In one of his smallest books Professor Chinua Achebe of the blessed memories made very startling claims that Nigeria has an “Igbo” problem.
In the “THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA”, released in 1983 and reprinted in 1985, the globally respected scholar behind the popular novel called “Things fall apart”, had written thus: “ A distinguished political scientist from a “minority” area of the south pronounced some years ago that Nigeria has an Igbo problem. Every ethnic group is of course something of a problem for Nigeria’s easy achievement of cohesive nation- hood.”
“But the learned professor no doubt saw the Igbo as a particular irritant, a special thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian body-politic.”
“Nigerians of all ethnic groups will probably achieve consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo. They would all describe them as aggressive, arrogant and clannish. Most would add grasping and greedy (although the performance of the Yoruba since the end of the Civil war has tended to put the prize for greed in some doubt”.
“Modern Nigerian history has been marked by sporadic eruptions of anti-Igbo feeling of more or less serious import; but it was not until 1966-7 when it swept through Northern Nigeria like “a flood of a deadly hate” that the Igbo first questioned the concept of Nigeria which they had embraced with much greater fervour than the Yoruba or the Hausa/Fulani.”
“ The Civil War gave Nigeria a perfect and legitimate excuse to cast the Igbo in the role of treasonable felon, a wrecker of the nation. But thank Gowon’s moderating influence overt vengeance was not visited on them when their secessionist State of Biafra was defeated in January 1970. But there were hard-liners in Gowon’s cabinet who wanted their pound of flesh, the most powerful among them being Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Federal Commissioner for Finance. Under his guidance a banking policy was evolved which nullified any bank account which has been operated during the civil war. This has immediate result of pauperizing the Igbo middle class and earning a profit of 4 million for the Federal Government Treasury”.
Professor Achebe wrote further thus: “The Indigenization Decree which followed soon afterwards completed the routing of the Igbo from the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy, to everyone’s apparent satisfaction.”
“The origin of the national resentment of the Igbo is as old as Nigeria and quite as complicated. But it can be summarized thus: the Igbo culture being receptive to change, individualistic and highly competitive, gave the Igbo man an unquestioned advantage over his compatriots in securing credentials for advancement in Nigerian colonial society.”
“Unlike the Hausa/Fulani he was unhindered by traditional hierarchies. This kind of creature, fearing no man, was custom- made to grasp the opportunities, such as they were, of the white man’s dispensation. And the Igbo did so with both hands. Although the Yoruba had a huge historical and geographical head-start the Igbo wiped out their handicap in one fantastic burst of energy in the twenty years between 1930 and 1950.”
“Had the Igbo been a minor ethnic group of a few hundred thousand, their menace might have been easily and quietly contained. But they ran in their millions! Like J.P. Clark’s fine image of “ants filing out of the wood” the Igbo moved out of their forest home, scattered and virtually seized the floor.”
That was the vintage Professor Chinua Achebe whose enormous body of literature has moulded millions of younger scholars.
I think one thing that was missing in that small but mighty book THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA written by Professor Chinua Achebe is the absence of any form of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the infrastructures of the old Eastern region destroyed by the 30 Months civil war by the then Federal forces that Gowon and his successors fill date did not rebuild unlike what obtained after the World Wars when the battered infrastructures and economy of Germany and much of Europe was reconstructed and rebuilt through The Marshall plan (officially the European Recovery Programme, ERP) which was an American initiative passed in 1948 for foreign aid to Western Europe. The USA transferred over $12 billion (equivalent of billion in 2019) in economic recovery programme to Western European economies after the end of the World War 11. So the Igbo problem is still unresolved. However, there is a Fulani problem in Nigeria of today and the earlier we accept this existential reality and attend to it the better.
Steven Kefas a social media activist believe that there is a Fulani problem in Nigeria.
