Having eliminated their neighbours, they often find that it becomes much more difficult to keep their body and soul together. For, where families have lived as neighbours for years, even if not for generations, the elimination of the rnembers of one family by members of the other, in these violence communal conflicts, leaves wound in the psyche of those involved which are in most cases not obvious…
In view of recent tribal clashes, it is necessary and important to take a look at a paper presented by the late Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman (1945 to 2005) of the Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University.
He made the presentation at the Presidential Retreat on Peace and Conflict Resolution in Some Central States of Nigeria at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos in 2002. Till he died on September 24, 2005, Dr. Usman led the Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, which he also found.
“The most primary of the fabrics binding all human communities, throughout the world, from the earliest Stone Age hunting and gathering bands, up to today, has been the provision, on a sustained basis, of the security of life, and of the means of life, to the members… But, even from that very ancient period of human development, one of the most difficult political problems that human communities and polities have faced, is that of establishing on a feasible and operationable basis, who is a member of the community and who is not. For this defines where the boundaries of the community and the polity begin and end, and who comes within that community and who is outside it and constitutes an actual or, a potential threat to the security and safety of its members.
But, also one of the most permanent features of human development has been that these boundaries have to keep changing and, generally, expanding in order to incorporate others who do not have the same ancestry, but who move in due to all sorts of factors and constitute a dynamic factor in improving the cultural, technological, economic and even political levels of the community. Human progress at all levels, even at the level of genetic development, is inseparable from immigration and the inter-mixing of different groups to form new groups. But, this process always challenges the existing order and generates tension, stresses, which can be used to set off violent conflicts. These are lessons of history we have to face in Nigeria, as others are facing them in all countries of the world.
The communal conflicts in Nigeria which, since the 1980s, have become more frequent, more widespread and more violently destructive of life and property, are indications of failures to tackle and peacefully resolve the current manifestations of this age-old problem of the relationships between public safety, identity, the boundaries of the community, the basis of citizenship rights and social, economic and political progress. Since 1980, some of the well-known incidents of violent communal conflicts in the country have been: 1. The Kasuwar Magani conflict, Kaduna State, in 1980; 2. The Maitatsine Uprising, Kano city, in December, 1980; 3. The Ife-Modakeke conflicts, in April, 1981; 4. The Maitasine Uprisings of Kano, Kaduna and Maiduguri, in October 1982; 5. The Maitatsine Uprising, Yola, February, 1984; 6. The Matitasine Uprising, Gombe, April, 1985; 7. The conflicts in Numan and neighbouring areas of Adamawa State, in 1986-88; 8. The conflicts in Kafanchan. Kaduna Zaria and other parts of Kaduna State, in March 1987.
Also, 9. The conflicts at Wukari, Takum and other parts of Taraba and Benue States, in 1990-1992; and 1999-2002; 10. The conflict in Tafawa Balewa and other parts of Bauchi State, in 1991, and 2000-2001; l1. The conflict in Zango Kataf and other parts of Kaduna State, in February and May, 1992; 12. The conflicts in Obi and Toto local government areas and neighbouring areas of Nassarawa State, in 1995-1999; 13. The conflict in the Andoni and Ogoni areas of Rivers State, in 1993-94; 14. The conflict in Karim Lamido Local Government Area, Taraba State, in 1996-1997; 15. The conflict in the Ogoni and Okrika areas of Rivers State in 1994- 1996; 16. The conflicts in Nembe and Kalabari areas of Bayelsa State, in 1996-1999; 17. The conflict in the Bassambiri and Ogbolomabiri areas of Bayelsa State, in the 1990s; 18. The conflict in the Okpoma Brass areas of Bayelsa State in the 1990s; 19. The conflict in the Sangama, Soku and Oluasiri areas of Rivers and Bayelsa States in 1993-2001; and, 20. The conflict in the Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State in 2000-2001.
There have equally been: 21. The conflicts in Warri and its environment, 1997-2002; 22. The conflicts in the Okitupapa area of Ondo State in 1998-2000; 23. The conflict in Mushin, Ajegunle, Ketu and Agege and other parts of Lagos State, 1999-2000; 24. The conflicts in Kano State in 1999-2000; 25. The conflicts in the Kaduna metropolis, in 2000; 26. The conflicts in the Jos metropolis and environment, in 2001-2002; 27. The conflict in the Qua’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State, and the Azara District of the Awe Local Government Area of Nassarawa State, in 2001; and 28. The conflicts in Awe LGA and other areas of Nasarawa State in 2001-2002.
