By EDWARD DOOGA
the precepts of Islam and its cultural influence in Muslim societies and throughout the world”
-Mecca Declaration by theThird Islamic Summit Conference of Kaaba (1981)
“This New Nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather, Uthman Dan Fodio.
We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the North as willing tools, and the South, as conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us, and never allow them to have control over their future”
- Sir Ahmadu Bello (the great-grand son of Uthman dan Fodio, late Sultan of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Region, 12th October 1960, in an interview granted to The Parrot Newspaper just days after Nigeria’s Independence)
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
-(Psalm 2:1-5 )
Since the birth of Islam in the early 7th Century AD, its over-riding expansionist agenda, which utilizes every available means possible, chief of which has been violence from when it could first muster sufficient assault power, has continued to be a fundamental driving force. Anywhere Islam has gone to; it has sought to completely annihilate whole peoples and geographic regions by taking over the very soul of their cultural existence and replacing it with Islamic ideals. And each time any people are thus taken over, they are ideologically brainwashed enough to accept that Islam is the absolute underlying and defining value for their corporate and cultural existence and identity as a people. Thus to be of any such ethnicity would mean to be a Muslim. When this perceived status has been successfully achieved, a false sense of superiority sets in persuading the people that other ethnicities, especially those not practicing Islam or their brand of the religion, are subordinate to them, and hence should be subservient to them. Finally, this belief usually tends to confer the perceived responsibility that propagating Islam and its primary expansionist agenda is a sacred task to which they owe primary allegiance.
This was the spirit of Mohamed, the founder of the Islamic faith and his early followers. As the religion grew and the faith spread absorbing cultural and geographic regions, it carried with it the imperious and aristocratic spirit of the founder and his faithful followers. The result of this trend was the drive for political power in order to wield overbearing influence. It is noteworthy that, as the ripple growth spread wider, the people at the center increased in importance. Thus, the closer one was to the founding prophet, either by familial relationship or social proximity, the more important one was. This explains the resultant dynasties within the religion that are still obvious today.
THE INGREDIENT AND CULTURE OF VIOLENCE
Because Islam was founded by a relatively and contextually insignificant figure within a highly stratified and pluralistic society where most people belonged to one religious group or the other with its attendant social significance, it had to struggle for acceptance, recognition and relevance. The chief contenders in this seemingly oversubscribed society were Christianity, Judaism and organized Paganism. They thus, resisted this rude and seemingly confused set of teachings that seemed to lump a bit of all of their teachings together into a doctrinal cocktail, yet it could not really boast of being even a sect under one of them. And in an era where religious office also conferred social status, the horizon may have been too crowded for a new entrant.
As a result of this resistance by society, as soon as Mohamed could force his views on some others, he did not hesitate to do so. Being an era when subduing an opponent or enemy in combat meant becoming a master and lord over them and their estate, which included making such persons and their sons slaves, while the daughters and wives could become concubines or wives, or even sold off as slaves, too, Mohamed’s power and influence quickly grew. His vassals where spared on the condition that they would not just declare allegiance to his religion, but would also join him in its violent spread.
Besides compromise, such vassals had little or no choice. There was also the attraction of the booty that would be looted from conquered territories. In the end it was a win-win situation for all. Like the marauding bands that they were, they ravaged families, settlements, towns and even whole cities. The more they ravaged the stronger and more powerful they became. This was referred to as Jihad or Holy War, a thing that Allah had commanded for the expansion of the faith, to which all Muslims were obliged to completely obey. The danger or fear of death in these dangerous and bloody military campaigns was assuaged by the promise of even better things in Paradise after death than the booty and loot that was the earthly gain. Some of such included beautiful virgin girls and an inexhaustible supply of fresh wine among other incentives.
It is also noteworthy that while admission into Paradise demanded a lot of works of righteousness, which in itself was not a guarantee of Allah’s acceptance into that place of great beauty and everlasting revelry, being killed in the cause of a Jihad did not just give one automatic admission for himself, but even his relatives could benefit from his acts of great sacrifice by being granted entry as well. This explains the culture of violence against non-Muslims and the obvious support it enjoys from the rest of the Muslim Ummah or larger family. This is enough motivation for families to support and sponsor their children as suicide killers so both the killer and his family can be guaranteed automatic entry into Paradise.
