Historical Roots of Crisis and Conflicts in Nigeria with Reference to Northern Nigeria and Kaduna state

SEPTEMBER 24, 2014




Yusufu Turaki


The frequency of religious and communal clashes, riots, conflicts and violence since 1980 to the present has reached endemic proportions. This is a reflection of a national crisis, a nation at the brink of collapse, and a nation in search of its own soul. Nigerians are deeply concerned and worried about this and have begun to device ways and means of addressing the problem. At the start, we need to make three fundamental assertions:

  1. It is not possible for us as Nigerians to have a proper grasp of the nature of religious and communal clashes,  riots, conflicts and violence in Nigeria today, without understanding our primordial, religious, cultural and colonial past, what we were before the arrival of Islam, the colonial masters and Christian missions, and what we became during and after the Islamic, colonial and Christian, and post-colonial eras. (We need to do self-appraisal: what we have thought about ourselves and others as people, religious and cultural groups).
  1. It is not possible for us to solve contemporary religious and communal clashes, riots, conflicts and violence in Nigeria without correcting the inherited primordial, religious and cultural, and colonial structures and negative values and redressing these legacies, if contemporary Nigeria is to be reoriented along the paths and principles of justice, equality, freedom and equity in socio-political relationships of all Nigerians in the distribution of national resources, rewards and statuses for the benefit of all by the Governments. (We need to do self-appraisal: what primordial values and structures of inequality and injustice are we still holding on to the detriment of others and building a united Nigeria where no one is oppressed?).
  1. It is not possible to achieve peace, unity and respect for human dignity and worth of all Nigerians, if we have not personally and collectively made a deliberate effort and commitment to these noble virtues as the primary goal or end of our dialogue and relations among and between people, and ethnic and religious groups. First, we must be committed personally and collectively to peace, unity and human rights and secondly see them as ultimate goals that must be attained before we can even start to deliberate with each other. (We need to pledge commitment to doing the above as both individuals and groups).

Secondly, we need to state how Nigerians have chosen to address the current Nigerian crises, conflicts and violence.

  1. We have heard some Nigerians who state that the current spade of crises and conflicts are not religious but political, ethnic or economic. This places them on the bench of those who are politically correct. They do not want to offend some Nigerians with a religious talk. For this reason, they ensure that religion is out of the question. It is a taboo to insinuate that Nigeria’s current problems are religious, or even to mention that Boko Haram is a terrorist group or jihadist. But religion dominates Nigeria’s life.
  1. Some Nigerians believe that Nigeria’s current crises, conflicts and violence are

politically, ethnically and economically induced and its solution must be rooted in these

same social factors. But the truth is, the political culture of Nigeria is still primitive and

undeveloped. Nigeria seems not at the present to have any national political solution.

No political agenda for creating a New Nigeria. So they waste their time with irrelevant

political theories. Again, the economy of Nigeria is so underdeveloped that Nigeria seems

not to have any economic solution. No economic agenda for creating a New Nigeria. The

cry for jobs, ruined education, unemployment, infrastructural decay and national unity

cannot be realized by any means so long as Nigerians are still being chained, psyched

and hypnotized by the evil and destructive forces of ethnocentrism and primordialism.

Similarly, hypocrisy, corruption and religious bigotry have all conspired to rob Nigeria of

any hope of being cured of its ethnic and regional leprosy. Hence, no amount of political,

economic, or educational solution will re-create and re-make Nigeria, unless the dark and

evil forces of ethnocentrism and primordialism are severely dealt with and routed.

  1. In short, the truth is, no one is effectively solving Nigeria’s problem and no solution in

sight. After all, Nigerians themselves are beginning to believe the prophets of doom,

pundits of nihilism and witches of fate. What a dark and gloomy moment for Nigeria!

Thirdly, the terror of Boko Haram. Those who are not familiar with the history of religions,

especially Islam are mistakenly confused and misled. Boko Haram has many apologists and

sympathizers. Some say that this group is not religious, but purely a product of political or

economical circumstances of a woefully failed Northern Nigeria. Some say that it is not a

terrorist or a jihadist group, but a product northern underdevelopment or the rise of ethnic

militias. Some equate it with the Niger Delta Militants so that they too could reap the bounties of

Nigeria’s oil loot. While some say other things about the group. In short, there are too many

apologists and spoke-persons for Boko Haram in that Nigerians have failed to both see and hear

Boko Haram for themselves. Nigeria’s statesmen peace ambassadors urge for dialogue as the

only viable option. Unfortunately the core values and the motivating social and religious factors

of Boko Haram cannot be dialogued. Should Boko Haram finally settle for a dialogue, then the

truth is this group is not what they claim to be. It could be a sinister or disgruntle political or

ethnic group wearing the garb of religion. Obstacles to any dialogue with Boko Haram are their

own definition and meaning of Jihad and Sharia. Not all Nigerian Muslims who share the same

core values of Jihad and Sharia are in agreement with the activities of Boko Haram. The beliefs

and practices of Boko Haram are well rooted in the history of religions but as for Boko Haram

the history of Islam. Boko Haram has graduated from being a back-yard group into international

limelight. Its links with Somalia, the Maghreb, Mali, Yemen and neighbouring splinter Islamists

groups confirms the pan-Islamist world-wide revolution. It hard for any Nigeria to convince

Boko Haram that she in its essence, outlook and actions is not a jihadist organization. It is

amazing how Nigerians have shut their ears and eyes from hearing or seeing Boko Haram as she

  1. Unfortunately, what they both see and hear of Boko Haram is measured in terms of politics,

economics and regionalism. The message of Boko Haram is religiously coded and only those

who can decode it can know the essence of their existence and interpret their actions. They are

very consistent in saying who they are, and the truth about themselves. They have always

corrected Nigerians who mis-read, mis-understand, mis-interpret, or misrepresent them. But

there are some Nigerians who have made up their minds never to listen to Boko Haram but to

only themselves, their apologists, or their interpreters. Boko Haram defines itself within an

historic tradition of Islam. They say of themselves that they are bona fide jihadists with a jihadic

and Sharia agenda. In word and deed they have faithfully kept their own brand of Islamic

promise and identity. The emergence of Islamic groups like the Boko Haram is not new in the

history of religions or in Islamic history. Repeatedly in history, they often re-surface on the

religious scene and only to disappear in a short while. The problem with Nigeria and its external

friends is that Boko Haram is disbelieved. They seek to white-wash for Nigerians. The point here

is that the evil forces at work that have blinded Nigerians to the problem of Boko Haram and

similar other issues are fear, hypocrisy, corruption, primordialism, ethnocentrism, regionalism

and religious bigotry. The State and security forces are drenched in corruption. Northern leaders

are entangled in hypocrisy, ethnocentrism, regionalism and religious bigotry. Not long ago, we

had the fad of Sharia politics. The Sharia politicians deceived people that Sharia would bring

justice and development. Unfortunately, the Sharia apostles only used it to loot their states’

treasuries and left their states impoverished. Religious bigotry and hypocrisy have become a

trade mark in our national political and religious life.

Fourthly, Nigerians by and large have not had a proper diagnosis of their national crises,

conflicts and violence and the need to finding their enduring historical social roots. All

Nigerians, the ethnic, religious and regional groups have their own core values, their hidden

authority codes that motivate, shape, mold and define the moral character, attitudes, behaviours

and social and spiritual practices. Nigeria’s core values are primary to understanding the reasons

and/or the motivating factors for social crises, conflicts and violence. This paper focuses

primarily upon the historical foundations, the core values and the authority codes that motivate,

inspire and moderate the attitudes, behaviours and social practices of Nigerians. For example,

ethnic nationalities and militants are driven by not by national political and economic principles,

but by their core values which are at variance with national values. We have relied too much

upon the social scientists that have proffered solutions in politics, economics, education and

religion but to no avail since every passing day, Nigeria gets worse and worse and deeper in the

quagmire. For this reason, this paper offers another way of diagnosing our national problems by

drawing our attention to the significance of the powerful, pervasive and enduring influence of the

core values and hidden authority codes, namely, ethnography, geography, religion and culture of

all Nigerians. It is what history or fate does with these primordial social factors in our national


Fifthly, we ask, What are the challenges and problems of Nigeria? What are the ethnic,

primordial, religious, cultural, colonial and post-colonial social factors that have become the

building pillars and major obstacles to Nigerians’ peaceful and harmonious coexistence? We

need to identify these socio-historical core values that are the roots of social, structural, cultural,

religious and ethnic crises, conflicts and violence. These socio-historical factors and core values

have over the years contributed immensely towards the development of some of Nigeria’s

negative heritage that is the foundation of crises, conflicts and violence. We need to go back to

the social, structural, cultural, religious and historical roots of our contemporary problems. The

task of this paper is to identify, collate and define these socio-historical factors.

