The Tiv Professionals Group (TPG), an umbrella body for some professionals from the Tiv ethnic nationality, Benue State, have called on all patriots to come together and salvage the country from the deadly activities of bandits, Boko Haram and other criminal elements threatening the corporate existence of the country.
In a position paper on the “Nigerian crisis,” presented by the Chairman of the TPG, Prof. Zacharys Anger Gundu, during a courtesy visit to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeakuta, on May 5, 2021, the group, said the time had come for
“all patriots to stand and bind together to salvage the country”, declaring however that, “in a situation in which it becomes impossible to recover from the brink and the Fulani are bent on enslaving others, we will be left with no choice but to take our destiny into our hands.”
Below is the full text of their position paper presented during the visit to Obasanjo.
The Nigerian crisis is a cocktail of multi-layered challenges spiced by impunity, conflict, violence, poverty and environmental stress. It is significantly interesting to note that this ravaging multilayered crisis is feeding on many dangerous narratives and counter-narratives that border on ethno-religious conquest, cultural imperialism and political domination of other Nigerian ethnic communities.
Even though these vicious narratives are not debated in open and formal forums, they are propagated, patronized and consumed from the background by the teeming Nigerian youths. Consequently, the feelings of apprehension and animosity are solidifying in Nigerians. In other words, as the Nigerian crisis appears to be overwhelming the leadership, it is hard to deny that these destructive narratives are informing them. It is thus important to give a critical look at the lethal crisis and the inflammatory narratives for Nigeria’s unity and peace. The crisis manifests in the country’s rural and urban spaces. It is crisis exacerbated by the inability of the Nigerian state to leverage the huge potentials that come with crises and for which our teaming populations specially the youth can benefit.
- The crisis can be better understood in the context of our checkered history with signature fault lines all unfortunately pointing to state failure. There is youth restiveness and a lack of faith in the country and our constitution. There are potent secessionist tendencies, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, drug abuse, endemic insecurity, and insurgency. Poverty, unemployment, environmental stress in the Sahel and the Greater Lake Chad as well as religious intolerance continue to drive some of these challenges. The situation is complicated by leadership failure and structural imbalances in the polity.
- The toll on the country is very great. Blood and tears continue to flow ceaselessly in all parts of the country. Millions have been internally displaced in the country and losses estimated at billions of naira have been flagged in many parts of Nigeria. Homes, households, clans and even whole villages have been destroyed alongside farmlands and food. In Benue, which is the fresh water capital of the country, over 3,177 lives have been lost while an estimated number in excess of 500,000 are living under dehumanizing conditions in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Over 337,000 children have dropped out of school. In the past one month alone, Benue has lost 127 lives. The situation is similarly bad in several other states including Plateau, Kaduna, Taraba, Zamfara, Katsina, Nasarawa, Taraba and Niger.
- Elsewhere, Boko Haram is on a murderous sprawl in the North East where it continues to fight the Nigerian state for more than 10 years as an international terror franchise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Boko Haram terror ring is implicated in high profile mass abductions in Chibok, Damasak, Dapchi and other places. The sect continues to hold more than 10,000 boys and girls turning them into militant Islamists, suicide bombers, child soldiers, sex slaves, spies and illicit courier agents. They have bombed churches and public buildings, executed Christian and Muslim leaders, killed more than 37,500 people and displaced in excess of 2.5 million people. The group is further responsible for about 244,000 Nigerian refugees in Chad and Cameroon. They are bent on hoisting their own version of Islam on parts of the country they control. In the North Western geopolitical zone, banditry and kidnappings has taken centre stage, same for Western Nigeria and Eastern Nigeria.
