Afenifere’s threat to secede from Nigeria: Open letter to Sultan of Sokoto

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09112015C ONATHANAFEnifereePRESIDENT Buhari’s silence and inaction on the issue of Fulani herdsmen seems to have poured petrol on the long smoldering embers of the Fulani menace in Nigeria. So there is a need to raise two questions: (a) Is Buhari’s inaction part of his Caliphate hidden agenda? (b) Is the Sultan of Sokoto, as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of MACBAN, the cattle breeders association, not the Grand Patron of a criminal enterprise – an enterprise that uses, for its economic gain, the crimes of trespassing, destruction of other people’s property, kidnapping, arson, murder, ethnic cleansing etc.?

In his Inaugural Address, President Buhari mentioned some security issues that he would solve as part of his change agenda. Among them was “herdsmen/farmer clashes”:

“Boko Haram is not only the security issue bedeviling our country. The spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings all help to add to the general air of insecurity in our land. We are going to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined people–friendly and well–compensated security forces within an over–all security architecture.” — President Buhari’s inaugural speech, on May 29, 2015  

Though he didn’t give it the priority and emphasis he gave to Boko Haram, these herdsmen/farmers clashes have quickly escalated into a security problem of far greater countrywide menace than even Boko Haram.

Countrywide menace

Yet he has said nothing and done nothing visible to solve it. Perhaps his change agenda does not include change in this long-established security problem in Nigeria. If so why? As we shall see further down in this x-ray, because of its territorial scope and its potential to ignite inter-ethnic war in 5 of the 6 zones of Nigeria, this Fulani menace is by far a greater threat to the lives of Nigerians and to the peace and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state than Boko Haram. Yet President Buhari has thus far chosen to leave it unaddressed. Why?

Reports of the criminal activities of Fulani herdsmen have captured the headlines since May 29. And Afenifere, the apex socio-cultural organ of the Yoruba nationality, stung by the exceptional provocation of the abduction of Chief Olu Falae, a distinguished Nigerian, Yoruba grandee and one of Afenifere’s leaders, reacted by renewing its threat of Yoruba secession from Nigeria.

Under the pressure of bad publicity and the Afenifere threat, the Caliphate has, among other measures, trotted out one of its Yoruba apologists to try to douse the political fires. Femi Falana has tried to minimize the problem by reducing it to one of effective law enforcement.

He condemns as “unfortunate” Afenifere’s escalating the matter to the constitutional and political level that threatens the integrity of the Nigerian territorial state. According to Femi Falana:  “But the crisis of insecurity of life and property in the region became exacerbated after the 2015 general elections  . . . the kidnap of Chief Olu Falae, a former secretary to the federal government in his farm in the outskirt of Akure, Ondo state last month added a new dimension to the kidnap saga in the region. . . . Chief Falae announced last week that his farm had been invaded . . . and taken over by a group of Fulani nomads. In a classical display of impunity, the Nigeria Police Force has failed to dislodge the lawless group.

Instead of calling on the security agencies to enforce the law by arresting and prosecuting the group some Yoruba leaders threatened that the south-west region would secede from Nigeria if Fulani nomads are not banned from entering the region! It is unfortunate that the senior citizens who issued the threat did not address the legal implications of their demand. It ought to be pointed out that every Nigerian has a constitutional right not to be expelled from any part of the country.

Criminal gang

Chief Falae is likely to be pained that the illegal occupation of his farm by a criminal gang may degenerate to civil disturbances between Yoruba farmers and Fulani nomads. More so, that Chief Falae was at the 2014 National Conference where it was unanimously agreed by delegates that “In the long term cattle routes and grazing reserves be phased out to lay emphasis on ranching” and that states which have large livestock populations should “endeavor to maintain grazing reserves.”

It was further resolved that “An integrated development and livelihoods modernization program should be designed and implemented to address the issue of settling nomadic herdsmen into settled communities based on established cattle ranches with fodder development technologies, and including abattoirs, processors and other businesses along the livestock value chain.”

The recommendations have been ignored by the Federal Government.

—Beyond Chief Olu Falae’s kidnap, by Femi Falana, on October 12, 2015  

I will later return to the Confab aspect of Falana’s submission. But let me start by quoting two newspaper reports that put the Falae matter in its countrywide and historical context. First, a February 2014 report from Benue State: Speaking with newsmen at the Government House yesterday, [Benue State Gov.] Suswam lamented that the Fulani mercenaries have continued to wreck havoc on his people despite several efforts by his administration to foster peace with the herdsmen.

He noted that the average Fulani man now goes about with AK47, and that if the situation is not quickly addressed, indigenes might be forced to defend themselves. “Yesterday morning, Fulanis numbering over 700 attacked and destroyed the Tor Tiv’s village house. For them to have targeted the Tor Tiv’s house is an affront and totally unacceptable,” he said. “I have been trying since yesterday to control the situation because emotions have risen.”

