Herdsmen and Farmers in Nigeria ~ By Okwudiba Nnoli
The Nigerian petty bourgeoisie is hell bent on destroying the country. It has found itself in a deep hole with the economy. But it is still digging, this time, to accommodate the social fabric of the nation within that hole. As the economy plummets, its unmerited share of the national cake plunges downward precipitously. It reacts predictably to improve this share, namely by the manipulation of ethnicity. The misunderstanding between the herdsmen and farmers provides the opportunity to do so.
Herdsman is an economic category, an actor in production. His products are cow meat, milk and various milk products. His productive forces include grazing land, cattle, and the labor of the herdsman. His relationship of production is essentially with the cattle lord who actually owns the cattle and whom he is working for. This relationship is exploitative and often oppressive. The financial reward is not commensurate with his sweat, toil and tribulations in the production process. In addition, he has no access to any infrastructures for education and enjoyment of health facilities. Nomadic education , so called,merely put money in the pockets of petty bourgeois officials. For these reasons and the primary nature of his economic activities, the herdsman is socially categorized as a peasant, belonging to a class, the peasantry.
Similarly, the subsistence farmer is socially a peasant. He/she is of the class, the peasantry. He/she is a primary producer. His/her products are crops and related goods and services, using the land, seeds, seedlings and plant shoots, hoes and related instruments, as well as personal labor as the productive forces. The class enemy is the middle man/ woman who fleeces him/her in the product exchange market. Like the herdsman the farmer lacks access to education, health services and such necessary services as potable water and access roads for a more lucrative sale of products than to the middle men/women. In production, both are objectively comrades in arms, nourishing the rest of the society, even under conditions of oppression, exploitation and marginalization. They are allies in the class struggle against the petty bourgeois state.
It can only be by cruel witchcraft of the petty bourgeoisie that this century old class solidarity of the farmer and herdsmen has been turned into a violent and bloody enmity between them. The conjurer’s wand first turned the relationship into an ethnic one. The petty bourgeois stood to gain nothing but enmity from their peasant class solidarity. And with the economy beyond redemption it was necessary to intensify the ethnic strategy for maximizing their declining benefits from the national cake. Before we knew it, petty bourgeois propaganda had manufactured the “fulani herdsman” counterposed to the “ non-fulni farmer “. Enter ethnicity, the ubiquitous bogeyman of petty bourgeois rule in Nigeria. A veritable opium of the Nigerian masses , it has served petty bourgeois exploitation in similar situations in the past.
In Bachamaland, instead of the Bachama and their Hausa neighbor , both of whom were farmers, fighting the petty bourgeois state which very unjustly acquired their land in the 1980s, they turned against each other to fight ethnic war for the remaining land. The same thing happened in the Mambilla plateau where, again, government sequestration of the most fertile land pitted the Mambilla against their ethnic neighbors in interethnic wars. In pretense at quelling these wars the petty bourgeois government destroyed the land and properties of all sides in these conflicts. A similar set of actions was taken in Ogoniland when the farmers and fisher folks protested the petty bourgeois acquiescence to the pollution of their farm lands and fishing waters. When the ruling petty bourgeois failed to turn the protest into a war between the Ogoni and neighboring Andoni they resorted to the judicial murder of four Ogoni protest leaders.
So much for petty bourgeois respect for and commitment to human and peoples rights, especially by their intellectual mouthpieces. They flood the social media with fangled rhetoric and sterile analyses about rights to private property, rule of law and human rights. They are only interested in petty bourgeois property and human rights. They are not interested in the rights and property of the herdsman and farmers; only in using them as pawns in intraclass struggle for the sharing of the national cake.
A faction of the class supplies modern rifles to herdsman to use in killing their class allies or be killed in the process in a reckless act of lawlessness. The goal is to gain political power and a lion’s share of the parasitic wealth that comes with it. This lawlessness is in the character of the petty bourgeoisie. In bourgeois society, law is an integral aspect of production, particularly for contracts which play a pivotal role in bourgeois production. Since the petty bourgeois are marginal to production they do not have a similar attachment and respect for law as the bourgeois that they imitate.
Again in bourgeois society intraclass conflict is often settled by economic competition. The petty bourgeois cannot follow this path because they do not produce. In Nigeria, their path is that of manipulation of ethnic consciousness. Hence, even the non-Fulani faction cannot mount competition in the area of cattle rearing as a defense strategy. They are content with complaining and whining which only serve to heighten ethnic consciousness all around, to the benefit of petty bourgeois witchcraft against the underprivileged classes.
The ruling petty bourgeoisie is under the illusion that this witchcraft will work forever. But the signs are there that the loyalty of the masses has waned considerably. Now they may give their vote but not any actionable intelligence they may possess. Instead, they give the intelligence to any organization fighting the petty bourgeois: Boko Haram, separatist organizations, even bandits and outright criminals just to embarrass the petty bourgeois. They await the necessary resources to strike.
The most important of these resources is organization. It cannot be an organization that seeks to fight ethnicity with ethnicity. It must fight ethnic consciousness with class consciousness. The task of the moment is to develop class consciousness among the underprivileged classes if not the society as a whole. It is not attacking Police stations or hiding in forests from where to conduct hit and run attacks against security forces. It is not complaining and whining against government policy or lack thereof; no philistinism, adventurism or defeatism; no paying attention to the high-falutin and seemingly elegant analyses of the petty bourgeois or spending time and energy to refute their assertions. The mission of this generation of Nigerians is the raising of class consciousness among the masses. The next phase will be determined by the success or failure of this phase. So let’s focus and remain positive. Have faith in the masses. They are very very wise and knowledgeable. Learn with them in this course of conscientization. No adventurism. No defeatism. No philistinism.
Okwudiba Nnoli is a professor of political science