Islamo-Fulanisation by Manu Militari: Containment by Self-determination Agitation and Consequences – THISDAY Newspapers
By Bola A. Akinterinwa
The governance of Nigeria in the past sixty years has clearly shown that the people of Nigeria are challenged by two development wars: self-declared and imposed. The self-declared war is the struggle for a Nigeria of peaceful coexistence, politically united, economically vibrant, and completely free from toga of attitudinal chicanery, ethnic bigotry and reckless nepotism. The imposed war is the effort to Islamise and Fulanise Nigeria by manu militari, to which many ethnic groups in Nigeria have vehemently opposed. As a result, nation-building has been difficult.
And true, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) has not shown any commitment to promote a truly united Nigeria. For many people, Nigeria is nothing more than a geographical expression; Fulanis claim to be born to rule and therefore, believed to have an agenda to Fulanise Nigeria, but which other peoples reject; rejection of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria for not being a people-driven constitution. They argue that it is much protective of military interests; and rejection of the Gowonian war philosophy of ‘Keeping Nigeria One is a Task That Must Be Done.’ Many political observers now believe that national unity cannot be by force, because the philosophy runs contrary to civilised, modern international practice.
In the current world of globalisation, emphasis is placed on global integration: ICT, e-governance, democracy, freedom of thought and association, self-determination and protection of minority groups, freedom of the press and on multiparty politics. In Nigeria, these values and national integration haves particularly become difficult under PMB for one reason: Islamisation and Fulanisation agenda, which is manifested in presidential nepotism, Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) policy, official attitude to the feud between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers, double-speak policy of government on national centripetal questions, and promoting national security interest to the detriment of the rule of law.
Put differently, today, the political controversy in Nigeria is about the enforcement of Fulanisation by manu militari, to which many people, especially the ethnic minority groups, are opposed. They organise self-determination activities in protest: establishment of National Security Network in the eastern States, the Àmòtékùn Operation in the South-West, establishment of MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-east, and perhaps more disturbingly, the newly established ‘Biafra de facto Customary Government,’ by Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, the former Niger Delta Militant leader. Most unfortunately too, PMB has served as a catalytic agent in all these developments, thus making the disintegration of Nigeria imminent and irreversible, unless Nigerians are compelled to make haste slowly on the matter.
PMB as a Catalytic Agent
Under PMB, Nigeria became a terra cognita of ethnic- and Islamic-induced insecurity: kidnappings on public roads and expressways, car-snatching at gun points, abduction of school children in their schools, and Fulani herdsmen aggression, which has been very notorious: It is about forceful occupation of titled land, killing the legitimate owners of the occupied land, destruction of farm produce and agricultural barns, attacking and raping, as well as maiming girls and women on farms forcefully occupied. In fact, there are several cases of people abducted in their homes and still killed after payment of ransom.
And true enough, the future of Nigeria has become a major issue of concern. For instance, on July 2, 2019 the Vanguard Newspaper, in its analysis of ‘The True Meaning of Ruga,’ noted that ‘it’s a monumental tragedy for Nigeria that our conversations in the last four years have mostly been about barbarism. At a time when even some African countries are making advancement in different areas of human endeavour, we have been bogged down with Miyetti Allah, cattle routes and grazing reserves.’ More important, it also said ‘herdsmen have become a serious menace, and we have in the process lost thousands of precious lives in the hands of terrorists who use cattle as cover to inflict maximum harm on various communities in Nigeria. The fundamental essence of law and order has lost its meaning in the country as these marauders have somehow been elevated above the law.’
This situational reality completely negated the pledges and political promises made by PMB before his election in 2015. For instance, PMB said he would ‘govern Nigeria honestly in accordance with the Constitution.’ Has he really been governing in accordance with the Constitution? His governance has a centrifugal character. Nigeria has never been so sharply divided as she is today.
On national security, PMB said in 2015: ‘we will strive to secure the country and efficiently…’ The two operational words in this statement are ‘strive’ and ‘efficiently’. PMB did not commit himself to ensuring security but said ‘we’, that is, his political party or his government, would strive to secure. To strive simply means making efforts to secure, rather than assuring that Nigeria would be made secure. Consequently, if insecurity has become recidivist under PMB, he may not be blamed, in spite of the constitutional provision that the purpose of governance is provision of security, human and physical.
He not only promised to ‘turn Nigeria to a position of international respect through patriotic policies’, put in place be a ‘compassionate government,’ and also that his government would ‘institute new policies to realise a new Nigeria.’ And perhaps more interestingly, PMB not only believed that ‘preserving the nation’s future is a sacred public obligation to all of us in this great party (All Peoples Congress), but also said that the people of Nigeria are ‘first and foremost Nigerians’ in his eyes, and therefore, would ‘treat you (all Nigerians) as my (his) people, my (his) national family, my (his) brothers and his sisters.’
