By Prof Iyorwuese Hager
The recent June 24th 2018 massacre of over a hundred men, women and children by herdsmen in the Jos Plateau, has finally broken the camel’s back. The decade old conspiracy of silence, denials and collusions has finally been exposed. The bubble has burst in the face of the Nigerian state and the international community with incontrovertible evidence of facts supplied with gory pictorials. The world has finally accepted that there is ethnic cleansing going on in the Middle-Belt region of Nigeria, and that Nigeria has started her unfortunate inexorable descent to chaos.
The 24th June massacre in the Jos, Plateau of Nigeria caught the attention of British lawmakers that President Mohammadu Buhari is presiding over extended ethnic cleansing fields of the Middle-Belt of Nigeria, and instead of calling it genocide, chooses to call it, farmers/herders clashes. The nascent trajectory of Nigeria to chaos can be best summarized by Lord Alton of Liverpool who rose in the British House of Lords, last week to condemn the latest attack on the Plateau:
‘‘Are we to watch one of Africa’s greatest countries to go the way of Sudan? We must not wait for a genocide to happen as it did in Rwanda.’’
The United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brown Back, acknowledged that “the attacks are systematic and unabated,” while Baroness Berridge has accepted what most Christian groups in Nigeria consider a “Jihadist Movement “, and Prof. Yusuf Turaki terms a negative “revivalist Islam’’. Baroness Goldie and Baroness Stroud have wondered why Nigeria has not asked for help from the International community. The United States Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has documented a horrendous tracking of 20,000 deaths since president Buhari became president. Voices inside Nigeria and outside have called on the Nigerian government to ask for help from the International community. Meanwhile the Nigerian President, his government and his party, the All People’s Congress are in denial and have stubbornly refused to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing agenda of the herdsmen. They refuse to designate the Herdsmen and their sponsors the Miyeti Allah as terrorist groups, despite the glaring evidence. Global terrorism index has designated these herdsmen as the second most dangerous terrorist group in the world. In scope, scale and intensity the Boko Haram insurgency that gets global attention has been superseded by Fulani Herdsmen terrorism. The Miyetti Allah has consistently claimed responsibility for each attack, yet they are neither apprehended nor sanctioned. The government is quick to condemn and blame the victims of herdsmen’s attacks for not being accommodative of their killers, even when accommodation means surrender to inevitable death in the hands of a predator devoid of any human feeling except bestiality and relentless horrific depravity. The Nigerian state explains away these killings as merely the work of detractors, un-co-operative landowners, the opposition parties and even corrupt politicians. It chides the citizens and dismisses the cries of the people affected as merely inconvenient distractions.
It is important to X-ray President Buhari’s self-righteous denials of wrongdoing and complicity against growing public condemnation. His grim and stubborn silence and unwillingness to accept that Nigeria is at war with a well-coordinated Fulani herdsmen militia is understood in context. President Buhari stated in April that the ‘‘gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.’’ Psychologically and unconsciously Buhari was in ‘’blame avoidance mode’’ as he stubbornly defended these irredentist hawks for both sponsoring and/or executing the Benue genocide of 1st January 2018. When he travelled to the U.K in April, the president put up an even more aggressive defense of these terrorists. He told the Arch Bishop of Canterbury in April 2018 that:
‘‘The crisis has been made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African region.’’
Despite his taciturn dismissals of previous horrendous attacks, the death score on the Plateau has finally touched President Buhari’s inner core. Plateau state is a political asset and the Plateau government often takes sides with Buhari against the other states in the Middel Belt region. The Fulani herdsmen disregarded this key Buhari ally and this is why the Plateau deaths rattled him. But rather than own up to the inability, inaction and ignorance displayed by his security operatives, Buhari first tries to distance himself from the Fulani terrorists but finally agrees that there are some real bad Fulani who are up to no good. He in effect said that even though he looked like the killers he should not be blamed! Implying that these were not the usual Fulani herdsmen that he knew carried sticks and were welcomed everywhere they went in Nigeria before this drift to genocide. To quote him,
‘‘The present herder, I am told carries AK 47 and people are blaming me for not talking to them because maybe (they say ) I look like one of the them. There is some injustice in these aspersions.’’