THE FULANI AND ISLAM
The Fulani people, themselves a cultural splinter off the Arabs, Mohamed’s ethnicity, are mostly nomadic cattle herdsmen, though a few have, through the years, settled down to a sedentary life either as crop farmers, religious teachers, scholars, businessmen or politicians. Their roots also extend to the Touaregs with talk of Egyptian ties, and beyond. However, the Fulani, especially the stock that is found in Nigeria, are said to have emerged as a people from the Senegambia and Guinea regions of Futta Torro and Futta Jallon in Western Africa, what is today Guinea, Senegal and Gambia. Their primary passion of cattle rearing drove them into a nomadic life as some of them migrated Southwards and Eastwards in search of pasture for their ever growing herds of cattle.
Before their mass exodus, a small group of these Fulani had been Islamized by Malian Muslims. They soon conquered their fellow Fulani, who were still largely pagans in what might be called their first Jihad. The Fulani had shown sufficient zeal for their new found religion; they had started their campaign of bloodshed right from their very homes. They soon became a fiercely hegemonic people. As they moved southwards in search of pasture for their cattle, their nomadic culture, zeal for Islam, their hegemonic and imperious perspective to life and their natural proficiency at war made them the best tool for the expansion of Islam in Western and Central Africa.
Their influence in Nigeria started with the entry into Gobir in ancient Sokoto by a zealous, fiercely dedicated and very influential Islamic scholar and preacher by the name of Uthman dan Fodio. His activities soon led to a Fulani organized Jihad against the well-organized and wealthy Hausa states. He soon conquered them and established a Fulani hegemonic and religious empire with headquarters in Gobir, present day Sokoto State in Nigeria. He was both the leader of the jihadist campaign and the first Caliph of that empire born out of their bloody campaign better known as the Sokoto Caliphate with emirs in the major cities. This finally marked the birth of ruthless Islamic imperialism in Sub-Saharan Africa.
With the absorption of the Hausa peoples and the other minority tribes in the far north-western part of Nigeria, the Fulani were ready to overrun the rest of the North and sweep southwards. Their Hausa vassals were more than willing and able allies in these conquests. Their next target was the strong and soundly Muslim North Eastern Kanem Borno Empire. They launched a massive jihadist campaign against the Kanuri, who were able to successfully repel their onslaught. This particular campaign against an already Islamic empire exposed the Fulani for who they really were, a power hungry and ethnocentric people who were out on an expansionist and imperialistic campaign to subdue other ethnicities, with Islam as an added advantage and convenient excuse where necessary. However, though they were unable to subdue the Kanuri Empire in war, they were able to do so through subtle diplomacy, eventually co-opting the Kanuri as fierce political and religious allies. Thus what could be better termed as the Islamic Northern Oligarchy was born.
THE BATTLE FOR THE MIDDLE BELT AND A SOUTHWARDS ADVANCE
It is said that the ambition of the Islamic Northern Jihadists has always been to “Dip the Quran into the Atlantic”, a statement purportedly credited to the late Sir Ahmadu Bello. Some persons insinuate that naming the Bar Beach road in Victoria Island, Lagos, Ahmadu Bello Way was a significant and symbolic fulfillment of this desire.
While these insinuations may be debatable, it is obvious that an Islamic campaign to take over Nigeria will not be complete until the Jihadists reach the shores of the Atlantic down south. But to get to this point, their way must pass through the Middle Belt or Central Nigeria, hence the need to overrun the minority tribes in that region.
Curiously, the Middle Belt Region has continuously being relevant and strategic to the agenda of the Islamic Northern Oligarchy, whether those ambitions are religious, economic, political or ethnic, or even when they are harmonized. Needless to say, conquering and subduing this region became a primary project of the Sokoto Caliphate and the expanded Islamic Northern Oligarchy. As a vast region with multiple minorities, who were themselves heavily polarized, it seemed quite an easy task to be accomplished, considering how even more organized and secure kingdoms and cities in the north had been earlier overran. Contrary to their thinking, however, this seemingly simple task was to become the most perplexing.
It started with the 19th century Jihads. The Jihadists advance was seemingly easy until they hit the region. Some of the tribes were an easy walk over. Some seemingly surrendered at the sight of an intimidating cavalry of bloodthirsty, sword wielding jihadists. Some put up a fight, adopting different strategies of war to no avail.