- State response is not yielding the desired results. The country’s security architecture is not only skewed in favour of a particular faith and region(in violation of the constitution) but poorly equipped and realistically losing the battle against Boko Haram, banditry and insurgency. The mortality analysis in the fight against Boko Haram though not clear seems to be tilted against the Christian faith just as the ethnic mortality analysis during the civil war was tilted against the Tiv and other Nigerian minorities. There are regional efforts at securing states especially the debut of Amotekun for states of the South West and the Eastern Security Network for states of the South East. Non-state actors especially vigilante groups and self-help groups are also joining as ‘defenders’ of their ancestral lands. Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers and insurgents especially in the North are coalescing into a potent force against the state. The Federal Government seems to be acquiescing especially in the matter of herdsmen impunity and banditry.
- Central to much of the current Nigerian crisis is the near collapse of the Nigerian livestock industry. Though touted as a multi billion-naira industry, it is run substantially as an inefficient and obsolete production system. It shows a regrettable deficit. While Nigeria’s estimated population is today put at over 200 million people, the cattle population hovers under 20 million. There is no serious livestock producing country in the world with this ratio of cattle to humans. The huge deficit here underscores the fact that the Fulani who monopolize the Nigerian cattle industry are not really breeders but mere middlemen in the international African cattle trade, which is not based on modern breeding and production practices. The ultimate loser is the Nigerian state that continues to lose on the huge livestock market value chain. That the Fulani continue to hold to this monopoly means they are merely using it as a window to violently stake claims to ancestral lands in Nigeria for the Fulani of the whole world.
- Since independence, the Fulani though supposedly cattle breeders have not improved on their traditional Bunaji, Bokoloji and reihaji breeds feeding on low grass, walking long distances and reaching slaughter ages after three to four years. Nomadic pastoralism however you look at it denies the country of immeasurable benefits including jobs, wages, beef revenues, dairy products, hides and skin, and the hay industry.
- The nomadic cattle industry and the violent Fulani push across the country is not central to cattle breeding but rather an opportunity for the Fulani of the whole world to ride on the back of the cow to grab ancestral lands at the expense of crop farmers.
- A Tiv perspective in response to the current security crisis in the country is synonymous with addressing the farmer-herder crisis of which the North Central, Benue and Tivland are the epicenter. Our perspective as a people conveys a historical, political, economic and identity burden for all Nigerian minorities especially those in the North who have been at the brutal end of the religious and political hegemony of the Hausa-Fulani. The Tiv are predominantly crop farmers resident in several states of the federation. Their agriculture just as other Nigerian crop farmers has been violently disrupted, the education of their children truncated and their ancestral lands seized and violated to the extent that several years of intervention may not even be able to rebuild the damage. The Tiv are worried that the vocabulary of insecurity in the country and Fulani involvement is not only tilting towards banditry, genocidal murders and abductions but oblivious of the murderous attacks and land grabs by Fulani herders in different areas of the country for the Fulani of the whole world. The Tiv boast of a heritage of struggle for justice, fair play and republicanism. These values are intrinsic in the Tiv character, tradition and culture. We are Nigerians because we have unalienable ancestral rights to parts of our country especially Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states which no other group can take by force. Our values have played out through struggle and advocacy expressed in the minority cause, party formation (the United Middle Belt Congress) and alliances with the Action Group (AG), Tiv riots and the zoning and rotation principle which the late Aper Aku championed.
- The Tiv kept faith with the country during the civil war and took a disproportionate toll of death in the war. After the civil war, the Hausa Fulani who had hitherto opposed state creation embraced it not only as an instrument for the capture of state power but also as a strategy to deny others their true identity and voice in the North. In a crude strategy to keep northern consciousness alive, they promoted Fulani biased northern consciousness institutions, which were used for state capture and suppression of the other. Anytime minorities were appointed into positions of responsibility, they were and loudly queried why minorities would be so considered. The Muhammadu Buhari presidency has brazenly turned its eyes from the Tiv and minority challenge even as Fulani herdsmen from all over the West African sub region continue to choke the Benue valley and other parts of the North Central. In 2017, the Governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom signed the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law for the State. Leading Fulani umbrella bodies especially Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (who breed no cattle, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and GAN Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria were infuriated and promised to openly and violently resist the implementation of the law. They have kept their promise and Benue has not known peace since then. With no land border with the Fulani, Nasarawa state has continued to be a corridor of terror along which armed Fulani(some from outside the country) have continued to use in attacking communities in Benue.
The way forward: While the Nigerian state grapples with insecurity and the current Nigerian challenge, there is need for ALL nationalities big and small to reaffirm their commitment to the rebirth of our country on a level playing field which will ensure nation building in which every citizen will matter and get the full protection of the state. Going forward, we demand the following from the Nigerian state:
- Fulani land grabbing must stop and every inch of ancestral lands they have illegally and violently seized and annexed in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa and other states of the Federation must be vacated. This is the first condition for sustainable peace.
- Internally displaced persons living in camps should be supported to return safely to their ancestral lands, and be fully compensated for losses suffered. This is the only thing that will enable them to rebuild and sustain their livelihoods.
- Proscription of Fulani umbrella bodies who have promoted violence in pursuit of the nomadic livelihood and mobilized across borders to attack communities in Nigeria.
- Restructuring of the country and devolution of more powers and responsibilities to the federating units.
While applauding states like Benue that have signed the anti open grazing laws, it is our opinion that these laws are only one step in the right direction. Nigerian agriculture sits mainly on one leg of crop production. Even this is poorly and substantially tied to ethnicities. Cocoa is tied to the Yoruba, the oil palm to the Ibo and the yam to the Tiv. This is not only an abuse of geography and our natural endowment; it means we are not ready to look inwards to change our fortunes. Nomadic pastoralism as already pointed out has only reinforced a Fulani monopoly of animal husbandry without the full range of value chain potentially possible in a vibrant animal production industry. It is to our national regret and shame that instead of imbibing modern animal breeding practices we are still steeped in ineffective, disruptive and nomadic cattle herding. We must see the immense economic and development opportunities that exist in the cattle industry. Instead of some unitary initiative around grazing reserves, cattle routes, the Ruga, cattle colonies and the National Livestock Transformation Plan, an initiative aligned with our federal structure can devolve responsibility for livestock production to the states and the 774 Local Government Areas of the country where ranching with its full value chain can be situated. This will tap into the full livestock potentials in the country and become a sustainable institutional based road map to not only address the crisis that is characteristic of the livestock sector but also create jobs and wealth for the entire country.
Those who have shown exemplary patriotism and desire for the stability and future of our country in the context of the current insecurity must lend their voices to support further initiatives including:
- Intensification of advocacy against nomadic pastoralism and engagement for the Fulani of Nigeria to embrace modern breeding and livestock production practices.
- An international seminar or conference on the economic opportunities of the modern breeding and animal production in a country like Nigeria.
- An all nationalities summit at which the security and other challenges of the country will be discussed for collective action and confidence building. The summit will also enable the different nationalities reaffirm their faith in the country going forward.
Our position is not oblivious of other shades of instability in the country. Banditry, kidnapping, Boko Haram, drug abuse and other crimes have reared their heads in all parts of the country and are home grown concerns in every single geopolitical zone of the country. The youth bulge, unemployment, poverty and the population fault lines have continued to exacerbate the situation, Nigeria is truly on the brink. Our population, which is estimated today at about 200 million, will be more than 300 million in 2037.
By 2030, Nigeria would be the 6th most populous country in the world, 65% of the country’s population would be Muslims, majority of these would be young people who will be out of school and possibly fundamentalists going by our current trajectory. Will this lead to the Lebanon trap where intolerant Shiites triggered a civil war by insisting that Lebanon be restructured to favour their numbers when they overtook Sunni and Maronite populations.
This is the time for ALL patriots to stand and bind together to salvage the country. The Tiv Professionals Group (TPG) stands with patriots but in a situation in which it becomes impossible to recover from the brink and the Fulani are bent on enslaving others, we will be left with no choice but to take our destiny into our hands.