Too many years in the army have robbed President Buhari of his humanity. He is devoid of sympathy and empathy, which any good leader must have or cultivate. He takes himself too seriously as if citizens are merely his recruited cheerleaders to do his bidding. He says the most inappropriate things to those in mourning! Defending himself to the Plateau mourners is both inappropriate and self-indicting. This is why the celebrated CNN war journalist Christiane Amanpour, is upset and alleges that Buhari has more than a passing interest in colluding with the terrorists: According to Amanpour:
‘‘By all definitions and descriptions Nigeria’s so called herdsmen are terrorists and if President Buhari doesn’t believe so, then it would be difficult for anyone to reasonably absolve him (Buhari) from complicity.’’
It must be stated for global attention that a majority of Fulani are aghast at what is happening and do not sanction the genocide taking place. These Fulani are among traditional rulers, party people, the clergy and intellectuals! The irredentist hawks, are prepared to go all the way until the pre-colonial conquest of the Caliphate and the colonial indirect rule, with cattle routes and all, are restored and the country handed to Fulani rule. Buhari’s body language and executive policies lean in the direction of the irredentists and hawks. Even when he goes on a condolence visit to non-Fulani communities devastated by his kinsmen terrorists he is quick to point to the killing of the Fulani in other states as if the killing of anybody anywhere under his watch and command was fair game as long as the numbers of casualties tallied. He naively compares the body counts of Fulani killed in Taraba state, while on a supposed condolence visit to Benue state and the current figures of the Christians killed in Plateau state with those of Muslims killed in Zamfara state when on another condolence visit to the plateau. These politically incorrect gaffes give the impression of Buhari saying that there is nothing to be worried about, let the bloodbath continue, as long as Christians and Muslims are being killed proportionally.
The genocide in the Middle-Belt and the rise of Fulani irredentism has compounded Nigeria’s leadership crises. President Buhari the lone figure upon whom all hopes were pinned has alas failed to inspire a moral revolution and instigate growth in the country. His major failure has been his inability to establish a counter culture in the democratic institutions. Corruption tainted politicians in both his ruling party and the P.D.P are flexing muscles and bracing up to wrestle for power in six months time during the next federal elections in early 2019. This horde of politicians learnt nothing and forgot nothing.
President Buhari appears to be a major embarrassment to the nation and his foes point to his deficiencies, even in his inability to properly pronounce the full names of INEC and his party the APC. They even take seriously and condemn his dry homour about the position of the 21st Century woman, in his imagination as cooks and sex objects, when he gaffes before global leaders in consigning his wife to the “other rooms”
But all is not lost. The Plateau genocide has bought out the best in Buhari. It has brought out of him a quintessential quality less found in other Nigerian leaders -HONESTY. Like a spent boxer, Buhari stared at the Plateau genocide and threw up his bloodied gloves in surrender. “
“There is nothing I can do to help the situation except to pray to God to help us out of the security challenges”
What an awful finality! How can the president and commander-in-chief tell the world there is nothing he can do? Not even to call for help? This is total surrender to fate, to shamans and Nigerian spirituality. A few months ago this general was incapacitated by serious undisclosed illness. Nigerians prayed and prayed, yet the efficacy of prayers was combined with the best medical attention before the miraculous cure was found. It is in this vein that I call on Nigerians and the International community to help Nigeria from heading off the perilous cliff. We need healing in the land. We cannot continue like this! The Nigerian Army under the Chief of Staff has equally lent force to the call for citizen action to restore Nigeria’s democracy. Lt. General Buratai, the Chief of Staff of the Nigerian army, has cried out on his Facebook page at the forces against Nigeria’s corporate existence and says:
‘‘The blame game along ethnic and religious fault lines is not the solution. Nigeria must unite to solve this serious challenge.
General Buratai is apparently, referring to the same “security challenge” and calling for citizen action where President Buhari his Commander in-Chief capitulates and surrenders to capricious elements and to prayers.
Let me make a few suggestions on how best to combine prayers with concerted action by a determined and united citizenry:
- Ask for help from the International community.