One tribe, however, did not shrink back and was not subdued. That was the Tiv. They were known for their unrivaled hospitality but also equally fearless in the face of hostilities when attacked. They were not really known for expansionism but would fiercely defend their land and families from external invasion. They were able to successfully repel the Fulani advance through their strategy of poisoned arrows against sword-wielding Fulani. Their answer to the snorting war horses was also to dig trenches strategically around their fortes and retreat into the hills from where there well-aimed arrows hardly missed their mark. Their victory was not just one for the Tiv people nor the other minority tribes in the region alone, it was also a great victory, and a debt owed them by the other tribes south of Tiv country who would have been annihilated by the ravaging Fulani Jihadists.
Having successfully checked the advance of the jihadists, the Fulani vowed to be back. They were yet to return when colonialism interrupted them by checking their activities. It was an interruption they highly resented. For once, they were also subdued and tamed. It seemed from then that their clamour for independence was not so much to build one nation Nigeria, but to have the liberty to resume their campaign. To this end, Balewa was quoted as saying:
… I should like to make it clear to you that if the British quitted Nigeria now at this stage, the Northern people would continue their interrupted conquest to the sea” (Mallam Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, 1947, During the Inauguration of the Richard’s Constitution.)
But soon enough, the British colonialists were to recognize that the hegemonic, aristocratic and expansionist agenda of these people could serve their purpose. The British, therefore, either overtly or covertly, aided the ambition of the Caliphate after the amalgamation by introducing the system of Indirect Rule. Control the Caliphate as it controls its subjects. But in order to expand the influence of the Caliphate, smaller chiefdoms, which had yet to come under the influence of the Caliphate, were lumped together under a so-called Northern Region or Province. Other minority tribes of the Middle Belt, who, hitherto, did not practice Monarchies or Chiefdoms had the system imposed upon them and consequently subjected to the Fulani hegemony. This inadvertently resulted in the islamization of some of these tribes. Thus the Tiv were given chiefdom with the first High Chief not being even one of Tiv extraction but an ambassador of the Northern hegemony. What they couldn’t take in a religious war had been finally handed over to them by the British on a platter of gold!
The battle had shifted from the bloody grasslands and hillsides of Tiv country to an intellectual, political and economic terrain. And the Tiv would not be easily and cheaply taken, though the British had joined the battle as an ally of the North. By 1964, riots broke out in Tiv land, primarily as a result of the overbearing nature of the North. The unease had been evident since independence. The riots were referred to as “nande nande” (burning burning) and “atem ityough” (head breaking).
The same Tiv, though a Division under the Northern Region, were to again boldly express their autonomy and register their protests against an overbearing region when they refused to be part of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) formed by the Caliphate under Sir. Ahmadu Bello, but instead, mobilized other minorities in the Middle Belt to form the United Middle Belt Coalition (UMBC) and join forces with the West. This affront was unforgivable. The desperation to conquer Tiv country, and subsequently, the rest of the Middle Belt became a do or die task.
It is needless to outline further the intrigues of the politics of the Middle Belt. Suffice it, however, to state summarily that this strategic, but troublesome region has continued to be a perplexing irritation to the larger ambition of the Sokoto Caliphate and its Northern Oligarchy.
THE STRATEGY OF GRAZING RESERVES AS AN EXPANSIONIST TOOL
As earlier stated, it is not a secret that one of the greatest passions of the Fulani is cattle. It is so important that a man’s societal status is largely dependent on the size of his herd. It is unFulani for a Fulani man not to own cattle. One thing that is hardly brought to the fore, though, is that most of the real owners of cattle in present day Nigeria are not really the nomads roaming the wild and our highways driving millions of cattle, but wealthy business barons in the cities and corridors of power. These men hire the nomads to take care of their cattle while they give attention to issues of religion and politics.