Sixthly, this paper gives reference to the crises, conflicts and violence in Kaduna State. Kaduna

State is a miniature of Nigeria. Concrete and local practical examples of social issues can

help us put flesh and what is relevant to some national issues that are often given to sweeping

generalizations. The Memoranda mentioned in this paper refer to the materials which the

citizens of Kaduna State sent to the Kaduna State Peace and Reconciliation Committee. No

Memorandum was specifically mentioned or treated in this paper. However, the Memoranda

have helped in examining some national issues in depth and in some cases proffering some

solutions using Kaduna State as a case study.

This paper is a summary of my major works in social ethics, colonialism, missions, Islam and

Christianity in Nigeria: (1) The British Colonial Legacy in Northern Nigeria: A Social Ethical

Analysis of the Colonial and Post-Colonial Society and Politics in Northern Nigeria (1993);

(2) The Theory and Practice of Christian Missions in Africa: SIM/ECWA History and Legacy

in Nigeria, 1893-1993 (1999); and (3) Tainted Legacy: Islam, Colonialism and Slavery in

Northern Nigeria (2010). For this reason, I do not intend to give details but only highlights in

view of time and space. I will refer readers to these works for the research sources and detail

analysis of some issues. There are issues and social facts that could have been included but

were left out. Ignorance of many social facts is being admitted due to human limitations which

my readers could easily add to enrich and strengthen this paper. There are those who may wish

to say that I said certain things which I shouldn’t have and those who may wish that I should

have added some very valuable social facts. Be that as it may, may all our views and desire

coalesce in developing a new political culture for Nigeria that transcends our ethnocentrism

and primordialism and religious bigotry. My primary goal is to provide a basic background and

framework towards understanding and solving our national problems.

The Structure of the Paper

The sources for this paper are drawn with specific reference to Northern Nigeria. Their socio-
political implications profoundly affect and dominate Nigerian politics and social life. They form

the basis of understanding Nigerian social, political, economic, religious and regional issues. For

this reason, sources with reference to Southern Nigeria were minimal.

The paper has identified four (4) primordial social factors, namely, ethnography, geography,

religion and culture as very important social variables for our study, which form the basic

building blocks for understanding many social issues. Our primary focus is on the issues of

crises, conflicts and violence in Nigeria and Northern Nigeria in particular. Our research goal

is to find out historically how crises, conflicts and violence have been generated in Nigeria

generally. Furthermore, the paper has also identified the key players who represent traditions or

legacies that have exerted powerful and pervasive influence over the people and society. These

legacies are: African Traditional Legacy; Islamic Legacy; British Colonial Legacy; Christian

Missions Legacy; Political Legacy (Nationalists, Parliamentarians and Politicians), and the

Military Legacy. The role played by each legacy in defining, shaping, molding and conditioning

both the people and society and their outcomes are carefully identified, collated and defined. Our

primary focus is on the negative social forces, social formations and social dynamics that tend

towards crises, conflicts and violence. Finally, the paper takes us through the time-line: African

traditional and pre-Islamic era; the Caliphate era; the colonial (the British and the missionary)

era; and the post-colonial era (politicians and soldiers). This time-lime is to help us see how each

era with its own dominant legacy handled the questions of ethnography, geography, religion and


The paper holds the view that the God given social facts are good in themselves and therefore

they could not generate any crises or conflict. Ethnicity, land, religion and culture must be

handled by human beings as means of enhancing the well-being of all human beings. It is the

wrong use of these blessings of God and creation by human beings and social structures and

institutions that generate crises, conflict and violence. Even the best of humans, in the comity of

humans, they have to be taught how to behave and live and let live. Human excesses in relations

to other humans, in the use of ethnicity, land, religion and culture, must have to be tamed or

moderated, otherwise, there will be no harmony, peace, justice, equality or freedom.

The paper asserts that all issues raised so far can be categorized as having their roots and

solutions in these four primordial historical social factors: Ethnography (ethnicity); geography

(land), religion and culture. With this innovative and creative methodology and format, the

paper takes on its systematic analysis of the issues pertaining to crises, conflicts and violence in

Nigeria and Kaduna State in particular.

Ethnography embraces both ethnicity and its story or history. A people group is often wrapped-
up in its own story and identity. This paper uses the term ethnography as a bigger concept that

embraces both ethnicity and its history. The idea here is that we are dealing with many ethnic

groups and their own stories. A people cannot be divorced from its own story/history. It is

possible to strip ethnicity of its ethnography, or land of its Geography. This is what historically

the Empire Builders and social reformers have done. Islam, Christianity, British colonialism,

politicians and soldiers, all have manipulated our primordial social factors that are responsible

for some of our contemporary national and regional crises, conflicts and violence.

Geography embraces both land and its symbiotic and ecological location in a given territory

on earth. A land is more than just a piece of earth, but that it must have the available physical

features that grant its status of being a “land” or “territory”. For example, “What is the

geography of this land? When this term is used in a minimal form, we simply call it “land.”

Geography and land locate where an ethnic group exists with its history, religion, culture and

social institutions. It is possible to strip land of its Geography. Our ecological problems, land

grabbing and migration are serious issues in contemporary Nigeria. Empire Builders and social

reformers have manipulated land, or territory for both the advantage and disadvantage of others.

This socio-historical is creating big issues, especially for the Middle Belt areas.

The dynamic combinations between ethnography and geography produce (1) religion; (2)

culture; and furthermore (3) humanity; and (4) environment/creation. The human agent uses

the dynamic combinations of ethnography, geography, humanity and environment/creation to

produce a community, a society, a nation, a state, or institutions and structures. In this paper,

we have identified the following human agents as the actors, the players or the builders of both

humanity and creation/environment: (1) the traditional African; (2) the Muslim; (3) the British

colonialist; (4) the Christian missionary; (5) the nationalist/politician; and (6) the soldier. These

are the actors who have acted upon Nigeria’s ethnography (ethnicity), geography (land), religion

and culture and as a result have created the monsters of Nigeria’s ethnicity/tribes, religions,

cultures, communities, societies and the Nigerian social environment. The paper examines

specifically the possible areas of crises, conflicts and violence which these actors have created

for Nigerians over the years. Their solutions lie in identifying their root causes and proffering


Further to these ones already mentioned are the additional very important social variables

that are worth considering as to how they have been handled by the various legacies already

mentioned, the political leaders and the ordinary human beings. These additional social variables

are (1) man; (2) family; and (3) government and state. We need to examine how these social

units have been treated and handled by the human actors that have brought about crises, conflict

and violence.

Religion and culture are the by-products of the dynamics between ethnography and geography.

Far North geographically refers to the northern parts of Northern Nigeria that is occupied by the

Hausa, Fulani and the Kanuri groups. Both ethnography and geography set them apart from the

rest in the North.

Middle Belt geographically refers to southern parts of Northern Nigeria which is occupied by the

non-Hausa-Fulani and the Kanuri groups. Both ethnography and geography set them apart from

those of the Far North.

In Kaduna State, we face an historical situation where the crises and conflicts are defined in

terms of the north-south political, ethnic and religious axis. For this reason, the political, ethnic

and religious divide is caused by the primordial historical factors of ethnography, geography,

religion and culture. The historical roots of our crises and conflicts are imbedded in these given

primordial social facts. (We need to examine the meanings and implications and use of these

primordial social facts by the specific historical actors mentioned already).


The historical roots of crises and conflicts in Nigeria and Kaduna State in particular can be

traced back to these primordial social factors of ethnography, geography, religion and culture.