To what extent has the preservation of Nigeria been made a sacred obligation under PMB? Does PMB ever see himself as a major apostle of nepotism and as the most centrifugal president Nigeria has ever had? In 2015, PMB asked interesting questions and made thought-provoking remarks: ‘shall we live in a nation where several people were trampled to death in search of jobs in a stadium and yet no one has taken responsibility for the tragedy? Shall we at home continue to live in a condition where the power holding company and its successors seem only to have the power to hold us in darkness? Shall we continue in a situation where 250 of our daughters are being abducted and the government has been unable to rescue them?’
PMB asked the questions and made his remarks as a mockery of the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration, in the strong, but wrong belief that he was a better person and a would-be better President of Nigeria. In fact, in the concluding part of his campaign declaration, he said: ‘when all is said and done, let it be written that Muhammad Buhari gives his all for this nation and the concern for its present condition, and as a result, made things better for Nigeria.’
Most unfortunately, however, the next level to which both the APC government and PMB, in particular, have brought Nigeria and her people, is very deleterious to national unity, societal discipline and good governance. This is what the best of PMB, or giving ‘his all for this nation,’ implies. Even though PMB also promised to ‘enhance the EFCC power to investigate independently,’ corruption has not only be further institutionalised, but has also become the hallmark of the APC government. The newest controversy is the alleged missing or not missing one billion US dollars meant for procurement of arms and ammunitions for which the immediate past Service Chiefs are being held responsible to account for.
PMB publicly told Nigerians that General Sani Abacha never looted public funds but has been quick in receiving the returned looted funds and also quickly disbursing them. Chief James Ibori is reported to have recklessly looted public funds and was tried in Nigeria, but not found guilty. A British court tried him for the same offence and not only found him guilty but also confiscated his loot, which the British government is about to return to the Government of Nigeria. The current problem and controversy is no more about the return of the loot to the Federal Government of Nigeria or possible return of it to the Niger Delta State Government, but the challenge of how to prevent re-looting. How do we explain a situation whereby a government that publicly declared a war against corruption and societal indiscipline will also be the same government graciously receiving looted funds and unable to prevent re-looting?
PMB’s nepotism is unrivalled in Nigeria’s political governance. His governance is also seriously threatening national unity. The attention of PMB has regularly been drawn to it but such an attention has always been quickly thrown into the garbage of history. A former military administrator, Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, who is not only on record to have always patriotically warned Nigerian leaders on threats to national cohesion, warned PMB in the same way he opposed the annulment of the June 12 , 1993 Presidential election, General Sani Abacha’s dictatorship and alleged third term bid of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, but also to have written an open letter to PMB.
In the letter, entitled ‘Mr. President, Please Belong to All of Us,’ retired Colonel Umar told PMB as follows: ‘all those who wish you and the country well must mince no words in warning you that Nigeria has become dangerously polarised and risks sliding into crisis in account of your administration; lopsided appointments which continue to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others.’
And perhaps more notably, he warned that ‘nowhere is this more glaring than in the leadership cadre of our security services…[T]here are no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the offices of the Federal Government, favouring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation’ (vide Saxone Akhaine, ”Your Nepotism Pushing Nigeria to the Brink, Umar Warns Buhari,” National).
The observation of the Editor of ThisDayLive on 18 September, 2018 was particularly pertinent: ‘Buhari is more restrictive and insular and nepotistic; he relies and prefers the comforting counselling of those whose demographic data are closer, physically, to his native Zip Code, specifically in terms of ethnic origin and religion’ (www.thisdaylive.com, 2020/09/18).
In the same vein, on July 15, 2019, former President Olusegun Obasanjo noted that ‘the issue is killing at the foundation of our existence as Nigerians and fast eroding the root of our Nigerian community. I am very much worried and afraid that we are in the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay.’ In the eyes of Chief Obasanjo, ‘when people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and property, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.’ The critical situation of insecurity and threats of disintegration clearly lend credence to Chief Obasanjo’s observation.