It should, however, be noted that, one of the major and traditional sources of wealth for these people is cattle. The Cattle business is a multi-billion naira business in Nigeria, and it is owned and controlled mainly by a few barons of the Sokoto Caliphate. They have formed themselves into an association known as Miyetti Allah Hore or more popularly Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN). It is also worthy of note that the Sultan of Sokoto is said to be the life patron of the MACBAN group. Aside from being the father of all Fulani, and himself an owner of a great herd of cattle, he is a major stakeholder in the cattle business in Nigeria and stands to benefit directly from any profits made from cattle. This is aside of his being the father of all Muslims in Nigeria. Little wonder the Sultan has always been quick to personally wade into anything that concerns cattle herdsmen or Muslims in any part of Nigeria
Global warming resulting in unusual climate change with all its attendant consequences has unavoidably led to a rapid depletion of grazing fields in the traditional Northern home states of the cattle herdsmen. Urbanization, deforestation and desertification have sent panic among the cattle breeding business community, not just in Nigeria, but further north in countries like Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, etc. Added to this, political upheavals and civil wars have resulted into a gross state of insecurity that has threatened the business of cattle rearing. The consequence of this development is that herdsmen from further north have been compelled to look southwards for pasture for their cattle, which might probably be in millions of heads of cattle. The resultant influx of these illegal aliens, who are many times well-armed, violent and perhaps, even radicalized, has even been acknowledged by the Federal Government of Nigeria. This unprecedented influx has, predictably, put more pressure on the largely peasant middle belt population with its very attractive hundreds of thousands of acres of green vegetation and fresh springs of water, which are one of the major attractions to the herdsmen and their cattle. To the herdsmen, taking over these lands means not just salvaging their threatened cattle business but a major, and perhaps, unprecedented leap in their profit margin. Moreover, the increasing population within the region and further south only means a larger market. The closer the supply to the market, the better! And for their aristocratic masters in the glass houses of the Sokoto Caliphate, taking over this region means more than cattle.
So, once again, even if only for economic survival, taking the Middle Belt became an urgent imperative. The politics of grazing reserves had to be driven with all the power and wit they could muster. The advantages were too numerous. If they could manipulate government machinery to appropriate land in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital, it would suddenly give them everything they had been longing for. They would get the entire middle belt and the rest of the country in one fell swoop. The whole nation will finally be at their feet, and it would be a great centenary anniversary gift to their great ancestor, Uthman dan Fodio.
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE TO GRAZING RESERVES, THE BILL AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
For better insight into the history of the grazing reserve saga, a recent memo submitted to the National Conference on the subject matter by Ati Terkula captures it betterI
A grazing reserve is a piece of land that the government acquires, develops, and releases to the pastoral Farmer.
Grazing reserves are not new to the Nigerian agricultural system since they date as far back as the pre-colonial era. They were initially unsuccessfully introduced by the British in 1940 to demarcate grazing land and farming lands even as the Fulani who had conquered Northern Nigeria earlier on had already appropriated some parcels of land for their grazing concerns prior to this demarcation.
However, grazing reserves actually took proper recognition in Nigeria in the 1950s when Hamisu Kano, working with pastoralists on livestock vaccination, foresaw the shortages of grazing land in Northern Nigeria. With support by the government, he initiated the grazing reserve scheme with original framework arising from the obsolete government resettlement schemes (Fulani Settlement Scheme). These earlier resettlement schemes had collapsed due to government financial and managerial ineptitude thus the decision to convert into grazing reserves that were less financially committed.
The “Fulani Amenities Proposal” of 1954, which contained the creation of grazing reserves, the improvement of Fulani welfare, and the transformation of the herd management system, gave rise to the 1964 gazetting of about 6.4 million hectares of the forest reserve, ninety-eight percent in the savanna. Sokoto Province had twenty-one percent of the land, followed by Kabba, Bauchi, Zaria, Ilorin, and Katsina, with 11-15 percent each (Awogbade 1982). The Wase, Zamfara, and Udubo reserves followed in succession.
–Ati Terkula in a memo submitted to the National Conference April 2014 titled:Grazing Reserves and Grazing Routes: A problem in its self
In order to achieve their desired goal, they decided to sponsor a bill to the National Assembly. The bill was first presented in 2008 by a female senator from Niger state, (and wife of two-time governor of the state) Mrs Zainab Kure. The full title of the bill reads:
AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NATIONAL GRAZING RESERVE (ESTABLISHMENT AND DEVELOPMENT) COMMISSION FOR THE PRESERVATION AND CONTROL OF NATIONAL GRAZING RESERVES AND STOCK ROUTES AND OTHER MATTERS CONNECTED THEREWITH.
Rev. James Pam who beautifully analyzed this bill in a write up in February 2014 summarised the high points of the bill thus:
- To establish a National Grazing Reserve Commission (NGRC), a body corporate.
2. The NGRC may acquire, hold, lease or dispose of any property, movable or immovable for the purpose of carrying out its function.