Secondly, how the human agents have used man, family and government/state to engender

crises and conflicts. Our task is to collate and define the historical roots of each specific crisis or

conflict that has been identified. Crises, conflicts and violence do not take place in a vacuum, but

in a given social environment. First, we need to define the historical context of Nigeria within

which crises and conflicts take place. For this reason, we need to define the Nigerian social

environment, especially that of the North and Kaduna State in particular. For example, the April

2011 Presidential Elections in Nigeria and the post-elections riots in the North raised a serious

political national question. Hence, it is necessary to begin with the primordial social factors

which determine the nature and scope of national politics and Kaduna State in particular. For this

reason, this section defines these social factors within the context of Nigeria.

  1. Nigeria: Historical and Social Background

This section states very briefly the historical and social background of the Nigerian society.

The socio-political setting of the Nigerian society can be divided geographically and culturally

into two broad major areas: (1) the North; and (2) the South. This very colonial classification

formed the basis for understanding Nigeria’s historical ethno-regional politics, cultural and

religious conflict, and socio-political, moral and ethical problems which we are currently passing

through as a nation and also in miniature, Kaduna State. It is important that we understand

some historical, geographical, political, cultural and religious factors, which have contributed in

shaping and defining the nature of the Nigerian society and its politics.

Nigeria is a Creation of British Colonialism.

We begin with British declaration of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria on 1st

By this date the British had Southern Protectorate and Northern Protectorate and administered

separately until amalgamation. Economic and political considerations led to the colonial

amalgamation of Nigeria on 1st

Colonial Administration made no effort to encourage horizontal interaction among various

ethnic groups and the political Regions. The amalgamated Protectorates were administered

politically separate from each other. Under these separate administrations, each cultural grouping

maintained its identity, its individuality and its nationality until in 1947, for the first time,

under the Richards Constitution, the two Protectorates (North and South) had an opportunity

to interact politically. Colonial attempts at integrating Nigeria between 1946 to 1954 generated

ethnic and regional politics, conflict, fears and suspicions which had cast a long shadow of long-
term consequences for post-colonial Nigeria. In 1954, a Federal Constitution created Nigerian

federalism with autonomous Regional Governments (North, West and East). Nigerian polity and

social environment can be divided into three periods: the era of modern politics (1946-1966), the

military era (1966-1999), and the Civilian Democracy (1999 to the present).

The lopsided nature of Nigeria’s federal set-up generated the fear of political domination among

various ethnic groups and the regions, and also the colonial Federal Constitution ignored the

question of unequal representation of Regions and ethnic groups. The Federal Constitution of

Nigeria between 1954 and 1966 failed to create a stable, just and participatory social order.

The colonial federal structure of Nigeria faced serious socio-political problems, such as, the

structural imbalance of Regions and inequality of ethnic groups, revenue allocation, franchise

and citizenship. Conflictual interpretations and sectional conceptions of these issues and others

undermined ethnic harmony, cooperation and the stability of the country. Ethno-regional politics

both at the federal center (Lagos) and within regions were dominated by the major ethnic groups.

Political representation at the federal center was based on the politics of population.

The socio-political problems of the Nigerian social environment can be stated as: (1) the political

norms and rules of the game, especially in the regions, tended to reflect the socio-political values

of the dominant ethnic group: (2) the political institutions tended to reinforce ethnic cleavages

January 1914 by Lord Lugard. After this amalgamation the

between the rival and competing major groups while the weaker and smaller groups were always

at a disadvantageous position, at best, a clientele position (subordinate position); and (3) political

rewards or services tended to be dominated by the powerful and dominant groups, while the

weaker and smaller groups did not get any fair share or participation.

These socio-political problems resulted from the colonial legacy. Melson and Wolpe

described this situation in the following words:

Our argument… is that much contemporary communal conflict is being waged not

by traditional entities, but by communities formed in the crucible of mobilization and

competition…. Moreover, political conflict associated with cultural pluralism is due not to

the nature of pluralism or diversity in itself, but to a process of inhumane and uncontrolled

modernization which pits one communal group against another in a frantic search for wealth,

status, power and security.


Post and Vickers, and Okoli based their works on the thesis that Nigerian political conflict was

the result of colonial institutional structure.2

Nigeria was based upon colonial stratified inequality between the elites of various ethnic groups

that were in competition against each other.3

of the ethnic minorities within the colonial structure was the root cause of Nigerian political

instability between 1960 and 1965.4

The collapse of the First Republic of Nigeria on January 15, 1966 was usually attributed to many

social factors, such as, the multi-ethnic and religious composition of the population, the uneven

level of social, economic and educational development, the constitutional structure of the country

under colonial rule and the First Republic, and the total absence of truly national political

parties. These social factors no doubt reveal the inherited colonial social structures of inequality,

insecurity and incompatibility.

Social dilemmas that confronted the post-colonial society can be briefly listed: (1) social conflict

between traditional values and western and/or colonial values; (2) the conflict between national

and sub national (ethnic or religious) identities; (3) the conflict between national and ethnic or

religious basis of political legitimacy; and (4) the conflict between internal mechanisms of socio-
political conditions among ethnic groups and the dilemmas created by the emergence of new

social values that may not necessarily be western or traditional. The concept of social justice

and of a sustainable society should pursue these social dilemmas, as they are responsible for

Melson and Wolpe, p. vii.

Kenneth W. Post and Michael Vickers, Structure and Conflict in Nigeria (Madison: University of Wisconsin

Press, 1972); and Ekwueme F. Okoli, Institutional Structure and Conflict in Nigeria (Washington, D.C: University

Press of America, 1980).

Ugbana Okpu, Ethnic Minority Problems in Nigerian Politics: I960-1965.

Okwudiba Nnoli, Ethnic Politics in Nigeria (Enugu: Fourth Dimension Pub. Co., Ltd., 1978).

generating socio-political conflict and instability.

Why this Nigeria’s historical and social background?

We need to understand Nigeria’s primordial social factors: Ethnography and Geography.

  1. Geographical and Ethnic Composition of Nigeria
  2. Southern Nigeria

Southern Nigeria can be divided into two broad societies, namely, Western and Eastern societies.

The Western societies had large ethnic groups, such as, the Yoruba, Edo, Ijaw, etc. and were

predominantly traditional with a large Muslim population in certain areas of Yoruba land. The

Eastern societies had large ethnic groups, such as the Igbo, Efik, Ibibio, Anang, etc. and were

predominantly traditional until the arrival of Christianity.

  1. The West

The Yoruba and the Edo or Bini, just like the Hausa-Fulani in the North, had centralized

political, administrative and judicial systems, which were controlled by traditions. Where Islam

existed in the West, it too came under the powerful influence of traditional values.

The Western coast of Nigeria came under European influence in the 15th century, especially

through the early contacts of the Portuguese with the kingdoms of Benin and Warri.

This part of West Africa was named the Slave Coast because of the slave trade introduced by

Europeans in the 17th century. This obnoxious trade caused inter-ethnic wars, depopulation and

instability in the region until the British colonial rule in the 19th century when Lagos became a

Crown Colony in 1860. Modern Christian missions entered Yoruba land by 1840s.

The Fulani warriors and Islamic jihad had a base at Ilorin, the northern edge of Yoruba land and

raided the Yoruba land in places as far south as Oyo, Ibadan and Abeokuta. That was how Islam

was first introduced into Yoruba land. In western societies, Islam, Christianity and traditional

religions have generally co-existed harmoniously. The African traditional worldview was able

to influence and moderate the socio-political excesses of both Christianity and Islam in western


  1. The East

The Igbo, Efik, Ibibio and others, just like the peoples of the Middle Belt of Nigeria, did not have

centralised political, administrative or judicial systems as did the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba and

the Edo. This area, like the West, also came under European influence, especially during the

period of slave trade. Important city-states such as Opobo, Bonny and Brass in the Delta Region

grew and became powerful, as did Calabar in the Cross River Region. Arochukwu and Onitsha

became powerful trade centres in Igboland. As it was in parts of the Western region, the slave

trade introduced by Europeans caused inter-ethnic wars, depopulation and instability until the

colonial rule in the late 19th century.

Christianity entered the region in the 1840s and grew more rapidly than in any other region.

This region was followed by the Middle Belt in the rapid growth of Christianity. The traditional

values, however, had a very powerful influence on Christianity. Islam did not make any serious

in-roads into the region until after the civil war in the 1970s.

  1. Northern Nigeria

Northern Nigeria can be divided into two large regions consisting of two broad ethnic groups:

The Northern part, known as Hausa land and Bornu, which was composed predominantly of

Muslim groups; and the Southern part, designated as the Middle Belt, which was predominantly

traditional and made up largely of the non-Muslim groups. The major ethnic groups in the

Northern part are the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri of the old Kanem-Bornu Empire, while the

Southern part consists of well over 250 ethnic groups concentrated in Plateau, Bauchi, Southern

Kaduna, Adamawa, Sardauna (former Northern Cameroons) and Benue areas. The relationship

between the Muslim groups, in the Hausa land and Bornu, on the one hand, and the traditional

groups, in the Middle Belt, on the other, was characterised by trade, migrations, slave-raiding,

slave-trading and wars of territorial expansion and later in early 1800s, the Islamic jihad before

the British occupation of Northern Nigeria in 1900s.

Arab and Islamic influence was very strong in this region especially in commerce and trade,

slave trade and the Trans-Saharan Trade. The irony of the era was that while the Europeans

were plundering the West Coast with commerce and slave trade, the Arabs were doing the same

in the Hinterland (Sudan). The Middle Belt region was plundered for both European and Arab

commerce and trade, and slave traders. Europeans who brought Christianity and Arabs who

brought Islam, both engaged in the obnoxious slave trade.

In an attempt to create an impression of “One North”, some politicians, statesmen and opinion

leaders, tend to ignore the primordial social facts of ethnography, geography, religion and

culture, thus creating a caricature of a “monolithic North.” The dominance of this social fact in

modern Nigeria only goes to fan the embers of crises and conflicts. Based upon the primordial

social facts of ethnography, geography, religion and culture, Northern Nigeria can be divided

into two broad communities: the Far North and the Middle Belt.

The term Middle Belt in itself generates great anxieties and fears in some people. The term is

used cautiously as not all Northerners like the term. The anxiety and fear of the word Middle

Belt are deeply rooted in the politics of ethnography, geography, religion and culture of both the

peoples of the Far North and the Middle Belt.

  1. The Middle Belt

In mission, Islamic and colonial records, the inhabitants of this area were usually referred to

as “Pagans”. The bulk of the work of Christian Missions in Northern Nigeria was in this area until the

early 1930s, when the Colonial Administration lifted the ban barring Christian Missions from entering

the Muslim Emirates of the Hausaland and Borno, with the exception of Zaria and Bida areas, where the

Church Missionary Society (CMS) was stationed before the consolidation of colonial rule over Northern


Linguistically, the traditional peoples of the Middle Belt were classified as Benue-Congo or Semi-

Bantu. Many also were classified under the Chadic Group, like the Hausa and the Kanuri. Generally, all

the non-Muslim groups exhibit similar characteristics in culture, language, religion, customs, physical

features, social values and organisation. This probably indicates that, in the distant past, they might have

had the same origin. Their socio-political organisation lacked centralized authority, administrative

machinery and constituted judicial institutions but had its own variant forms based upon democratic and

consensual and communal principles of kinship or blood-group.

The contacts of these societies with the Hausa-Fulani, the Kanuri, the Colonial Administration and

Christian and Muslim missions, especially in the colonial era, brought about rapid social changes and

transformation to this area. Indeed, the impact of Christianity, Western civilisation and Islam upon these

traditional societies has been quite substantial and profound.

  1. The Far North

The Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri in the Far North have been in contact with the outside world for many

centuries. For centuries, Hausa land and Borno were under the profound influence of Islamic and Arab

civilizations. In the Western Sudan, ancient empires, such as Mali and Songhai, introduced Islam,

education, commerce and political institutions that contributed a lot in stimulating socio-political

development in Hausa land and Borno. Links with North Africa, Egypt and especially the Maghreb,

strengthened economic, religious, social and cultural ties with the Hausa land. The rise of economic,

political and cultural power of the Hausa States and Borno brought them fame in the Arab,

Mediterranean and Western worlds. Travellers, scholars, Muslim missionaries and merchants from these

lands visited the Hausa land and Borno.

At the end of the 18th century, the Fulani or Fulbe moved into Hausa land in large numbers and later

became the religious and political rulers of the land after the Jihad of Usman dan Fodio in 1804, which

successfully overthrew the Hausa kings. Islam and Fulani rulers in consequence replaced Hausa

traditional religion, culture, traditions and rulers. However, some have endured to the present.

Given its recognizable civilisation, the Hausa, as a distinct ethnic group in Northern Nigeria, attracted

the interest of scholars, statesmen and religious men throughout the Middle Ages. Fascination about the

Hausa land lured Europeans in the form of colonial adventurers and Christian missions.

There were some major socio-political differences between the Muslim and the Traditional groups in the

North, which had important implications for both mission and colonial policies. The Muslim groups

were united together not only by Islam and Usman dan Folio’s Jihad of the early 1800s, but also by the

assimilating power of Hausa language and culture, as well as the Sokoto Caliphate structure which

covered a vast land across the northern parts of the Central Sudan of West Africa. Kanem-Bornu also

played the same significant Islamic role as the Sokoto Caliphate. Conversely, the traditional religions of

the peoples of the Middle Belt were mainly particularistic and local and far-removed from the

universalism of Islam or Christianity. The numerous languages and dialects of the peoples of the Middle

Belt did not have any assimilating power or wide influence like the Hausa language, which was

increasingly becoming a trade language in the Central Sudan. These peoples did not have any unifying

ideology like Islam or the assimilating power of the Hausa language and culture.

The Middle Belt did not have any centralised authority, administrative machinery, or judicial and fiscal

institutions covering vast areas and cutting across ethnic or geographical boundaries. These segmentary

societies were just like “mini republics” which did not have a common ethnic identity, authority or

legitimacy. Each “republic” (tribe) was a confederacy of communities and villages based upon lineage

and kinship systems. Each lived on its own and was independent of others because the sense of “tribal”

affinity and unity excluded all those who did not belong.

The rise of Islamic power in Northern Nigeria drastically changed the socio-political conditions

and the nature of inter-ethnic relations, especially between the Muslim and the Traditional

groups. Islamic worldview represented “universalism” while the traditional African religions and

culture in general represented “particularism”.

The Jihad, which generated Islamisation, colonisation and slave trade and slave-raiding, also

introduced the religious and social stratification between the Muslim and the Traditional groups.

Thus, the pre-colonial inter-ethnic relations between the Muslim and the Traditional groups

were, to a large extent, determined by religion, culture and ethnicity.

It was upon these two broad-based distinct societies of Northern Nigeria that the Colonial

Administration imposed a colonial super-structure in 1900. The same administration had imposed

a colonial superstructure over the two Protectorates of Nigeria, namely, Southern and Northern


Christian missions also carried out their mission work within these two broad societies in the North. The

Church in Northern Nigeria was born within three powerful contexts: (1) the traditional context, mainly

in the Middle Belt areas; (2) the Islamic context, mainly in the Far North; and (3) the colonial context of

British twin-rule over the Northern Region and the whole of Nigeria.

The Colonial Administration and Christian missions had transformed these southern and northern

societies. The consequences of this transformation in post-colonial Nigeria have influenced greatly the

nature of politics and religious conflict in Nigeria.

Thus far, we have identified four very important social factors in the history and making of Nigeria

worth mentioning, namely, traditional, Islamic, colonial, missionary and Christian. These historical

social factors have had profound influence on the nature, growth and development of Nigeria as a

nation. These geographical, cultural, ethnic and religious factors have greatly affected the nature of

politics, state policy, Muslim-Christian relations and ethno-regional politics in both colonial and post-
colonial Nigeria.

