Terlumun Wilfred Uji is a professor of Social and Economic History, in the Department of History and International Studies at the Federal University of Lafia (Fulafia). In this exclusive interview with NATHANIEL GBAORON, the university don traced the history of the crisis in the Middle Belt region. He blamed the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for laying the foundation for the present framework of herdsmen expansion in Nigeria through the creation and establishment of institutions such as the Livestock Transformation Agency, among others. He also said that it was only the ruling political elite that could resolve the age-long crisis. Excerpts:
Killings have continued in parts of the country even after Muhammadu Buhari has left office. Some critics had accused Buhari of complicity in the killings while he was in office. Now, what do you think is happening?
The events and the forces that have culminated in the Fulani herdsmen militia invasion of North central Nigeria date back to the colonial era when the entire area was under the singular government of the Northern region under the leadership of Sir Ahmadu Bello who was the Premier of the region. In theoretical terms, the Northern region was conceptualised as the extension and continuation of the estate and empire of Usman Dan Fodio who led the Islamic revolutions of 1804 that succeeded in the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate with headquarters at Sokoto. By the interpretation of the Caliphate, all present lands and states under the Northern region were under the Caliphate rule factored in the Emirate System that was created by the Jihad. In North Central Nigeria, the critical Emirates that claimed sovereignty over the indigenous people of the geo-political area were the Bauchi Emirates, Keffi, Abuja, and Zaria Emirates respectively.
In the Comet Newspaper of 1961, Sir Ahmadu Bello declared that Nigeria was the estate of their Great grandfather Usman Dan Fodio. Their Kingdom extended from the desert in the North to the Atlantic Ocean in the South. It was their responsibility to keep minority ethnic groups in the Northern region under check as slaves and willing tools, to prevent the minority groups of the Northern Region from any form of real independence and autonomy.
The definition of Northern Nigeria included all the frontiers of present-day Niger, Chad, Mali and Cameron nations that were considered as parts of the Sokoto Caliphate and by extension parts of the sovereignty called Nigeria.
The idea and conceptualisation of the nation known as Nigeria by the leaders of the Fulani Nation was divergent and has been radically opposed to the conception of Nigeria by other ethnic groups. From the perspective and world view of the Fulani aristocratic ruling class of the North, Nigeria is an Islamic State under the ownership and control of the Fulani to further the expansionism of the Fulani people. Fulani expansionism across Northern Nigeria in line with the desire for the Islamisation of Northern Nigeria has been in stages and phases under different Institutionalised frameworks.
As far back as the Colonial period there were deliberate political and economic structures that were established by the Northern Regional Government to facilitate the expansion of Herdsmen and control of the Northern Region.
One of such Institution was the idea of Nomadic Education in the Northern Region. Under the Northern Regional Government, over twenty million pounds were spent on the expansion of Nomadic Education through the establishment of schools, clinics, grazing routes and reserves, training and mobilisation of veterinary doctors as well as the establishment of agro ranches in all parts of the Native Authorities of the Northern Region.
The idea of Nomadic Education gave legitimacy to the expansion and assimilation of Fulani Herdsmen in the Northern Region and even down to Southern Nigeria.
The idea of Nomadic Education among many other objectives was aimed also at growing the Cattle and fairy economy with its Value Chain, which had an enormous contribution to the Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria during the era of British Colonialism stretching over to the First Republic in the post-independence era. Agriculture served as the major source of the Gross National Product of Nigeria in which the Cattle industry made a significant contribution to National Income earnings. The fact is that the Cattle industry is a big commercial business of the Northern political and economic class who are the real sponsors of nomadic herdsmen at the grassroots of Nigeria.
The understanding of this background is critical to the understanding of the Herdsmen Militia killings of the indigenous population in North Central Nigeria in recent years. The spate of ethnic violence and genocide present in North Central Nigeria is similar to the Wild Wild West European Expansionism factored in the “Cow Boy Culture” of America. It has global parallels in the “Mad Cow” disease between Britain and her European Neighbors, a similar edition of the “Cattle War” being experienced in Nigeria in contemporary times.
In the last thirty years, there has been a series of events and developments leading up to the spate of violent extremism led by Herdsmen Militia Groups in Northern Nigeria.
