Sunday, March 22, 2009

History: Nigeria FULANI ARISTOCRACY/its Dynamics


In the North, the legacy of the Sokoto Caliphate and its Islamic traditions bore handsome fruits for the Fulani aristocracy as the great – grandsons and direct descendants of the conqueror of the Hausa, Nupe, and
Ilorin – Yoruba state walked back into supreme and expanded power in Northern Nigeria. As the minority ruling group was in full control in the Northern Region while in the Southern Region, there were fresh political ethnic majorities in power. Today, those who exercise national power do so from minority positions, Indeed, of the three groups that attained national power in the early politics of the decolonization decade of the 1950s namely Yoruba, Igbo, and Fulani, the only group that still retain power at the national level is the Fulani aristocracy which was not a demographic majority in the first place. Consequently on the above, reaches, some controversial conclusions. · It no longer makes goods academic sense to rate the Igbo as a majority power bloc in the past bellum era of Nigeria political history. · Not could one say of the Yoruba that they constitute an effective power bloc despite producing the present Head of State. · Inspite of the views in the South to the contrary, the majority Hausa have never been an independent power bloc in the north, as they have only exercised as much power as their Fulani overlords have allowed them. It is not far to rate many so-called minority ethnic groups as minor power-holders in modern Nigeria politics. In relative terms, many ethnic groups in the Benue – Plateau complex have itched towards greater control of national power than the Hausa majority (witness: Langtang Mafia). Above all else, contends that the Fulani aristocrats, more than other ethnic power in Nigeria, have through strategic thinking and strategic planning (twin-virtues in power schemes that are absent in others), steadily insinuated (themselves) back into handsome amount of power-holding by strategically locating themselves into the major engine of power, exploiting the shallowness of their major rivals for power.In the post-colonial Nigeria,the Fulani Hegemony with the British were able to create and nurture political bankruptcy among the Nigeria political elite.

After examining in insightful details, the long-hegemonies of Atlantic minorities over their majority neighbours, which chronicles the coming of the Fulani to the geographic space that later become
Nigeria. Given the desertification of the Sahara region, many of the populations that were indigenous to the Sahara fled to other areas, eastwards and southwards ( West Africa). These nomadic Nubians, who are escaping from drought, then took over the agriculture – based civilization of the Kush in the upper Nile Valley. In West Africa , the most famous of this nomadic group escaping the desiccating Sahara that went on a conquering escapade is that of the Fulani.

The political history of what historians label as the Western and
Central Sudan , in the two centuries before the onset of European conquest and colonization, was dominated by the rise of Fulani hegemonies in a political revolution of an unusual character. Most probably resulting from their itinerant herding occupation that compelled them to rely on, and negotiate for, the trashuman resources of diverse agricultural communities on whom they depend on seasonal basis, the Fulani were the first self-conscious ethnic group in West Africa, possessing vast networks of relationship among themselves and maintaining political ties with the rulers of the host communities. Between the 18th and 19th centuries, the Fulani were transformed from pagans in a dramatic political revolution that had two main features.