We have genocide on our hands in Nigeria and it is bad! Whether it is perpetrated by the Fulani or against the Fulani it is equally bad and condemnable and must be stopped. There is little sense in denying that we are at war. Nigerians are losing their lives, homes, food security, humanity and mind. Wars are bad, and senseless wars are senseless and bad. The Middle Belt is the main theater of the war. And since the Commander-in- Chief has surrendered, saying there is nothing more he can do about this security situation, it is time to ask for help. We should humbly ask the International community for help. The International community should accept that a civil war and genocide are raging in Nigeria’s Middle-Belt and the international community should immediately intervene for humanitarian reasons. The intervention is desirable and urgent and appropriate since the 21st. Century has opened space for the international community to intervene under the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect. (R2P) which came into effect in 2005 and is designed to prevent crimes against humanity in states like Nigeria where the state fails to fulfill its obligation to protect the citizens. In the Nigerian case, the Head of State Mohammadu Buhari belongs to the ethnic group of a belligerent party and has shown considerable bias in promoting Fulani sectionalism. The Nigerian state has refused to acknowledge that a civil war is raging in Nigeria even when the death toll from January to June alone is past the standard yardstick for war status of 1000 casualty mark. Amnesty International has indicated that since 1st January at least 1,813, people have died from terrorism and banditry.
The Nigerian state has continued to deny the existence of genocide even when the UN Genocide Convention of 1948 signed by Nigeria in 2008 is unambiguous that:
Genocide is the denial of the right of existence of an entire human group.
Since 2008 various nationalities have had their definitions and laws to reflect the UN convention of Dec 9.1948 ideal. Most social scientists have accepted the definition of genocide as the:
“successful attempt by a dominant group vested with formal authority and/or preponderant access to the over all resources of power to reduce by coercion or lethal violence the number of a minority group whose ultimate extermination is held desirable and useful and whose respective vulnerability is a major factor contributing to the decision for genocide”.
The Middle Belt is Nigeria’s suicide belt. It has suffered centuries of degradation, humiliation, and pillage. It has suffered from the trans-Saharan slave trade and Atlantic slave trade. Before colonialism the belt was the abode of genocide and considered by the Sokoto Caliphate as the abode of war dar-ar-harb. During colonialism, the British using Social Darwinism enslaved them through Lord Lugard’s Indirect Rule and were called “pagan tribes” and made to suffer further repression from Fulani Emirs imposed on them. They provided the labour force to build the North-South Railways and the Benue and Niger bridges uniting Northern and Southern Nigeria. During the First and Second World Wars, they supplied soldiers that died for the British. During the World’s great depression, they were starved and forced to abandon subsistence agriculture to produce cash crops to provide the cushioning effect of the Great Depression on the British people. They were also drafted to mine tin in the Jos Plateau, which helped the Allies to win the war against Germany with superior air power. Will these same allies abandon the Middle Belt today to be wiped off the face of the earth when and where the evidence of Middle Belt genocide has become incontrovertible?
The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres might do well to pay attention to the genocide in the Middle-Belt of Nigeria and must ignore the overwhelming propaganda around him which leads him to inadequately and weakly respond to the Plateau genocide as merely feeling concerned about the “ violent conflicts between herders and farmers across west and central Africa”. This is no mere conflict or even a clash of farmers and herders. It is an ongoing premeditated cold and calculated genocide, which has been progressively going on in the Middle-Belt region since 2013.
Secretary General, Guterries, must understand that Nigeria is fighting an asymmetric war with a powerful adversary. He must understand that heads of the Nigerian state institutions have been constituted from members of the belligerent irredentists. This has provided the perpetrators with not just co-operation and defense but also collective denials of the existence of genocide! The Secretary General is also invited to re-examine Nigeria’s war against corruption since high-levels of corruption creates genocide and genocide increases corruption. Finally, the Secretary General is invited to study all the policies of the administration on matters relating to the welfare of the Fulani herdsmen which have been resisted by the affected farming communities as the leading cause or the genocide. It is the classical definition of war by Carl von Clausewitz as the ‘‘continuation of policy by other means.’’ The genocide is seen as the ultimate weapon in the resolution of the conflict between herders and farmers. Femi Adesina, the Nigerian president’s spokesperson posits a grim choice to the farmers to surrender their lands or die in a widely televised and newspaper broadcast. With sufficient will and motive of the predator group the world had been deceived, diverted and obscured from this war and the support and passive complicity of the Nigerian State. It is now time to act. The United Nations should create an international impartial and independent mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the ongoing genocide.