The formation of Miyetti Allah Kauta Hore as the militant arm of the Fulani Arewa Social Cultural Organisation is to defend and protect the interest of Cattle breeders in Northern Nigeria. The formation of the herdsmen militant group was followed up by an advocacy and diplomatic campaign that was led by General Muhammadu Buhari, across all the States of Nigeria, solicited the establishment of grazing routes and reserves for Fulani Herdsmen in each State of Nigeria. These campaigns were carried out under the sponsorship of the wealthy patrons of Miyetti Allah Kauta Hore led by General Muhammadu Buhari on the eve of his election as the President of Nigeria in 2015. The State Advocacy Campaigns were a prelude and preparatory background for the kind of institutionalised policies that occurred during the President Buhari administration.
When inaugurated as the President of Nigeria, the Buhari administration during its eight-year tenure, laid the foundation for the present framework of herdsmen expansion in Nigeria through the creation and establishment of Institutions such as Livestock Transformation Agency, the idea of Fulani Settlements in each of the 774 Local Governments of Nigeria with an area Square Miles similar to the size of the Vatican City in Rome. These are national policies aimed at giving credence to the territorial ambition and claims of the Fulani Oligarchy of the Northern Region. These policies are deliberate, and they represent a conscious political extension of the ideas and dreams of the Fulani Founding Fathers of Nigeria.
Scholars of the political history of Northern Nigeria have dubbed these expansionist policies as the “Internal Colonisation of Northern Nigeria by the Sokoto Caliphate” Indeed, there is no doubt that the indigenous people of North Central Nigeria and the Middle Belt are going through a New Phase of Caliphate Expansion which represents a modern phase in the stages of Islamic Expansion of Nigeria.
The formation of Miyetti Allah Kauta Hore has been backed up by the vigorous military training and equipment of the Militia Group.
This followed the collapse of regimes in the Middle East and North Africa in the Gulf War and the Arab Spring.
Following the collapse of Iraq, Syria and Libya, there has been an outpouring of migrations of armed men and arms across Niger and Mali, pouring out into Northern Nigeria. This has led to a migration of desperate Herdsmen Militia groups made up of Arabs, Berbers, Fulani, Touaregs, etc into Nigeria. Compelled by environmental forces, and the continued desertification of the Sahara in the North, these Herdsmen Groups have come to violently contest the so-called “UnGoverned Spaces” of North Central Nigeria and the Middle Belt. Furthermore, illegal mining of precious stones by these “bandits” has worsened the security challenge in Nigeria.
It is against this background that former President Olusegun Obasanjo in an Open Letter to Muhammadu Buhari, accused his administration of a Fulanisation Agenda or the Islamisation of Nigeria and even the West African Sub-region using Boko Haram and ISIS.
The open letter by Olusegun Obasanjo underpins the challenge of the insecurity in Nigeria, in that it is a deliberate creation of the Nigerian ruling political class both in the Military and the Civil Class. Former President Goodluck Jonathan indicted the ruling political class of Nigeria as the major sponsors of violent extremism and militant Islamic groups in Nigeria.
Herdsmen Militia Groups are often trained in our military depots, armed and equipped with sophisticated weapons and aided and abetted with intelligence gathering.
Through taxes and donations, Miyetti Allah Kata Hore raised billions of dollars that were invested into the procurement of illegal weapons to prosecute a war of herdsmen expansion at the expense of the lives of rural sedentary settlements in Nigeria.
It is, therefore, not an understatement to say that from the political perspective, the insecurity challenges of the Middle Belt are a factor of the ruling political elite both in Military Uniforms and Civil attire. From the Economic trajectory, it is a war between two social and economic groups: Herdsmen and Farmers in the rural setting of Nigeria. It is a war of resource control, the question of land control for the growing of an agricultural economy.
The war is worsened by the fact that both sides of the social and economic divide, all depend on primitive crude forces of production. The overdependence on crude forces of production has inhibited the sense and situation whereby both sides if the forces of production were modernised, would have reaped the benefits of economics of large-scale production. In a modernised and industrialised agricultural economy, both Herdsmen and Farmers stand to benefit from each other using the economics of large scale and specialisations.