3. The NGRC shall have a governing Council headed by a Chairman appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate with members representing the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Water Resources, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, Housing and Urban Development, the National Commission for Nomadic Education and shall also have a Director General.
4. To raise monies by way of grants, loans, borrowing, subsidies and donations.
5. The following lands may be subject to the provisions of the Act to be constituted as National Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes:
(a) Lands at the disposal of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
(b) Any lands in respect of which it appears to the Commission that grazing in such land should be practiced.
(c) Any land acquired by the Commission through purchase, assignment, gift or otherwise howsoever.
6. State Governments shall be given notice first before land acquisition and gazetting.
7. The Commission shall pay compensation to persons affected by any land acquisition.
8. There shall be no improvements, encroachment, bush burning, hunting, use of chemicals and felling of trees by anyone inside lands acquired and demarcated as national Grazing Reserves or Stock Routes.
9. Contravention of any of the provisions in (8) above shall be punishable by a fine of N50,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both.
10. No Court of law shall carry out execution of its judgment or attachment of court process issued against the Commission in any action or suit without obtaining the prior consent of the Attorney General of the Federation.
11. For the time being, the Commission shall report to the Honorable Minster for Agriculture and Water Resources.
12. Native communities referred to in the Bill shall be any group of persons occupying any lands in accordance with, and subject to native law and custom.
13. Stock Routes shall mean tertiary or secondary or inter-state stock routes linking two or more States together or leading from grazing reserve to grazing reserve.
14. When passed into law, the Act shall be cited as The National Grazing Reserve Commission (Establishment and Development) Bill 2008.
–James Pam (DISSECTING THE NATIONAL GRAZING RESERVE BILL, Feb., 2014)
Rev. Pam raises logical and critical questions about the sincerity of the bill and its lopsided nature. The summary of the argument against the bill among other things is that it seeks to economically empower one section of the population by disenfranchising all others. It seeks to confer ethnic advantage over one ethnicity while it subjugates others. It seeks to subtly and covertly create religious advantage for Islam with total disregard for the religious sensibilities of other Nigerians. It creates a potentially alarming security compromise to a nation that is already on the verge of crashing due to subsisting and insurmountable security challenges. Above all, it not only violates the fundamental and constitutional rights of other Nigerians, but it is in itself grossly unconstitutional and ought to be dead on arrival!
CURRENT FULANI INVASION OF THE MIDDLE BELT AND THE POLITICS OF GRAZING RESERVES
This same bill was earlier submitted in 2008 to the National Assembly but was thrown out for the obvious lack of merit. It will be noticed that other than the perennial Jos crises, which also had the Fulani at the center, other states of central Nigeria had not been engulfed in Fulani crises to the level now being experienced. There were skirmishes here and there, now and then, but they could be totally and safely regarded as local and isolated, and not coordinated. Moreover, though grazing issues were at the center of it, yet grazing reserves did not take center stage as an asserted right of the Fulani, nor did anybody seem to insinuate loud enough that allocating grazing reserves was a solution to such skirmishes.
After the failure of the bill however, the violence of the Fulani against crop farming communities across the region suddenly took an unprecedented dimension. It also gradually began to show itself as systematic and well-coordinated action across a whole region, with certain tribes seeming to be the primary targets and priority of the invaders.
This present assault, which can be said to be a deliberate strategy to get attention and create sympathy for the bill must be seen for what it truly is. The troublesome, un-neighborly and bloodthirsty Fulani herdsmen have been presented as the victims of the invasion instead of the real aggressors. Nigerians are meant to believe that they are helpless bush nomads with a few hungry cows that just need to eat the grass that nobody needs anyway. Since somehow their cattle can’t help wandering off into some farm, with, perhaps, some little destruction, which usually incenses a largely intolerant and hostile farming host community against them, it may just be the best solution if these helpless Fulani and their few hungry cows will just get a piece of land where they can also freely and safely carry on their lawful grazing activities. And since the Fulani, like every other citizen of Nigeria, have the constitutional rights of citizenship, they should be given such land in EVERY STATE AND THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY, so they can freely exercise their right to be in all these places. And who says government can’t do this? The Land Use Act of 1978 vests all land in, and empowers the government to appropriate any land for public use. The legal framework is already in place. All that is needed is just a statutory body to enforce it, hence the bill to establish that commission.
