Cattle Colonies: Pseudonym for the Consolidation of Fulani Jihadism
The concept of cattle colonies has just been introduced into Nigeria’s political lexicon by the President Buhari-led federal government. This is the remedy being proposed by the federal government to end the incessant clashes between the Fulani herdsmen and farmers, especially in the middle belt region of Nigeria. These clashes have led to the massacre of several hundreds of farmers by the marauding Fulani herdsmen since the inception of the Buhari administration. According to Mr. Audu Ogbeh, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, every state that is interested in this scheme will have to map out about 5,000 hectares of land to be designated as a cattle colony. According to him, each cattle colony will contain about 30,000 cattle and this will put an end to open grazing which is usually the cause of the clashes between herdsmen and farmers. He also noted that this will lead to more productivity, given that there will be a stop to cattle’s tortuous trekking, lead to better feeding, quality meat, provision of good water for the animals, good veterinary services and new environment that would protect the cattle from rustlers. Sixteen states in the North namely, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa, Plateau, and Kogi have already indicated interest to donate lands and key into the initiative. Benue and Taraba States have stated that they do not have lands to give. Sokoto, the seat of the Fulani caliphate, has not also indicated interest. All the seventeen states in the South have claimed that they do not have such lands to give out for cattle colonies, thereby rejecting the initiative for obvious reasons.
The concern among majority of the non-Hausa/Fulani states, especially those in the South is that the federal government intends to hide under the guise of finding solution to the herdsmen/farmers clashes to extend, establish and consolidate the Uthman dan Fodio jihad of 1804 to the other parts of Nigeria where dan Fodio could not conquer. In his reaction to the cattle colonies initiative, Ben Nwabueze, an erudite professor of Constitutional Law, has argued that the idea underlying a colony, both in antiquity and in modern times, is that of settlement. According to him, a colony is a settlement of people with common or similar language, interests or occupations, living together in close association, a good example is the farm settlements established in some parts of the Eastern region of South-east Nigeria by the government of Michael Okpara. Historically, the Fulani are known for waging wars of conquest. This was how the traditional Hausa communities and kingdoms were conquered in the early 19th century, after they allowed Sheik dan Fodio, a Fulani immigrant in Gobir (now called Sokoto), to settle amongst them. Dan Fodio mobilized an army of Fulani immigrants between 1804 and 1808, overran many of the Hausa kingdoms and neighbouring communities, dethroned and killed their kings and installed Fulani emirs in their places and imposed Islamic religion on them. Till date, these kingdoms are still ruled through the Fulani emirate system. This is the price they paid for accommodating the immigrant Fulani settlers in their lands. The reason there is a Shehu of Borno (instead of Emir of Borno) today is because Kanem Borno people vehemently resisted the Fulani jihad/conquest, as did the Jukun kingdoms. Uthman dan Fodio was already moving downwards the South and the Middle-belt region when he was stopped by the British after colonial rule was established. But before then, he had already conquered some parts of the Middle-belt region and Ilorin in the West. That is why there are Emirs in the Middle-belt towns of Nasarawa, Keffi, Lafia etc., and even in the Yoruba town of Ilorin. If he was not stopped, there would probably be an Emir of Makurdi, Emir of Enugu, Emir of Owerri, Emir of Ibadan or Emir of Lagos today.
Therefore, allocating these lands for cattle colonies is a deliberate invitation for trouble. Once these lands have been appropriated by the federal government and given to the Fulani in the guise of cattle colonies, they settle permanently amongst the aborigines and sooner than later, begin to expand. Any resistance from the aborigines will certainly lead to a second jihad, a continuation and consolidation of the conquest and the unfinished business that started in the 19th century. Most non-Hausa/Fulani people entertain the fear that this is the latent intention of the Buhari administration. Otherwise, why is the federal government so determined to acquire lands in all the states and designate them as cattle colonies when ranching is the international best practice and is being proposed by state governments where herdsmen/farmers clashes had been highest? Cattle rearing is a private business venture. Elementary Economics teaches that land is an important factor of production and any entrepreneur intending to raise capital for any business should also be concerned about the land on which the business would be cited. Land in this case could be an office building, market stall, or farm lands. The point being made here is that it is the business of the Fulani herdsman to acquire/buy land for his business. This is what most state governments are insisting on (by proposing cattle ranching). It is not the business of the federal government to amass land for them for settlement in the guise of cattle colonies, except of course, there is an ulterior motive behind the policy. After all, cattle rearing is not a state venture.