The spread of “Fulanization” fears

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When serious figures like Wole Soyinka and the Ooni of Ife start issuing calls for Nigerians to “defend their ancestral lands” and warning that the “colonial contraption known as Nigeria cannot survive another Civil War”, it would seem high time the Buhari government realized something has gone amiss.

Calling on civilians to “defend” their lands is a vote of no confidence in the Nigerian state to perform its primary role of protecting life, liberty and property. It is unlikely either Soyinka or the Ooni would have issued such a remarkable statement if they hadn’t been inundated with stories of people suffering violence and its threat at the hands of Fulani pastoralists. The 30-day ultimatum issued by the Coalition of Northern Groups for the federal government to implement the controversial Ruga settlement plan seems to have further radicalized their stance. Meanwhile, in May this year, another influential Yoruba, Olusegun Obasanjo, warned of a growing “Fulanization” agenda.

While Obasanjo can be plausibly portrayed as pursuing a political vendetta against a government he wanted ousted, it would take significant ill-will to suggest Soyinka and many of the other non-politicians speaking out on this issue are doing so to achieve personal or sectarian objectives. The “Fulani herdsmen” issue is a complex one to be sure. From as far back as the pre-colonial era, nomadic pastoralist Fulanis have been present in much of the territories now known as Nigeria. In many areas, they had hitherto largely peacefully co-existed with local communities for all these years; some speak fluent Yoruba, Igbo and other southern Nigerian languages.

The difference today is that Nigeria’s population has nearly quadrupled from 55 million citizens at independence to an estimated 200 million today. Meanwhile, there is no more land now than there was in 1960. Factor … Read More...