Early in his administration, Governor Caleb Mutfwang received letters of threat from the Fulani herdsmen, saying they would make the state ungovernable for him. The security agencies did nothing and now the killings are going on. Would it be out of place to say that the security agencies have been compromised?
If at this point in our national history and existence, there are people who take Islamic politics for granted, I am afraid, such people are under a serious illusion and disillusionment.
Nigeria in theory, based on what we hear from our Christian Clergy, a supposed predominantly Christian State, but in real practice, what exists on the ground proves that we are a nation under the political hold and strangled hold of political Islam. I have been in Lafia, the political headquarters of Nasarawa State, for the past ten years and the state has provided me the observatory platform to study Islamic expansion across Northern Nigeria. We shall now proceed to look at what is happening at the moment in North Central Nigeria using Nasarawa State, and how the state has become a staging point for insecurity in the North Central of Nigeria in order to destabilise the entire region.
Firstly, Nasarawa State was carved out of Plateau State, to provide a base for Militant Islam, as a launching pad for violent extremism, using Islam and Herdsmen, against Plateau State and Benue State. Nasarawa State also reinforces as a garrison that supplies and replenishes militant Islamic groups in the territorial conquest and occupation of the Middle Belt of Nigeria.
The creation of Nasarawa State had an inbuilt, well-designed and inherent Islamic Agenda as a launch pad for the outpouring of Islam across the Middle Belt as well as Southern Nigeria.
What is the evidence to back such claims? Let’s take a few happenings and developments in the State in the last decade or more.
Since the creation of the state with the economic and political empowerment of the migrant Islamic class, who are not the indigenous population of the State, the Plateau has become a theatre of religious conflicts and violent extremism, resulting in mass displacement of indigenous people, dislocation and destruction of centres of economic articulation such as markets, the forceful takeover of lands and sub planting of Muslim communities. The acid test is this, why was the peak of the Plateau Crisis, not before the creation of Nasarawa State but after its creation?
The timing is of great importance to pinpoint our argument that Nasarawa has been created as an anti-thesis of Christian groups of the Middle Belt.
Secondly, the headquarters of Miyetti Allah Kata Hore in the North Central of Nigeria is Lafia.
This is a Militant Fulani Herdsmen Militia force that has in national press conferences threatened the peace and sovereignty of states such as Benue and Plateau in recent times. Since the creation and establishment of Miyetti Allah, the Militant arm of the Fulani Nation, there has been widespread invasion and expansion of herdsmen on a scale and proportion, hitherto unequalled before the creation of Nasarawa State. The last two decades have witnessed a theatre of war and genocide waged against peaceful sedentary farming settlements and villages of the Middle Belt.
In the last few weeks, this has been proven with the formation of the paramilitary outfit of Miyetti Allah that has been inaugurated in Lafia.
In addition, the kingpin of Kidnappers and bandits in Northern Nigeria was granted amnesty in Lafia and encouraged to settle in Nasarawa State.
The security implication is that Nasarawa State and her environs such as forest areas and mountains will soon provide a fortress for these bandits and terrorists. Thirdly, the contest and tussle as to who is the Governor of Nasarawa State reveals the likelihood of an Islamic agenda.
So far, it is obvious that only a Muslim Migrant from the Far States of Northern Nigeria can be the governor of the state.
There are indigenous Muslim converts who are not viewed as fit to control the seat of political power in Lafia. Nasarawa State has produced some of the most bizarre election outcomes in the political history of Nigeria.
Opposition political parties with a clear ethnic majority votes, in each election in the last decade, are often denied victory through the manipulation using the legal contradictions of the electoral process. There is always a technical point that the courts exploit or use as a weapon against the ethnic majority. What exists is a circle of frustration, anger and injustice. There are many infallible facts that demand the verdict the purpose and existence of Nasarawa State is to foist an Islamic hegemony on the Middle Belt. The structure and distribution of appointments in Federal Universities and Institutions of the State reveal a subterranean agenda.
Is there any internal conspiracy of the elite class of the Plateau State in regard to the killings?
Since the foundations of modern Nigeria, Plateau State has enjoyed an elite class that has been a formidable part of the ruling class of Northern Nigeria in partnership with the Fulani aristocratic political class.