Tribal war

Consequently, “our people have congenially been displaced from their homes by these Fulani herders on a daily basis. Some of our children have not been to school in the last two years because they have been displaced. If the situation is not quickly addressed, I fear that it may result into a tribal war soon.” — Fulani attacks in Benue, Fresh attacks on Borno  Published Thursday, 20 February 2014

Here is a more comprehensive magazine article that casts light on the constitutional and other aspects: On Monday, 24th February, 2014, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN wrote what many Tiv indigenes in Benue State, North Central Nigeria regarded as a highly provocative letter to President Goodluck Jonathan.

Titled, Mr. President, Call Governor Suswam to Order Now Before It Is Too Late, MACBAN argued that their movement with their cattle across the country is covered by Section 41, Subsection 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which says that “every citizen is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereof or exit therefrom.”

The group also contended that the Constitution also expressly under Section 42, Sub-section (1) (a) forbids the imposition of any disabilities or restrictions on any citizen by any executive or administrative action against any citizen of any ‘community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion…” MACBAN whose motto is Read, Rear and Farm insisted that the herdsmen have lost hundreds of their lives and hundreds of thousands herds of their ancestral and generational wealth of cattle to what they called “criminal, genocidal marauding tribal and religious murderers who are calling themselves indigenes, farmers and Christians.”

Causes of the crisis

The group also called on the federal government to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the crisis between the herdsmen and farmers in the North Central Zone. “When the committee is set up, the government would see beyond the facade of wicked falsehood and propaganda,” MACBAN said. Before the letter to the President, the Tiv also alleged that the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar said the “Fulani have been grazing on their traditional grazing land in Tiv land.”

So, it is against this background that on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue state set out on inspection of Guma Local Government Area of the State which had earlier been attacked by unknown Fulani herdsmen numbering over 100. The attackers, not only burned down the entire village but also killed more than 30 people.

The governor was probably warned by his security aides not to underestimate the unknown killers, who during the invasion of the village were said to have used sophisticated weapons. As a precaution, he took on his convoy a detachment of soldiers from an army barracks in the state to strengthen his security which also included men of the Nigerian Police and Department of State Security, DSS.

But while approaching the besieged village, the soldiers suddenly stopped and informed the governor that they were instructed to turn back by their superiors whose names they never mentioned. The governor nonetheless proceeded on the journey but a moment after, he came under heavy gunfire from yet to be identified attackers, who laid siege at Tsekenyi where he stopped over to inspect the level of damage done by the invaders.

In trying to repel the attackers, the governor’s security engaged them in gun duel for almost an hour before they finally succeeded in whisking the governor away in his vehicle.

The attack left in its wake, 40 people dead. It was learnt that the intention of the attackers was to kill the state governor who has spared no words in his trenchant condemnation of the activities of the Fulani herdsmen which have increased in the past few weeks.

Describing the attack on his convoy, Suswam stated that the Fulani killers have become more sophisticated and needed to be tamed quickly. He called on the federal government to intervene before the crisis turns into a bloodbath.

But just few days after he gave this warning, the invaders attacked again. This time the invaders slaughtered over 22 persons at Anyii and Ayilamo and Logo villages where the governor hails from.

Sporadic attacks

Also, Guma where the supervising Minister of Aviation, Samuel Ortom hails from has been under sporadic attacks from Fulani militias since the beginning of this year. Before Suswam was attacked, The Fulani gunmen late February, killed 30 persons and razed over 14 villages, including the village of a former member of the House of Representatives, Godwin Ikerave.

Also torched during the attack on Guma was the palace of the traditional ruler of the Tivs, Tor Tiv Alfred Akawe Torkula and the surrouding villages which have now been taken over by the invaders who the magazine learnt, have set up settlement in the ‘conquered’ territories.

Prominent persons from Benue state are alleging a deliberate and systemic plan to wipe out the Tiv and Beron people. They argued that the fact that the wanton killings by Fulani herdsmen of their kinsmen has persisted for this long indicates sinister motives. Senator Joseph Waku, whose village is among those sacked by the attackers, accused the federal government of not doing much to restrain the invaders. According to him, the fact that the Fulani onslaught has been sustained, points to the bid of the invaders to completely eliminate the Tiv race.

A former Commissioner of Police in Lagos state, Abubakar Tsav shares this sentiment. He explained that the alleged support by uniform men for the Fulani to carry out these attacks further proved that some interests have declared a deliberate war to eliminate his people.

Since the violence started early this year, no fewer than 80,000 persons have been displaced across the three states of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau where the recent violence took place. There are also fears that the same situation could spread to other neighbouring states where the Fulani have settled to graze their animals.

