

Communities are now using more land for farming and urbanization, and the Fulani herdsmen see it as an encroachment. But legally, Fulani herdsmen have no claim on any grazing route that the state government did not gazette-the Land Use Act vested land management in state governors, who hold it in trust for the aboriginal communities.

Because the southern and some middle belt state governments have refused to gazette any grazing route, Fulani herdsmen have taken over the forest reserves in these states and are claiming it as theirs.

When the Federal Government announced its cattle colony policy in 2017, 16 northern states volunteered land for this policy, including Niger and Borno. Following the model of Bangladesh, the volunteered land should be more than enough for Nigeria’s cattle stock.  The vice president, Yemi Osinbajo SAN, disclosed recently that 22 states have now volunteered land for the policy. Yet, the clamour is still on for other states to join. Is the policy therefore about cattle rearing or a subterfuge to ensure the Fulani people have a ‘homeland’ in all the states of Nigeria?

2. Innovation

Nigeria’s cattle rearing is perhaps the only profession that still keeps much of its ancient practices and has refused to embrace modern and technological reforms.

For instance, with RFID technology, cattle rustling could have been history. The Katsina state government launched its adoption of this technology in 2017 and the governor called on his “colleagues, the executive governors of states in the North West and East to take a cue from our initiative so that together we will check the [cattle rustling] phenomenon”.

That fanfare was the last that was heard of that technology in Nigeria, regarding cattle management. Three years after, cattle rustling is still a major crime taking a heavy toll on Nigeria’s security resources and a major alibi for Fulani herdsmen taking to banditry.

A number of analysts suspect that RFID's ability to expose the real owners of the cattle and the real statistics of the cattle business is a major reason for blocking its mainstream adoption. For long, many have suspected and are hushing in low tones that the cattle business in Nigeria is one avenue used for money laundering and therefore its underbelly must be kept from the prying eyes of technology. Yet, without technologies like RFID, Nigeria’s beef cannot meet export standards.

Ranching is another reform that has been rejected by the leadership of Fulani herdsmen associations. In the wake of the enactment of ‘anti-grazing’ laws in Taraba and Benue states, which dictated that herders should ranch their stock, the leadership of Fulani herdsmen/cattle breeders kicked against the idea of ranching, claiming that it is not workable in Nigeria because of rainfall pattern and the cow breed they have. They backed federal government’s cattle colony announced a few months later, however.

Cross-breeding is a technology used across the world to produce new breeds for different reasons, including environmental and genetical adaptabilities. The Droughtmaster is a cattle breed that was produced in Queensland, Australia in response to frequent droughts, heat and insects. Its characteristics include excellent meat quality, parasite resistance, heat tolerance, ability to adapt to the environment, high fertility, and docility. These are characteristics with near perfect alignment with northern Nigeria’s environmental situation.

Mohammed Abba Gana, former FCT Minister, recently described cattle rearing in Nigeria by the Fulani herdsmen as an ‘ancient nomadic culture’ and added that “it is a matter of regret that the political elite particularly from the northern part of Nigeria have allowed the nomadic Fulanis to live in their wild, ancient and unprogressive culture outside the human civilization and now causing tension and threatening national security.” He advocated that “we must settle them along with their cattle and educate them and train them to be part of the human civilization”-again, notice the use of the word ‘settle’.

In summary, the Fulani herdsmen and their people want to be ‘settled’ in all the 36 states of Nigeria, preferably in cattle colonies that can support larger Fulani herdsmen communities than ranches, and they want to do this while still clinging to their ancient nomadic culture. Is Nigeria’s fate tied inextricably to the Red Sokoto of White Fulani cattle stock and their variants? Conversely, the farming communities have moved on. The varieties of seeds they plant now differ totally from the ones planted two decades ago.

Look at the proposals for resolving Nigeria’s farmer-herder crisis, RFID, cross-breeding and other technologies that may be useful are conspicuously absent. They may be costly and even uncertain, but definitely less expensive than counting fatalities.

it is a matter of regret that the political elite particularly from the northern part of Nigeria have allowed the nomadic Fulanis to live in their wild, ancient and unprogressive culture outside the human civilization and now causing tension and threatening national security.

