The Conflict between Herders and Farmers in the Middle-Belt Nigeria
This paper advances a philosophy of ethnic and religious tolerance in view of the fact that despite the diversity in tribes and faith, we share the same humanity and that it is only on the basis of this tolerance and the mutual respect for one another’s faith that the peace and unity that is both necessary and imperative for national development and nation building can be attained.
The history of ethnicity and ethnic conflicts in Nigeria are also traced back to the colonial transgressions that forced the ethnic groups of the northern and southern provinces to become an entity called Nigeria in 1914. This generated hatred and conflict among different ethnic groups. The task of addressing this seed of conflict planted by the British has been a complex one. These conflicts, as it were and as it is, possessed within themselves the tendency of hampering the peace and collective existence of Nigeria if not checked and curtail.
This notwithstanding, a stable, secured, and peaceful relations among the diverse and heterogeneous ethnic groups in Nigeria for sustainable development is timely and imperative. In such a time, in the history of the nation as this, when the nation is confronted and affronted with numerous challenges of national development that have to a large extent threatened our collective existence, the need to de-emphasis those things the divides us and to emphasize those things that units becomes more glaring and crystal clear. This thinking is based on the fact that without a peaceful relation between the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria, there can be no secured and stable Nigeria and without a stable and secured Nigeria, the much-needed development and the change that have been clamoured for by Nigerians will amount to a mirage.
Table of content
The Problem of Ethnic Agitations and Ethnic Cleansing in Nigeria
Causes of Ethno-Religious Conflicts in Nigeria
Understanding Interfaith Concept and its Actors in Nigeria
Enhancement of a Philosophy of Human Integration in Nigeria
The history of ethnicity and ethnic conflicts in Nigeria is also traced back to the colonial transgressions that forced the ethnic groups of the northern and southern provinces to become an entity called Nigeria in 1914. This generated hatred and conflict among different ethnic groups. The task of addressing this seed of conflict planted by the British has been a complex one.1 These conflicts as it were and as it is, possesses within themselves the tendency of hampering the peace and collective existence of Nigeria if not checked and curtail. This notwithstanding, a stable, secured, and peaceful relations amongst the diverse and heterogeneous ethnic groups in a Nigeria for development and sustainable development is both timely and imperative. In such a time in the history of the nation as this, when the nation is confronted and affronted with numerous challenges of national development that have to a large extent threatened our collective existence, the need to de-emphasis those things the divides us and to emphasis those things that unites becomes more glaring and crystal clear. This thinking is based on the fact that without a peaceful relation between the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria, there can be no secured and stable Nigeria and without a stable and secured Nigeria, the much-needed development and the change that have been clamored for by Nigerians will amount to a mirage.
This paper advances a scan of interfaith concept as an enduring harmony among the divergent ethnic groups in Nigeria. In doing this, the paper takes cognizance the problem of ethnic agitations and conflicts in Nigeria, the causes of ethnic and religious crisis in Nigeria, an understanding of interfaith concept and its actors in Nigeria, and advances arguments for the fact that the inadequacies of interfaith concept notwithstanding, it is an enduring philosophy that can be activated by Nigeria for the enhancement of stable, secured and peaceful relations amongst the diverse ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. In the final third, this paper advances a philosophy of ethnic and religious tolerance in view of the fact that despite the diversity in tribes and faith, we share the same humanity and that it is only on the basis of this tolerance and the mutual respect for one another’s faith that the peace and unity that is both necessary and imperative for national development and nation building can be attained.
The Problem of Ethnic Agitations and Ethnic Cleansing in Nigeria
A cursory look as the Nigerian existential situation reveals the problem of ethnic agitations. In Nigeria today virtually all the various ethnic groups talk about marginalization and domination, hence all the ethnic groups are affected one way or the other by the national question. Momoh illustrates this thus:
For the Niger-Delta and oil producing minority it is exploitation and environmental degradation; for the Igbo it is marginalization; for the Hausa Fulani, it is uneven development; for the minorities of the North, particularly the Middle Belt it is one of internal colonialism; for the Yoruba it is power exclusion. Hence everybody is demanding empowerment on the basis of one assumption – xenophobia2.
The perceived marginalization constitutes the building blocks for the numerous crisis and upheavals in the history of the Nigerian state. Discourse on the subject matter of conflict (ethnic or religious), with particular reference to Nigeria have attained philosophical maturity and hence, there has been a massive policy attention in this regard. This is partly due to the repeated instances of collective violence: while analysts differ in their assessment, most agree that the early 1980s and the transition to democracy in 1999 both witnessed an upsurge in communal and ethnic conflicts and violence in Nigeria. For example, in mapping violence across Nigeria, Elaigwu3 estimates that between 1980 and 2005 there were at least 140 violent inter-group conflicts in Nigeria, resulting in the loss of lives and property. Alubo states that “over 80 major eruptions of violence took place between May 1999 and December 2003 in Nigeria, which, he notes, was three-fold the number that occurred during the eight-year rule of General Babangida regime between 1985 and 1993… 300,000 deaths during the period would not be an over estimate”4. It is in the same thinking that Kirk-Greene posits that “since 1914 the Nigerian socio-political scene has been bedeviled by sets of opposing factors each widening the wound and reducing the hope of healing it: North vs. South; Islam vs. Christianity; alleged feudalism vs. achieved elitism; haves vs. have-nots, each with sinister undertones, tensions, irreconcilability and threatened withdrawal. These obvious or tacit dichotomous elements had always been used by the so-called Nigerian nationalists to further the forces of disunity and fire the embers of tension and interethnic hatred which often climaxed in persistent violent crises”5.