Following the military coup that toppled General Aguyi Ironsi in 1965, an indigene of Plateau State, with Migrations links in Southern Kaduna, General Yakubu Gowon in controversial circumstances became the Head of State of Nigeria.
General Yakubu Gowon was used by the ruling Fulani aristocrats to sustain a hold on the Unity of Nigeria in what was known as “One Nigeria.”
Equally, Gowon’s administration forcefully recruited the foot soldiers needed to prosecute the Civil War from the Middle Belt.
Immediately after the War, in 1975, General Gowon was toppled by a military coup led by his Kinsmen Brigadier Joe Garba who was in the brigade of guards.
General Murtala Mohammad succeeded General Gowon as the Military Head of State.
The point is what happened to the unity and fraternity of the Plateau elites in the coup that toppled one of their own through the treacherous act of kinsmen conspiracy. Joe Garba never knew the devastating effects and consequences of that inner conspiracy until the failed coup that was led by Col. Bukka Sukka Dimka.
The Col. Dimka failed coup exposed how fragile and divided the Plateau elite class had become in relation to the Fulani ruling oligarchy. It marked the beginning of a sour relationship between the Plateau elites, badly divided and disunited, against the formidable Fulani ruling class.
Furthermore, minority ethnic groups of the Plateau had willingly accepted centuries of the process of Hausa Cultural Assimilation that produced a strong fusion of cultural bonds with the Hausa ruling class together with the Fulani. Undoubtedly, this process of cultural Assimilation gave the Plateau people and other ethnic minorities of the Middle Belt great advantage in the Federal Service, particularly recruitment in the Military at the National level, but it compromised and destroyed the identities of the minority groups that had been subsumed into a common Hausa Nationality.
It is a common error by all ethnic groups of Southern Nigeria to dub everyone from Northern Nigeria as Hausa. This has both identity and religious implications for minority groups of Northern Nigeria who are seen and defined as Muslims. In addition, the crisis of identity, the idea that the entire North is Hausa serves as a good justification for the Pax Jihadist of Usman Dan Fodio, the “Islamic Peace that established a Caliphate System all over the Hausa Groups or States” both the Free States and the Bastard States, of Northern Nigeria.
The theory that there existed the Free Hausa States and the Bastard Hausa States reinforces the idea that Northern Nigeria is fundamentally owned by the Fulani for the Fulani People.
Ethnic Groups such as the Jukun, relations Idoma, Nupe, Gwari Alago, etc in recent times, to promote a Pan Hausa Nationalism, have reviewed their identity as Hausa People.
Society in the Middle Belt is deeply fragmented and divided and subsumed under waves of external conquest and migrations to resist the ongoing killings from Plateau to Kaduna, down to Nasarawa to Benue State. There is a network of internal conspiracy and collaboration with Fulani Herdsmen and Islamic Militant Groups.
What could be the way forward or for how long shall we continue in our lamentation?
The way forward should be the formation and use of indigenous security outfits by our local communities as a first line of defence. There is an oncoming mass slaughter and genocide that will be unleashed on the Middle Belt soon. Security is the top priority, the right to self-defence.
Local Community and Rural Cooperative Societies with links with the Central Bank and other national financial organisations should be introduced to access loans and capital for both rural farmers and SMEs. There is also a need to encourage large plantations of tree crop farming.
There is a need for the economic empowerment of rural communities as well as the urgent need for indigenous security outfits for the purpose of self-defence. The fundamental challenge is that of grassroots poverty and weak military resistance. We are aware that our Christian elites who are part of the ruling political class have entered into a state of conspiracy against the rural population.
Our political leaders have sold us out through bad governance and sheer abandonment. We must understand that the ruling political class comprises both the politicians and the Church Clergy. If we live under the illusion that these two are separate and different, the more we become confused in our struggle to overcome Islamic oppression in Nigeria.
The Church Clergy and the ruling political class are two sides of the same class. They together with the military elites form the ruling class that has entered into layers of relationship with the Islamic political class.
The people at the grassroots or the common people must arise and take their destinies into their own hands. They are on the direct line of fire and assault from violent killings to the structural and systematic killings caused by poverty and underdevelopment.
Let’s continue with the idea of tree crop plantation that will help put land into use and productive activities.
The idea of “Vacant Lands” for grazing routes and reserves has been the fundamental argument of herdsmen expansionism.