To enforce their rights to these lands, especially in the middle belt region they embarked on a campaign of wanton bloodshed, and destruction; indeed, genocide; one of the worst crimes against humanity in the 21st century. After all, the land was originally theirs; they were just taking back what had been lost in the amalgamation and independence. They had rights of conquest over some of these middle belt lands in their pre-colonial jihads. But more than that, all had been earlier handed over to them by the British colonialists when the entire middle belt was lumped together as a vassal of the Sokoto caliphate.
As far north as Katsina state, non-Muslim minority farming communities were attacked and destroyed with many lives lost. Property worth millions was destroyed in each attack. Farms and barns were ravaged, leaving the earth scorched. Homes were totally burnt with their occupants of whole families. Ancestral settlers were completely dislodged and chased out. And in many of these cases herdsmen and their cattle would, in turn, settle in and freely graze their cattle. In most cases, they sneaked up in the middle of the night against unsuspecting and unarmed communities.
All of these attacks were reportedly carried out by Fulani warriors. Were they helpless nomads? No. They were armed with sophisticated modern and automatic firearms, and were very proficient at their use. They got what they wanted. Were they driving a few hungry cows needing to eat a little grass that nobody needed anyway? No. Their combined herd should be in millions of heads of cattle. They always invaded communities in the company of thousands of cattle with total disregard for both their farms and sources of drinking water, and their homes. They and their cattle trespassed with impunity, ravaging anything in their path. Had these communities been intolerant and hostile to them? No. In most cases, these Fulani do not even have settler status on any land in such communities, as such, any land they grazed upon earlier, they did so at the magnanimity of the land owner, and should have been grateful.
Consequently, many states including, but, perhaps, not limited to the following suffered the same fate at the hands of these invading Fulani. They are Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, Kwara, Plateau, Nassarawa, Taraba, and Benue. Worst hit, however, have been Plateau, benue, Nassarawa and Taraba. The most hit tribes in these states are the Berom of Plateau, the Tiv of Benue, Nassarawa and Taraba, and the Jukun of Taraba.
In almost all of these states, the government security outfits either totally looked the other way or exhibited a great degree of lead-footedness and feet dragging. In some cases, as in Tiv land, there was undeniable evidence that security personnel actually aided either directly or indirectly in these attacks. Soldiers participating in attacks have been arrested and handed over to the police, but such cases died a natural death. Some of them are said to have even been rescued by fellow soldiers. In some cases where non-compromising soldiers have been drafted, many were even killed.
LOSSES AND EFFECT ON THE CHURCH AND CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
The losses and damages have been huge. Churches in all these areas and the Christian community were the most hit. In one Local Government alone in Benue state, a single denomination (ECWA) is said to have recorded the loss of 14 churches. Project that to the rest of the denominations active in Tiv land like the NKST, Catholic, Anglicans and a host of other major and independent churches, especially the Pentecostals. Then project that to the rest of the Local Governments and, by extension, states, and the damage to the Church in Nigeria, and that region in particular, is colossal. A report by the President of the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN) on the losses is quoted below, and should give anyone an idea of the extent of damage:
They mobilized their fighters from three places – Bantaje, Jibu and Ibi, and began by attacking three Jukun villages (Nayinawa, Tudun Wada and Yamini) burning down everything, including our Churches and the homes of our pastors and evangelists. There, they killed about eleven people, including an evangelist of the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN), which is the Church over which I am since 2012 its President.
The Muslim fighters, made up of Fulani and Hausa, who are predominantly Muslims, entered one Jukun village (Nwokyon) yesterday, in a number suspected to be over 250, armed with sophisticated weapons, and messed the whole place up, killing seven of our youth, and destroying everything there that belongs to our Church and the people generally.
As it is now, all our Churches in the following places have been either burned and pulled down completely, or burned:
Nayinawa Tudun Wada Yamini Nwokyon Bakyu Jibu (all in Wukari Local Government Area).
In Benue State, for our Church (CRCN), we lost over 22 people killed on a Sunday as our members closed from the Church service and were returning to their homes. From the Tiv (NKST) side, the losses are colossal.
