Attacks by Fulani herders have become commonplace in the media. And social media has been filled with claims that Fulani have been called on a jihad from across West Africa with videos allegedly showing armed Fulani travelling by sea to come and attack Nigeria. This is a form of racism which we need to oppose.
Racism and ethnic discrimination of any type divides working-class people and distracts us from key issues such as struggle for a new minimum wage and payment of backlogs of salaries. Workers and youths must unite and fight instead of letting racism and “tribalism” divide us.
The attacks and killings in Benue State at the beginning of the year, for example, are horrendous. Attacks and counter attacks by cattle herders and farmers have grown worse over the previous five years. We need to seek out solutions to stop further similar events.
But this needs to be done dispassionately, without criminalising whole communities. We need to know why this happened and the history of community relationships in the area, to find solutions. Bringing peace to communities that have suffered violence and hatred over the years will take time, there are no easy solutions.
We need to sympathise with the communities and families who lost members and friends. But sending in the army to kill many more people is not the answer. This will only fan the flames of community tensions and lead to further massacres in the future.
We cannot blame the whole Fulani people for the attacks, only a few individuals were involved. No generalisation about peoples are true. It is not true for any community, ethnic group or people that they are either lazy or hard-working. In every community there are people of each type and this varies over time. No-one is lazy or hard-working all their lives. It depends on the situation they find themselves in and the motivation that they have at the time.
Similarly, any accusation made against the Fulani are only true for a very few individuals. It is not true that all the Fulani want to wage a jihad and convert everyone to Islam. But it is true that there is far more Christian evangelism on television than Muslims calling for converts. As with any peoples, some Fulani are violent, but most are peaceful. Some are proud, but others are very humble. Generalisations about a people, race, ethnic group or nation are not true and are a form of racism.
People were quite rightly horrified with Donald Trump’s “shithole countries of Africa” Comment. This is further evidence that President Trump is racist, as well as being arrogant, sexist and stupid. But this does not mean all Americans are racist (or stupid). Only a quarter of Americans voted for Donald Trump and many of these are now horrified about some of his comments. Many Americans have demonstrated their opposition to Trump and racism in general through, for example, their support of the Black Lives Matter protests.
On a global scale there are far more Christians than Muslims. By far the most powerful state in the world is the USA. This ‘Christian’ state has declared war on terrorism and the current president, Trump, has turned this into an attack on Muslims in particular and predominantly Muslim countries. America, with its European allies, including Britain and France, has invaded several predominantly Muslim countries including Afghanistan and Iraq. But in recent years, no ‘Muslim’ country has invaded any ‘Christian’ country.
We need to argue against racism whenever it raises its ugly head and in whatever form. This includes any inflammatory statement about Fulani herders or the Fulani in general. The conflict between farmers and herders is serious and needs time to heal. The herders need to be provided with ranches and other facilities so that they can feed their cattle properly – but not at the cost of the poor local people.
Peace initiatives should be supported to heal the rifts between communities that have suffered violence. But we should take care not to demonise whole peoples. There is no real Fulani plot to invade or attack any part of Nigeria. The poor Fulani people are suffering, like the rest of us from poverty, inequality and climate change. The workers and poor masses of Nigeria need to work together to overcome our problems. Divisions between herders and farmers, northerners and southerners, Christians and Muslims all obscure the major divide between the corrupt rich elite and the rest of us.
by Tina NDI