Mohammed abba gana
Mohammed Abba Gana, former FCT Minister

3. Desertification in Northern Nigeria

There are three points to address under climate change as it affects northern Nigeria. The first is whether climate change is a death sentence. It could be and it is already proving so globally–but only in localities that are devoid of proactive mitigating policies.

About two decades ago, rising sea level started threatening Nigeria’s coastal states, and flood threaten to submerge the entire Victoria Island in Lagos state. The Lagos State government, during the tenure of Bola Tinubu, started an ambitious shoreline protection and reclamation project that saved the state’s coastal communities. This was not without casualties, as few communities disappeared.

At about the same time that Lagos State started its project, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) started a similar project in Ondo State. NDDC, till today, has not completed its own project and many adjoining communities are now at risk of ‘being swept into the bin of history’.

The dominant narrative about the cause of Nigeria’s farmer-herder crisis seems to suggest that only the northern part of the country is experiencing the impact of climate change, and that the only solution is to accommodate Fulani herdsmen in the southern part. Why is the possibility of mitigation conspicuously absent in these narratives?

The Great Green Wall (GGW) is a global initiative designed to checkmate the advance of desertification. The African Union adopted it in 2007 for implementation across 11 African countries. This initiative has proved that land degradation is indeed reversible. But since former president, Goodluck Jonathan, released N10bn for the Nigerian component of the initiative in 2013 and launched it in 2014 in Kebbi state, we have heard nothing cheering about it in the news.

An analysis of media reports seems to suggest that foreign donations currently drive its continuous implementation and the federal government has stopped playing active funding role. Save the GGW and Jonathan’s highly controversial clean stove project, no government—whether at national or sub-national level - has announced any other ambitious mitigating project in the last decade.

At the launch of the GGW in Kebbi State, Jonathan reportedly “commended the Kebbi government for its efforts so far at realising the project, and urged the other 10 frontline [Nigerian] states to take it seriously.”

Perhaps the ‘seriousness’ that the Kebbi state gave the initiative is the reason it is Nigeria’s leading rice producing state today. Were Lagos State government to see the rising sea level as a Nigerian problem and left it for the federal government, what might be the fate of Lagos Island part of the state today?

The second point calls for a reality check. Why is it that only the herders are moving down south? Does desertification not affect the farms? Farm produce from the north, especially pepper and rice, have been on the increase in the last few years and the possibility is still there to increase current productivity rate, even under the same adverse climate effect. If the farmers are adapting to climate change, are there no adaption for herders?

The IITA in March 2020 published a report that detailed how Nigeria’s rice production can increase from the current 2-3tonnes per hectare to about 7tonnes per hectare. Solutions like these should dominate proposals put forward to resolve this crisis, instead of the near unanimous recommendation of grazing routes in all the 36 states of the federation.

The third point to raise here is extrapolative. What will happen to southern states in the next two or three decades if they accommodate the herders using the same unregulated grazing and other land mismanagement practices that worsen the impact of climate change in northern Nigeria?

The southern Nigeria states also have their own climate change challenges to contend with. It is even more expensive to mitigate rising sea level than it is to mitigate land degradation. Therefore, going by the dictate of climate change, it is unhealthy to advocate unregulated herding or open grazing in southern Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria states need to stop passing the buck, expecting the southern states to pick up their failures in continuation of Harcourt and Lugard’s amalgamation policy of a rich wife of substance and means” (the south) and the “poor husband” (the north)

Northern Nigeria leaders are quick to echo the freedom of any Nigerian to live anywhere they choose, including forests. They conveniently hide their own failures that trigger the migration.

4. Federal Government’s official disposition to Fulani herdsmen 

In 2014, a violent farmer-herder crisis broke out in Alapa community in Asa local government area (LGA) of Kwara state. Cows invaded expansive farmlands, and the farmers made to chase the Fulani herdsmen away, leading to violent clashes.

In response, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, ordered the arrest of the farmers and the police bundled over 80 of them into detention in Abuja - not even in Kwara state where the clash happened. Six of them died there. They did not die on the same day, meaning that the first fatality did not even move the police authorities to pity the rest.

Thereafter, a broadcast on a local radio station announced the donation of six million naira by the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, to compensate the Fulani herdsmen for their loss. Asa LGA, and by extension, Alapa community, is under the Ilorin Emirate.

The Emir who is supposed to be the father of everyone living in the emirate, announced the donation to migrant Fulani herdsmen—who may not even be Nigerians—and spared not even a word of consolation for the farmers. Such is the disdainful and dreadful disposition of Nigerian authorities to any community that resists an unlawful invasion of Fulani herdsmen.

As this story illustrates, establishing culpability and dispensing justice is never the official approach to any such crisis. Rather, there appears to be an unwritten rule that Fulani herdsmen must be accorded an above-the-law respect and pleasantries.

If this story sounds like a fable because it did not make media headlines, the federal government’s official disposition to the killings that occurred in Benue State on New Year day in 2018 was well documented. The Minister of Defence, Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali was quoted to have said “these people [herdsmen] are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave. Finish!

The declaration of the former Chief of Army Staff, General Theophilus Danjuma, in which he condemned the Nigerian Army for abetting banditry, could also not be forgotten. Danjuma, in the speech said “if we wait for the federal government to protect us, we will all die one after the other.”

There are some decades-old communal clashes in Nigeria, like the Tiv-Junkun crisis, which have never got the attention of the federal government. But once the clash affects the Fulani herdsmen, all concerned agencies of government get involved. 

There appears to be a special law regulating Fulani herdsmen affairs, which is deemed superior to Nigeria’s Constitution. It is  surprising that Bauchi state’s governor, Bala Mohammed, objected to the order of his Ondo state counterpart , Rotimi Akeredolu SAN, asking Fulani herdsmen to vacate the forest reserves in Ondo state - even when the Constitution is clear as to the illegality of the herders. 

Victims of kidnapping who paid ransom for their release have narrated their harrowing ordeals in the forest. In all the cases that people have narrated, the Department of Secret Service (DSS) has never shown interest in the victims’ experience, not to talk of acting on it in such forensic manners as to lead to outright investigations and subsequent trials of these perpetrators of evil.

But because this is not so, it has emboldened the criminals and rendered their victims hapless, having no other choice than to do the bidding of the criminals. This has further grown into a consensual perception among the agrarian communities that the instrument and apparatchiks of the Federal Government are primed to look the other way and may in fact be consistent with the notion of a wish to prosecute a deliberately surreptitious agenda.

The inference deducible from all information available in media spaces is that the herdsmen appeared organised, with backings—part of which officialdom cannot completely extricate itself and the various security agencies playing for most times disagreeably collaborative roles. The aim appears to be to sabotage the farmers, incapacitate and displace them.

5. Other subterfuge

Take the proposed National Water Resources Bill, for example. One of the proposed sections stipulated that “The Commission may, subject to regulations made under this Act and conditions imposed, authorize all or any category of persons to use water by notice in the Gazette - (a) generally; (b) in relation to a specific water resource; or (c) within an area specified in the notice.”

Could anyone imagine the likely scenario, should this bill become a law with such section intact? There are all kinds of tricks coated in the garb of policies and laws but which are laden with inherent unfair advantage for Fulani herdsmen.

Another one is the proposed autonomy for local government areas. On the surface this looks good as it can engender development at grassroot level but the catch appears to be in the Land Use Act, in which a section stipulates that a rural local government area does not need the consent of the state governor to allocate up to 5000 hectares of land for grazing. Of course, a state, through its legislature, may declare that all its LGAs are urban, and render the state ineligible for federal government’s rural development policies.

Perhaps more than any ethnic group, the Fulani herdsmen have enjoyed customised policy actions. Other ethnic nationalities abandoned their traditional vocation for western education but the Fulani herdsmen have nomadic education created solely for them. There are agencies of government dedicated to providing veterinary support for nomadic Fulani herdsmen and recently, the Minister of Justice even called for “setting-up of a commission for pastoralism regulated by law”.

Recommendations on Nigeria insecurity problem

a. Cancel nomadic and almajiri education policy

Recently, some people of Yoruba extraction advertised a campaign called "Anything but Cow Day", in response to the food supply blockade organised by the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria. The campaign is a "one-day symbolic beef boycott towards terminating the cow pandemic," according to the organisers.

There is no need to discuss the success or failure of the campaign-because it is unlike Yoruba in content and design, especially for its subtle xenophobic tinge.

However, there is a context in which they could have made the campaign more Yoruba-like and therefore well received - that is if it is within the context of liberating millions of northern youths condemned to life in the forest without proper education.