Islamisation, Fulanisation and Self-determination
Islamisation, Fulanisation and self-determination constitute a tripod on which the governance of Nigeria under PMB is largely predicated. Islamisation of Nigeria is the perceived long-term agenda of the leading proponents of Islamic faith in global affairs. Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan strongman and leader of Libya, argued that there would never be peace in Nigeria until the country is divided into Muslim North and Christian South. And true enough, the beginnings of the war efforts of the Boko Haram witnessed the establishment of caliphates, with visible attributes of statehood. Many Arab countries support the Islamic agenda in Nigeria. In fact Nigeria is considered by them as an Islamic State, by virtue of Nigeria’s membership of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), which was founded in 1969 and later changed its name to Organisation of Islamic Cooperation with its headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
According to the Worlddata.info, the OIC is an alliance of currently 56 countries, 42 of which are Muslim, and in which Islam plays a significant role. It comprises countries where Islam is the State religion, as well countries in which Muslims form the majority of the population. Although countries with a minority Muslim population are occasionally also admitted, this was not the case with Nigeria’s admission, because when Nigeria joined the OIC in 1986, according to the OIC records, Nigeria had a total population of 200.96 million people of which the Muslim population was said to be 50%. In other words, the Muslims were 100.48 million in number, and therefore did not form the majority as at the time Nigeria joined the organisation.
Thus, even if the Muslim population did not qualify to be described as minority, there is no disputing the fact of acknowledgement of Islam in Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, which is also a condition sine qua non for recognition as a Member State of the OIC. The size of Muslim population cannot but be a major factor of qualification for Nigeria’s membership, because only Indonesia, with a Muslim population of 270.63 million, and Pakistan, with 216.52 million were ahead of Nigeria. Nigeria therefore had the third biggest Muslim population in the organisation.
What is noteworthy about Nigeria’s membership of the OIC is that it began with an observer status and later upgraded to full membership status. There were pertinent public reservations and complaints about the membership. Government explained that Nigeria joined the organisation not for religious, but for economic motivational, purposes, but the tension and political suspicions were not doused. Most southerners’ belief, probably their essential point of truth, is that there is an agenda to Islamise Nigeria, beginning with the North East.
Fulanisation is meant to serve as a catalytic agent in actualising the objective of Islamisation. Understanding this point is best explained by the confession of the Fulani herdsmen in 2014 that they were members of the Boko Haram (Vide Independent newspaper, April 23, 2014). More significant, the Nigerian Fulani militants have been adjudged to be the fourth deadliest terror group in the world in the global terrorism index.
And most unfortunately, the general public in Nigeria, rightly or wrongly, strongly believes that PMB is aiding and abetting Fulanisation, especially with his policy of RUGA and unnecessary protection of the Fulani herdsmen. For instance, when Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State declared that all people in the Ondo State Government Forest Reserves, and not registered with it, should vacate the forest, the response of PMB was that there was no basis for the Fulani herdsmen to leave the forest (see Olalekan Adetayo’s report, ”Herdsmen can’t leave Ondo Forest, Presidency Replies Akeredolu,” The Punch,19 January, 2021).
In fact, earlier in 2018, the Presidency was on record to have also advised that ‘giving land for ranching is better than death.’ Put differently, ‘being alive is better than ancestral attachment to land.’ What the PMB administration is believed to be saying is you either accept Fulanisation or death agenda. The choice is between accepting the Fulanis or accept to die. This is the major source and dynamic of the reaction of the opponents of PMB, which is being manifested by self-determination agitations. Why is it that the Fulani factor became an issue under the PMB administration? Does PMB want to provoke another civil war in order to create a special situation that will enable him to have a third term, because a situation of national emergency may compel him to hang on to power after 2023? In such a situation, he may not only govern by manu militari but, lato sensu, by full force. In this regard, what he will be unable to achieve as an elected President of Nigeria, especially in terms of Islamisation and Fulanisation agenda, he should, expectedly, be able to achieve them dictatorially. Many ethnic groups are much dissatisfied and are now preaching the sermon of ‘to thy tents O Israel’ in response. Most unfortunate indeed!
And true enough, self-determination activities, as response to the manifestations of Islamisation and Fulanisation agenda, have been largely prompted by the lackadaisical attitude of PMB towards public observations, complaints and warnings. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo drew public attention to a Fulanisation Agenda. So have many other public notables. But PMB never bothered to explain his own side of the story. It is the same don’t care attitude to complaints about his nepotism and the Fulani herdsmen saga. PMB deals with the agitation for restructuring with kid glove and makes a mockery of it. Now that, not only have many ethnic groups resorted to security self-help measures, but have also decided on the pursuit of political autonomy, PMB now has one option between quickly accepting to listen and addressing the people’s complaints or accept to do many battles in different theatres of war simultaneously. In terms of scenarios, it will not be North and South-West versus the South East, as it was the case in the first civil war, but sharply a North-South war. Both sides will have international support: Arabophones are likely to support the North, while the Western world will be divided in their support for the South, but the application of the principle of self-determination cannot but prevail at the level of the United Nations. Nigeria: Quo Vadis? What Consequences? No more Nigeria?