First, they virtually established an ethnic aristocracy, whereby they expected to and in several instances did actually occupy the highest political offices in any (country) in whose politics they participated. Second, through the instrumentality of Islam, to which they have become converts, and in cooperation with networks of fellow Fulani, they overthrew the rulers of several existing agriculture – based states, replacing them with theocratic Islamic regimes that they control. The standard pious explanatory scheme that is forfered by Dan Fadio scholars in legimising the Fulani Jihad which began in 1804. He places the power-matrix at the foundation of this Jihad and perhaps subsequent religious zealotry which admittedly, has served the hegemony well, even in present day
Nigeria. The overthrow of Habe (Hausa) rules in the long – established Hausa states in the Central Sudan. Although, it all started as a religious campaign in which Hausa generously used, the outcome was unmistakably to lead to the subjugation of the indigenous Hausa population to a theocratic and immigrant Fulani aristocracy. Despite the curacy for Nigeria historiography to engage in tarik – style eulogies of every pre-colonial, Africa conqueror, and therefore to see the Sokoto caliphate in glorious light, there is good evidence to suggest that its governance was clear retrogression from a Moroccan invasion of 1591 which had plunged the Western and Central Sudan into a power vacuum that the nomadic Fulani were then filling their conquests.In the North, there is few real Hausa in any position of authority. The Sokoto Caliphate was significantly lacking in any conception of the responsibility of providing security in its region of operation, for its citizens and subjects. Instead, it created insecurity particularly by engaging in slavery and the slave trade, inflicting state-sponsored terrorism on several communities, especially on the so-called pagan districts of the Benue region and in Adamawa. Whatever the theological justification for the 1804 jihad and despite the apparent puritan motivations of Dan Fodio in stirring up this revolution its outcome was one in which an aristocratic ethnic minority terrorized a whole region with force of arms rather than by religious persuasion. The Hegemony sponsored inter-tribal wars and influenced religious violence. Lord Frederick Lugard, described by historians as a Fulaniphite, posited the claims on the terror visited by the Fulani jihadists on their Hausa hosts. The population of the North – described some 60 years ago (in the 1850s) by a Historian Barth as the densest in all of Africa – had by 1900 dwindled to some 9 million owing to inter-tribal war, and above all, to the slave raids by the religious zeal which had promoted the Fulani jihad .

In 1900 the Fulani Emirates formed a series of separate despotism marked by the worst forms of wholesale slave-raiding, spoliation of the peasant, inhuman cruelty and debased justices, Lugard who wrote that Fulani, established the firm framework of northern (Fulani) advantage over the south in the political arrangement of his amalgamated country. But this inhuman cruelty and debased justice, many have been sign-posts of an emergent hegemony which, his now grown in sophistication. The Fulani aristocracy has grown in sophistication in the exercise of power since the British arrived on their territory of conquest some ninety year ago. Many of the political abuses in the Sokoto Caliphate before the arrival of the British can easily be to their status as power holders.

But they have now been in power for almost two hundred years and their areas of influence is virtually now coterminous with modern
Nigeria. Today, using tools historically attributed to elite managers of political power who emphasize convert rather than overt influences and who exercise power in a latent rather (than) manifest manner, the Fulani aristocracy has been able to subordinate governance in Nigeria (including military rule) to its authority, and the Sultan of Sokoto has by now acquired a quantum of power and influence that his forebears could not have dreamt of. What Head of State of Nigeria whether military or civilian – would dare to stay in office for the first six months without going to Sokoto to pay homage to the Sultan?. The Basis of Fulani Hegemony The crux of the mater on the devices used by a minority ethnic group (the Fulani) to effectively stay in power and expand its influence to such an unprecedented level in post – colonial Nigeria. Organizational Abilities: An important source of power of the Fulani aristocracy is that common tool of every successful ruling minority that its rival lacks,is its organizational abilities. In the particular case of the Fulani aristocracy, it has so many of its ethnic stock involved in organizing for power in a coordinated manner, and with such continuity across time, that no other group in Nigeria can match. Although, it has strong clan divisions, its various fractions share a common need to stay in power for their collective survival. But there is much more to Fulani success than his common denominator of ruling minorities. The scholar underscores three contrapuntal principal deployed by the Fulani aristocracy in organizing for power.

Islam vs Christianity By right of conquest, the ruler of the Sokoto Caliphate were also its Islamic authority. The tradition continues in post-colonial
Nigeria. As such, the ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the Islamic region in Nigeria rests in Sokoto. Since the leadership of Sokoto Islamic establishment, is pre-dominantly Fulani, the aristocracy's self-interest naturally dictates the fortunes of Islam. Up to the present, the Fulani aristocracy has used every bit of its political power to promote the versial formal membership of the Organization of Islamic Conference (IOC) under Babaginda; Nigeria's controversial formal membership of D-8, a group of developing Islamic countries under the Abacha regime; Ghadafi's 'invasion' of Nigeria to open a mosque in Kano where he declared Nigeria an Islamic state, and so on. Given this masterful use of which the hegemony has put, Christianity in the North has become, much more than a mere profession of faith: it is a political statement of freedom from Fulani control. Not unexpectedly, the Fulani aristocracy has fought the Christian North with all the political means at its disposal. The expansion of this confrontation to the whole of Nigeria, and the subordination of normal constitutional processes to the invidious distinction between Christianity and Islam, portends one of the greatest dangers to Nigeria's survival. Fulani aristocracy has not refrained from using confrontation method to win its goal, even when they endanger the survival of Nigeria. This explanation may throw light on the battles that attend the shift in power. The prize at the center has been won and is being closely guarded by the Fulani aristocracy. It will then mean that if the prizes s broken – up and share, the Fulani hegemony will collapse. Northern Nigeria vs Southern Nigeria The Fulani aristocracy has been most successful in pushing for common Northern institutions and in enhancing the Northern share of vital national sources. In doing so, it has orchestrated the difference between the North and South.