If the organisers would ask the people to boycott beef until the federal government cancels nomadic education policy and enforces free basic education across the country, many more people will buy into the campaign.

As Chief Obafemi Awolowo asserted, "When all the talents in society are not fully developed, it is not the individuals that are adversely affected alone who suffer; the society as a whole suffers as well." He further said in his book, The People's Republic, that "any system of education which does not help a man to have a healthy and sound body and alert brain, and balanced and disciplined instinctive urges, is both misconceived and dangerous"

The nomadic education was misconceived and we are all reaping its dangers today. Every children of Fulani herdsmen should attend the same school as all other Nigerian children. If the proposed solution to any social malady does not affect how people are educated, it will fail. The leadership of the Fulani herdsmen are the first to parrot ‘one indivisible Nigeria,’ yet they segregate their people from the Nigerian experience and reality.

What will happen to cattle rearing if we enforce free primary education for all children of Fulani herdsmen? Well, what happened to farming in Yorubaland when Awolowo’s education policy took children away from living on the farm?

Yoruba parents rose against the policy then but the late Sage told them that though they (the parents) did not like him because of the policy, their children will forever thank him for it. today, farming has not died in Yorubaland, it is undergoing periodic innovation because of the acceptance of education. The Fulani herdsmen, especially the Bararoji, need a leader like Awolowo.

Going through the same education system will allow the young Fulani to see every other Nigerian as their brothers and sisters. They will mix with and learn from each other. This is the best way to ‘settle’ them properly into the Nigerian society.

The nomadic education and pastoralism combined to serve as a tool of oppression for the children of the Bararoji - the nomadic Fulani herdsmen- and shield them from civilisation. They are a sociocultural tool to maintain the Fulani elites aristocratic lifestyle. Anyone who lives most of his or her formative years in the bush will exhibit barbarism, no doubt.

No one will readily accommodate the Fulani herdsmen as of now with all the barbaric acts that they have wrecked on the people and for which they are never remorseful. Let us face it: anyone who can slaughter a human being and still video the barbaric act does not deserve to be accommodated in any human society - even self-defence does not excuse such.

Who says we cannot have the next Nobel Laureate from among those kids living in the bush? But even if any of them are destined and gifted to be, this oppressive social system of pastoralism and nomadic education will rob them of it.

We should ask the question why the Fulanin Gidda, the elites, are so wicked to their own people. They allow their own children to have the best of education but deny the masses same—in a bid to perpetrate a hegemonic agenda that has no place in the modern world. If a child wants to be a cattle herder, let him decide, but it would amount to child abuse to predestine him to be a herder.

b. Embrace cattle rearing as a business, not as a Fulani culture 

The Fulani herdsmen have to stop expecting any special treatment in their desire to live in any society. The Igbos are resident in every state of Nigeria but have demanded no special treatment. They have secured usufructuary rights through legally purchased/transferred occupancy, and no one can ask them to vacate such land.

Fulani herdsmen
Image Copyrights: JACOB SILBERBERG

The claim that Fulani herdsmen usually have on a piece of land is that they have been there for decades or that the traditional head of the community allocated it to them. Such a cultural view of land ownership will always clash with that of Yoruba people who believe that no land is without an owner, even if it is unclaimed or unoccupied.

Yoruba people often need to recall century-old history to resolve intractable issues like land ownership. Therefore, claiming the right to occupy a land whose ownership is settled centuries ago just because you have lived there for decades is never acceptable, unless there is a proper instrument of transfer of ownership.

The occupancy rights obtained on a choice piece of land elapsed recently and the occupant, an agency managing the assets of the defunct Western Nigeria government, had to open negotiation with the owning family for renewal of occupancy rights. That is a land that has been occupied for many decades by the government and its successor agency.

Any land that is occupied for business and personal interests is always open for renegotiation at the end of the occupancy right—only the land occupied for ‘overriding public interest’ is forever given up.

Therefore, if the Fulani herdsmen prefer to herd their cattle in southern parts of Nigeria, they should legally get occupancy rights. Anyone who can afford to buy AK-47 rifle and ammunition should be able to buy land occupancy rights. What stops the herders from pooling resources together in a cooperative venture or even sign joint venture agreements with land-owning communities? This is the age of innovation and not brute force.

The cattle rearing business in Nigeria has to transit from cultural ownership to private business ownership through the instruments mentioned above. This transition will make adoption of technology and research outcomes easier.

Akinwumi Adesina, the President of African Development Bank says it better in an interview with the German broadcast channel, DW. Watch it in the video below

c. Fulani elites should transform their culture  

The northern elites, particularly the emirs and the leadership of MACBAN, have to repent. They are the custodian of this ‘ancient and un-progressive’ culture, and they are the ones that can reform it.

They need to summon themselves to an imaginary purgatory and interrogate why the Fulani herdsmen, who have been openly welcome, is now considered a threat at the mere sight.

An excerpt from an article on the history of Fulani people, published by Fulani News Media, an online publication with continental coverage of activities of Fulani people, is very instructive.

The Fulani movement in West Africa tended to follow a set pattern. Their first movement into an area tended to be peaceful. Local officials gave them land grants. Their dairy products, including fertilizer, were highly prized. The number of converts to Islam increased over time. With that increase, Fulani resentment at being ruled by pagans, or imperfect Muslims, increased... By the beginning of the eighteenth century, revolts had broken out against local rulers. Although these revolts began as holy wars (jihads), after their success they followed the basic principle of Fulani ethnic dominance.

It could be argued that the excerpt alluded to a distant history and may no longer apply to the Fulani today. However, recent happenings in Southern Kaduna and Jos suggest that the Fulani people have not abandoned Sheikh Othman Dan Fodio's mission that defined Northern Nigeria's politics of Fulani-Islamic hegemonic conquest of land that lay before the Atlantic Ocean.

Encoded in the excerpt above is the reason the Emir of Ilorin behaved parochially in the Alapa conflict stated earlier. As a Fulani leader, he sees the predominant Yoruba people in Ilorin as conquered people.

The problem is not as much that this mission is still being actively, even if surreptitiously, pursued, as the endorsement of violent and bumptious attitudes as part of the tactics to achieve it. If nothing else, the discharge and acquittal of the murderers of Bridget Agbahime by the Kano State Government is an unambiguous endorsement of violence as far as the pursuit of the conquest mission is concerned.

Recently, the Osun State command of the Nigeria Police Force paraded 22-year-old Muyideen Usman, a Yoruba, and his friend, 20-year-old Memudu Isa, a Fulani, for the allegedly kidnapping and killing Usman's nephews. Memudu reportedly boasted and assured Usman not to panic as they would be released in a matter of days. Why would a 20-year-old behave as a scofflaw if he has not been trained so?

Encoded in the excerpt also is the reason the northern Nigerian Muslims see the southern Nigerian Muslims as 'imperfect' and would rather pray on a road on Friday if it will spare them the agony of paying in a mosque where prayers are led by a southern Muslim.

The Fulani elites have constructed these ethnocentric cultural views, and they are the ones that can pull it down if they now want an egalitarian Nigerian society.

The existence of a Fulani hegemonic agenda—to dip the Quran in the Atlantic ocean - is anchored on well publicised public statements of foremost Fulani leaders, particularly Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria's first and only Prime Minister, and Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sokoto Caliphate's Crown Prince and a descendant of Uthman dan Fodio.

Since these leaders made these public statements, there has been no official or non-official statement denying its existence and condemning it to the prehistoric age that it belonged. Until they do this, there may not be a turning point in the manner that others perceive Fulani herdsmen across the country.

And with the undisguised support that Nigeria's security agencies give to non-Nigerian Fulani herdsmen, it will be foolhardy to deny the existence and surreptitious pursuit of such agenda.

Conclusion: Awolowo's admonition - will Nigeria break up? 

A quotation taken from late Chief Awowlowo's publication, The Peoples' Republic, published in 1968 would fit as the conclusion to this piece.

"It is incontestable that the British not only made Nigeria, but also hand it to us whole on their surrender of power. But the Nigeria, which they handed over to us, had in it the forces of its own disintegration. It is up to contemporary Nigerian leaders to neutralise these forces, preserve the Nigerian inheritance, and make all our people free, forward-looking and prosperous.“

Watch out for our next publication titled "Impending Implosion: can Nigeria break?" Subscribe below to be notified when it is published.

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