By our Reporters – 2004
Muslims in the North recently celebrated the bicentenary of the Usman Dan Fodio Jihad of 1804, through which Hausa rulers were overthrown by Fulani clerics throughout Hausa States.
Addressing the people of Kano as part of the activities marking the event, Alhaji Ado Bayero, the Fulani Emir of Kano, claimed that “for the first time in history, ethnic and sectional barriers were broken; Fulani, Hausa, Kanuri, Nupe and other minority tribes and ethnic groups became united under the leadership of the Shehu.” He said that before the Jihad, the over 32 independent states in the North were constantly fighting each other for supremacy, but that the Shehu Usman Danfodio’s Jihad brought them together in ‘one nation, with one destiny.’
It is the belief of Ado Bayero that the forceful unification of various ethnic groups in the north was the bedrock of a united Nigeria today. Only the Hausa-Fulani, however, would seem to agree with the emir’s assessment of the Jihad.
0ur VISI0N’s investigations revealed that people of Central Nigeria, known as the Middle-Belt, are of the view that the 1804 Jihad was the harbinger of the travails and retrogression of Nigeria today. They believe that the Jihad, which overthrew Hausa States and, in their place, Fulani Islamic theocracy were established, did not unite but forced various people together as in a concentration camp.
According to various scholars and historians, the Jihad was limited to Hausa states, commonly called Hausa Bakwai, over which the Fulani ruled until the British colonialists came, overran Nigeria and took over the reign of government. The British saw the Fulani theocracy as a well-managed system and, lacking the capacity to foist administrative control over the large Hausa states, decided on the policy of indirect rule – using the Islamic theocracy on the ground to rule over the area.
Central Nigeria never fell under the Jihad, except at Ilorin where the family feuding of the Yoruba was exploited by Alimi, a Fulani, to usurp the rulership of the town from the natives. It was, therefore, so agreed many of our contacts, a grave error of judgment for subjecting the Middle-Belt under the Fulani theocracy of the North by the British colonialists. In effect, what the Fulani couldn’t gain by Jihad war, the British donated to them on the platter of gold.
One school of thought accused the British of racism. They said that the fair complexion of the Fulani blinded the eyes of Britain not to see that the people of Central Nigeria were neither Hausa nor Fulani, and were separate ethnic groups with different religions, cultures and ways of life that can never be blended to form a land or people into “one nation with one destiny.”
Another school of thought also debunked the claim that the Kanuri ever came under the suzerainty of Shehu Usman Danfodio. They claim that Islam was already accepted by the Kanuri, and the Borno Kingdom was already flourishing before the
Fulani struck in the North-West. However, this is of little interest in the Middle-Belt, except that the rabid claim of the Fulani over Islam had subjected the religion to suspicions as if it were the inheritance of the Fulani from their Arabic cousins.
In the view of a scholar, by the time the British sacked the Sokoto Caliphate, in 1903, there were still a lot of distinctions between the Hausa and the Fulani, despite that both had co-existed for 100 years after the Jihad. However, between 1904 and now, apart from the Cow Fulani clan, there is hardly any distinction between the two, as they both have assimilated into each other.
While the majority Hausa lost their thrones to the Fulani, the Fulani minority on the other hand, lost their language to the Hausa. Thus, the birth of a new hybrid generation, known us the Hausa-Fulani, came to being, to the extent that there is hardly one Hausa family today without a Fulani blood.
Remarkably, since the advent of the British rule, the Hausa people never really objected to Fulani rule. They appear to have accepted the loss of their autonomy as fate, and were quick to fuse into the Fulani culture and creed through marriage. Having fused into one, and using the numerical strength of the Hausa and the legendary guile of the Fulani, they enthroned what is called today as the “Northern Islamic System.”
On the claim that the Jihad united a number of different ethnic groups, we found that the tribes that seemingly united with the Hausa-Fulani did so out of helplessness. For instance, the Nupe accepted Islam and became a strong ally of the Fulani in the spread of the Jihad.
But today, Bida, the headquarters of the Nupe ethnic nation, is presided over by a non-Nupe emir. Formerly known as Etsu or Emir of Bida, it is now known and called Etsu Nupe, as if he is the king of the Nupe nationality. If the Nupes are not complaining, perhaps no one else should. But, having seen how the entire coercive machinery of state were deployed against protests over such usurpation elsewhere, the Nupe decided to let go their paternal heritage.