- THE FULANI RACE
The Fulani moderates and peace lovers must now rise up to deny the irredentist hawks, no matter how strong or how powerful, from defining all Fulani as backward, brutal, evil usurpers who look down on other ethnic groups and the whole of Nigeria with a sense of entitlement. Any one Nigerian life is better than a million cows and must be protected. These moderates must join hands with the rest of Nigerians who are prepared to negotiate for a better Nigeria. The Government of Muhammadu Buhari has brought the entire Nigerian Fulani under an intolerable burden of guilt. It must be told to other Fulani in West Africa that Nigerian land belongs to the Nigerian Fulani and not Libyan, Nigerien, Sudanese, Malian, Chadian etc. Fulani. Nigeria has done well by not annexing our weaker neighbours. We have done well by inhibiting territorial ambitions. We must not allow a congeries of trans-border Fulani to attack our country with impunity. The Sultan of Sokoto is a revered traditional and cultural institution and icon and must be insulated from trans-border Fulani militancy. We need patriotic Fulani voices to rise up for a united Nigeria. The Fulani does not lack such great leaders to help Nigeria pull back from anarchy and chaos. We cannot unite Nigeria without them.
- PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI.
Decision makers of modern Nigeria, the president’s men must persuade President Buhari that his presidency is further tearing Nigeria apart. Nigerian lives that were cheap during the time of his predecessor have become valueless just like the naira. It is time to swallow personal pride, hubris and personal ambition. It is time to go. I believe that President Muhammadu Buhari means well. I believe that he belongs to the top echelon of those few extremely patriotic Nigerians. Like Robert Mugabe who fought for freedom of the Zimbabweans from foreign domination; the fight to rid Nigeria of corruption cannot be fought in the future without referencing President Buhari. But it is time to let go. The president should not fight tooth and nail to win the next election, which he can win, like Mugabe, Paul Biya and Yuweri Museveni. This country is beginning to look like Syria and Buhari like King Assad. We cannot afford the rule of an imperial kingship after all the sacrifices we made to be a federated republic. The President should step aside and name a transition team to conduct the next election. The National Assembly and his state institutions should enable Buhari a respected and dignified exit that he deserves just like Mugabe’s exit was dignified, so that the healing process can begin and Nigeria faces a new horizon of hope. The impeachment process sanctioned to begin against President Buhari by a Nigerian Federal High Court should not be carried through. Buhari is a honourable disciplined soldier and gentleman. His lone mistake of irredentism; is forgivable and his stepping aside a Mea culpa, capable of instigating a moral revolution and a sustainable healing process and peace.
- RE-BUILDING NIGERIA
Nigerian leaders must rise up to the true calling of leadership to join hands to birth a new and greater Nigeria. Public servants, intellectuals, religious leaders, civil societies organizations, youth groups and the media should rise up and let us begin the process of healing and rebuilding. The next election in 2019 might be too late. Nigerian citizens must be given a new vision of a hope for a united Nigeria where our diversities do not define us but rather we are proudly defined as Nigerians. We need a new leadership like the one that rebuilt modern Rwanda after the Tutsi/Hutu genocide, to transcend hate, genocide and ethnicity. We need a new great and modern Nigeria where our youth can dream lofty dreams. Nigerian citizens make little demands on their government, which pays little attention to their needs. We need urgently to embark on our journey to a new Nigeria with a new leadership. Any part of our plural society that wants or needs anything should be prepared to negotiate for it, instead of setting out unjust methods of acquiring such wants or needs. We must forge on with deep thinking at all times to make this country greater. Right now we need to renew our faith in our unity and to stand by each other in strengthening our resolve in collective destiny of freedom, justice and peace so that we can heal from the deep gashes of terrible wounds we inflicted on ourselves.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Makurdi July 5, 2018