Nobody considers the fact that the population explosion has exacted severe pressure on land as well as settlement patterns. It is common to see that along the routes of our Federal roads and River banks, there are hardly agricultural plantations or farm Settlements.
This creates a gap for land seekers to exploit to their advantage just as there are several forested areas not put into use. Land grabbers often exploit these environmental gaps to contest what is known as ungoverned spaces. We have a responsibility to step up the practice of large-scale commercial farming that can attract cottage industries through integrated rural development. We must mobilise our youthful population to register as voters and also be mobilised for each election.
There is a need to always cast the ballot and defend it all the way to the various collation centres. Local Vigilante and transformation initiatives are quite critical to safeguard and defend the ballot.
Experience shows that results are often manipulated between the polling unit and the collation centres. Ballot defence at this point is critical and pivotal to electoral success. At the state collation centre, there is a need to position the international electronic media as well as observer groups. Opponents often exploit these losses of the absence of International presence to declare results that are controversial.
In the face of fully beamed cameras and International watchdogs, it minimises the propensity to manipulate results.
The Middle Belt States of Benue, Plateau and Taraba must mobilise all their energy and resources for the emancipation of the region and Nasarawa State in particular.
The redemption of Nasarawa State is strategic to the emancipation of the Middle Belt. It is the last bastion of militant Islam in the heart of the Middle Belt to be dislodged and dismantled. The freedom of Nasarawa State is the freedom of the Middle Belt from servitude and slavery.
But, how can we unite the diverse and sometimes divergent ethnic groups of the Middle Belt that lack a unifying ideology and philosophy?
We are divided by primordial ideologies such as the Kwararafa Confederacy. What is it that unifies us more than what divides us?
Since the last three decades, a primordial ideological framework has produced some of the worst heinous genocide of the Middle Belt in the crises between the Tiv and Jukun, Arago and Tiv, etc. The Islamic world fully understands our weaknesses and divisions and has repeatedly exploited them to its political advantage. Through a prebendal framework of patron-client ties, the Islamic ruling class know how to recruit leadership from the indigenous elites and uses such to subvert the popular will of the common people.
It is a system whereby the enemies of every elite are members of his household and Kinsmen manifest in acts of treachery and betrayal.
The US Secretary of State visited President Bola Tinubu, pledging his country’s assistance to tackle insecurity. What specific help do you think Nigeria should be needing from the US?
Since the beginning of the killings in Northern Nigeria attributed to the activities of herdsmen and bandits, there has been a concerted effort by individuals, and private and religious organisations to draw the attention and action of the international communities through either direct or indirect diplomatic interventions.
The Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria has been at the forefront of such diplomatic missions aimed at the lobbying of state and non-state actors on the international scene to intervene in the killings in Nigeria.
The United Nations has also received oral testimonies of victims of the killings and displacement, especially in Plateau and Kaduna States.
The strengths of these oral submissions together with strong advocacy by non-state actors in Nigeria indicate that there is the need for the intervention of the United States and her European allies in the multi-dimensional conflicts in Nigeria.
Secondly, using modern high-tech innovations in the military is the best way to fight Militant Islamic groups and insurgency.
The West led by the United States of America has developed sophisticated drones and Military technology that can isolate and destroy terrorists and militant groups with little human cost and collateral damage.
Since the era of President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria has entered into a strategic Military partnership with the West on how to resolve our lingering national security challenges. After all, most of our contemporary security challenges are caused by the West.
The economy of Nigeria is in a terrible state despite assurances by the current administration. Should you have the opportunity to meet with Tinubu today, what are the ideas you may wish to share with him on how to end the insecurity menace that is affecting everything?
The fundamental challenge of insecurity in Nigeria is the poor state of economic development evident in the high poverty rate that stands at over sixty (60) percent, high youth unemployment of over forty (40) percent, inflation and interest rates at over ten percent, the value of the naira in the international capital market that depreciates against other major international currencies.
The Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria is at a slow growth rate with external debts that have reached the ceiling peak.
All these are statistics drawn from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund together with the National Board for Statistics in Nigeria.