Another strongly held view in informed quarters in the Middle-Belt is about the claim that the Jihad achieved the unification of various ethnic groups as bedrock of a united “Nigeria.” It is the contention of many that the Jihad started as an Islamic religious Puritanism and, progressively, became a revolution, whose main goals were: to destroy and, if not possible, weaken other ethnic nations, their cultures and heritage, in favour of Arabic culture translated as Islam. It is the view of a historian that “God, if he is Allah, is too big to be reached only through one way and by one tribe of Hausa-Fulani,” noting that the Jihad was an “ethno-religious doctrine that divides rather than unite.”
He cited as example, the case of Ilorin owned by the Yoruba, but now ruled by the Fulani, and asked if the original native owners are extinct, or are unfit to rule themselves. Reminded that the Fulani dynasty was established at Ilorin as a result of conquest, he retorted that “Nigeria herself was once ruled by Britain by reason of conquest, but the British has since relinquished sovereignty to Nigerians. The Slave Trade was abolished over 150 years ago, and whatever war that took place has been overtaken by nobler events. The Fulani cannot continue to rule the Yoruba in Ilorin on account of an antiquated war.” Perhaps so.
Ilorin Town is just one out of many that suffers from alien rule of the Fulani. Lafia, the capital of Nasarawa State, is one; and in the same state, Nasarawa and Keffi Towns are reeling under the same Hausa-Fulani rule; Wase in Plateau State; Jema’a in Kaduna State; Lokoja, capital of Kogi State; Yola in Adamawa State; Jalingo in Taraba State; Offa in Kwara State; Suleja in Niger State, among others, are towns or lands, which are neither in the North, nor owned by the Hausa-Fulani, but which they now rule over in the Middle-Belt.
Even in towns where they could not rule, the government of Sir Ahmadu Bello ensured that such towns or chiefdoms are turned into Islamic theocracies where only Muslims are permitted to rule. Minna, Bauchi, Ebira, Igala, Zuru are some of the chiefdoms that are now ruled only by Muslims. The question is: if the Jihad was a means of uniting various ethnic groups, why is it that the benefits accrued only to Hausa-Fulani as a people and to Muslims as a religion? What of the animists and the Christians in these towns and chiefdoms? How much of equal rights and access do they have in the emirates?
The result of the Jihad is that a non-Muslim has become a non-citizen and a non-Hausa-Fulani Muslim is treated and regarded as a pseudo-Moslem, a counterfeit believer! It therefore sounds hollow deceitful and an insult upon a bad injury to claim that the Jihad united Nigerians.
Another fall-out of the Jihad is the evolution of ‘gateways’ and ‘outposts’ as agents of the Sokoto Caliphate in areas outside the North. A gateway is a native individual or family cultivated by the Caliphate and heavily patronized by the Northern regional government for the sole purpose of holding down his people in favour of caliphal policies, interests and programmes. Most of the ‘gateways’ are Muslims and, in place where it was expedient, Christians were used.
Names such as Alhaji Abdulrahman Okene, Alhaji Yahaya Kwande, Alhaji Ibrahim Atta, Alhaji Ibrahim Damcida, Alhaji Bahago, Alhaji Aliyu Makama Bida, Michael Audu Buba, S.A. Ajayi and Sunday Awoniyi are said to be faithful gateways, whose service to, and rewards from, the Sardauna are immeasurable. Many youths in the United Middle-belt Congress (UMBC) are credited to have christened the gateways as ‘acting assistant deputy northerners’ for the way and manner the gateways subjugated themselves and their people to northern interests and values.
One can hardly blame the youths. Why? The caliphate values, which the gateways were employed to defend, are summarized as: (1) a community of Muslims, with provisions for fair treatment of non-Muslims; (2) the purpose of the community is to ensure justice and follow the Qur’an and Sunna, etc., which is to say that in a region such as the Middle-Belt, merged with the North by colonialists and whose population are largely non-Muslims, some of their own could agree to their dehumanization on account of religious differences and/or pecuniary benefits.
Yet, in the Middle-Belt, blood is considered thicker than water. Biological relationship, shared habitation and environment, shared culture, language and worldview are deemed more valuable as building blocks of a sane community than a religious segregated one represented by the Jihad and its emirates. Anyone, therefore, who agreed to be used against his own people, for whatever reward, is vulnerable to be called any name.
The belief is that God created every human race, nation or ethnic group. Religion is earth-bound and all human beings share the earth. Therefore, peaceful co-existence can only be attained when/and if everyone is free to practice his faith without compulsion or force. But, Jihad is war prosecuted by force of arms and violence, coupled with destruction, death and injury to others. How then does Jihad equate to unit?
‘Outposts’ and ‘gateways’ are like cousins in the area of religion or reward. Outposts are the Hausa-Fulani in Diaspora. They could be members of the ruling settlers and cliques in those towns and states already mentioned. They serve two main purposes, which are: as the ‘eye’ of the Caliphate outside; they are used or become handy in appointment to fill vacant posts.
Outposts are nomadic citizens, who are natives at home and abroad at the same time. At abroad, they are specially protected and, at home, they are regarded as the “sons of the soil.” Like chameleon, they take on the character of natives, while abroad. They reflect their environments by bearing names, speaking languages and behaving as their host communities.
But their political views are Caliphal to whom they display absolute loyalty as against their hostility to their host community. The Shehu Musas, the Abubakar Sarakis, Ibrahim Mantu, Senator Haruna Abubakar, etc., are distinguished members of the outpost clan.
One observer noted that the Federal Character Commission was established, not to ensure equal representation in federal institutions, but to ensure that only ‘outposts’ are appointed from the Middle-Belt area to show a façade or semblance of ‘equal’ representation. Thus, a Fulani settler in Kogi, Nasarawa, Gongola, Kwara, Kaduna or Plateau is deemed to represent those states by the FCC charter. Whereas, no Mada, Igala, Bachama, Offa, Atyap or Berom person can be appointed to represent Kano, Katsina, Jigawa or Sokoto States in such federal institutions.
Thus, the Jihad is another instrument of political, economic and social monopoly, not just for Muslims, but much more for Hausa-Fulani Muslims; and to that extent, the Jihad represents the most hateful development in the evolution of the Nigerian nation-state. In a multi-ethnic, multi-national and multi-cultural entity such as Nigeria, it is criminal to use a single religion as the only organizing principle of statehood. To say that non-Muslims enjoy protection under the Islamic theocracy known as emirates is to equate them with domestic animals, who also enjoy protection. Human beings enjoy – or should enjoy – equal rights with fellow human beings and not with domestic beasts.
When, in the 1950s up to 1960s, the Premier of the defunct Northern Nigeria, and the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, embarked upon Islamic proselytisation, the full weight and machinery of government were used, unabashed. Many Biddle-belters in the employ of the regional government had no option than to change their religions, if only to retain their jobs.
To get promotion, nominated for training courses and for scholarships, many more had to adopt Islam, in order to conform to the Caliphal values and programmes of the Sardauna on one hand, even as the Premier tolerated his ‘gateways’ as a façade of religious tolerance, on the other.
His political party, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), used the promo slogan of “one north, one people, one destiny.” However, his practice of governance depicted several norths, different people and various destinies, using religion as the dividing line.
An acolyte of the Sardauna, Alhaji Garba Hamza, in a recent press interview admitted the official Islamic evangelical style of the Premier. Said he, “I have a complete story on that (why Sardauna was killed), which many people don’t know. I was going round with Sardauna to convert people, Christians, non-religious personalities to Islam, in their thousands. So, there was one boy, called Negodi. He was a soldier. He told us, there would be a coup; that, soldiers would kill Sardauna. We thought he was mad. He said to Sardauna, ‘if you don’t stop this conversion, you will be killed.’ ” This is the testimony of a man, who should know, as against the lies of some ‘gateways’ and ‘outposts.’
If the NPC represented the diverse people of the then North, why was its government preaching only one religion, knowing well that the people professed many religions? Until now, no one told us that Ahmadu Bello was killed on account of his prosyletisation. But, it is well known that he was not killed by people of his religion. Yet, his death became a reason why Middle-belters must be dealt with by tacit officially organized religious riots.
We say official guardedly because the riots took a pattern such that the hoodlums are never apprehended, and the victims never compensated. If the state exists for the welfare of her people, why are some of her people so neglected and left at the mercy of religious hoodlums?
The reason or, one of the reasons, must lie in the values of Jihad and the benefits it accrues to its authors. As an instrument for the enforcement of Hausa-Fulani hegemony, Jihad, over the years, has proved profitable. In the area of politics, other regions of Nigeria were made to feel inferior to the fire-power and ‘number’ of the North. In the economic non-Hausa-Fulani, residents were regularly deprived of their hard-eared properties, while many were killed anytime the Jihadists decided to strike.
Abandoned buildings and movable properties are then confiscated as war booty for the enrichment of the masters of the hoodlums. Is this not the destiny of non-Muslims in the defunct North? A destiny they don’t share with the Hausa-Fulani Muslims. So, where is the truth in the slogan: ‘one north, one people, one destiny’?