Many of these disturbances had ethnic as well as religious connotations; moreover, they have occurred within as well as between Muslim and Christian communities. In general terms, it has been argued that ethnicity’s significance as a marker of difference and an identifier for potential targets of violence slowly gave way to the salience of religion. As a consequence, religion is often quoted as one of the factors influencing processes of violent escalation; at the same time, collective violence is hardly ever exclusively, or even predominantly, ‘religious’ in nature. ‘Christian’ and ‘Muslim’ conflicting actors are often also divided along ethnic, regional, or party-political lines, which blurs the defining role of religion in these situations.
If we look more closely at the religious actors involved in violent conflict, it should be noted that inter-religious conflict between Christians and Muslims is now more prevalent than intra-Islamic conflict between different groups, especially from the middle of the 1970s – with the obvious exception, of course, of the struggles around Boko Haram. The intra-Muslim dimensions of violence are often ignored because of the more sensation Muslim-Christian violence. More recently, in Bukuru in Plateau State, and in Gonin-Gora on the outskirts of Kaduna, allegations of Christian violence targeting unsuspecting Muslims has been raised.
Several cases stand out as ‘key instances’ of collective violence. Prime examples are perhaps the Maitatsine riots in Kano, Maiduguri and other parts of the north in the 1980s, and the violence in Kafanchan in 1987; the latter marked the starting of the shift from ethnic or intra-Muslim conflicts that were predominant from the 1950s until the 1980s, to Christian- Muslim confrontations that have been dominant since the late 1980s. Other prominent ‘key instances’ of violent conflict include the Christian-Muslim violence in Zangon Kataf LGA in Kaduna State in 1992; the 1999/2000 Kaduna violence following the re-introduction of sharia; the 2004 violence in Plateau and Kano States; and several other cases in Plateau State6. Others are the Jukun-Tiv conflicts in Wukari, in the Fulani-Sayawa conflicts in Tafawa Balewa, and in the Igbo-Ora interventions in Oyo state.
Time and space do not permit a detail historical analysis of ethnic and communal conflict and violence in Nigeria but what is to be noted is that at every historical junction where these crisis and conflicts raises their ugly heads in Nigeria, efforts are made to stem their tide through the setting up of commission of inquiries into the remote and immediate causes of same. Be that as it may, these crisis and conflicts keep reoccurring. While it is accepted as true, the fact that in human existential life, crisis is bound to occur, Ajayi7 chronicles the following factors can be said to account for the continual reoccurrence of these ethno-religious crisis:
i. horizontal (intergroup) economic, political, and cultural inequalities;
ii. the salience, overlaps, and intersections between ethnic, religious, and regional boundaries;
iii. the negative effects of the political institutions of ‘indigeneity’;
iv. the historical legacy of indirect rule;
v. the politicization of religious and ethnic identities and the resulting political competition, especially in situations of political change (e.g. redrawing political boundaries) and instability;
vi. the inability of the state to stem the negative effects of protracted economic crisis, to ensure public order, and to implement post-conflict peace building measures;
vii. the ‘youth bulge’, combined with exploding youth unemployment rates and the corresponding ‘availability’ of some young men to engage in illicit behaviour, including political violence; this is particularly significant when politicians hire these youths to cause havoc, a practice that many consider common occurrence;
viii. the heavy-handedness of Nigeria’s security forces in resolving situations of violent escalation, or even their active involvement in aggravating such tense situations; and
ix. Other, more generic factors, such as group size and resource competition (e.g. over oil revenues and land).
Causes of Ethno-Religious Conflicts in Nigeria
Ethnicity is natural in almost all societies made up of numerous ethnic groups. Scholars have identified several causal factors responsible for conflicts and crisis in Nigerian, a rehearsal of a few of them is here considered necessary. The very first of such causes and most important of all in the opinion of this paper is corruption. Nwankwo corroborated the above when he asserted that “corruption is considered to be one of the main causes of ethno-religious conflicts”8. A high level of corruption and the looting of state resources is another serious and ‘pandemic’ problem that makes all forms of conflict and trouble worse in Nigeria. The country is ‘richly endowed with natural resources and high-quality human capital’, but corruption is one of the main reasons that affect the development of the country in a negative way. The appropriation of state resources by certain hands makes poverty and bitter anger inevitable aspects of daily socio-economic and political routine. In this sense, though corruption is not peculiar to Nigeria, many sources call it the ‘bane of the country’. Poverty and injustice caused by corruption weaken any sense of mutual tolerance, social solidarity or coexistence, while reawakening social hatred, radicalism and violence. For this reason, corruption is seen as one of the most important issues that must be resolved in order to cope with ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria9.
