By Donu Kogbara
Educated Fulanis, many friends of mine included, have displayed a strong reluctance to engage in public discussions about the Fulani herdsmen crisis. Last week, I complained about this stony silence, (which I regard as unhelpful and possibly passive-aggressive!).
Two Vanguard readers responded to my complaint this week:
From M.T. Usman (08033067825)
Your Fulani friends chose silence because the odds are stacked against the herdsmen. The narrative is one in which herdsmen are on a jihad. Anything contrary to that perspective will get short-shrift in the hands of those who control the media – Christian irredentists.
From An Un-named Individual (08091673000)
As a reporter myself I can understand your frustration, but you must also understand the fact that the press has generally been deliberately unkind to Fulanis in their reportage of the unfolding herdsmen crisis. This crass lack of professionalism is responsible for the “unfriendly stance of the Fulanis”.
Meanwhile, Kadaria Ahmed (firstname.lastname@example.org), a Fulani, a friend and a fellow journalist who has a totally detribalised personal and social life, is not afraid to air her views about this burning issue.
Nevertheless, when she tries to put things into perspective, she is sometimes (unfairly, in my opinion) accused of being a Fulani irredentist. And she recently shared the following observations with me:
* Not every conflict that is reported as Fulani attack is actually one.
* There is some evidence that banditry and ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa) attacks are being reported as Fulani attacks. And when Fulani settlements are attacked, there is a deafening silence with little or no reporting in the national press.
Even when it is reported by a handful of people with access to the information, it is ignored or dismissed.
* A large chunk of what the papers report is not properly researched and little journalism goes into it and the biases of the largely Southern Press and a lack of resources have meant they spend very little time actually investigating what they report as facts.
A handful appear to report downright falsehoods as truth. In Taraba for example, Fulani and Hausa villages are being sacked by militias but at least two national media houses are reporting it as a ‘Herdsmen’ attack.
*Many of the reports carried in various newspapers will not stand up to the basic tests of best practice in journalism.
* There is active exploitation of our fault lines, including historical, tribal and religious tensions in the North, amongst its myriad population, for political gain.
* I saw with my own eyes evidence of ethnic cleansing of the Fulanis in the Mambila Plateau.
* Conflicts which involve Muslims against Muslims and Hausa Fulani Vs Hausa Fulani, as we see in Zamfara, barely get reported because they cannot be politicised and do not fit the binary narrative that the Nigerian media finds very seductive.
* The North or rather what Nigerians call the core North or to be blunt the Hausa Fulani have become the bogey man of Nigeria, blamed for every single woe that dogs the country, even though the evidence of where we are as a nation suggests there are more complex reasons about why we are dysfunctional, especially the role of our leadership which has cut across ethnic and religious lines.
* Pushing this narrative makes it easy for our politicians to refuse to take responsibility for the state of Nigeria and also serves to ensure there is no unity amongst the generality of the population. This unity is critical for building a mass movement capable of wrestling power away from the current, failed political class.
* The strategy has been so successful that even educated people who should know better uncritically swallow the narrative as it reinforces their own biases even if they don’t know or refuse to acknowledge it.
* The North has been labelled with a “born to rule” mentality and with other unsavoury tags based on the action of a few who by no means represent the majority of the ‘North’. This allows for the demonization of a whole population, the majority of whom are paying a higher price for misrule than any other region in Nigeria.
* We are expected to have collective guilt for what ‘the ‘North did’ to Nigeria and should be in a perpetual state of silence and not champion any cause seen as that of the North or question the narrative being pushed; otherwise we are labelled Northern irredentist to discredit our voices so our views can be nullified.
* There is deep hypocrisy about this matter because even those in the highest echelons of this so-called Northern government have bought into this narrative so much so that in their ‘safe’ places they will discuss this openly and term people like me Northern irredentist, as we see with your APC friend.
* And this last fact illustrates to me how deep-seated the problems are and I personally don’t see how this will end well not when we have a government that is totally incompetent.
* A conversation would be great, but many won’t have the courage to speak. Many who benefit greatly from the current set up shout the loudest privately about marginalisation. The reality is they are among the greatest beneficiaries of our dysfunction and so have a lot to lose. For this reason, they cannot come out to openly to own their views.
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