After a house detention spanning two years, Nigeria’s Sunday Igboho earlier this month finally secured his freedom from Benin Republic. He did not return to Nigeria. He jetted out to Germany.
Igboho, 56, a Yoruba nation separatist and whose real name is Chief Sunday Adeyemo, ran afoul of that Francophone nation’s laws for attempting to secure its passport through the backdoor. They arrested him. Worldwide pleas by Yoruba people were made for his release, with even the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, paying Igboho a visit in custody May 2022. Perhaps reluctant to court the ire of President Muhammadu Buhari, Cotonou had dilly-dallied over Igboho’s case until the Fulani-born retired-Army General’s tenure expired on May 29.
Igboho became a fugitive from Nigeria after the Department of State Services (DSS) raided his Ibadan, Oyo State home. This followed his effrontery in issuing a deadline to almighty Fulani herdsmen who for years had unleashed an orgy of kidnapping, murder and rape on rural communities in Sunday’s native Yoruba South-West. The Fulani pseudo-monarch, Seriki Fulani, served as intermediating agent for ransom payment to the kidnappers, who slew several captives and frightened farmers away from farmlands. SOS cries to security agents went unheeded. Finally, Igboho led natives on a raid of the camp of this Fulani army of occupation in Igbo-Ora, Igangan, Ibarapa and environs in Oyo State.
Reprisal came from an unexpected quarter. Clearly acting under the instructions of The Presidency and the agency’s Fulani-born CEO Yusuf Magaji Bichi, DSS operatives stormed Sunday Igboho’s home in a midnight invasion on July 1, 2021, unleashing sorrows, tears and blood in a rain of bullets. DSS slaughtered two unarmed occupants and arrested 12.
The Yoruba activist himself escaped. Government froze all his bank accounts. While attempting to reach Europe through the West African country, Igboho fell into the hands of the gendarmes when he tried to arrange travel documents informally. Abuja mounted pressure for his repatriation back home. However, Buhari and his Fulani collaborators underestimated the centuries-old socio-cultural ties between Benin Republic Yoruba and Nigerian Yoruba. Those ties saved Adeyemo.
What offence did Igboho commit, except confront foreign Fulani killing Nigerians? The story began with the house-rat inviting the bush-rat to come and partake in the abundant food available at home. Perhaps because of climate change and shrinking grazing grounds in the Savannah, Fulani cowboys zeroed in on Middle-Belt and Southern Nigeria’s lush greenery. Buhari, a pan-Fulani bigot being in power, Fulani irredentism won. He threw the borders open. Unchecked, the itinerant herders arrived here in droves from all over Africa and filtered through the land. They came with their AK47s, anti-aircraft propelled rocket launchers and unleashed a new brand of terrorism. Migrant Fulani militias unleashed terror everywhere the soles of their feet marched. They still do. Videos have been seen of helicopters landing in thick forests to supply these militias with arms and provisions. This was state-backed terrorism.
Like the helplessness they displayed in Igboho’s neck of the wood in Ibarapa, security agencies made zero or half-hearted efforts to halt the Fulani militants’ evil activities nationwide. The world termed them the second deadliest terror group in the world, but pro-Fulani Buhari’s regime held back. His government sold the official false narrative that herdsmen killing unarmed rural dwellers arose from axiomatic farmers-herdsmen clashes. Such rhetoric served as white-washing PR, if not justification, for the killings, even as their body counts mounted nationwide. Buhari’s government consistently sided with the foreign aggressors.
It will not be forgotten, the ignoble role of Buhari’s spin-doctors and attack dogs: Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu and Lai Mohammed. Such names will go down in infamy as defenders of killer Fulani. Adesina once said those who failed to give up land to the Fulani should prepare to forfeit their lives –undoubtedly his pan-Fulani paymaster, Buhari’s veritable voice.
Buhari came from a Fulani father and a half Kanuri half Hausa mother. He hails from the Fulani stock in Daura, Katsina State. Also called Fulbe, the Fulani tribe originated from nomads in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, settling into Central and West Africa. Upon landing on Nigerian soil, and in order to secure population and numerical advantage, the Fulani heads formed a socio-political alliance with their Hausa hosts; and today, they are jointly tagged Hausa-Fulani. But when push comes to shove and competition for posts and resources becomes inevitable, Hausa and Fulani individuals resort to their separate ancient tents. Despite being less than 9 percent of Nigeria’s population, the Fulani wield much socio-political and socio-cultural superiority.
In relationship to other Nigerians, Buhari and fellow Fulani irredentists rate their foreign cousins higher. Nigerian Fulani’s affinity with cousins from Mali, Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Guinea-Bissau and Libya gives these invaders licence to infiltrate the Nigerian space.
Going by narratives from APC chieftains privy to the affair, foreign Fulani militants had been recruited to push Buhari into power in 2015. President Goodluck Jonathan saw the handwriting on the wall and quickly threw in the towel to prevent a bloodbath. The APC kingpins claimed that politicians reneged on agreements with the imported militants, which infuriated them and made them go wild. However, something else fuelled the foreigners’ daredevilry –a pan-Fulani agenda.