Moreover, there have been: 29. The conflict in Ife and Modakeke areas of Osun State, in 2000-2001. 30. The conflict on the Mambila Plateau in 2001-2002; 31. The conflict in Gombe State, in September, 2000; 32. The conflict in Shagamu and other parts of Ogun State between 1999-2000; 33. The conflict in Agaleri and Omuleri areas of Anambara State in 2000; 34. The conflict in Gwantu, Kaduna, in 2001.
There were, of course, many other cases of violent communal conflicts which did not get prominent treatment in the media, or by the government and opinion leaders and politicians. The violent clashes between the Fulani and other nomads and the Hausa and other peasant farmers in the Sahelian states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, and in the other central Nigerian states, hardly receive much attention in the media, and by governments at the state and federal levels. They are not only almost annual events, but the destruction of lives, livestock and property involved, has been significant. Yet, since the violent communal conflicts between farmers and nomads occur entirely in the rural areas, the governments do not seem to feel threatened by them and therefore they accord them low priority, as they generally do with the whole of rural Nigeria.
As for most of the media, the report of a conflict between Hausas and Fulanis, even when their reporters, ensconced in the urban centres, learn about this, is not attractive for coverage. It exposes as questionable the dominant dichotomies of conflict they insist on imposing on the general domestic and foreign perceptions of Nigerian politics, which are: that it is, has, and has always been a matter of rivalry; the North versus the South; Christians versus Muslims: Hausa-Fulani versus Middle Belt minorities; and Hausa-Fulani versus the rest of us.
Therefore, over this and other types of conflicts, government pronouncements and media reports do not give an adequate picture of the extent of violent communal conflicts in the rural areas of Nigeria, particularly where they do not involve the disruption oil production, or oil pipelines. Some indications of the extent of the reporting of these conflicts may be obtained from the State Security Service and Nigeria Police returns from their local government offices. But, it is not clear how much of this is systematically assessed and compiled, to build a broad picture for the each local government area, State, and for the whole country, to make possible a comprehensive and sustained nationwide analysis of the patterns, nature, causes, courses, and consequences, of all incidents of violent communal conflicts.
The empirical data required to study the contemporary manifestation of these communal conflicts and from these dig into their historical roots is, largely, not available. Even the few tribunals and commissions of inquiry established to investigate these conflicts produce reports, which sometimes lead to white papers that hardly go beyond the desks of top government officials and some editors of media houses.
What is being attempted in this paper, therefore, is on the basis of a general impression of these conflicts and placing them in a historical perspective. This is not going to, however, be history at the micro or the ground level, dealing with who first settled where, but history at the meta or the broader level of conceptualisation. This meeting is a Presidential Retreat, where the broad parameters of the problem should be addressed and where wrangling over details of historical events should be left to other levels of the exercise of attempting to tackle and solve the problem. This presentation largely examines some of the existing perspectives which dominate the Nigerian public and government’s view of the causes of these violent communal conflicts, particularly those which are not normally addressed in current public discourse on the problem.
One of the widespread attitudes towards these violent communal conflicts, especially in the immediate aftermath of the bloodshed and other devastations, is that these are just the result of madness by those involved. It is often said that the brutal killings of non-combatant human beings, particularly children and women, by burning them alive and cutting them up with knives and cutlasses, and gunning them down as they run away, and the destruction of vehicles, buildings, livestock, crops and all physical asset, which take place in these conflicts, are the outcome of some irrational forces unleashed, which defy logic or any sensible mode of explanation of human behaviour.
The perpetrators of this violence, on both sides, and even the actual planners, do not appear to gain anything tangible beyond the satisfaction of eliminating an “enemy”. But in many case, this elimination has also involved the destruction of some of the key human and material asset on which the economy of the community, no matter how inequitable, rests. The dispossession, exclusion and alienation which marked the situation of many of the perpetrators of this violence are not brought to end by this orgy of destruction. The wisdom in the old adage of everybody being his or her neighbour’s keepers, comes back to haunt the perpetrators.
Having eliminated their neighbours, they often find that it becomes much more difficult to keep their body and soul together. For, where families have lived as neighbours for years, even if not for generations, the elimination of the rnembers of one family by members of the other, in these violence communal conflicts, leaves wound in the psyche of those involved which are in most cases not obvious, but are often said to be mentally and emotionally far-reaching.”
Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, Writes from Lagos.