In the last 25 years or so, the Jihad was fought through another means – religious riots – the most horrendous of which was the year 2000 Kaduna Sharia wars. No one is sure if the Plateau wars have not surpassed the Kaduna ones in share bestiality. The alibi is what they call ‘haria’ – a set of Islamic laws and Arabic cultural code.
The entry of Sharia as a political instrument dated back to the Constitutional Assembly of 1977/78. Somehow, the sponsors could not crystalise their vision of a nation-wide Islamic theocracy as they appeared comfortable with the regimes of Buhari, Abacha, Buhari and Abdulsalam.
Nigeria’s mysterious entry into the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) in 1987, as facilitated by Babangida, pleased the Caliphate to no end. However, they got a rude shock by the Gideon Orkar-led coup attempt, which sought to excise the Caliphate from Nigeria, if only they would be purged of excessive religious bigotry and make them to respect the plurality of the Nigerian state.
The attempt – and failure – of Orkar is, no doubt, regarded as a mortal sin for which Christians and, especially Middle-belters, must be exterminated. Various schemes were devised to achieve this end, but none seems to work out as desired. And, in the hey-days of Abacha, a group of Islamic Scholars started to work on the re-inventions of Jihad and Caliphal values through the adoption or introduction of a new improved version of the Sharia.
In a paper delivered in April, 1997, Dr Usman Bugaje (now a member of the Federal House of Representatives) bemoaned the diminishing status and evaporating values of the Caliphate and the need to re-invent it. Bugaje said, “there is yet another possibility, uncomfortable as it may be, to those, who cannot imagine a future without the modern Nigerian state.
This is informed by the fact that, the impact of the Sokoto Caliphate went far beyond its geographical boarders and continued to trigger the birth of similar Caliphates decades after its formation. This was possible precisely because the Caliphate was more than just a polity but, in fact, a phenomenon. As a phenomenon, it could be repeated or reinvented, admittedly in a different shape and form, but will in essence remain the same…”
One can, thus, look at the Caliphate as a more viable option to modern Nigeria in the same way it proved to be more viable, progressive and secure option to the embattled Hausa states early in the 19th century. “… in any case, someone more competent is already working on this, the product of whose efforts will be with us sooner rather than later.”
When, therefore, two years – in 1999 – Governor Ahmed Sani of Zamfara State launched the new improved political sharia, the ‘product,’ which Usman Bugaje spoke so eloquently of, was unveiled. Bugaje’s mindset about the uses and values of the Caliphate was betrayed when he cautioned his Hausa-Fulani audience to anticipate the future. Said he: “it is too early to forget Gideon Orkar’s expulsion of the two caliphates, just as it would be too naïve to go to sleep because Gideon is no more; for Gideon is only a courier; the barons are much around, up and about.”
Whoever is perceived to be the ‘barons,’ by Usman Bugaje, must be the one (ones) bearing the brunt of the Jihadists’ anger today. Plateau State has been under the siege of the Jihadists, whose local foot soldiers appear inadequate to necessitate the importation of Niger and Chadian Fulani to the aid of their local kinsmen.
Even if Hausa-Fulani are contemplating of seceding from Nigeria as alluded to in Bugaje’s paper, is it also their decision to destroy everything in Nigeria before taking their leave? Which brings to mind the ineptitude or crass naivety of the government of Plateau State in the last five years.
If, by 1997, the Hausa-Fulani were already considering an existence outside the modern Nigerian state, people like Governor Joshua Dariye ought to have known that the peace of Plateau is not the concern of those elements. To be involving them in the peace process of a crises engineered by Hausa-Fulani Settlers in Plateau is to exhibit a scandalous naivety unbefitting of a governor.
But, Dariye was carried away by the so-called ‘eminence’ of emirs outside Plateau State. Has Dariye ever asked himself of the relationship between an emir in Kaduna State and the Fulani invaders from foreign countries?
Plateau State is perceived as a purely Christian state and the power-centre of the Middle-Belt struggle. Its destruction is seen as “a task that must be done” if the Hausa-Fulani ascendancy or supremacy must be enforced. The constant invasion of
Plateau, Adamawa and other states by Fulani militia men from Niger and Chad could be seen or termed as the continuation of the Jihad of the descendants of Usman Danfodio. But, will the Jihadists win this time around? Only time will tell.
Culled from Our VISION magazine, Vol.5 No.3, 2004