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It’s Terrorism, Not Farmers/Herders Clashes By Emmanuel Onwubiko

What the current government has done by treating Fulani herdsmen as special breed of citizens who even deserved to be created some business colonies as payoff for their treacherous acts of mass killings of farmers, is simply to endanger our constitutional democracy.


Unwittingly, the current Nigerian presidency due to the naked backing of the activities of the Miyetti Cattle Owners Association, seems to be making phenomenal progress to market the false doctrine and propaganda that what is going on in the middle belt of Nigeria should be termed “farmers versus herdsmen’s crises.

This false narrative of a non-existent crises between rural farmers who are mostly land owners and the nomadic Fulani Cattle breeders has succeeded in winning the buy-in of no other person but the West African representative of the United Nations Secretary General, who is the erstwhile Secretary General of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – Mohammed Ibn Chambas.

Before proceeding to expound the substantially false narrative which the United Nation’s envoy tries to Internationalize as a conflict between two distinct groups namely farmers and herders, let me point out that it is suspected that the media department of the current presidency in Abuja may have devoted huge amount of slush fund to sponsor propaganda materials in foreign and local media outlets to attempt to shift the focus of most readers from what really is the matter in the Christian dominated communities in Northern Nigeria.

What is really going on is a planned genocide to try to take over greener pastures and lands belonging to these farmers who are at the receiving end of bloody attacks by well-armed Fulani herdsmen who have the support of top players in the security forces of present day Nigeria because the hierarchies of the National security architectures are drawn from one section of Nigeria namely the Hausa/Fulani Ethno-religious group. 

Now, lets turn to the falsehood peddled by the representative of the United Nations who is of a Ghanaian origin who is of the impression that there is a conflict between farmers and herders.

The United Nations envoy who spoke during a visit to the Middle Belt region asserted that what he considers as herders – farmers violence in Northern Nigeria constituted a major food security threat.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said there had been an increase in clashes region wide.

He said in a speech that a resource conflict was being aggravated by rapid population growth, climate change, poor implementation of legislation and the availability of weapons.

Wider criminality was further exacerbating tensions, he asserted.

“Farmers-herders conflict is the new sub-regional security threat,” he said.

“Urgent action is needed to resolve conflict in countries currently experiencing high levels of violence between herders and farmers,” he added.

“Sustained conflict prevention efforts are needed to stop violence from taking root and the state needs to be actively involved, working with local communities.”

This deliberately cooked up narrative of a straight conflict between farmers and herders gained currency when the media advisors to President Muhammadu Buhari tried to force it down our throats that what is at play is simply a conflict for grazing rights.

The Special Adviser, media to President Buhari even went to the ridiculous stage of asking Nigerian land owners to accept the fact that only the living can lay claim to ancestral ownership of land. Then again, the federal Minister of Agriculture and that of Defence also asserted that what is going on is simply a conflict between herders and farmers. 

The Minister of Defence who is Fulani by origin was even quoted as blaming state governments in the affected areas of armed Fulani attacks as the cause of the crises because of the newly introduced anti-open grazing laws.

The Minister of Interior who is also a Fulani simply dismissed this bloody insurgency of armed Fulani herdsmen as a law and order matter which can be tackled by the police. He made this comical statement over two years ago but between then and now, over 4,000 farmers have been slaughtered by the rampaging armed Fulani herders and dramatically not one killer is behind bars.

This writer is convinced that this deliberate attempt by government officials to play diversionary roles to explain away the apparent compromise of the National Security heads who have so far failed to stop the mass killings and arrest, prosecute and punish the mass killers, can simply be viewed as a grave threat to constitutional democracy.

In a new book titled “How democracies die: what history reveals about our future,” authored by Professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, our attention was drawn to the fact that whenever a set of people in government begin to carry out ethno-religious agenda such as encouraging the armed Fulani insurgency, it beloves on all patriots to work to check this treason because that tendency has the capacity to cripple constitutional democracy.

A careful reading of chapter 9 of this profoundly rich book by these two American Scholars will also tell us that all that it takes for constitutional democracy to die, is for patriots both within and outside the confines of government to do nothing and allow 'infidels' or haters of democracy to scuttle fundamental freedoms of peace loving citizens.

The book therefore asks patriots who are faithfully devoted to salvage democracy to act decisively.

Hear them: “Writing this book has reminded us that American democracy is not as exceptional as we sometimes believe". 

The authors rationalize that even in the United States of America, "there’s nothing in our Constitution or our culture to immunize us against democratic breakdown. We have experienced political catastrophe before, when regional and partisan enmities so divided the nation that it collapsed into civil war". 

"Our constitutional system recovered, and Republican and Democratic leaders developed new norms and practices that would undergird more than a century of political stability. But that stability came at the price of racial exclusion and authoritarian single-party rule in the South. It was only after 1965 that the United States fully democratized."

The Writers captivated their audience by reminding us that; "paradoxically, that very process (expounded above) began a fundamental realignment of the American electorate that has once again left our parties deeply polarized. This polarization, deeper than at any time since the end of Reconstruction, has triggered the epidemic of norm breaking that now challenges our democracy.”

However, in Nigeria, there is a sharp decline in the number of genuine patriots who can look at those wielding political powers and speak truth to power especially on this raging falsehood being officially peddled about the so-called farmers – herders clashes.

For instance, in today’s publication, the central Bank of Nigeria embraced and has dished out this propaganda so as to try to infuse some kind of official toga on an entirely fabricated claim.

It's been reported that the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria on Tuesday called on the Federal Government to address the crisis between farmers and herders, warning that if left unchecked, it would exert inflationary pressure on the economy.

The committee expressed this concern in a communiqué issued at the end of its two-day meeting held at the headquarters of the CBN in Abuja.

Announcing the decisions of the committee, the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said the MPC urged the government to arrest the clashes between the farmers and herders so as to sustain the moderation in food inflation.

He stated, “The committee took note of the sustained moderation in inflation pressure, especially the headline inflation as well as stability in the foreign exchange market, but expressed concern over the threat posed by incessant herders and farmers’ crises in some key food producing states and the negative impact on some key food supply chains, which would continue to exact pressure on food prices.

“The committee therefore called on the bank to continue to build on the progress already made in arresting the trend to sustain the moderation in food inflation.”

Well, this writer has set out in this piece to call a spade by its real name by emphatically saying that it is a lie from the pits of hell for anyone to try to deceive Nigerians by affirming the existence of a non-existent conflict between farmers and herders. 

What is going on is simply profoundly coordinated genocide by armed Fulani herdsmen and their sponsors who ought to be classified as terrorists but who are now enjoying government patronage and support. The outgoing French Ambassador to Nigeria had also blamed armed Fulani herdsmen and the lack of effective law enforcement for the spiralling violence targeting rural farmers.

If I may ask those going about spreading this rumour of some kind of war between herdsmen and farmers, how many Fulani herdsmen and their family members are part of the growing casualty figures and how many Fulani people are quartered at the internally displaced persons camps in the middle belt region?

My reading of the concept of a just war theory in moral philosophy tells me that the massacre of farmers and the destruction of their means of livelihood as have happened in the North Central region of Nigeria and masterminded by armed Fulani herdsmen is an unjust war going on.

Ryan Jenkins wrote that: “Traditional just war theory concerns itself with two questions: (1) when it is just to go to war and (2) how may a war be justly fought? (These two areas usually go by their Latin names: jus ad bellum and jus in bello, respectively.) This way, we can say that a war was just to declare but fought unjustly, or perhaps vice versa.”

“When is it just to resort to war? (Notice this moral question is separate from when war is prudent or popular.) Traditionalists hold that a state must satisfy several criteria: just cause, right intention, last resort, proportionality, probability of success, and proper authority.”

“Theorists usually think the only just cause for declaring war is self-defense: that is, as a response to an actual aggression. Pre-emptive war—declaring war on a state because it is believed they will be a threat—is clearly a Pandora’s box. Instead, we must meet a high evidential burden in order to justify war, and a merely suspected attack is not enough.”

“In order for a declaration of war to be just, the state must have the right intention in persecuting a war. It is unjust to go to war ostensibly in self-defense if one’s real motive is to seize the adversary’s copious natural resources.”

“Because war is a grave evil, it is just only when all other peaceful avenues to resolving the conflict have been exhausted.”

If there are crises between farmers and herders, how come then that the majority of those who die are from the communities under attack and those who usually find succour in the Internally displaced person's camps in Plateau State; Benue State and southern Kaduna are rural farmers? 

The laissez faire tendencies of the current government towards this widening spectre of terror attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen targeting farmers, is a reminder of what in social engineering is believed to be as a result of the growing preponderance of the 'I-it relationships in modern societies which remain major threats to the survival of humanity and indeed any nation whereby the government officials promote a policy that view certain sections of the polity as mere objects and the other favoured group as special breed. Martin Buber warned against the "Thingification" of people- the depersonalization of relationships that corroded our quality of life and the human spirit itself. 

What the current government has done by treating Fulani herdsmen as special breed of citizens who even deserved to be created some business colonies as payoff for their treacherous acts of mass killings of farmers, is simply to endanger our constitutional democracy. 

In the book 'The Substance of Politics' by A. Appodorai, the substance of the functions of the workers of executive powers in a constitutional democracy is "seeing that laws are enforced."

Our peculiar scenario is worst because the executive arm of government is busy dishing out false narratives on the causes of the terrorism waged by armed Fulani herdsmen. So long as this government refuses to bring mass killers to justice and declare armed Fulani herdsmen as terrorists, so long as these mass killings will become even more disturbing. We need to put an end to this propaganda and false narrative about any kind of conflicts between farmers and herders. The farmers are simply terrorized and killed so armed Fulani herdsmen can graze their cows and because the government officials pay more premium and more respect to cows than to the sanctity of life, the thousands of innocent lives wasted means nothing to them. We must put an end to this odd way of governance and embrace law-based good governance. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs;; [email protected]