In his eight years, President Buhari powered that pan-Fulani agenda. The agenda drove his lopsided pro-Fulani appointments, especially in security and the entire Armed Forces. The agenda theoretically centred on rallying Fulani in Africa to migrate to Nigeria and create a monolithic nation that would subjugate other nationalities as minorities. Buhari gave the foreign Fulani traction in Nigeria. For all he cared, Nigeria’s other 370 tribes could go to hell, once the Fulani worldwide secured Nigeria as their homeland. Resultantly, Fulani foreigners flocked into Nigeria like locusts. Egged on by the likes of the then Kaduna State Governor, they unleashed a scorched earth policy on minorities in Southern Kaduna, Zamfara State, Benue State, Plateau State, Nasarawa State, Niger State and other places, and drove millions into IDP camps. Benue recently said it lost over 20,000 lives to these marauders.
The regime supported the pan-Fulani campaign with policies. It floated the rejuvenation of North-South grazing routes that his spin-doctors said farmers had encroached upon and triggered clashes. But grazing routes were a colonial era convenience that no one wanted revived; hence, the move failed to fly.
Undeterred, the government went ahead to float a malevolent Waterways Bill, which many saw as a ploy to give Fulani herdsmen unrestricted access to rivers and streams in the country. Other Nigerians collectively ensured their legislators killed what could have amounted to signing the death warrant of other sub-groups.
Buhari went on to concoct plans for “Ruga” settlements. Thousands of hectares would be reserved in each of the 36 states solely for cattle grazers. Condemned as a scheme to “fulanise” the entire country, Ruga, to its antagonists, would ultimately turn into a veritable hideout for Fulani criminals and irredentists. That idea too died suffered nationwide rejection.
Other Nigerians suspected Ruga was window-dressing Uthman-Dan-Fodio’s legendary mission to spread the Sokoto Empire throughout the Nigerian territory and “dip the Quran in the Atlantic.” Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, during the legislative council debates on March 24, 1947 openly asserted that, “If the British departed Nigeria, the Northern people would continue their interrupted conquest to the sea.” Nigeria’s history of political instability since Independence has its roots in this Fulani quest for permanent hegemony and the determination of the rest of the country to resist the Caliphate’s domination vision.
However, Buhari himself had always shown signs of a Fulani irredentist. At the onset of the Fourth Republic, he once received a stiff rebuff from now Late Oyo State’s Governor Lam Adesina over an incident. Then usually reticent Buhari had travelled all the way from Daura to lodge a protest in Ibadan because Yoruba natives killed the cows of Fulani cattle herders. Actually, the herdsmen first unleashed an orgy of raping of women, grazing on farmlands and killing of indigenes. During Buhari’s inglorious visit, the Oyo State Police Commissioner and DSS Director vilified him for the bias displayed by someone expected to play the mediatory role of an elder statesman.
Today, Fulani incursion continues to pose an existential threat to others in the Nigerian space. And the apparent apathy and compromise of the security agencies forced the likes of Retired-General Theophilus Danjuma to voice their frustration. Danjuma, a former Fulani ally, urged other tribes to expect no protection from the “colluding” Military; and he urged them to arm themselves against the invaders.
In fact, other sections have adopted protective policies. South-West governors created “Amotekun.” As constituted authorities of the South-East dilly-dallied, the separatist group IPOB created the Eastern Security Network (ESN). Ultimately, Igbo governors rallied themselves, jointly forming “Ebubeagwu” to secure their zone. Tired of waiting for Governor Godwin Obaseki to take a similar initiative, the long-suffering Esan people in Edo State unilaterally created the Atanakpa vigilante group. Benue State formed the Community Volunteer Guards.
Additionally, states in the South and Middle-Belt have followed up with anti-grazing laws, in an uncommon determination to enforce their sovereignty in the context of a Nigerian Federation. Ironically, some dominantly Fulani states, fearing the terrorism of their immigrant cousins, have enacted similar anti-grazing laws.
Clearly, Buhari’s pan-Fulani predilection kept Nigeria divided like never before. This man divided Nigeria by choice. Like Buhari, Second Republic’s President Shehu Shagari rose from the Fulani stock; but Shagari never displayed the trappings of bigotry and led Nigeria in the path of cohesion and peace.
To continue down the path of Buhari’s pan-Fulani hallucination will only devalue the Fulani themselves and make them inevitable victims. No group owns the monopoly of violence. Victims, fighting for survival, will likely resort to self-help and in time build corporate, collaborative resistance. Who does not dread the day that Nigeria’s remaining 370 tribes will be pushed to conclude that the only good Fulani is a dead Fulani? God forbid!
Buhari and his cohorts probably forgot the transient power of power. His nightmarish eight years have ended with him, even if the bitter taste lingers in the raping, kidnapping and killings that foreign Fulani continue within Nigerian forests and highways. Like Sunday Igboho, millions of Nigerians thank God for surviving their inordinately pan-Fulani President. Goodbye to divisive bigotry and ethnic chauvinism. Goodbye to rubbish.
OBOAGWINA IS AN AUTHOR, JOURNALIST AND PUBLISHER, REACHABLE VIA: [email protected]