Since the attacks tension has been rising over the activities of the Fulani killers particularly in Benue state where people now live in perpetual fear. To forestall further break-down of law and order, prominent Nigerians particularly from the northern part of the country have called for calm. The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammdu Sa’ad Abubakar III, last week called for end to bloodshed. He called for end to hostilities among the Fulani and their hosts, the Tiv. Abubakar who is also the Chairman, Board of Trustees of MACBAN condemned the crisis which he said has resulted in unnecessary bloodshed on both sides.

Recently, the President of Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Ephraim Goje, lamented that government and security agencies have proven unable to protect the lives of the people of Southern Kaduna. According to Goje, the Southern Senatorial Zone of Kaduna State has suffered 40 attacks since 2010. Atakar and Marwa, bordering Plateau State are preferred destinations for the Fulani herdsmen.

Fulani herdsmen

Goje promised that since the government and security agencies are unable to defend them in the face of the unofficial jihad declared on Southern Kaduna, they have no option but to defend themselves. A disturbing trend since the attacks by the Fulani started in 2010 is the alleged role played by men in uniform. In Dogo Nahawa in 2010, survivors alleged that Muslim soldiers aided the butchering of over 500 persons.

Though some argued that the Fulanis and their neighbours in the Middle Belt states of Nasarawa, Plateau and Benue have lived together in peace since the cattle breeders in the quest to find green pastures for their animals migrated to these areas, but investigations indicate that their arrival normally left in its wake frequent bloodbaths, as has been witnessed in virtually all the North Central states and places such as Oyo, Imo, Abia, Ogun, Enugu, Delta and others.

Whenever they attack, they do so with stealth and considering the sophisticated weapons in their possession, their host communities are usually helpless during such attacks. Saki in Oyo state, Jos in Plateau state and Sagamu, Ogun state have witnessed the most deadly attacks from the invaders, who after bloody clashes with farmers left the communities desolate….the vulnerable looking Fulani man with his cattle has powerful influential people that support them, whose cows they are rearing; e.g Sultan of Sokoto, governors, ministers, senior military and government officials. —The Fulani Militia—The rise of new warlords and why they are killing  (Accessed 22June 2014)

This long excerpt is from a much longer magazine piece that presents the many issues and sides of the matter, including the sourcing of the weapons of the Fulani Militia from Turkey and Libya; and the recruiting of Fulani mercenaries from across West Africa.

Introduictory reading

It should be required introductory reading for all Nigerians who wish to understand and solve this countrywide security problem. Among its disclosures is that, in Benue state, these Fulani militia on taking over Tiv villages, “set up settlement in the ‘conquered’ territories.” This would make them a Nigerian equivalent of the ethnic-cleansing Janjaweed militia in Darfur. That means that MACBAN is an organization that, for its economic gain, has resorted not just to the crimes of trespassing, arson, kidnapping and mass murder, but also to the ICC crime of ethnic cleansing. By the criteria of the RICO Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, of the United States, MACBAN, would qualify as a syndicate, an association of gangsters, and would be prosecuted for racketeering: engaging in criminal activity as a structured group.  The Sultan of Sokoto, as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of MACBAN would be seen as the grand patron of a criminal racketeering organization. All appropriate Nigerian and international prosecutors should please take note.

The territorial scope of this security problem. What is the territorial scope of this security problem? The Fulani militia has been reported active in many states of the North Central zone including Plateau, Benue, Nassarawa; and the southern parts of Kaduna state in the North West zone.  The Fulani herders’ crimes have been reported from many other states and zones including Ondo, Kogi, Oyo, Imo, Abia, Ogun, Enugu, and Delta. So the problem, if unresolved, could provoke ethnic and inter-communal wars in the SW and NC, as well as SE and SS and NW—i.e. in 5 of Nigeria’s six zones.

Criminal herders

One must presume that Femi Falana, in seeking to reduce and minimize this whole matter to a law-enforcement issue, isn’t aware that his MACBAN friends, (or is it clients?) were the first to make it a political and constitutional matter when they quoted the constitution to defend the alleged right of these criminal herders to invade and destroy other people’s property everywhere in Nigeria, on behalf of the cattle of the Caliphate grandees which they herd.

From the above excerpted account, it is MACBAN who first made this problem a political and constitutional matter. Femi Falana, and all Nigerians, should please take note that Afenifere has simply followed suit and upped the ante, turned up the political heat and begun the pressure necessary to bring the Caliphate to the table for a political solution. All the other nationalities victimized by the twin menace of Fulani herdsmen and Fulani militia  should wake up from their passivity and join Afenifere on this issue and let the Caliphate know that its criminal habit of murderous impunity shall no longer be tolerated.

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