He wrote as follows: “Last year out of curiosity I visited both Katsina and Zamfara states in my quest for knowledge about the incessant killings going on there. After interacting with locals and some victims I found out that the aggressors in the two states are armed Fulani militias while the victims are largely Muslims of Hausa extraction. This invariably means that the killings going on in the two neighbouring states are not religious but racial and all about the Fulani hegemony over their Hausa hosts.The local Hausa people of Northern Nigeria are also victims of these mass killings going on there, ironically they hardly speak out for reasons best known to them.I am glad that today some Hausas have seen reason to speak out against the atrocities of the Fulanis in Northern Nigeria and by extension the entire country.
Salient questions begging for answers are;
Who is arming the Fulani militias and to what gain?
Why are Northern Governors giving them money and sometimes logistics in the guise of compensation? Compensation for what exactly?
Can any group take up arms and hold the nation to ransom without being crushed by the military? Why are the Fulani militias being pampered instead of being crushed by our military might? Are the militias better equipped and trained then our military?
It is time for Nigerians irrespective of religion or tribe to unite and speak with one voice against the atrocities of these Janjaweeds and their sponsors.
It is time for the Hausas of Northern Nigeria who have suffered greatly in the hands of these bloodsucking criminals wake up and take their destinies in their hands just as the Yorubas and others are doing at the moment.
May God Almighty deliver us and bring an end to the calamitous activities of these Janjaweeds.Amen.”
As pointed out by the activist Steven Kefas, the North is contending with the typical Fulani problem and to be Candid, nobody is stereotyping the Fulani ethnicity. The Fulani problem stems from the fact that there are two existential attributes associated with the Fulani ethnicity in Nigeria. The existential attributes are that there are two kinds of Fulani in Nigeria which as I came to know it as a child in Northern Nigeria of the early 80’s are the realities of the two sub- groups of Fulani commonly identified in Hausa language as Fulani Daji (Fulani who are nomadic and are known to move about in the bush and there is the other sub-set known as Fulani Gida or Fulani that live inside the townships like every other Nigerian. FOR instance, Atiku Abubakar Nigeria’s former Vice President is Fulani gida. President Muhammadu Buhari is urban Fulani. All those cabinet ministers-: that of FCT, Education, Finance and many others holding top rated national offices under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari are FULANI GIDA.
From every indication, so much of the cases of kidnapping, cattle rustling and the alleged invasion of farms and forest reserves are carried out by the sub-set of Fulani who live in the bush and who have yet to embrace modernity such as ranching of their cows and settling down with their lovely families in houses in the rural and urban areas of Nigeria. The other problem is that these herders who are nomadic are said to be caring for livestock and cattle belonging to the Fulani elites who are amongst the Urbanised Fulani.
One of the factions of the umbrella organization of Fulani herdsmen known as Miyetti Allah clearly demonstrated the fact that we as a modern Federation needs to tackle the Fulani problem that steers us all in the face. As I said again, it is not about stereotyping any ethnicity but about adopting pragmatic approach to solve an identifiable problem. I do not agree with Sultan of Sokoto or Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Diocese of the Roman Catholic church who think any attempt to talk about the prevalent involvement of Fulani herdsmen in violent crime amounts to stereotyping the Fulani Ethnicity. Far from it. We need to identify a problem so as to solve it. Most of the victims of kidnappings freed often told the media that their abductors spoke Fulfude which is the local dialect of Fulani. This is why there is the need to solve this emerging problem without necessarily criminalizing Fulani Ethnicity.
I will very shortly return to the interview granted by the factional leader of Miyetti Allah in which some of his words depicts those arrogance that I think constituted the Fulani problem that we need to solve going forward.
But first, let me quote a statement ‘from a Fulani elite who clearly painted the picture of a crisis of identity amongst the Fulani ethnicity that we ought to solve.
Adamu Garba, a former presidential aspirant has reacted to the ongoing rift between Sunday Igboho, his supporters and the Fulani residing in Igbangan, Oyo State.
A respected online media in Nigeria, DAILY POST had reported that the Yoruba activist, Sunday Igboho, made real his threat to expel the Fulani from Igangan in Oyo State.
Igboho disclosed that he acted on the request of traditional rulers.
Reacting, Garba in a tweet via his Twitter account on Monday, said even though he is a Fulani man, he was totally against the idea of allowing cows to roam the streets in 2021.
He further revealed that by law, land can only be used through rent or purchase, adding that government should step forward and resolve the dispute.
“I’m a Fulani man, but it actually doesn’t make sense for cows to be roaming the streets in 2021. Cows should be ranched on a land acquired or rented by the ranchers. Also, by law land can only be used through rent or purchase.
“I believe, to reconcile the raging herders crisis is to open proper communication where each knows the laws of the land. All lands in Nigeria, including forests belongs to some entity, FG, SGs, LGs, Company’s or individuals. Thus no land can be used without proper authorization.
“The problem of the Fulani herders is a betrayal from the city Fulanis, who decided, after moving to cities, acquiring wealth & power, but failed to carry the village brothers along, leaving them in a desperate situation.
“I would advise that the rich Fulanis should come together and acquire ranching lands while government step forward and dissolve this dispute.
“No state power can give land to anyone where the land is been identified with owners for generations, without purchasing or renting.
“Lastly, lack of proper communication to the herders in understanding the law of land use, by bringing the surrounding communities onboard isn’t good enough.
“It can as well be a breeding ground for conflicts and a very ripe situation for civil war. This must however be avoided AT ALL COST,” he said.
This statement confirms the existence of a Fulani problem in Nigeria. Then the MIYETTI ALLAH official Bello Bodejo bragged that Fulani herdsmen do not need the permission of land owners before grazing their cows. Just before the President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly waded into the crisis between MIYETTI and Ondo state governor, the MIYETTI ALLAH official depicted those sentiments that go to show the imperative of accepting that there is a Fulani problem and then Nigeria finds a way out so all Ethnic groups will have a sense of belonging and harmony.
To buttress the aforementioned points, in 2016 the newspapers reported that the Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai had said his government has traced some violent, aggrieved Fulani to their countries and paid them to stop the killings of Southern Kaduna natives and the destruction of their communities saying that the renewed violence is carried out by bandits.
El-Rufai made this known while fielding questions from some select Journalists in his office in Kaduna.
He said: “For southern Kaduna, we didn’t understand what was going on and we decided to set up a committee under Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd) to find out what was going on there. What was established was that the root of the problem has a history starting from the 2011 post election violence. “Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. The moment the rains starts around March, April, they start moving them up to go back to their various communities and countries. “Unfortunately, it was when they were moving up with their cattle across Southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them. “Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Senegal. Fulanis are in 14 African countries and they traverse this country with the cattle.
“So many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organised themselves and came back to revenge. “So a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria. We got a hint that the late Governor Patrick Yakowa got this information and he sent someone to go round some of these Fulani communities, but of course after he died, the whole thing stopped. That is what we inherited. But the Agwai committee established that.
“We took certain steps. We got a group of people that were going round trying to trace some of these people in Cameroon, Niger republic and so on to tell them that there is a new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and he is begging them to stop killing. “In most of the communities, once that appeal was made to them, they said they have forgiven. There are one or two that asked for monetary compensation. They said they have forgiven the death of human beings, but want compensation for cattle. We said no problem, and we paid some.”
Conclusively, in the Vanguard report of December 3rd 2016, Elrufai said: “As recently as two weeks ago, the team went to Niger republic to attend one Fulani gathering that they hold every year with a message from me.”
About the same period, the Senator representing Southern Kaduna Senator Danjuma Tella Laah accused the Kaduna State Governor of sponsoring Fulani herdsmen to attack and kill Southern Kaduna Christians.
The crises in Ondo State regarding illegal occupation of the forest reserves by Fulani herdsmen which culminated in a meeting of South West governors also show that most of the criminals perpetrating crimes of kidnappings and killings in the region are FULANI herdsmen.
In Delta State, armed Fulani herdsmen killed a First class traditional ruler. In Enugu, several communities were attacked by armed Fulani herdsmen. In Abia and Imo state’s, armed Fulani herdsmen have attacked many communities. In Benue State armed Fulani herdsmen have attacked many communities and killed many. In Plateau state, as well as Taraba and Adamawa there have been cases of attacks by armed Fulani just as Fulani settlements came under attacks.
Certainly, Nigeria has a Fulani problem which has been made worst by the bad policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration that so far continued to defend Fulani herdsmen and have not prosecuted any of the suspected armed Fulani herdsmen. Do not quote me wrong, there are millions of good Fulani who are not criminals. However, from available empirical evidence, too many of the armed Fulani herdsmen are into one form of crime or the other including stealing cows from other Fulani herdsmen.
It is doubtful if the current administration that plays out favouritism towards the Fulani Cause will muster enough political will to effectively resolve the Fulani problem in Nigeria. Can we find out why despite the releases of billions of Naira to run the Educational agency for mass literacy of Fulani nomads, not much gains have come from using public fund to specially empower the nomadic Fulani? If the efforts of the Educational empowerment of the FULANI DAJI through the Federal ministry of Education were well mobilized and transparently implemented, I think by now, over 50 percent of the nomadic Fulani would have embraced modern way of ranching their cattle so there will be no issue on the invasion of farms or illegally occupying forests and farm lands. In Southern Kaduna, there are allegations that armed Fulani herdsmen have occupied Christian communities and have chased away the real owners who are now in IDPS.
This was how Ondo and Fulani herdsmen resolved the Fulani conundrum-: “Following the Executive Order of the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu Aketi SAN, to the Fulani Herdsmen illegally occupying the State Forest Reserves to vacate within seven days With effect from Monday 18″ January, 2021, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum led by its Chairman, Dr. Kayode Fayemi met with the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), security agencies and other stakeholders on 25th January, 2021 at the International Centre for Culture and Events (DOME), Alagbaka, Akure, Ondo State to find lasting solutions to the incessant killings, kidnapping and crises between herdsmen and farmers in the Southwest geo-political zone of the country.
Meeting discussed vigorously and resolved that:
The security and welfare of the people of Nigeria is the primary purpose of Government as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended.
The stakeholders are committed to the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria.
Insecurity is a national challenge and not peculiar to any tribe or region but must be addressed by the cooperation of all.
The order of the Ondo State Governor was misconstrued and misrepresented by a section of the media. He only ordered those occupying the Forest Reserves in Ondo State illegally to quit.
Criminals should be apprehended and punished, no matter their origin, class or status.
Security agencies have been trying to stem the tide of criminality in the country but must step up their efforts in the fight.
There is the need to build partnership for peace and security with MACBAN and jointly wage war against criminality.
No one had sent anyone away from any state or region but all hands must be on deck to fight criminality.
MACBAN is a peace loving, law abiding organization which does not harbour or condone criminals and agreed that:
(i) Night grazing should be banned henceforth
(ii) Under age herding is Inimical to security and hence be banned
(iii) Occupation of State Forest Reserves illegally is condemned.
MACBAN also suffers insecurity and kidnapping and thus desire peaceful coexistence.
MACBAN is ready for any peaceful move by the states to engender security.
Fake news is another issue that makes our security worse than solving it.
There must be an enduring framework with MACBAN in a way that will help address security issues.
That free range grazing must be stopped to avoid conflicts between the farmers and the herders
Strengthening an alternative security arrangements and make them complementary to the mainstream security agencies in Nigeria.
MACBAN should embrace and be committed to modern breeding process by creating grazing reserves and practice ranching to prevent cattle roaming about.
Standing Committee comprising of farmers, MACBAN and the Government should be set up in each state (where they don’t exist) to ensure synergy and result.
We must create economic opportunities for our people and reduce opportunities for criminalities in our country”.
Certainly, Nigeria must be operated under the laws of equity, equality of rights and nobody must be treated as either second class citizens or sacred cows.
COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO; NATIONAL COORDINATOR
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @www.huriwanigeria.com, www.thenigerianinsidernews.com, [email protected]