–Rev. Dr. Caleb S. Ahima, (CRCN President)
Obviously, the strategy to get both attention and sympathy for the Grazing Reserves Bill and the Fulani cause achieved the desired results as their sponsors in the corridor of power have all unanimously sounded with one voice that the only panacea to the incessant insecurity in the middle belt is the creation of grazing reserves in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Abuja. The Federal Government has been beaten into submission and has finally agreed to give them what they want. A technical committee comprising of commissioners for agriculture and other relevant authorities has already been set up by the Honorable Minister for Agriculture and its activities are already being funded by tax payers money to, as a matter of urgency, seek out ways to actualize these nation-wide grazing reserves. The Once dead Bill has already resurrected and is enjoying legislative attention.
If, and, when this plan is finally actualized, one does not need to be a high thinker to know what would be the probable consequences of it. Suffice it to say that the whole nation would have finally played into the hands of the Sokoto caliphate and its Northern Oligarchy. Nigerians now and in generations to come will regret the consequences of it. And correcting such a grievous ill after its done may never be possible. Even if it is done on paper, returning to status quo may never be achieved.
THE NEED FOR THE CHURCH TO URGENTLY RESPOND
The prompt response of the Church in such an urgent matter of National importance cannot be over-emphasized. While the particulars of response by different Christian groups remain their decision, the following are suggested among other things:
- Since the national president of the Christian Association of Nigeria has publicly issued a statement rejecting the planned grazing reserves, leaders of Christian groups and denominations should add their voices to his so as to be heard loud and clear. White papers and communiqués should be issued.
- Petitions should be sent en masse to the National Conference delegates currently sitting in Abuja and clearly stating the position of the rest of Nigeria.
- Petitions should be massively sent to both houses of the National Assembly demanding that the bill should not just be thrown out, but more than that, one that bans the evil of open and free grazing should be passed.
- Bills can be sponsored in support of 3 above. A bill for the establishment of Cattle Ranches IN THE HOST STATES OF THE TRADITIONAL CATTLE BREEDERS should be sponsored. Such ranches SHOULD NOT BE FINANCED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BUT BY THESE INDIVIDUALS OR THEIR STATE GOVERNMENTS. Cattle rearers must be encouraged to source funding in the financial market like every other business man.
- Legislation should be made that criminalizes open grazing and prescribes punitive measures against people who practice it. Such punitive measures should include forfeiture of such trespassing cattle, which shall be auctioned off and the proceeds used as compensation or damages to persons who have suffered loss as a result of these illegal activities.
- Christian groups and churches should educate their people properly on the evils and injustice of the National Grazing Reserves project. They must advise their people to resist the move with every means possible as long as it is legal and non-violent.
- Church leaders who wield influence with, or command the attention of our leaders, (especially those who are either Christians or are objective and fair enough to stand for justice) like the President, Senate President, Ministers, Governors, top politicians, top security personnel, ambassadors to other nations and the international community, leaders of non-governmental organizations, civil liberties organizations, human rights organizations, etc., must passionately and positively engage them to harvest their contributions at righting this wrong and preventing further wrongs.
- Societal rights must be universal. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Churches and Christian leaders should encourage their people to also clamor for their rights, and the obligation of government to also empower them and create conducive atmosphere for their own businesses and trades. They must, however, do so in the most peaceful manner.
- Compensation must be demanded for all communities and persons that were victims of these systematic and organized invasions.
- A proper, unbiased and transparent investigation must be made into the activities of these herdsmen and their allies and anybody indicted, no matter how highly placed, must be made to fully face the wrath of the law. In this vein, the activities of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) must be thoroughly investigated in the light of the recent genocides since they have advertently and inadvertently owned up to the violence. Their Officials and Trustees must be brought to book.
- The Fulani and their cattle must be compelled by the might of the state to move out from all lands that they have occupied by force in the past six years and allow the original settlers to continue with their lives peacefully. They and their cattle should also be made to leave areas where they have been the source of insecurity and wars.
- Government and the relevant agencies must also disarm the Fulani herdsmen as one of the conditions for lasting peace.
- Government and its relevant agencies should be made to make the policing of our international borders a matter of urgency to check the influx of undesirable foreign elements.
- The national immigration should also investigate the citizenship status of herdsmen with a view to fishing out the foreign elements among them.
- ALL CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE ADVISED TO BOYCOTT BEEF AS AN ECONOMIC SANCTION AGAINST THESE INHUMAN HERDSMEN. This should both reduce their ability to finance genocide among other ethnic nationalities, and also prove the spiritual, moral and ethical value of human life above that of cattle.
