WHEN the British flag, the Union Jack was lowered and Nigeria’s green white and green flag hoisted in its place on October 1, 1960, Nigerians shouted freedom at last and went into joyous celebrations. It was a national merriment all over Nigeria. Even school children were feted with sumptuous meal as part of the celebrations. Everyone thought freedom had come at last, albeit on a platter of gold in comparison to some other nations like Algeria and South Africa. It was a tortuous and somehow long political journey for Nigerians.
Led by their leaders like Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamidi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other nationalists, Nigerians thought the era of political bondage would become a thing of the past immediately after the yoke of British imperialism was sent back to the owners. They and their future generation would from then enjoy the privilege of self-determination in all spheres of life.
But going by recent political developments in the country, this freedom appears to be under serious threat. Fulani colonialism is being planned wittingly or unwittingly, to replace British colonialism in Nigeria under the guise of settling Fulani herdsmen all over the country, with the connivance of the Federal Government.
The Federal Government is proposing the establishment of what it called “cattle colonies” all over Nigeria. This appears to be the government’s own solution to the incessant senseless killings of innocent Nigerians in cold blood by the fully armed but seemingly untouchable Fulani herdsmen under the guise of searching for grass to feed their animals. The government tends to prefer this approach to disarming the killer-Fulani herdsmen as a means of ending the senseless killings.
Given the nature of Nigeria as a conglomeration of various and often discordant ethnic groups, this approach by the government is quintessentially insensitive. The present level of national integration in a conglomerate Nigeria and the political antecedents of the Fulani in the country do not recommend this approach as sensible and acceptable solution. In fact, it smacks of arrant insult and unwarranted arrogance to all other ethnic groups in the country.
Those who sold this idea to the government are very smart although not smart enough. They appear to be great strategists in ethno-politics especially in a country like Nigeria. The expression, “cattle colonies for herdsmen,” should be seen as a mere semantic gymnastics aimed at achieving a political abracadabra to hoodwink politically gullible and naïve Nigerians, especially the non-Fulani groups in the country. This is why before the issue could even be thrown open to the states, some governors who are behaving like typical quislings, have started saying that they were ready to buy the idea even when the overwhelming majority of their citizens are against it. They must say what would please the emperor of the federation.
A cursory look at the expression: “cattle colonies,” will bring out the absurdity of the idea in a fragile conglomerate Nigeria. A simple dictionary definition says a colony is “a country or area that is under the political control of a more powerful country, usually one that is far away”. The dictionary goes on to say that to colonise is: “to establish political control over an area or over another country and send your citizens there to settle”.
We should not assume that the protagonists or those who invented the idea are oblivious of the above definitions and the socio-political implications. They are conscious of the operational meaning of the expression. They really understand what they are doing, hence, the seeming semantic gymnastics duly targeted at political abracadabra in ethno-politics. The ultimate aim is nothing less than colonialism in the true sense of it, albeit through the back-door.
The bitter truth is that the state governments in Ekiti, Abia, Rivers, Anambra, Lagos, Benue, Plateau, Osun and other states of the pseudo-federation called Nigeria, will have no control over the colonies imposed on them. Those in the colonies (the so-called Fulani herdsmen) who would be conferred with contextual legality in the implementation of the awkward and ludicrous arrangement cannot be controlled by the government in the states even if the states are not in the reverse order, to be controlled by the modern day Fulani colonialists.
In other words, at best, there will be two governments in every state where the colonies are imposed. In fact, going by the antecedents of the Fulani, the new colonialists would want to be in control of the states. This is colonialism through the back-door. The result of this is political confusion if not complete anarchy with its attendant catastrophic consequences. The level of conflagration that could attend this may be difficult to predict now.
From the above, it is certain that the solution to the issue at stake is not in the jaundiced approach of “cattle colonies.” If the protagonists are sincere and so desperate about finding gracing environment that will be free from rancor for the specially favored Fulani herdsmen, why don’t they take the herdsmen and their cattle to the Sambisa forest? After all, we have been told that our gallant soldiers had liberated the expansive forest from the Boko Haram terrorists. They will have enough room to operate here without anyone raising eyebrow.
The Fulani herdsmen should replace the Boko Haram in Sambisa forest rather than coming to other parts of Nigeria to foment trouble in order to pave way for them to replace the British colonialists who left on October 1st 1960 with their own 21st century colonialism. No sensible person, void of gullibility, especially in the Southern and Middle belt of Nigeria, will willingly agree to replace British colonialism with Fulani colonialism. It is absurd. It is insulting. Even to the ubiquitous quislings in the southern and middle belt political landscape, modern colonialism foisted through the back-door is unacceptable. Fulani imperialism cannot be made to replace British imperialism.
The method or procedure by both Britain and the Fulani appears to be similar. British imperialism gave birth to colonialism. In fact, the communist priests had described colonialism as the last stage or phase of imperialism. With the force of arms, British imperialists imposed their rule over the territories known today as Nigeria with the sole aim of capturing the resources of Nigeria for the development of their own country. The traumatic experience of British colonialism is still fresh in our memory.
In the same vein, the Fulani had for some time now unleashed attacks on the middle belt and southern Nigeria, killing and maiming many innocent and hapless people with unreserved impunity. After all, the federal government is not willing to curb the murderous activities of the untouchable Fulani herdsmen. To the federal government of Nigeria, the price to offer the murderous Fulani in all parts of the country, for them to stop killing innocent Nigerians is colonies, to be foisted on unwilling other ethnic groups through the federal might. This is not only an insult being carried too far; it is an insensitivity of the highest order and a reckless exercise in aberration. It is an unworkable simplistic approach to a very serious issue.
An effective solution to the knotty issue lies in complete restructuring of the country. In the First Republic under a workable federal arrangement, Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not need colonies imposed by outsiders before establishing agric settlements including ranches in Western Region. The regional government provided in abundance, what the Fulanis are today arrogating to themselves only in the country. Other regions did the same without any rancor.
From the above, it is clear that anyone who wants genuine solution to this problem and many others in the country will embrace the inevitable issue of restructuring Nigeria to steer the country off the present dangerous pseudo-federalism which has hitherto proved to be highly susceptible to abuse.
The only alternative to restructuring the polity may sound bitter. It lies in the highly distasteful Gideon Orkah solution. It could be the last resort. How it will happen, I don’t know. Our experience over the years has proved that the present system and structure, cannot accommodate meaningful socio-economic development and political stability. This is why Nigeria remains one of the poorest nations of the world even though it controls enormous and enviable resources. It is not possible for the country to remain in this quandary forever. But for now, it must be sounded loudly and clearly that Fulani imperialism cannot be made to replace British imperialism in the country.
- Adesua is a former Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of the African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc.