Those who brought in worm infested wood into the Nigerian house have inadvertently invited reptiles, serpents and scorpions for breakfast, lunch and dinner. From Zamfara, Katsina to Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Niger States, herdsmen terrorist now beatified as Fulani bandits have turned the north-western corner of Nigeria into a terrorist playground…
With the recent abduction of the Emir of Kajuru, Alhaji Alhassan Adamu, from his palace in Kaduna State, along with 12 members of his family, including a few weeks old baby, by killer herdsmen, the chickens may have finally come home to roost in northern Nigeria. In the last six years, the current plight of the Emir and his family has been the everyday reality of thousands of Nigerians who have been robbed, kidnapped or killed by herdsmen of mostly Fulani ethnicity. Whilst the violent activities of this terror group started out as deadly attacks on farming communities across Nigeria, the western flank of northern Nigeria in particular, which is the homeland of Nigeria’s indigenous Fulani people, is now the epicentre of herdsmen terrorism.
According to the Nigeria Security Tracker, in its half year 2021 report, out of the 2,943 incidents of kidnappings in Nigeria, 2,557 took place in northern Nigeria, with the North-West alone recording the highest number of cases at 1,405. Similarly, of the over 5,800 killings recorded in Nigeria between January and June, northern States like Borno, Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, Katsina and Kebbi, with 1,137, 862; 715,407, 164; and 144 deaths are top of the list of human slaughter slabs in Nigeria. In addition to kidnappings, robbery and mass killings, killer herdsmen are now in control of vast swathes of ungoverned territories, where they exercise pseudo authority and forcefully extract taxes and levies from farmers, before they are allowed to plant in their farms or to harvest their crops.
In the face of this growing security challenge, the Muhammadu Buhari administration appears to have no solution to killer herdsmen terrorism and is increasingly looking helplessly unable to contain what has become the most potent existential threat to the Nigerian state. But the failure of the Buhari administration to effectively contain the menace of killer herdsmen and decisively defeat their savage terrorism is less about military capabilities and more about a clear lack of political will arising from a misrepresentation of herdsmen terrorism as farmers/herders clashes.
President Buhari, an ethnic Fulani from Katsina State, North-West Nigeria, like a lot of his kinsmen, is a cattle breeder. And like many Fulani political elites and intellectuals, the President is a staunch defender of the cultural occupation of nomadic pastoralism and an advocate for the economic rights of his Fulani brethren in Nigeria. This advocacy for economic rights revolves around access to land for cattle grazing, either as semi-sedentary reserves or traditional routes that run from the arid Sahel savannah of the northernmost part of Nigeria, through the guinea savannah vegetative belt in the central, down to the rainforests of the southern parts of Nigeria, where the pasture required to feed cattle is greener and more abundant.
The rise to power of President Buhari in 2015 set off a powerful wave of ethno-religious populism in northern Nigeria, with Fulani nationalism as its most distinctive feature. At the core of this ethnic nationalism is the carefully contrived miundset that there is such a thing as a legally gazetted grazing reserves and routes for herdsmen, which has now been encroached upon by sedentary communities…
In a typical transhumance practice, Fulani cattle breeders usually drive their herds from their original home lands in the arid Sahel region of Nigeria during the dry season into guinea savannah and the rainforests of central and southern Nigeria in search of pasture. Once the raining season sets in, nomadic herdsmen will commence a homeward journey from the south through the central to the northernmost part of the country. And year after year, the seasonal cycle of movement of cattle from north to south and back to the north has become the defining feature of the Fulani cultural occupation of nomadic pastoralism in Nigeria.
However, this practice is not without its problems. In a country of indigenous tribesmen and not a nation of citizens such as Nigeria, where access to land is mostly by privilege of birth and not always an economic right, the indigenous peoples of central and southern Nigeria are predominantly farmers, who require their lands for crop cultivation. The cultural occupation of farming of these indigenous communities usually gets disrupted by the transhumance of the Fulani herdsmen, whose cows often stray into farmlands and eat up crops, even before they are harvested. With a weak policing system and slow dispensation of justice by constituted authorities, aggrieved parties often take the laws in their hands, thereby ensuing in farmers/herders clashes.