In Northern Nigeria, crises and conflicts are drawn between mainly the peoples of the Far North and

Middle Belt. The same battles lines are also drawn within Kaduna State between the representatives of

the peoples of the Far North and Middle Belt. For this reason, we need to examine in depth the historical

roots of the crises and conflicts. But we need to summarize the implications of the Nigerian social

environment (context) as it affects national development and integration. This Nigeria’s background

is what we call the primordial social factors of ethnography (ethnicity), geography (land), religion and


  1. A Preview of Nigeria’s Primordial Values

The nature of Nigerian politics, ethno-religious riots, and social crises and conflicts are governed mainly

by Nigeria’s primordial values and institutions. Nigerians have used ethnic/tribal myths to project

their worldview, thought and feelings about their origin, value, prestige, glory and destiny. These

primordial social facts were captured in the colonial historiography and ethnography as collated by the

colonial anthropologists and colonial political officers and as well as the clams of land and subjects

prior to the arrival of the British colonialists. Many Memoranda as submitted to the Kaduna State Peace

and Reconciliation Committee based their claims of land or chiefdom on some of these historical


Nigerians in general and the peoples of Kaduna State in particular have used (1) ethnicity/tribalism,

(2) land, (3) religion and (4) culture, which are indeed good in themselves and are the primary human

values as tools and weapons of war, conflicts and violence whenever things went wrong in their

relationships with each other. It is the use of our primordial values and institutions to advance self-
interests or to perpetuate an advantageous position, or to maintain a rewarding or beneficial status quo.

We have identified an historical pattern of relationship which existed between mainly the Muslim and

the non-Muslim groups in the North and Kaduna State in particular. The crises and conflicts which have

existed between the two groups were rooted in these emerging historical social structures:

(1) there is a pattern of superiority-inferiority relationship between the two groups based upon religion,

culture and ethnicity;

(2) there is a pattern of dominance-subordination relationships between the two groups based upon

ethnicity and religion;

(3) there is a pattern of the politics of inequality, domination or exclusion between the two groups.

Many Memoranda submitted to the Kaduna State Peace and Reconciliation Committee made

references to the fact that these social patterns of relationship still exist between the two groups. These

social patterns of relationship have been the source of crises and conflicts, among many. The use of

derogatory and demeaning terms such as, arne, kabila, gambari, nyamiri reflects ethnic stereotyping.

The subordination of one ethnic group to the rule of another generates ill-feelings, resentment and

bitterness. Politics of inequality and domination have aroused discrimination, bias and resentment. Most

Memoranda are calling this Committee to redress and correct the patterns of superiority-inferiority

between the peoples of the North and the South of Kaduna State. Similarly the pattern of dominance-
subordination between the two groups be redressed and corrected. Our task is to find the historical roots

of these patterns of relationship.

Generally, the social and political expressions of Nigerians whether negative or positive are rooted in

the historical and social background presented in the previous sections. One aspect of this expression

that is worth mentioning is the challenge of ethnocentrism and primordialism. These two concepts are

rooted in our ethnography, geography, religion and culture. We can also trace some of our socio-
political crises and conflicts to these two concepts.

Ethnocentrism and primordialism are rooted in Nigeria’s ethnography, geography, religion and culture.

The historical social dynamics of these social factors have produced our dominating worldview of

ethnocentrism and primordialism. It shapes the way we see, understand, interpret and apply the world

around us.

How our national life is being governed by our worldviews of ethnocentrism and primordialism?

  1. Ethnocentrism and Primordialism and National Life

Ethnocentrism and primordialism are major contributors to crises and conflicts in Nigeria and Kaduna

State in particular. Ethnocentrism consists of primordial, traditional, ancient tribal, cultural, religious

and regional or sectional values and institutions. Since prior to and after independence national

political leadership in Nigeria has suffered a great setback. Political leaders seem to lack legitimacy

to rule and lead the people. Whether by a ballot box or a barrel of a gun, leaders come to power, but

they do not command followership or loyalty across ethnic, religious or regional groups because the

followers hold them in high suspicion and disrespect. For example, President Olusegun Obasanjo and

President Goodluck Jonathan are the best case study of this problem in the North. Political leaders

are not trusted or respected across the national divide. Both the followership and leaders are torn

apart by ethnocentrism (ethno-regional, cultural and religious rivalries). Ethnocentrism weakens the

legitimacy of political leaders to rule and lead. It also feeds the followership with suspicion and lack of

loyalty and respect. Ethnocentrism in our national political life is the greatest enemy to the emergence

of true national politics and also to nation building and integration, and nationhood and citizenship.

Ethnocentrism is the vicious and cancerous virus that eats up and destroys national moral character and

virtues. Ethnocentrism is the excessive love of one’s own ethnic, cultural, regional or religious group

to sometimes hatred or exclusion of others. It breeds exclusivity, parochialism, proclivity, tribalism, or

regionalism/sectionalism. It dominates, subordinates, or excludes others.

The April 2011 Presidential and Governorship Elections and the post-elections riots that erupted in the

Northern States and Kaduna State in particular, reflect the pervasive influence of ethnocentrism and

primordialism. Principally, religion and culture provided the basis upon which the post-election riots


True national politics may not develop unless the challenge of ethnocentrism and primordialism is

tackled head-long so as to free both the political leaders and the followers to pursue genuine nationhood,

citizenship, development, and national interests, ideals and standards. For true political leadership to

emerge and peace to reign in Nigeria, there is a great need for politics to transcend ethnocentrism,

religious bigotry and regionalism. True national political leadership and followership must first of all put

Nigeria first before any forms of sub-nationalism.

From the Memoranda, there are many crises and conflicts that revolve around the issues of ethnicity,

land, religion and culture. The difference between the ethnicity, religion and culture between the

peoples of the North and South of Kaduna have been exploited and used as the basis of some crises and

conflicts. The differences in religion, culture and physical features have been the bane of crises and

conflicts. Some of the crises and conflicts have resulted in the differences of religion and culture. Land

and chieftaincy issues have also been the source of crises and conflicts. Some claim ancestry or prior

occupation, while some claim conquests or first arrival in the vicinity. Some complained that they had

their own traditional rulers before the colonial masters imposed foreign ones over them. Such claims

and counter claims can be the source of crisis and conflict. Some have complained of being subjected

to derogatory or inhumane treatment and discrimination. Others of being treated unjustly and unfairly.

All these forms of crisis and conflict need a clear understanding of their root causes, otherwise lasting

solutions cannot be proffered. It is on the basis this quest that the search for the historical root causes of

our crises and conflicts become imperative.


The search for the historical root causes of crises and conflicts will be divided into four basic epochs,

namely, (1) the African traditional era which was pre-Islamic and pre-colonial; (2) the Caliphate era

which included Sokoto and Kanem-Bornu; (3) the colonial era which included the British colonial

rule and Christian missionary activities; and (4) the post-colonial era which included the civilian and

military regimes. Our task in each era is to identify, collate and define the most important historical

roots of the crises and conflicts. Our crises and conflicts reflect the profound influence of (1) the African

traditional legacy; (2) the Islamic legacy; (3) the British colonial legacy; (4) the Christian missionary

legacy; (6) the post-independence political legacy; and (7) the military legacy. Each epoch and its legacy

have generated its own historical roots of the crises and conflicts. Our primary goal is to state how each

historical epoch and its legacy used the primordial social factors of ethnography, geography, religion

and culture to build a social order that became rife in later years with crises and conflicts.

We begin with the African Traditional epoch and its legacy.

  1. African Traditional Epoch and its Legacy

From the Memoranda, the crises and conflicts that were enumerated were deeply rooted in the

primordial social facts of ethnography, geography, religion and culture. While some are as a result of the

contemporary circumstances. We need to take these primordial social facts one by one and show how an

uncritical use of these by human beings can become the root causes of some of the crises and conflicts.

  1. Ethnography

Some of the crises and conflicts as reflected in the Memoranda are rooted in ethnography that is

ethnicity and history. The claims of land, chieftaincy are rooted in the various ethnic perceptions of

ancestry and history. When an issue is in dispute, its ethnography must be thoroughly understood and

addressed. Ethnicity and its history can be a source of crises and conflict.

  1. Solidarity and Brotherhood of Black Africans

In the midst of claims and counter-claims as regards ethnicity, land, religion and culture, there is a great

need to establish the solidarity and brotherhood of all Black Africans so that we can understand and

appreciate the composition of the various ethnic groups that inhabited the ancient Central Sudan which

later became Northern Nigeria. Everything about them was African and traditional. They had their own

distinct religions and cultures different from Islam or Christianity. They were all Black Africans, the

descendants of Ham, the son of Noah who came from generations after the first human being Adam.