The fundamental challenge of the economy of Nigeria is that despite efforts at privatisation and commercialisation of public enterprises, there is still a poor state of industrialisation and a weak manufacturing sector. Though there has been tremendous improvement in growing the economy through small-scale and Medium Enterprises using massive social Interventions, Nigeria still remains a nation that depends more on imports and consumption rather than exports and production.
The rural economy where 60 percent of our population lives still remains agrarian using crude implements without access roads and critical infrastructure.
Agricultural contribution to both the national GDP and GNP is weak as compared to that of oil. Nigeria, despite the efforts at agricultural mechanisation and industrialisation, still over-depends on the oil sector which is still not industrialised.
There is a huge public sector that depends more on white-collar jobs with little input from the private sector-driven efforts. In Nigeria, we are almost dependent on the public sector for survival and livelihood which forms the basis of the roots of poverty and insecurity in Nigeria.
The average Nigerian lacks the kind of education with critical skills to grow a private economy that can create and sustain jobs, blue-collar jobs in the market. Everything from monthly federal allocations to salaries to even politics depends on the State.
However, it is important to note that our national income receipts from the proceeds of crude oil make Nigeria one of the richest yet poorest countries in the world. The challenge basically is how to decentralise wealth from the centre, the over-concentration of national wealth in the Presidency and the National Assembly that has made Nigeria one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
I have given some practical steps on how to deal with the challenge of insecurity earlier on. However, I will add the following for the attention of the President with the assumption that the President reads daily Newspapers if he really does.
There is a need for a redefinition of Nigeria to streamline the inclusion and rights of minority groups to freedom and self-preservation. Nigeria as the nation stands at the present is a tripartite system under the ethnic hegemony of the Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo. This tripartite system, more of a conspiracy, rocked by centripetal and centrifugal forces has been the calamity of the Nigerian State since independence.
It is basically this inherent contradiction that led us to the Nigerian Civil War and is still evident in militant movements such as the Boko Haram, IPOB, Herdsmen Militia, Niger Delta Militants etc all seeking a measure of self-determination and autonomy.
The President should revisit and review the findings of the National Conference that took place under President Goodluck Jonathan’s era. He should establish Integrated Farm Settlements in each of the 774 Local Governments of Nigeria as a strategy for commercial agricultural revolution at the grassroots of Nigeria.
It is also the best way to integrate modern best practices in agricultural development that introduce ranching and model farms with agricultural mechanisation and cottage industries. The president should grant the autonomy of Local Governments at the financial and electoral levels.
This will free Local Governments from the stranglehold of State governors, free the grassroots for development, and help address insecurity at the grassroots level. He should allow Local Communities and indigenous Security Outfits the right to self-defence through a policy of indigenous grassroots policing. This is different from the idea of State Police that can be hijacked by State governors for political reasons.
Let the local communities be responsible for their security and development. Separate between what is politics and how to grow an economy. Allow a partnership of both foreign and indigenous capital with skills and capital, not the political class, to grow the critical sectors of the industrialisation of Nigeria. Overhaul the University System in Nigeria alongside Federal Colleges and Secondary Schools to pave the way for Skills skills-oriented educational system.
How in your opinion can the political crisis bedeviling Plateau State be resolved, with particular reference to the judgment of the Appeal Court that sacked both lawmakers of the state and federal assemblies; how do you see the matter being resolved?
The judgment by the Law Court that nullified the State Assembly members together with the Federal Legislative members is to further cripple the power of the state governor from carrying out the necessary functions that will stem the tide of herdsmen killings in Plateau.
Right from the foundations of modern Nigeria, the nation has been defined as the property and ownership of the Fulani Sokoto Caliphate, the heirs of the Usman Dan Fodio Jihad of 1804.
Furthermore, there is a tripartite system that reinforces the internal definition and Colonisation of Nigeria by her black political elites. By the tripartite arrangement, Nigeria belongs to the Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo for political and economic control.
This is often seen in political power rotation as well as resource control and public political appointments.
This ugly practice excludes minority groups like the Biroms and Angas of the Plateau and subjects these ethnic groups to a subservient position to the Fulani hegemonic domination.
The same is applicable to all minority ethnic groups of the North such as the Tiv, Eggons, Jukun, Idoma etc.
This principle, the tripartite system influences and reflects the National Security architecture that exists to protect and sustain the interest of the tripartite system.