|Femi Awoniyi||Friday, November 29, 2002|
FULANI TERROR, THE KADUNA MASSACRES AND THE OBASANJO GOVERNMENT
hat is most shocking or rather infuriating about the latest bout of mass, genocidal violence in Nigeria, part of the campaign of terror being waged by the Fulani establishment since President Olusegun Obasanjo's assumption of power in 1999, is the official reaction to it.
During the heat of the gruesome killings, a statement issued and signed by the Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Ufot Ekaette, on November 21, 2002, said: "The Government is appealing to Moslems not to take the law into their hands over the matter as their complaints are being redressed. People should accordingly go about their lawful duties without fear of molestation. We should remember that this is the holy month of Ramadan when all are expected to behave soberly and with restraint." (This Day, November 22, 2002)
That statement is not only absurd but unwittingly legitimises genocidal violence. It appeals to "Moslems" not to take the law into their hands instead of expressing the resolve of the state to deal sternly with any law-breaker; it was begging hoodlums not to kill instead of giving assurances of state protection to potential victims of unprovoked, unjustified violence. Odi people should be enraged.
"What happened in Nigeria obviously could have happened at anytime. Ramadan is regarded as a holy month for all Muslims and a period of abstinence, fasting, prayer and those of their brothers must also respect their sensitivities and their sensibilities. The Nigeria paper did not observe that and, of course, we have all suffered the consequences," the president said on CNN on November 25.
Has human life become so superfluous in Nigeria that the government seems more concerned with the feelings of perpetrators of unprovoked violence than showing official compassion for its victims? Or Are we getting used to Fulani terror or have we become exhausted by their ceaseless troubles?
"There is an international conspiracy just to show that an African country like Nigeria cannot host this thing. I think Nigerians should be really angry with the international press." Information and National Orientation Minister, Professor Jerry Gana said, according to the French news agency, AFP (Daily Trust, November 25, 2002).
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, has consistently emphasised the role of the "irresponsible journalist" in the carnage, in every press meeting he has had in the last five days.
With the active connivance of the Nigerian press, so it seems, the federal government through the utterances of the president, the police chief and information minister are diverting attention from the heinous crimes committed by murderers and their sponsors in Kaduna, and from their victims, to the journalist, who wrote the alleged "blasphemous" article, and now to a phantom international conspiracy.
Whatever the journalist must have written, I repeat, WHATEVER the journalist must have written or said, nobody has any right to go into the streets, killing innocent, defenceless, citizens; pouring petrol on school children and setting them ablaze. No reasonable religion and definitely not Islam, which expressly forbids the killing of the innocent, permits that kind of barbarism. The Muslim youths who were reported to have doused children in petrol and set them ablaze are the real culprits of blasphemy, not the journalist.
Why are we deceiving ourselves? Why are we pretending that we do not know that the latest assault on the peace of the country is part of the unending, unrelenting subversive criminal activities of the Fulani power elite?
If the young journalist didn't write that article, a reason would have been invented to carry out those killings. Developments in our politics in the last three years tell us that.
And to add insult to injury, the deputy governor of Zamfara still had the guts to issue a "fatwa" after all the killings of the last days, this is a slap on our face in Nigeria. Those who should be under investigation for instigating homicidal violence are again inciting it. Yet, the federal government has not deemed it necessary to prosecute the politician for open incitement to murder, satisfying itself with only declaring the "fatwa" as "null and void" through his chief spokesman.
The Guardian of November 28, 2002 reported the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, led by the Fulani man Datti Ahmed and supported by Shehu Shagari, Mohammadu Buhari, among other prominent Fulani leaders, as having formally expressed its support for the killings and also approved the "fatwa".
From the foregoing it is evident that the Fulani establishment abetted the latest callous violence on our people. For the government to now make funny references to an international conspiracy signals danger for Nigeria. And nobody should be deceived by the news of the arrest and arraignment of more than 1,000 suspects in court since none of the instigators are among those being held by the police.
Wouldn't it have been more plausible to interrogate the Emir of Zaria, who has been implicated in every violent religious-ethnic disturbances in the area since 1966, or Wada Nas and Buhari (never mind his latest press statement), who, going by their antecedents, must have been behind the killing orgy?
The latest carnage must be rightly situated within the Fulani culture of employing murderous violence as a tool of power bargaining. By seeking to create instability they intend to blackmail the government into submission.
The modern history of this form of power struggle dates to 1953, when an unprovoked genocidal violence was unleashed against Yorubas in the North. Other examples range from the 1966 pogroms against the Igbos, to the Kafanchan eruptions of 1987 to the on-going mayhem in Wase, Jos and the Mambilla Plateau.
The latest bloodletting is condemnable. The murder of innocent, defenceless and law-abiding citizens, including women and children, should not be acceptable in any society. What we are experiencing is a culture of barbarism, where violence has become legitimised tool of power negotiation in a supposed democracy, is being foisted on us.
We have neglected for too long the tragic plight of our peoples who live in the Muslim North, who have been at the mercy of Fulani-instigated violence. One could not imagine how disruptive this terrible reality is to civilised peaceful life and the frustration it breeds in our people. Is it any wonder that ordinary people were seeking revenge in Igboland, tired of receiving corpses of their relatives killed in such carnage?
Nigerians would have to decide if to continue to allow the Fulani elite to arbitrarily determine their fate. We are dealing with primitive albeit powerful forces of cultural barbarism. We are dealing with people who hold that the constest for power can only be resolved by the logic of force.
For how long will we continue to pretend that all is well with us, that we are not practically in a state of war? In the last three years, more than 10,000 people are said to have died as a result of violent actions either through religious unrest or ethnic conflicts or terror attack on military installation, all the handiwork of the Fulani power elite.
When would this land rise to the challenge that Fulani supremacy poses? For how long would we allow them to continue to recklessly raise the stake in their murderous gamble for power in Nigeria?
The Christian Association of Nigeria, Yoruba Muslim associations, organisations representing our various nationalities, human rights groups, state governments and both state and federal legislators, among others, should put pressure on the federal government to fish out those who sponsored the latest killings.
If we do not force the government to hold the Fulanis to account for their latest dastardly deeds, we would be encouraging them to even bolder and more devastating acts of violence against us.
We must put a stop to this vicious circle of Fulani-instigated violence, to "the killing of Nigerians by other Nigerians which have become a sport in some parts of our country" in the words of Ambassador E. Olu Sanu.
We must put a stop to our suicidal habit of acquiescence. Martin Luther King warned many years ago that "if you don't bend your back, no man will ride it".
Without a decisive victory over Fulani-instigated barbarism we will never know peace in Nigeria.
Enough of Fulani-sponsored bloodshed in our land!
The Nigerian press must not allow itself to be blackmailed into silence on the reckless politicisation of Islam which the Sharia represents. And it is time other Nigerian Muslims, especially Yoruba ones, challenged the Fulani claim to the monopoly of the understanding and defence of Islamic morality, or even of Islam generally, in Nigeria.