- A massive campaign against the 3Rs of Grazing Viz: Rights, Routes and Reserves, and the excesses of the herdsmen should be commenced through educative and informative pamphlets and fliers, stickers, shirts and caps, bill boards, radio, television and newspaper adverts and jingles, etc. Street rallies and peaceful public protests should be organized so as to involve the media.
- Christians who have access to, or own media outfits, must avail these outfits as much as possible to both condemn the activities of the invading herdsmen and their sponsors, highlight the activities of those who are fighting for justice and also air broadcast or publications that expose this grand scam
- Above all, prayers should not cease to go up to God day and night on this matter and all matters of terror in our land until God answers from heaven.
Many other steps may be taken in order to achieve the desired results. The above are only suggestions. However, one of the quickest methods, and perhaps, the most economically affordable for almost every Christian is the BOYCOTTING OF BEEF. Since the business of beef is almost the exclusive reserve of these people, boycotting beef will quickly and rudely turn the tables. Economic empowerment will suddenly change base as market forces will immediately play out. There will be a low demand for beef, thereby crashing its prices and market value. The result will be a glut, which will in turn squeeze the herdsmen and their billionaire owners. On the other hand, demand for alternative source of animal protein like eggs, chicken, pork, game from goats, etc., and other such will quickly soar thereby increasing the value of this industry. Since Christians are the major investors in these others, they will be the ones to be empowered. This will in turn create more jobs as more people will step into this business to meet up demand. Within a few months, our demands will definitely hit home.
Note that this is one of the methods that the abolitionist campaigns against the trans-Atlantic slave trade utilized to achieve an end to the obnoxious slave trade. They boycotted all slave-labor dependent commodities. If it worked then, it can work now.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Islam has a global conquest agenda that has been sustained since it was founded in the 7th century AD. This agenda has been clearly articulated for Africa within the last fifty years, with Nigeria being a very strategic part of it. Goals have been set, which are being pursued. In Nigeria, the Sokoto caliphate with its herdsmen guides and footmen has been advancing southwards since the time of Uthman dan Fodio. Their obvious aim is to “dip the Quran into the Atlantic” by conquering the Nigerian nation. This was initially pursued through bloody jihads until the colonialists interrupted it. After independence, the project has continued through whatever means possible.
In recent times, grazing issues affecting cattle owned by powerful, influential and wealthy Northern elements, but driven by nomadic Fulani herdsmen have become a strong matter for international attention. Climate change has led to depleting grazing fields in their traditional areas of abode. A search for pasture and water, along with an Islamic expansionist agenda has informed their migration southwards with the support of their powerful masters. The result has been genocide visited by these well-armed migrant herdsmen upon their host communities, especially in the middle belt region, an area that has remained a perpetual attraction but a perplexity to them for centuries. Most hit by these acts of wanton violence and destruction has been the Christian community. It has recorded colossal loss in both human lives and property.
Consequently, a call by these cattle owners and their agents has been placed before government that establishing grazing reserves in ALL THE 36 STATES AND THE FEDERAL CAPITAL ABUJA are the only way to restore peace and security within the troubled belt, and ecourage a sedentary life for the Nomads and peaceful coexistence with their host communities. Government has bitten this well garnished hook and is already playing into their hands. While a bill is in the National Assembly in this regard, other administrative machineries are being set up to meet these demands and actualize their age-old ambition.
The Church in Nigeria is strongly advised to urgently rise up to defend its destiny, resist injustice and reject the Grazing Rights Bill by every means peaceful and legal. The Church and its leaders must use all its connections in the corridors of power to check this brazen attempt at islamization and frustrate the Grazing bill. A massive public enlightenment campaign, appeal to the international communities for justice and public protest is suggested. A major suggestion is the total boycotting of beef by the Christian community in Nigeria as an economic sanction since cattle seem to be at the centre of the whole matter. Boycotting beef will also be a statement that human life is more important than beef, and that cattle was made for man and not man for cattle. This approach should hopefully jolt the selfish and evil proponents of this diabolic project to reality and begin to yield immediate positive results.
Above all, massive and fervent prayer is advocated for the church as everything rests with God, and we trust Him to defend our cause
God’s name alone be glorified. May all the ends of the earth fall before Him in worship and adoration, that He will receive glory from all the nations of the earth as they love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ. In His anger, let Him remember mercy, both upon us, His children, and upon all those that are His enemies unto salvation. Amen!
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Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association (NEMA)