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Your Land or Your Life!

By Ogbuefi Ndigbo

It is now official. YOUR LAND OR YOUR LIFE!

Alongside the Islamist struggle to reshape society in the Sahel through violent means is a second, relatively unnoticed but equally deadly conflict with the dangerous potential of merging with jihadi efforts.

At a time when resources such as land and water are diminishing in the Sahel, semi-nomadic Muslim herders of the widespread Fulani ethnic group are increasingly turning to violence against settled Christian communities to preserve their herds and their way of life.

Claims of “genocide” and “forced Islamization” have become common in the region.

Vanguard is reporting that herdsmen are renaming conquered communities in Plateau State.

A Fulani man openly carrying AK-47 rifle

Thus Nigeria’s president Muhamamdu Buhari yesterday told people from the middle belt of Nigeria that they should be willing to give up their ancestral land for cattle ranches to avoid untimely death.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, gave the chilling threat while speaking on an AIT morning programme.

He charged those against the administration’s ranching and colony programmes for herdsmen to rethink, noting that they are better off living with the ranches and colonies than dying through the persisting conflicts.

In response to a question on ancestral attachments to land, Adesina said: “Ancestral attachment? You can only have ancestral attachment when you are alive. If you are talking about ancestral attachment, if you are dead, how does the attachment matter?”

Chief Femi Adesina, gave the admonishment as he alleged a conspiracy by alleged critics of the administration to frustrate moves towards resolving the crises in the country.

Femi Adesina’s threat is not in anyway different from an article ascribed to one Adamu Mohammed that went viral around May 4, 2016.

The article, ‘Your Land Or Your Blood’, which was refused publication by Elombah.com was published by some other online media.

Adamu Mohammed wrote in part:

Ever since President Muhammadu Buhari took over the mantle of leadership of this great country Nigeria, we(Hausa-Fulanis) have come under severe media attack from enemies of progress. Just because they are educated than us, they stereotype us with negativity. Just because they own and control the media, they use the media against us.

But let me make something clear to you stupid fellows hating us, whether you love us or hate us, it doesn’t change anything. We are who we are and we will continue to remain like that. We hate you even more and we can never love you because you are all infidels. I pity those of you who keep deluding yourselves that we can love and trust you simply because you worked against your people to our own advantage, never!

I heard that the stupid Governor of Oyo State, Ajimobi said that they won’t accept the proposed Grazing Bill. But my message to the filthy Yoruba pig is that, if you don’t want to give us your cursed land, we will rear our cattle not only on your farmlands but in your churches. And if you try to stop us, we would killed your chicken hearted men like rabbits then turn your mothers, wives, sisters and daughters to our sex slaves like we have always done.

It is either you give the whole of South to us to use as grazing reserve or we soak it with your blood. And what you would do like you always do is noise on Facebook and Twitter. you cannot be united against us because there would always be the likes of Tinubu, Amaechi and Okorocha in your midst who will divide you for selfishness and love of money. Such treacherous characters can’t survive in our midst because we burn them and their families.

Nigeria is a relatively new entrant to a crisis that have ravaged the Sahel region for decades.

The Sahel is a crisis polygon. Following the French intervention in Mali in 2013, this vast and sparsely inhabited region has seen the gradual resurgence and the realignment of jihadist armed groups that have extended their operational range further south – across northwest African borders, where they interfere in and interact with already existing conflicts – and increased the challenges for regional stability.

For centuries the Tuareg and Fulani have lived as nomads herding animals and trading – Tuareg mostly across the dunes and oases of the Sahara and the Fulani mostly in the Sahel, a vast band of semi-arid scrubland that stretches from Senegal to Sudan beneath it.

A turning point was the Western-backed ouster of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. With his demise, many Tuareg from the region who had fought as mercenaries for Gaddafi returned home, bringing with them the contents of Libya’s looted armories.

Some of the returnees launched a rebellion in Mali to try to create a breakaway Tuareg state in the desert north, a movement that was soon hijacked by al Qaeda-linked jihadists who had been operating in Mali for years.

Many ethnic Fulani herders along the Niger-Mali border have taken up arms to protect their livestock against Tuareg attacks.

The changing climate is also increasingly bringing the Fulani into competition with their farming neighbors.

Most gunmen in so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which operates along the sand-swept borderlands where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, Chefou used to be an ordinary Fulani pastoralist with little interest in jihad.

With time however, these have transformed from vigilantes protecting their cows to jihadists capable of carrying out complex attacks.

In Ghana, clashes between Fulani pastoralists searching for grazing land and farmers led local media to label the nomads “the Fulani menace” and call for their expulsion.

Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso itself, at least 25 Fulani herders were reported killed by Dogon farmers along the border with Mali in May 2012.

At a time when resources such as land and water are diminishing in the Sahel, semi-nomadic Muslim herders of the widespread Fulani ethnic group are increasingly turning to violence against settled Christian communities to preserve their herds and their way of life.

What is primarily an economic struggle has already taken on an ethnic and religious character in Mali.

But in the words of Dr. Andrew McGregor, “If Nigeria follows the same path, it is possible that a new civil war could erupt with devastating consequences for all of West Africa.”

Ogbuefi Ndigbo

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