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Fulani herdsmen and true federalism

In the last two decades, there have been numerous reports of Fulani Herdsmen committing crimes in their host communities all over the country, crimes such as trespassing and grazing farms; gang-raping women; kidnapping; armed invasion and massacre of defenceless villagers; and even ethnic cleansing by battalion-strength Fulani militia armed with AK-47 and other sophisticated weapons of war. These reports have come from many states including the following: Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, in the North-Central Zone and the southern parts of Kaduna State in the North-West Zone.  Reports have also come from Ondo, Kogi, Oyo, Imo, Abia, Ogun, Enugu, and Delta states. So, the problem has been reported from the South-West and North-Central, as well as the South-East and South-South and the North-West—i.e. five of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones.

The frequency of these crimes has increased dramatically since the 2015 elections. And there have been calls from southern parts of Nigeria to ban or otherwise restrict the movements of these Fulani herdsmen. But the owners of the cattle that they herd have been strenuously objecting to such calls. The Fulani Cattle Breeders Association has been using the 1999 Constitution to justify the alleged right of their herdsmen to graze farms in other states of Nigeria. According to them, because freedom of movement is their constitutional right, (“No one can stop us grazing in the South”. ( May 1, 2016).

Explaining their stand, Mr. Nuru Abdullahi, the Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Plateau State, said nobody could deprive Fulani herdsmen of their constitutional right of free movement because “…The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees freedom of movement for every citizen of the country; this includes the right to live, work and carry out any legitimate activity in any part of the country…”

However, a constitution that gives a loophole for criminal activities that threaten the security and lives of persons in five of the six zones in Nigeria needs to be questioned and discarded: What is the origin of that constitution? Who inaugurated it? How was it brought into operation? Was it approved by the people in any referendum? Whose interest does it serve and whose interest does it harm?

Since it is self-advertised as a federal constitution, is it really and truly federal? There has been a long agitation, led by Afenifere, for True Federalism in Nigeria.  The charge has been that the 1999 Constitution lacks the characteristics of a truly federal constitution; and the agitation is for a remedy through a Sovereign National Conference, to renegotiate the terms of the Nigerian union and embody the freely agreed terms in a truly federal constitution that will be approved in a referendum.

However, the Caliphate aristocrats, Sarkuna, and their agents have insisted that it cannot be re-negotiated. In 2013, one of their militants even went so far as to threaten that those asking for the SNC are asking for Civil War. (‘Supporters of SNC asking for civil war’—Junaid Mohammed.

The question which every Nigerian must now face and answer is this: Should I submit myself and my descendants to permanent insecurity and destruction because of the 1999 Constitution? Is a constitution sacred and irreplaceable? Is a constitution made to serve all the citizens or just a section of them? Is a constitution an altar where some citizens are sacrificed, and sacrificed for the special benefit of some other citizens? If the answer is that the constitution is not sacred and should not be used for human sacrifice—for sacrificing the victims of the Fulani herdsmen—then, the task of abrogating the 1999 Constitution becomes paramount because a constitution that demands human sacrifice has to go! The quest for true federalism thus becomes the top priority in Nigerian politics and society.

It therefore falls on every Nigerian victim or potential victim of the Fulani herdsmen to encourage Afenifere to revive its presently dormant agitation for a truly federal constitution.

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Fulani herdsmen and true federalism


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