They all had one progenitor as their ancestor and one Creator who is God. This fact of God’s creation

and descent from Adam and Ham make all Black Africans to exist as one people, one human solidarity,

hence the equality and the brotherhood of all Black Africans.

Common ancestry, solidarity and equality bind all Black Africans together as one people. This common

ground of creation, humanity, solidarity and brotherhood becomes the basis for the quest for unity and

peaceful co-existence of all ethnic groups in Kaduna State. This primordial social fact should be made

the basis of judging any ethnic, religious and cultural excesses that do not promote the well-being of

fellow human beings.

  1. Ethnicity

In traditional Africa, ethnicity is rooted in an ancestral blood group of kinship and communal values.

The common denominator for all members of the clan or the ethnic group/tribe is the ancestor, the

progenitor. The ethnic boundary is defined by the ancestry and blood. Humanity is defined in terms of

the in-group or insiders and the out-group or outsiders or strangers. Its philosophical and ethical view

of life and the world is particularistic and not universalistic. One belongs to: (1) an ancestral blood-
group or communal kinship; and (2) the ancestral land. An outsider or a non-blood-group member can

be become a blood-group member by assimilation or becoming one with the group. Ethnicity from this

ancient traditional worldview is intertwined sacrally with both ancestral land and ancestral blood-group

(kinship). Africans who still hold on to this ancient worldview find it very difficult to open up to others.

Our current serious problem of the indigenes versus strangers/settlers in Kaduna State is deeply rooted

in this ancient worldview. The traditional worldview of the ancestral blood-group or kinship community

and the ancestral land must be given a new interpretation in our modern context that can accommodate

other ethnic groups.

Human rights are not rooted in individuality, but in both ancestral land and ancestral blood-group.

Traditional concepts of human rights hold the two human factors in balance and equity. Rights are not

deposited in anything outside of the communal kinship system and ancestral land. The questions and

definitions of modern concepts, such as, citizenship, nativity or indigeneship, settlers or strangers are

deeply rooted in ethnic and land values. Issues, such as, cultural and religious rights, ancestral land

rights, chieftaincy and traditional rights are all rooted in ethnic and land values. In traditional African

worldview, ethnicity and land are inseparable entities. African traditional ethnography (ethnicity) is

rooted in geography (land) and vice versa. Could an ethnic group exist without land? Land grabbing

by government or the powerful groups often meet great resistances from the ethnic groups because of

this traditional worldview. It would be naïve to try solving issues of ethnicity, land, indigene-stranger

relations, religious and cultural matters without a thorough examination of the traditional African

worldview. The African traditional worldview is known to be very powerful, pervasive and enduring.

Tribalism/nepotism is rooted in the concept of blood-group and kinship community. It defines who

is an insider or an outsider. It destroys impartiality, equal treatment, merit or excellence and breeds

corruption. Ethnicity engenders affinity, obligations and loyalty of one to a specific group.

Ethnic/religious/cultural affinity is very strong in Kaduna State. For example, just as the ethnic groups

of Southern Kaduna form a minority in Northern Kaduna, so also the Hausa and the Fulani in Southern

Kaduna constitute a minority, even though they form a regional majority. This ethnic/religious/cultural

affinity is the source of some crises and conflicts between the two major groups. The creation of Local

Governments, Senatorial Zones and Districts has sharpened the issues of ethnic affinity, obligations and

loyalty and thereby breeds competitive and rival politics. Some Memoranda reflect the desire for and/

or a return of some people back to their broader ethnic fold. Some advocate ethnic, cultural or religious

separation. Ethnic values cannot be taken lightly as they can easily trigger crisis and conflict.

Ancient ethnic values if they are not redefined or moderated in modern contexts where people of

various ethnicity, religion and culture do meet, they are a great potential for crises and conflicts. For this

reason, there is a great need for a specific definition or an understanding of ethnicity that can engender

a harmonious and peaceful co-existence of all ethnic groups. This has to rule out any exclusivist or

parochial definition or practice of ethnicity/religion/culture that engenders crisis or conflict. A proper

definition of ethnicity and understanding will rule out the negative patterns of superiority-inferiority

relations between ethnic groups or dominance-subordination relationships.

Later, we are going to see how Islam, the British colonialists, Christian missionaries and the post-
independence politicians and soldiers gave different meanings to African ethnicity.

  1. Land

Land is more than just a piece of the earth. In traditional Africa, land and its geography are defined by

ancestry and sacredness. In the same way its ownership. It is only held in trust by the ancestors for the

kinship community. No individual owns the land but the ancestral kinship community under the spiritual

guardians, the ancestors and the divinities. Land therefore, is ancestral and sacred. Land could not be

possessed by conquest. It could only be acquired or inherited through ancestral means. Both the use and

possession of the land are defined in sacral ancestral terms. Thus, conquest and annexation of lands are

religiously prohibited. Territorial expansion is out of the question. For this reason, many ancient ethnic

groups did not have any expansionist philosophy of land, kingdoms or territories.

Traditionally, land is owned by an ancestral blood-group as a gift from the divinities and the ancestors.

Land could not be owned without a legitimate blood-ancestry. Individuals do not have the right of

disposing of land. Land is always communal and has a guardian. Land when taken by force or war

cannot change status; it ever remains an ancestral communal possession. This ancient understanding is

quite different from modern views about land. Land issues are very prominent in the Southern Kaduna

where the traditional worldview about land is very strong.

In traditional Africa, there is a very strong affinity between the land and the ethnic group. While

geography gives the land its location, scope and definition, ancestry and kinship give it a stamp of

ownership. Land cannot be defined in the absence of ancestry, just as ancestry cannot be defined without

land. Therefore, land always belongs to the ancestors and kinship. The African ancestors must have land

to be buried and to perpetuate the living-dead in the service of their descendents.

Form the foregoing; this traditional worldview of the land is a very serious issue that demands a very

careful study and resolution. Nigerians today are demanding land and space for expansion, but the

constraints of traditional worldviews pose as great obstacles. It is the removal of these traditional

obstacles to ethnicity and land by force that have erupted in crises and conflicts. The ethnic and land

matters have been further complicated by the additional definitions of ethnicity and land which was

brought by Islam, the British colonialists, Christian missionaries and the post-colonial politicians

and soldiers which will be taken up much later. However, many Memoranda have called for the

reinterpretations of the definitions of ethnicity and land by both the British colonial masters and the

Hausa-Fulani rulers. These Memoranda are seeking for a new interpretation of land, citizenship, settler-
stranger-indigene questions, chiefdoms and chieftaincies.

But in ancient times, there was fluidity of movements and migrations of peoples all over Africa. Many

of the Memoranda alluded to the fact of migrations and naming of places of movements or origins. We

are not sure exactly when peoples began to settle down in various geographical places and began to

claim lands and built communities, kingdoms and empires which can be dated in history. The issues of

migrations and ethnic boundaries will be taken up during the colonial era.

  1. Religion and Culture

A new religion or culture should not denounce or reject the ethnicity (blood-group) or the ancestral

land to which an ethnic group rightly belongs. Rather, it is assimilated, domesticated, adapted, or


In traditional Africa, both religion and culture are the by-products of the social dynamics of ethnography

and geography. For this reason, religious and cultural matters are deeply rooted in land and ethnicity.

The sacredness and the rights of a human being are rooted in both ethnicity and land not in religion or

culture. Religion and culture are only the outward and visible manifestations of the beliefs and practices

of the blood-group or kinship community. It is the ethnic group that owns its religion and culture and not

otherwise. The essence of religion and culture is ethnicity. Traditional Africans who convert to Islam or

Christianity cannot in African traditional worldview disown their ethnicity/blood-group or the ancestral

land. In African traditional worldview, an African who converts to Christianity or Islam is still an ethne

or an ethnic person. What is primary is not religion or culture, but ethnicity, the blood-group or kinship.

Converts into Christianity or Islam cannot on the basis of their new religion disown their essence,

ethnicity and the ancestral and sacred land.

