By Reno Omokri
On Wednesday the 17th of January, 2018, an Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at the Northwest University, Kano, Umar Labdo Muhammad, claimed that Benue state belongs to the Fulani ethnic nationality by right of conquest.
According to his warped thinking, “Benue State belongs to the Fulani people by right of conquest. This is because half of the state is part of the Bauchi Emirate and the other half is part of the Adamawa Emirate. Benue is therefore part and parcel of the Sokoto Caliphate. So no one has the right to expel the Fulani from Benue under any guise.
Second to the Arabs, perhaps the Fulani are the most benevolent and merciful conquerors in history. If they had applied the Nazi final solution to the natives, or if they had treated them the same way the European settlers treated Red Indians in North America or the Aborigines in Australia, the story would have been different today.”
Just imagine this type of mentality!
But if you take a minute to reflect, Umar Labdo Muhammad’s comments begin to make sense. What do I mean?
Well, if you take into account the unprecedented and uncharacteristic refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to take any concrete action to stop killer Fulani herdsmen and his government’s reluctance to tag them as the terrorists they are, preferring instead to treat them with kid gloves and label them ‘mere criminals’ it will not be a stretch to make assumptions that President Buhari may agree with Professor Umar Labdo Muhammad’s theory of Fulani racial superiority.
Let us consider the facts.
Since the ethnic cleansing undertaken by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State, President Buhari has not visited the state to condole with the state government or the victims.
In fact, just days after the killings, the President played host to a group of seven leprous governors who asked him to run for a second term. Apparently, securing his second term is more important to President Buhari than securing his own citizens!
And instead of going to Benue State to visit the victims, the President summoned the Benue State Governor and the elders of the state to Abuja.
As an aside, let me just state that if I were the Governor of Benue State, I would not have been foolish enough to accept such an invitation. We are in a democracy and the President cannot summon or punish a Governor. But that is just me. How I wish Benue had a Fayose instead of an Ortom!
But the story does not end there. Instead of reassuring the Governor and elders of Benue that he would apprehend the killer Fulani herdsmen who have, according to the Benue elders, killed thousands of Nigerians in Benue since Buhari came to power, the President turned himself to the advocate of the herdsmen and urged the government and people of Benue to show “restraint”.
The President’s exact words were as follows:
“Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.”
How the President could ask the victims to show restraint without so much as a warning to the perpetrators stuns me.
Well, to show you how worthless the President’s reassurances are, Fulani herdsmen killed four more people in Benue less than 24 hours after President Buhari’s strong reassurances!
But why does President Buhari seem so incapacitated when it comes to Fulani herdsmen?
And coincidentally, around the time he received the Benue delegation, President Buhari was shown on the Nigerian Television Authority boasting about how he used force to chase Yahya Jammeh from power in Gambia.
If he could use force on Jammeh 2,000 miles away, what is stopping him from using that same force on killer herdsmen here in Nigeria? Charity begins at home not in The Gambia!
Is this not the same President under whom 347 unarmed Shiite men, women, children and infants were killed for merely blocking the way of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Turkur Buratai?
Is this not the same President that militarized the entire Southern Nigeria with Operation Python Dance in the Southeast, Operation Crocodile Smile in the South-south and Operation Crocodile Smile 2 in the Southwest?
Why has the President, who is a lion in the face of Boko Haram, suddenly become a mouse in the face of Fulani herdsmen?
Could it be because President Muhammadu Buhari shares Professor Umar Labdo Muhammad’s philosophy about Fulani racial superiority?
The President may not have acted when Fulani herdsmen killed Benue people, but he sure did act when Adamawa and Taraba people killed Fulani herdsmen and he acted decisively. Troops were sent to intervene in those theaters very quickly.
We also saw the President’s decisive action when Fulani cattle were allegedly rustled in Kaduna, Nasarawa and Zamfara state. In these cases, it took a combined team of the Nigerian Army and Air Force to go after the rustlers and either kill them or arrest and try them.
Curiously, in those occasions, President Buhari did not ask the Fulani to show ‘restraint’.
Let us look at it historically. Professor Umar Labdo Muhammad does have a point, albeit a limited one.
He is right that the Fulani at one time did conquer large expanses of Northern Nigeria. During the Uthman Dan Fodio jihad of 1803 to 1815, the Fulani waged their jihad in today’s Northern Nigeria for the stated reason of proclaiming an Islamic state that would be governed by Shari’a law.
The question for today is whether that philosophy has faded from the minds of the contemporary Fulbe people?
Let us examine this question with the aid of my favourite helpers, those little things called facts.
On Monday the 27th of August, 2001, Muhammadu Buhari said, and I quote (please note that this is a direct quote not a paraphrase):
“I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of Sharia in the country.”
