By Ochereome Nnanna
TWO recent researches have shown startling but deeply worrisome similarities in the in the ideologies, objectives, strategies and tactics that the Sudan Janjawid militia deployed to attack, destroy and uproot indigenous Negroid populations of Western Sudan and those adopted by the Fulani herdsmen militia in doing pretty much the same in the Central and Southern zones of Nigeria.
The first was released to the social media by the Chinua Achebe Centre for Leadership and Development, CACLD after the New Year Day killings in Benue by the herdsmen militia. The second was unfolded on Channels Television on Tuesday, 16th January 2018 by a researcher, Charles Adisa, a Professor of Surgery in Abia State University (ABSU). ABSU, incidentally, is very close to Lokpanta where in 2001 a former Abia State Governor, Orji Kalu, had provided a parcel of land for the Northern community to live in safety from the Bakassi Boys who were in the habit of mounting bloody reprisal attacks on Northerners living in the state each time the Igbo people were killed in the North during the Sharia riots.
Ironically, according to the research findings, it is from this settlement that much of the herdsmen attacks in Abia and surrounding states are plotted. Apart from land grabbing, those of us who oppose the establishment of “cattle colonies”, “grazing reserves” or whatever name these intended Fulani settlements will go by, have seen what Orji Kalu’s naïve, “do-gooding” experiment has brought on the indigenous people. The researches found that the armed killer herdsmen hide among law-abiding people within the Lokpanta enclave and other similar enclaves around the Middle Belt and South, to plan their hit-and-run raids on indigenous communities.
While the Sudan Janjawid, which come mainly from pastoralist Arab tribes like Abbala (camel herdsmen) and Baggara (cattle herdsmen) were armed by the regime of President Omar Al Bashir to kill, displace and grab the rich farmlands of indigenous Sudanese tribes mainly in the Darfur Region in pursuit of Arab nationalism, we are only beginning to know what the Fulani herdsmen militias might be all about. Though there have been unconfirmed allegations by attacked villagers that the herdsmen hide in forests where helicopters deliver stuff to them in the night, there is no conclusive evidence that any political leader is directly arming the herdsmen as Al Bashir has for long been identified as the Jnajawid’s main backer, is why he is wanted by the International Criminal Court, ICC, for genocide. Rather, they are said to be armed by the cattle owners within the Nigerian ruling circles.
According to the researches, these killers (many of whom are alleged foreigners) appear to have the protection of the state. When they bothered to comment on the atrocities of the herdsmen militia, the President, Muhammadu Buhari; presidential spokespersons, Minister of the Interior, General Abdulrahman Danbazzau; Army spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman Kukasheka and the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, only used such cosmetic or diversionary terms as “cattle rustlers”, “farmers/herdsmen’s clashes” and “communal misunderstanding”. When you are unwilling to call a spade by its proper name, you definitely have something to hide. These killers were referred to by Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III as “foreigners” as if that is a valid excuse to let them continue in their genocidal atrocities against our people.
This seemingly covert or overt protection or tolerance of the evils being perpetrated by the militias has emboldened the various Fulani cattle-breeding interest groups such as Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, and the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore to insist that unless the various states making laws to ban open grazing cancel the laws the killings would continue.
They also push their “constitutional right” to settle and do their business in any part of the country, forgetting that the right is only for those who are peaceful and law-abiding. Before the arrival of the Fulani militias from the Sahel and Sahara to mount their murderous siege on Nigerians, there was no problem between Fulani herdsmen and Nigerians because they carried on their business peacefully. They were fully accommodated everywhere, not just because of the constitution but because they did not pose any threat. It is now that they have become threats to the lives and properties of their host communities that people are rising to chase them out of their lands.
That they have refused to ranch their livestock, preferring instead to lay claims to ownership of the areas they were permitted to graze their cattle shows a clear agenda of trying to force the indigenous peoples to give up some of their lands through capitulation to terror. Their Plateau experiment appears to have worked. It started in 2002, but the then Governors, Joshua Dariye and his successor, Jonah Jang, refused to give up their people’s land. Now, they have found a quisling in Governor Simon Lalong who not only agreed to give up land to the killers but also went to Aso Villa to badmouth Governor Samuel Ortom for signing the anti-open grazing legislation into law.
The idea could be to keep killing in Benue and Taraba until they capitulate like Plateau. From there they would move further inland towards the Atlantic Ocean. If this is the agenda, then the future of peace in this country is very bleak indeed. I don’t see how the situation is going to change with Buhari in the saddle.
The challenge before all indigenous Nigerians is for leaders to meet and take a common stand and approach. Foreigners are being brought in from about seventeen countries into the Nigerian El Dorado in an imperialist military campaign to seize the lands of its indigenous people. Some Nigerians are more interested in reviving and expanding their dead tribal empire through violence rather than joining their countrymen to make Nigeria great.
Professor Wole Soyinka is right: they have declared war on us. Yesterday, it was Plateau. Today it is Benue and Taraba. Tomorrow, it will be you!