Southern Kaduna: Between cleansing and struggle for land?
The recent attacks and sacking of many communities in southern Kaduna, Kaduna State by herdsmen raise these pertinent questions: Are the attacks motivated by quest for grazing space or are they engaged in an ethnic cleansing/genocide?
What is playing out is the conquest of an indigenous people and total occupation of the land with political, economic and religious structures that seek to replace what is on ground.
The argument of quest for fodder flies in the face of recent statements by the Kaduna State governor, Malam, Nasir El-Rufai. He is quoted as saying that anybody who kills a Fulani has collected a loan which he must pay. He is also quoted to have said that he paid the Fulani, who he claimed were foreigners to stop the killings.
Further, El Rufai is said to have called Fulani who left Kaduna for one reason or other to come back now that a Fulani man is the governor of the state. From the governor’s utterances it is obvious that the struggle for southern Kaduna is not about grass for feeding of animals. Rather, it is a struggle for displacement of one group by another.
No wonder the wanton killings and destruction of property. One hopes the herdsmen don’t intend to repeat what the Janjaweeds did to the indigenous Christians of South Sudan, a deliberate act of ethnic cleansing backed by the government in power.
It is good to put what is happening in southern Kaduna in correct perspective. The activities of the herdsmen in southern Kaduna is a continuation of a suspended programme of Islamic jihad of 19th century which overthrew indigenous Hausa states, destroyed their culture and religion and established the present caliphate. Put differently, this is an act to extend the frontiers of the caliphate where it feels it has not taken absolute control.
A research into Nigeria history reveals that typical indigenous Hausa people with their indigenous middle belt counterparts are not pastoralists, but crop farmers. Pastoralism is an 18th and 19th centuries phenomenon introduced by the Fulani pastoral Islamists who had the dual motive of finding pasture for their animals and establishing a politico-religious system to replace the existing one in place.
For instance, after the conquest of the seven old Hausa states by the Fulani invaders in 1804 led by their patriarch, Othman Dan Fodio, the true Hausa identity was lost to a cultural mix called Hausa-Fulani. The original Hausa culture and institution that supported and produced women leaders such as Queen Amina of Zaria was lost to the mix that does not encourage women leadership. Also, nomadism is not an Hausa culture. Rather it was fostered through conquest. In other words, there is no surviving Hausa cultural practice in existence today, but an assimilated Arabic-Fulfulde politico-religious lifestyle.
Put differently, the first group in Nigeria to lose its identity as a result of conquest is the Hausa. History has it that the non-Hausa communities in northern Nigeria resisted the invading Fulani jihadists that conquered the core Hausa states and were able to maintain their political, economic and religious identity until Britain aided the invaders through indirect rule and subjugated these ethnic minorities under the power of the sultanate. This is the genesis of the struggle to take absolute control of the land and people of the minorities of the north.
It is unfortunate that this core motive of finishing the unfinished business of the 19th century in the 21st century is being aided with the propaganda of climate change, desertification and scarcity of fodder and decrease in flora. As far back as the early 20th century when the first set of grazing reserves were created and gazetted by the Northern Nigerian government, under the oligarchy, global warming and its attendant effects had not reached the level as it is today, yet lands were acquired in the middle belt with the intention to pursue the subjugation motive.
Juxtaposing this background with the current onslaught against the indigenous minorities of the middle belt generally and southern Kaduna in particular by the Fulani pastoralists, one sees a relationship between the pursuit of age-old expansionism and the quest for fodder. Let no one be deceived, quest for fodder is a secondary reason. The main motive is political, cultural and religious domination as well as acquisition of land by force.
In Nigeria’s geopolitical history, every group has an indigenous homeland that is not in dispute, except the Fulani. The Hausa, Kauri, Nupe and other groups in the north can point to a geographical terrain as a homeland. The Yoruba of Western Nigeria and the Igbo of South Eastern Nigeria all have places that can be referred to as homeland. Even the Aros in Igbo land that share the similar trait of being settlers with the Fulani have a homeland which every Aro man no matter where he is under the globe regards as a homeland.
Historically, the Futajalon Mountain of Senegal is believed to be the ancestral homeland of the Fulani. But as nomads always on the move and settling wherever they can see grass for their animals, they are always accommodated by their host communities. This is acknowledged and accommodated in the constitution in which there is a de-emphasis on ethnicism. Yet this accommodation does not negate the right of indigenous people, of any place to ownership of their land.
From facts, what is playing out in the middle belt and particularly in Kaduna south is a deliberate act of aggression to further the age-old expansionist agenda.
How can anyone explain government’s non-chalant attitude to the danger posed by the aggression in Kaduna South? How come there are little or no arrests of the murderous aggressors. Rather it is a placating of criminals with Kaduna State governor saying he paid some people to stop killing in southern Kaduna.
Certainly, the Kaduna State Government and by extension Federal Government are accomplices and have the burden to prove otherwise.
•Nwaegeruo is General Secretary, Nigeria Christian graduate fellowship.