In fact, the ‘failure’ of the Nigerian political elite to enact good laws, promote national integration and foster good economic progress via thoughtful and pronounced policies has resulted in massive unemployment. This has in turn led to the rise of communal, ethnic and religious conflicts that are characteristic of the Nigerian politics. Since poverty and unemployment have acted as the mainstay for various ethno-religious conflicts in the country, an accumulation of pauperised people can end up acting as paid militants. This could be the reason why any conflict in Nigeria is usually characterized by many fighters10.
Another casual factor fueling ethno-religious crisis in Nigeria is that as relating to a perceived ethnic and religious discrimination. At different levels and times in the past, “the Nigerian people have complained of religious and ethnic discrimination. Most ask for religious and ethnic rights within their state. Another cause of the conflicts has been the state’s use of religion and ethnicity in political discourse or action. Therefore, it is clear that accusations and allegations of neglect, oppression and domination are the major causes that fuel ethno-religious conflicts11. It is in this sense that it has been argued that “ethnic conflict is a sign of a weak state, or a state embroiled in ancient loyalties. In this case, states act with bias to favor a particular ethnic group or region, and behaviors such as preferential treatment fuel ethnic conflicts12.
Another factor that provokes conflict in the Nigeria is that the culprits that mastermind these dastardly and abominable acts in the regions go unpunished and escape unhurt. Successive administration, like military and civilian, since independence has always paid lip service and deaf ear to bringing the perpetrators to book. Moreover, numerous religious uprisings, especially in the northern part of the country with its attendant consequences in the socio-economic and political development in the country has been appealing to the leaders of the country. This is premised on the fact that Nigeria has been ruled majorly by the north and the emerging leaders see the situation as a means of bridging the development gap between them and the more prosperous south. Emphasis is not lacking as there was no political will on the part of the leadership to bring to book the perpetrators of the Maitasine riots of the 1980s; Kano Riots of 1991, Sharia Riots of 2000, the Jos Mayhem of 2004 and 2010 respectively. As a result of government’s insensitivity of the problem under reference, the culprits that were arrested were later released in the law court for lack of evidence13. Following closely on the problem of leaving the perpetrators of violence to go unpunished and the weak institutional mechanisms to check these abuses was apathy and failure of security and intelligence agencies to live up to expectation in confronting the challenge. The case in point here is the open declaration of war on the Nigerian state by the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore without their apprehension and arrest by the security agencies. The said Fulani socio-cultural organization had promised to mobilize all Fulani in the West African sub region to converge in Benue and by implication, the Nigerian state, to kill and maim its inhabitants14. Notwithstanding these treasonable and inciting utterances by Miyetti Allah, its leadership has not been arrested, tried and made to account for their actions against the Nigerian State. What this clearly shows is that those fomenting crisis, including the bloody clashes in Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Nassarawa, Plateau, Kaduna, Edo, Borno, Yobe, Enugu, Kogi, Adamawa and other parts of Nigeria, have political backers, who now want to channel them to achieve their unpatriotic quest to subvert our constitution and forcefully take over the National Government.
1 Ray Ikechukwu Jacob “A Historical Survey of Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria” in the Asian Social Science Vol. 8, No. 4; April 2012.
2 Quoted In Johnson Olusegun Ajayi “Resurgence of Ethnic Crises and Instability in Nigeria” in Research on Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol.4, No.21, 2014. P. 51.
3 Quoted in Islamic actors and Interfaith Relations in Northern Nigeria Policy Paper No1, March 2013. P. 16
5 Johnson Ajayi “Resurgence of Ethnic Crises and Instability in Nigeria” in Research on Humanities and Social Sciences Vol.4, No.21, 2014. P. 50.
6 Islamic actors and Interfaith Relations in Northern Nigeria Policy Paper No1, March 2013. P 17.
7 Johnson Ajayi, Resurgence of Ethnic Crises and Instability in Nigeria, p18.
8 Nwankwo, quoted in Haldun Canci and Adedoyin Odukoya “Ethnic and Religious Crisis in Nigeria: A Specific Analysis Upon Identities (1999-2013)” in the African Journal of Crisis Resolution 2016. Vol. 1. P. 2.
9 Haldun Canci and Adedoyin Odukoya “Ethnic and Religious Crisis in Nigeria: A Specific Analysis Upon Identities (1999-2013)” in the African Journal of Crisis Resolution 2016. Vol. 1. P. 2.
10 See Mu’asu, Abubakar 2011. Understanding the emerging trends of terrorism in Nigeria: A case study of Boko Haram and similar groups. Responding to emerging trends of terrorism in Nigeria. Conference proceedings, monograph series 16. Lagos, CLEEN Foundation. pp. 10-21. Available from: http://www.cleen.org/Responding%20to%20the%20Emergining%20Trends%20of%20Terrorism%20in%20Nigeria.pdf> [Accessed 25 July 2018].
11 Op. Cit. P. 3
12 Ray Ikechukwu Joseph P. 22
13 Ibid P. 22.
14 Saturday Sun Newspaper, 13/01/2018