Notice that Buhari did not ask for the implementation of Shari’a in Northern Nigeria. He wanted “total implementation of Sharia in the country.”
Now, what is the difference between President Muhammadu Buhari’s mindset of 2001 and the mindset of Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio in 1803? They want the same thing.
Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio was the leader of the Fulani invasion force during the 1804 Jihad and today, President Muhammadu Buhari is the immediate past Grand Patron of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, the umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria.
Where Professor Mohammad believes that Benue belongs to the Fulani by way of conquest, President Buhari wants Benue and other states to establish cattle colonies.
Think about it for minute. What is a colony? Nigeria was once a British colony. What did we call the British when they had a colony in Nigeria? We called them Colonial Masters.
So if Benue and other states listen to President Buhari and allow the Fulani have cattle colonies in their states would that not make the Fulani colonial masters?
Does that not fit right into Professor Mohammad’s theory of Benue (and of course other Middle Belt states) being the province of the Fulani by way of right of conquest?
In the first place, why should any government be involved in creating ‘cattle colonies’ for Fulani herdsmen? Why can’t Fulani herdsmen buy land and build their own cattle colonies?
We don’t have enough land for peace loving Nigerians and we want to give land to a group notorious for killing Nigerians? Why should public money be spent on Fulani herdsmen?
If Nigeria is not a slave ‘colony’ of the Fulani, then let President Buhari give his own personal land in Daura to be used as a cattle colony by his Fulani brethren!
The very fact that the President wants to create cattle colonies with public money on public land for the Fulani who run a private cattle herding business should indicate the type of mindset driving him and his government.
With this historical background, my question still remains this: Is it a stretch to conclude that President Buhari’s mindset is the same as Professor Umar Labdo Muhammad?
Meanwhile, I am waiting to see if the Department of State Security, AKA DSS, that attempted to arrest Reverend Isa El-buba for condemning Fulani herdsmen killings will also attempt to arrest Prof. Umar Labdo Muhammad of Northwest University, Kano, for saying that Benue State belongs to the Fulani by right of conquest.
This will show whether Nigeria is really one and whether we are really all equal because for every single day of 2018, there have been fatal attacks by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria. Under President Buhari, Fulani herdsmen killings are more regular in Nigeria than public electricity supply or payment of salary to civil services by the federal government. It is the most consistent thing in the land!
And to Professor Umar Labdo Muhammad, I know the truth is usually the first casualty of war, but the good Professor should know that some of us are avid history aficionados and know for a fact that Tiv land was never conquered during the Fulani Jihad.
As I end this piece, please permit me to quote from the Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), the apex social-economic and political body of the Tiv Nation (their own version of Afenifere), which last year responded to a similar claim made by Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, who, like Professor Umar Labdo Muhammad, claimed that Fulani own Benue.
The Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), said:
“What is a veritable and verifiable historical fact is that the forces of the 1804 Islamic Jihad led by the Fulani cleric, Usman Dan Fodio, were overwhelmingly defeated at the Ushongo Hills in Tivland. That explains why Islam could not be imposed on the Tiv people nor Emirs appointed to rule Tivland as was the case elsewhere in Nigeria.”
Now do not forget that President Muhammadu Buhari was once a Grand Patron of the Group that made and still believes this evil lie.
But even if it is true that the Fulani conquered Benue (it is not true) would that right of conquest still subsist till today?
After all the British conquered the Sokoto Caliphate. Do the British still have a right over the Caliphate by right of conquest?
And by the way, the Fulani are not the only ones who conquered in what is now known as Nigeria. Long before Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio, the Bini empire (wrongly known as Benin), conquered territory from Dahomey in modern day Benin Republic all the way to Igbo land (Onitsha was founded by people from modern day Benin) and to Lagos (the old name for Lagos, Eko, is a Bini word).
But you do not see Benin people going to these places they once conquered to kill people and lay claim to their land and justify it as a ‘right of conquest’. So why should the case of the Fulani be different?
Let me remind people like Professor Umar Labdo Muhammad that former President Olusegun Obasanjo once dethroned the Fulani emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Mustapha Jokolo and that General Sani Abacha did same to a former Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Sultan Dasuki (a man I greatly admired and I only use this example for historical purpose and not to denigrate His Eminence in any way.
Privately and publicly, I will always hold the late Sultan Dasuki in very high esteem for the fact that God used the Sokoto Caliphate to make my late father, Justice Jean Omokri, the success that he was)
They were able to do this because the Nigerian state is superior to the Fulani or any other ethnic nationality within Nigeria. So if the fact that the Fulani currently have one of their own as President is causing the likes of Professor Muhammad to get power drunk, they should remember that President’s come and go, but Nigeria has remained.