For the Fulani aristocracy, the integrity of the North is a matter of its life or else its demise. There are two principal reasons why this is so: first, as now constituted, there is no state or local government area in
Northern Nigeria in which the Fulani make up a majority. If emphasis were to switch from Northern Nigeria to the states, the minority Fulani would be politically endangered in any democratic process in which each community seeks its ethnic folk to represent it. Second, it is only by acting as spokesman for the whole of the North, against the South, that the Fulani aristocracy can justify its existence. Hausa Nationalism vs Fulani Interests: Ultimately, the stability and tenure of the Fulani aristocracy rest on the quietude of Hausa nationalism. There is no subject in which it has invested more of its remarkable talents for ideological formulation than in persuading the Hausa that what is good for the Fulani is also good for them. Any act of separatist nationalism that encourage the Hausa to seek their own autonomy as a district ethnic group would be most threatening to the Fulani aristocracy. Whereas the Fulani aristocracy has shown good political sense by dealing with Christians from various parts of Nigeria, North and South, but it is most uncomfortable with the notion of a Christian Hausa apparently because it is subversive of good orderliness in the Fulani – Hausa hierarchy and has therefore behaved harshly towards Christian Hausa. Military vs Democratic Rule For the Fulani hegemony perhaps more than any other tool, military governments have been useful in ensuring the reign of the aristocracy.

As a book written by late Mr. Ikoku: Inside Out reveals, Ibrahim Tahir, one of the leading torch-bears of the hegemony, told late Ikoku in detention about his regrets over Shagari's trumpeted plan to give the South a "presidential chance" which led to the Buhari – Idiagbon coup, to protect the "sanctity" of Fulani rule. Military rule, has shielded the Fulani from harassment from local vested interests. As in the history of the aristocracy in many other regions of the world, Fulani aristocracy would benefit from the subversion of democratic
Nigeria. What followed the (1983) presidential election must be understood to be one of the most mysterious and troubling in modern Nigeria histories. Shehu Shagari was "overthrow" in a military putsch headed by two army generals who were not only fellow Fulani but were well-know to be close to the president. Was it carried out as a pre-emptive measure to prevent others from overthrowing a government headed by a Fulani aristocrat, thus (signaling) possibility of a new power-holding ethnic bloc? (Although most southerners mistaken Idiagbon for Yoruba, but he was thoroughbred Fulani from Ilorin).

The Fulani Strategic Resolve (1) It now seems fairly clear, that the Fulani aristocracy has decided that the free-floating democracy is dangerous for its survival and has used considerable resources to disrupt democratic impeachment saga and other political distractions/programs being created by Hegemony which are designed to remove Obasanjo. (2) As the only viable corporate power bloc in modern Nigeria politics, it has for now at least considered its disadvantageous to allow power-sharing arrangements among Nigeria's political regions, and is apparently satisfied that it will continue to retain the top position of presidency or else control whoever takes up this position. (3) Military rule has been particularly beneficial to the Fulani aristocracy, since under its regimes its members have occupied strategic positions on the economic and government, at will. (4) The federal principle is all but dead, as the state are dictated to from the top, as military rule which appears preferable to the Fulani aristocracy for whom genuine state bases of federalism could prove troublesome.

Written by: Mazi Onigbo

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