Some of the crises and conflicts we are facing are as a result of the change of identity. Identity

change takes place at the level of ethnicity, land, religion and culture. Clash of identities is a common

phenomenon in Northern Nigeria and Kaduna State in particular. Later, we are going to show how

Islam, British colonialism, Christianity and post-colonial politicians and soldiers brought about radical

changes to the African traditional ethnicity, land, religion and culture. Many Memoranda reflect the

clash of identities. For this reason, there is a great need of a thorough understanding and definition of

these identity changes and the confusion and conflict that they bring.

  1. Conclusion

We conclude by stating that by and large, our current crises and conflicts in Northern Nigeria and

Kaduna State in particular are rooted in the African traditional social values of ethnicity, land, religion

and culture.

The next section takes us through the Islamic Era and its own contributions to our subject matter.

  1. Islamic Epoch and Its Legacy

The Islamic epoch and its legacy present a different understanding, interpretation and application of

ethnicity, land, religion and culture from that of the African Tradition. The socio-political impact of

the Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of Kanem-Bornu is rooted in the Islamic legacy. How did Islam

define the ethnicity, land, religion and culture of the peoples of Central Sudan?

  1. Pre-Islamic Conditions

Inter-ethnic relations existed between the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri, on the one hand and the many

ethnic groups that dwell on the southern plains and hills of Northern Nigeria. It was based upon peaceful

trade, especially the long distant trade called fatake. Exchanged of goods and commerce between the

two regions and peoples brought the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri and other numerous smaller ethnic

groups together. The Fulani who were mainly pastoralists who migrated from the Futa Jalon and Futa

Toro areas of the Senegambia of West Africa moved across the Sahel Belt as far East as the Cameroons

and Central Africa. The Fulani were the new comers to the area after most ethnic groups had settled

down and ethnic boundaries were being drawn. The Jihad of Usman dan Fodio changed the ethnic,

religious, cultural and the political scene of the Central Sudan in the early 1800s. Islam was spread

basically by two means: peaceful and jihad. Jihad became an instrument of change of identity: ethnicity,

religion, culture and politics.

From some of the Memoranda, there is a very strong reflection of the crises and conflicts between

Muslims and the non-Muslims, whether Christians or traditionalists. The root of this religious crisis

needs to be identified and defined so that a solution can be proffered.

The non-Muslim misunderstanding of jihad and as well as the application of jihad by some Muslims are

serious sources of crises and conflicts. For this reason, understanding is first of all required from both

Muslims and non-Muslims.

  1. The Islamic Jihad
  2. A Definition

“Jihad” comes from the Arabic root word jahada, which means “to strive or exert”. Another Arabic

word that conveys the meaning of “jihad” is qital, which means “fighting”. Jihad is fighting, striving,

Struggling for the sake or cause of God and is fought against infidels or unbelievers, the kuffar. Islam

divides the world into two spheres, Dar al-Islam (house of Islam) and Dar al-Harb (house of war, or

areas belonging to the kuffar). Through jihad the Dar al-Harb becomes the Dar al-Islam. The task for

a Muslim or a Muslim community is to subjugate the kuffar and bring them under God’s authority.

Mawdudi defines jihad thus: “jihad is ‘struggle for the cause of Allah,’ to ‘destroy the hegemony of an

un-Islamic system,’ replacing it with an Islamic State governed by Islamic law, the shari’ah. Jihad seeks

to institute, protect or increase the territory of the Khilafah” (McRoy, 2001:13).

Some Muslims consider jihad a duty that every Muslim must perform, just like the five pillars of Islam.

The faithful Muslim was called a mujahid, which also means “jihadist” or “ruler”. Historically, in Islam,

one is first a mujahid who answers the call of God to establish both Islam and the Islamic state. When

an Islamic state is established, then the warrior the mujahid becomes the ruler or the caliph. He is God’s

representative on earth.

  1. Qur’anic Support for Jihad

Those who promote jihads find support for holy war in certain verses in the Qur’an and related

theological principles. Among the verses quoted to support it are the following few:

Kill those who join other gods with God wherever you may find

them (Qur’an 9:5-6).

Those who believe fight in the cause of God (Qur’an 4:76).

Say to the Infidels: if they desist from their unbelief, what is now

past shall be forgiven; but if they return to it, they have already

before them the doom of the ancients! Fight then against them

till strife be at an end, and the religion be all of it God’s (Qur’an


Let those who fight in the cause of God who barter the life of this

world for that which is to come; for whoever fights on God’s path,

whether he is killed or triumphs, We will give him a handsome

reward (Qur’an 4:74).

Two major theological justifications were usually offered for the

jihad: whenever the kuffar refused to embrace Islam, Muslims could

Declare a jihad upon them; and whenever a so-called Muslim population did not practice pure Islam, a

jihad could be declared upon them for the purpose of revival and purification.

Some non-Muslims who like to portray Muslims in bad light, often quote these Quranic verses to

portray Muslims in their own light. It is in the interpretation and the application of these Quranic

verses that crises and conflicts often arise between Muslims and non-Muslims. Inflammatory messages

by way of interpretation or application that address public order often lead to violence. There has to

be a common understanding, interpretation, application and approach to the concept and practice of

jihad between the Muslims and the non-Muslims that does not arouse any public fears or violence. If

Muslims, non-Muslims and Christians are to share one geo-political entity, state and space and live in

peace and harmony, then there has to be a mutual understanding and a common approach to whatever

issues are raised in Islamic practice of jihad in a modern pluralistic and multi-religious state.

  1. The Manifesto of the Fulani Jihad

It is not often acknowledged by scholars today that the leaders of the jihad in Hausaland used Islamic

theology to justify their war. The jihad was not an ordinary warfare, but warfare with deep theological

and spiritual foundations. Non-Muslims were not simply being attacked by Muslims, or just being

enslaved; the acts of warfare and enslavement were clearly defined religiously and had to be justified on

religious grounds. Until these theological foundations are grasped, our understanding of Islam will be


This theological context is evident in the Manifesto written to justify the Sokoto Caliphate’s jihad by its

founder, Usman dan Fodio. He was a great Islamic scholar who lived an exemplary Islamic life and

was devoted to spirituality and scholarship. With his brother Abdullahi dan Fodio and his son

Mohammed Bello he established an Islamic empire that grew to become the largest in the West African

region. The Wathiqat ahl al-Sudan (Bivar, 1961), popularly known as the manifesto of the Fulani jihad,

is a theological treatise on the Muslim justification for waging a jihad against the kuffar and syncretistic

Muslims. It also offered guidelines on how to establish an Islamic state.

The theological principles in the Manifesto had significant consequences for Central Sudan and much

later Northern Nigeria. A.D.H. Bivar identifies many of these in “The Wathiqat ahl al-Sudan: A

Manifesto of the Fulani Jihad.”

  1. Declaration of the Holy War (Jihad)

Non-Muslims have great misunderstanding and fears about jihad which is a strong historical root of

crisis and conflict in Christian-Muslim relations or Muslim-non-Muslim relations.

There are three grounds for declaring a jihad. First, the enemy state is not a Caliphate (khilafa), the

representation of God. Secondly, its ruler is not a Caliph, but a kaffir or a back-sliding Muslim. Thirdly,

it is not subject to Sharia. A jihad could be declared on any one (or more) of these grounds.

Jihad may be declared only against the kuffar who reside in Dar al-Harb, that is, the peoples and

territories that are not Islamic. The jihadists’ mandate is to extend the Dar al-Islam into the Dar al-
Harb, and the fate of their defeated opponents is death or enslavement.

So, for example, in Northern Nigeria the Middle Belt was designated Dar al-Harb and Hausaland as

Dar al-Islam. The Muslim Hausa-Fulani lived in the Dar al-Islam, while the non-Muslims lived in the

Dar al-Harb. The Hausa-Fulani colonies scattered throughout the Middle Belt were seen as little

pockets of Dar al-Islam.

The grounds for jihad are crucial to understanding the opposition of militant Islamists to the

governments and rulers of some Islamic states. It is not enough that the ruler be a Muslim; he must be a

devout Muslim and not a back-slider, since the religious status of the state is determined by the belief of

its ruler. The state must be a Caliphate, a true representation of God, and Sharia, the law of God must be

its constitution.

Usman dan Fodio therefore saw it as obligatory on the faithful Muslims to wage a holy war on the kuffar

kings of Hausaland. Since these kings were back-sliding Muslims, devout Muslims were to rise up in a

jihad, overthrow them and create a khilafa,.an Islamic State. This Islamic State was to remove anything

un-Islamic and replace it with the Sharia.

After Usman dan Fodio had defeated the kaffir Sarkin Gobir, he appointed himself as the Muslim ruler

of the defeated Hausaland. Following his success, many Fulani religious leaders and some Hausa from

various parts of Hausaland travelled to Sokoto and got themselves a tutan Usmanu (flag of Usman) as

authorisation to conduct jihads in their respective areas of Hausaland and beyond. These flag-bearers

conquered Hausaland and established a Muslim rule.

The jihad created two important institutions: the Islamic state and the Caliph or Muslim ruler. The state

could be Islamic only if it were ruled by a Muslim and if it had implemented and practiced the Sharia.

  1. Creation of an Islamic State and Sharia

In Hausaland Islam existed as a religion for many centuries, but did not assume theocratic and state

functions until after the jihad. The jihad produced theocratic governments with the Muslim law or

Sharia in order that the Islamic state can be governed under God’s divine laws. Within an Islamic state

the Sharia dictates the structure and institutions of government, as well as policies, administrative

practices and attitudes. The principles of Sharia are used to formulate political leadership and

philosophy. The Sharia informs, influences, and guides much of the religious and social life of the

people. Islamic principles are the foundations for social and educational institutions. Islam in general

permeates the religious and political culture of the state.

The quest and the drive for the implementation of full Sharia after 1999 in the Northern States was based

upon the Islamic interpretations and applications of State and Sharia. The rise of the Maitasine group,

the Nigerian Taliban group and now the Boko Haram reflect the varied Islamic interpretations and

applications of the Islamic concepts of the State and Sharia. In the same vein, the major motivational

factors for the post-election riots in April 2011 were the varied interpretations of Islamic philosophy of

State and the role of a Caliph.

The failed full implementations of the Sharia in some of the Northern States are responsible among other

social factors in fanning the embers of crises and conflicts, especially the raise of the Boko Haram. The

political maneuvers, suspicions and schemes between the peoples of Northern and Southern Kaduna

are rooted generally in the Islamic philosophy of the State and the Caliph. The emergence of President

Goodluck and Governor Patrick Yakowa as both Christians in the April 2011 national elections, raised

a very serious question of the Islamic philosophy of the State and the Caliph. Muslims in Northern

Nigeria were torn apart as to which political philosophy to follow. The political campaigns and rhetorics

whipped up the religious sentiments which culminated in both inter-and-intra religious and ethnic riots

and violence.

Many Memoranda addressed this complicated inter-and-intra-ethno-religious riots and violence. Both

ethnic and religious groups sought to define the State/Government and those who occupy it strictly in

exclusivist ethnic and religious terms that excluded others. It goes to show that the peoples of Kaduna

State, especially in their north-south divide have not yet a common understanding and application of the

State and Government.

  1. Defined Social Status

In an Islamic state, Islam defines the social status and roles of men, women, the ruling class, the

aristocrats, the merchants, slaves and concubines. There is a very strong and well defined hierarchical

structure and classification of statuses. These produce relationships of inequality such as those between

Muslims and non-Muslims, between an Islamic state and a non-Muslim society, between slaves and

the freeborn and between the “house of war” and the “house of peace”. It gives room for the politics

of inequality, domination, subordination, discrimination and preferential and differential treatment of


There are many Memoranda that alluded to this religious, social and cultural stratification and sociology.

In order to redress inequality, domination, discrimination and prejudice, we need to examine the social

patterns of stratification and classification of people as rooted in religion or culture, whether in an

Islamic society, or traditional or Christian.

  1. Kaffir Status

The Muslim treatment of the non-Muslim which have often been quoted as the historical roots of the

crises and conflicts between the Muslims and the non-Muslims are kaffir, slave and dhimmi statuses.

The inter-group relations between the peoples of the North and South of Kaduna State are enmeshed

in the understandings, interpretations and applications of these derogatory terms and statuses. The

experience of most minority religious groups across Kaduna State reflects this social and religious


In Islam, a kaffir is someone who fights against God and His Messenger. This is a state of infidelity.

The cause for a kaffir to be enslaved is his state of infidelity which fights against God and His

Messenger. In “Slavery in Islam, Part 2”, Shaykh al-Shanqeeti says, “The reason why a person may

be taken as a slave is his being a kaafir and waging war against Allah and His Messenger.” Islam and

Ideology of Enslavement describes the slavery status of a kaffir in this way: “Slavery then is a state of

infidelity,” “a heathen condition,” a state of humiliation, or subjection “which arises from infidelity.”

Thus, “the cause of slavery is non-belief.” This non-belief defines the nature of a kaffir, and it is who or

what a kaffir is by nature that entails his enslavement.

Slavery is viewed as God’s punishment upon kuffar for three sins: inherent infidelity, infidelity towards

God, and infidelity towards God’s Messenger. Kuffar are not without sin, not innocent; their sin of

infidelity has made them into wild beasts. They are uncivilised, untamed and savage, hence the necessity

of slavery.

Faithful Muslims have some duties in regard to infidels. They have to identify those who are both

infidels by nature and whose infidelity is expressed in hatred of God and his Messenger. They have

to help infidels attain their rightful destiny through the divinely sanctioned process of enslavement

and servitude. The physical, mental and spiritual abuse that slaves might suffer from their owners was

regarded as just retribution for their sins. What those outside Islam call maltreatment, inhumanity,

injustice or denial of rights and freedoms amounts in Islam to just retribution for sin.

The ill-treatment of peoples based upon the kaffir, slavery and dhimmi statuses abound in the Islamic

Caliphate era and even somewhat in the colonial era. These social factors have a way of being passed on

from one generation to another and become mental states of some people groups. They become the bed-
rock of latent hostility between people groups. They only await certain circumstances to trigger crises

and conflicts.

  1. Dhimmi (Protected) Status

Later in the development of Islam, the practice of paying a ransom for the kuffar became

institutionalised in the dhimmi (protected) status.

The dhimmi status was given to those who did not embrace Islam, but who were allowed to stay within

the Islamic state provided that they paid the jizya or poll tax (Sookhdeo, 2006:66-67). If they did

not pay, they would be enslaved. The Jews and Christians who did not embrace Islam were given the

dhimmi status of second-class citizens with limited rights. The dhimmis also suffered untold injustices

and discrimination, such as inequality before the law, the requirement to wear certain clothes or objects

as marks of identity, and limited or no of freedom to worship or to practice rites of passage.

Whenever religious or political issues flare-up, especially between the Muslims and the non-Muslims,

these ancient images and perceptions and treatments of the kaffir, slave and dhimmi statuses come-
to-fore. Hence, there is a great need of clarifying these concepts or terms and how they could be used

or discarded in order to foster a peaceful co-existence between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in

Kaduna State.

In the Sokoto Caliphate, the non-Muslim Hausa (Maguzawa) were given a dhimmi status. The Caliphate

awarded this status only on a limited basis as it needed a large number of slaves to increase its economic

and political power. In the Caliphate, however, the conquered were rarely set free, because the rulers

preferred people to be given dhimmi status and/or to be enslaved, thus providing greater benefits for the


Should some people want to perpetuate these obnoxious and derogatory statuses in our modern context,

in consequence, it creates crises and conflicts where people want human dignity, freedom, equality and

rights. Crises and conflicts arise when people are denied the opportunity to be free.

  1. The Choice of Enslavement

Enslaving a kaffir was regarded as the best choice a mujahidin could make, because slavery alone could

cure the kaffir’s warlike infidelity. Through slavery, the kaffir might earn dignity, honour and identity.

Slavery turned untamed wild beasts into cultured and civilised human beings. Slaves were subjected

to suffering and hardship, indeed to any penalty short of death, which was retribution for their sins of

infidelity and hostility towards God and his Messenger. The purpose of slavery was for slaves to learn

submission (Islam), that is, for them to become Muslims. Because they lacked this by nature, they could

learn it only in a hard way. Good and obedient slaves could earn their freedom in due course. Exposure

to Muslim culture was also thought to help non-Muslims become well acculturated and Islamised, a

process that would culminate in their embracing Islam. