Benue Must Unite To Survive This Existential Conflict Upon Its Land

By Akioyamen Josephine

There is war upon us whether we like it or not. Our dark loamy soil is being reddened by our own blood. Our mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers are being killed and their bodies defiled by people bent on annihilating us.

The passage of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Act 2017 by the Benue State Government has forced the hands of Fulani to declare an open war on the indigenous peoples of the Benue valley and to for the first time expose their territorial designs on Benue. Now they lay claim to the entirety of Tiv Land. Even though this claim is at once preposterous, ahistorical and comes from the Pulaaku worldview (which is not compatible with the modern world) that stresses the symbolic importance of cattle in defining Fulani ethnicity and expresses a disdain toward the non-Fulani, it should be viewed with earnest seriousness. This is because this is a shot across the bow in a war that will decide whether we survive or die; an existential conflict that will reverberate through the sand of time. The quickening of this war is brought forth by a profound but yet real fear by the Fulani that the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 could engineer a seismic shift inimical to their ancient ways if it becomes the Consensus or the New Common Sense in Nigeria about how Animal husbandry is regulated. The trepidation is that if the law succeeds, it might create a domino effect that could bring into extinction the nomadic way of life.

To win this war and entrench our way of life against the onslaught of the Bororo herdsmen that are descending upon our land, our heritage like a swarm of locust, we need a common front in Benue. We need to look at the big picture instead of our small ethnic and clannish battles. We are faced with a common enemy who seeks by Federal law (over which he has total control), subterfuge, the force of might, to take over our homeland. We are faced with a cunning enemy, who bides his time, think long-term, and strike when his prey has been weakened.

Anyone in Benue for example, who thinks this is a war between the Tiv and the Idoma should get his head examined. This is exactly the way the Fulani wants us to categorise it. It makes it easier for him to use the force of law to steal our lands from under us while we are squabbling over the little things or take our eyes off the big picture. It is a war of extinction.

Our enemy has a true and tested philosophy which has served the adherents of their way of life well. North Africa used to be an African domain. It belonged to the dark-skinned Nubians until it was Arabised between 9th and 10th Century CE. These Arabs pushed the Nubians of North Africa into near extinction by force of arms by shock and awe, through brutalising conquest and forcible conversion into Islam. The Fulani of today and of the Fulani Jihad of 1804 share this worldview but hardened by the Pulaaku worldview do not proceed in the same manner. They do this in a clever and surreptitious way.

First, he attacks the community he craves with shock and awe relentlessly. He kills. He butchers. He leaves blood and gore everywhere. He uses that as a message to others to show the extent he is willing to go to achieve his objective. He bludgeons his victims into acceptance of his fate.

Second, he paints the victims as the aggressors, even if it is clear to all that he shares no natural borders with the victims.

Third, he waves the white flag of truce to be negotiated on his own terms. This is when he is at his most deadly. He uses the idea of peace as a ‘Trojan horse’ to penetrate the community and to establish a bridgehead from which to mass and advance very quickly into the territory. Nasarawa wasn’t a Fulani state. It is now. We now have indigenous Fulani in that state. In fact, he has overrun all the Tiv and Idoma communities in Nasarawa. Loko used to be Agatu territory. I doubt very much if it is still so. Plateau, Benue, Kogi are in this third stage. Kwara and Nasarawa are already gone.

The only way we win is at first a PAN BENUE approach to this then a PAN MIDDLE BELT approach to this. If we go it alone, we die, become extinct and will be forgotten in the sand of time. We need to forge alliances. We need to paper over our small differences to fight the greatest battle of our lives. We need to save our homeland from itself. For this is the only place we call home. It is the only place to which we are emotionally connected with an umbilical cord. We have no other. We shouldn’t let the Fulani who is fighting very hard to become indigenized to take it away from us. We must continue to apply political pressure on the Ortom administration to enforce this law to its spirit and letters. We mustn’t let the lull of complacency gives us a false sense of victory. We must remain vigilant. We have to do what we have to to survive. Tiv, Idoma, Igede, Etulo, and other ethnic groupings in Benue must join hands together to do this in one voice and with one destiny. This is how we survive the holocaust that is upon us.

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