Last week, The Nigerian Police arrested five members of the cavalry of Fulani herdsmen who massacred fifty natives of Ukpabi Nimbo on the early hours of the morning of 25th April. The youngest of the mass murderers, upon interrogation, proved the most yielding and talkative. He divulged the authors of the plot, the sponsors, and the cast. And he let escape a didactic factoid that establishes that the terrorism of the Fulani herdsmen, like the terrorism of a proper death cult, is not madness running wild with weapons. It is not lunacy freelancing for hate. The terrorism of the herdsmen is a quest to enforce, by conquest, a version of reality their philosophy defines as the ideal.
24-year old Mohammed Zurai revealed that the killer squad that reddened the dawn with bloodshed was made up of at least 100 Fulani herdsmen. He said the group was made up of Fulanis in Taraba, Kogi, Benue, Nasarawa, Katsina, Niger, and Kaduna. They were ‘delegates’ contributed by Fulani leaders.
The herdsmen had shared the currency of ‘’kolanuts’’ among the heads of Fulani communities in those seven states, inviting them to support the attack, a revenge mission billed as a reply to the killing of some Fulanis by Nimbo people.
He said, “After we attacked the town through the bush, I saw a man who had just been slaughtered on the ground. I brought out my phone and recorded the scene.
”I asked the dead man, ‘Your people had confidence to kill Fulani people but now you are dead. Don’t you know that Fulani owns Nigeria?’ ”
These words make clear that the streak of herdsmen-made massacres are dictated by ethnic chauvinism. The killings are informed by the orthodoxy of tribal superiority. Some people simply reckon themselves ‘owners of Nigeria’; overdogs that are higher than their fellow citizens and the law of the land.
The young man rationalized the carnage of Nimbo as well-earned vengeance. But that village for a very long time had accommodated the Fulanis and leased pasture lands to them. In fact, Zurai, who was born in Enugu, admitted that when his gang sneaked in to effect the killings, he bumped into his benefactor, ‘’an Igbo man who used to give me food any time I was in the state.’’
The massacres are mostly unprovoked. The ‘provocation’ that the herdsmen hold as reason for reprisal is often a farmer contesting the destruction of his crops. The self-appointed owners of Nigeria think it is well within their proprietorory right to herd their cattle into your farm and graze the animals until your entire field is shaved clean.
The ‘owners of Nigeria’ conceive of the entire nation as their bequest. They are maddened when you demand that they respect the borders of your farm. They deem it an indignity to be queried for their apparent wickedness. They are unquestionable.
They view your firm challenge as the height of insult. You have impugned their right to tread and trample everywhere. You have rebelled against their landlordship. So they retreat, and return with a legion of more wicked demons to punish you. They burn down your house. Rape your wife and daughter. And slit your throat!
Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, moaned that the herdsmen decimated his village in one scorched earth attack. They killed 50 people – old men, women, and children – and destroyed many farmlands including his personal 200 hectares rice farm.
Ortom told APC governors who paid him a condolence visit over Agatu massacre that the herdsmen ”come not just to graze, but to steal, kill and destroy the livelihood of the agrarian people, after which they take possession of the land knowing full well that all we have here are our farms.”
Even if Zurai had not voiced the false truism that ‘the Fulanis own Nigeria’, the handwriting of that received wisdom was legible in the pattern of their attacks all along. The herdsmen made sure to exact maximum casualties. They always tried to impress with their bluster, belligerence, and brutishness.
And the world recognizes their cruelty. That’s why Fulani herdsmen are fourth on the Global Terror Index, behind Boko Haram, Daesh, and al-Shabaab.
The popular diagnosis is that the massacres is the inevitable result of the practice of cattle rearing with borders. The herdsmen would turn pacifist if they are appeased with forage sanctuaries. But the root of the violence is not their disrespect for farmlands: It’s their contempt for the personhood of the farmers.
The herdsmen, ‘the owners of Nigeria’, consider the farmland bequeathed to you by your forebears part of their universe of real estate. When they move hundreds of hooves into your farm, the incidence is not a trespass. The owner is exploring his property.
Thus, the herdsmen perpetrate the massacres in the spirit of correctional education. The ‘naive’ rest in the assumption that Nigeria is collectively owned by all Nigerians. And that all Nigerians are equal shareholders. The killings are meant to disabuse the mind of the non-Fulanis.
To tell you that your nationality doesn’t confer Nigerianness on you. Your citizenship is not automatic. You are not Nigerian because you were born so.
It is ‘the owners of Nigeria’ that admit you into citizenship. It’s their prerogative to qualify, validate, and categorize you. According to their mood and magnanimity, it may please them to grade you a second class citizen, a third class citizen, a fourth class citizen.
In Zurai’s interrogation of that slain man, you see the triumphalism of a ghoul. As he stood over that butchered man, you see a man thrilled over his discovery of the photogenic remains of a wasted non-life. No spectacle had probably delighted him more than the grisly sight of that ‘useless’ Nimbo man.
He interviewed the dead man in an ultimate act of professorial condescension. He mocked the dead to muster an answer. He was proud of the subsequent silence that made his question rhetorical.
”Don’t you know the Fulani owns Nigeria?”
Zurai said he videoed the dead man so he would show his people back home the audiovisual evidence of the ”success” of the operation.
It is very disturbing that this smart phone-wielding nihilist recorded the killing for his morbid community. He was inspired by the certainty that his video clip would be loved like the tantalizing trailer of a beautiful horror film. And he was sure that if the clip circulated well enough, he stood a chance of being vested with honor for capturing one of the tribe’s hours of victory!
This should be a national epiphany. We must now awake to the fact the herdsmen are marching to the drumbeat of a preposterous intellection that says that Nigeria is theirs to sack and spoil: They may kill whoever, wherever, and whenever they wish.
Even before Hitler, the orthodoxy of a superior race, has been experientially known, in different contexts and eras, to be the ideology that legitimized slavery and genocide, the worst abuses against humanity.
Those who esteem themselves higher humans are liable to arrogate to themselves the power to determine the permissibility of the existence of human beings.
The claim that one tribe is intrinsically more human than others is nonsense. Nothing supports the basis of that presumption. It’s survival as a myth throughout history owes to the fertility of fools who have passed it from one generation to another.
The supposition that there is a higher tribe or that there is only one valid tribe is a proof of the infinite elasticity of man’s fantasy as well as the measure of the vastness of his aptitude for stupidity.
Patrick Eze, a serving member of the NYSC, survived that night. The herdsmen inflicted 17 machete cuts on him and left him for dead. His head hangs tenuously on his neck today. The near complete Saudi-style beheading spared him some thin ligaments and flesh.
Eze recalled that the herdsmen had the haughty ‘courtesy’ to notify the villagers, two weeks beforehand, that Nimbo would be visited with bloodbath. He said that, ‘’They were saying that they would attack us and they did…They were beating their chest that they would chase out of our fatherland since their brother is the head of state.”
The fame of the herdsmen as implacable conquistadors who reward hospitality with violence has spread all over Nigeria. And it is provoking panic and self-preservation reflexes. It is pressuring politicians to declare the pastoralists personae non gratae.
The herdsmen have killed 525 people in one year of Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency. But he didn’t deign to acknowledge their terrorism in his 2, 631 word speech on his first anniversary. Was that an omission?
Did he and his speechwriters happen to forget that Fulani herdsmen are the runner-up to Boko Haram? Or did they think the herdsmen were not malignant enough to merit a mention? Or was he basically too Fulani to associate members of his town tribe with freelance terrorism?
Did Buhari mean to hint us, by body language, that he also believes that Fulanis ”own Nigeria”?
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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