The rise to power of President Buhari in 2015 set off a powerful wave of ethno-religious populism in northern Nigeria, with Fulani nationalism as its most distinctive feature. At the core of this ethnic nationalism is the carefully contrived miundset that there is such a thing as a legally gazetted grazing reserves and routes for herdsmen, which has now been encroached upon by sedentary communities along the lines of the traditional routes, running from the north to the south. Convinced about the existence of these gazetted routes and reserves across Nigeria, many Fulani herdsmen have now come to believe themselves to be the victims and farmers the offenders in the encroachment upon their traditional grazing routes. Motivated by this belief, the Fulani herdsman now considers the invasion of farmlands with their cows and destruction of crops as only a legitimate process for the recovery of their grazing routes. And when farming communities put up resistance to what they consider as trespass, an armada of Fulani militia men were mobilised into Nigeria from the neighbouring countries of the Sahel to launch a “cow war” in Nigeria.
In the ensuing cow war, which started as retaliatory attacks in southern Kaduna and Plateau State, this soon degenerated into a situation where armed herdsmen were invading farming communities and mowing down human beings to make way for cows to graze on their farms. Across Nigeria, killer herdsmen wreaked havoc on lives and properties, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of houses burnt down in several communities. As this was going on, the Buhari administration continued to view the carnage by his kinsmen through the narrow prism of farmers/herders clashes, even when the matter at hand had transcended such simplistic struggle over land resources between the two cultural occupational groups, into outright terrorism.
Exploiting the lack of a decisive security measure against their murderous activities by a Buhari administration that is still fixated on the narrative of farmers/herders clashes, kidnapping for ransom appears to be gradually replacing cattle breeding as a cultural occupation among a segment of Nigeria’s ethnic Fulani.
Unfortunately, the security response mechanism of President Buhari, as commander-in-chief, to the raging cow war in Nigeria, has been severely hampered by his elevation of his Fulani ethnicity above his Nigerian citizenship. His usual refrain to the rehabilitation of non-existent gazetted grazing routes and reserves, as his solution to herdsmen terrorism, while also preaching to the victim farming communities to learn to live in peace with their killers and without bringing those who committed genocide in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Enugu and other places to justice, clearly emboldened herdsmen terrorists to move to the next level of their killing franchise.
Nigeria’s international border lines, along its North-West corner, is largely obliterated by an entrenched culture of Fulani ethnic-transnationalism; a situation that makes it easy for the seamless movement of herdsmen and their cattle from neighbouring countries into and out of Nigeria. By taking advantage of this culture of ethnic-transnationalism, there has been a mass movement of killer herdsmen from west and central African countries into Nigeria. The motive of this particular group of killers is no longer to wage a cow war on farming communities in Nigeria but to wage war on cows and their owners, with money as their main objective. Kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria has become a multi-billion naira criminal franchise that is far more rewarding than the cultural occupation of cattle breeding. Exploiting the lack of a decisive security measure against their murderous activities by a Buhari administration that is still fixated on the narrative of farmers/herders clashes, kidnapping for ransom appears to be gradually replacing cattle breeding as a cultural occupation among a segment of Nigeria’s ethnic Fulani.
Those who brought in worm infested wood into the Nigerian house have inadvertently invited reptiles, serpents and scorpions for breakfast, lunch and dinner. From Zamfara, Katsina to Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Niger States, herdsmen terrorist now beatified as Fulani bandits have turned the north-western corner of Nigeria into a terrorist playground, where thousands of cattle are rustled, their owners slaughtered, before many more are abducted for ransom. The monster that was fed in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Enugu and other places is now consuming Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger and other parts of the north, as freedom fighters in strange lands have become terrorists at home. And while President Buhari is still contemplating whether the on-going carnage is his home region of Nigeria’s “Wild” North-West, the farmers/herders clashes or herdsmen terrorism enables the region to continue its rapid slide into a Hobbesian state of nature, where life is nasty, brutish and short.
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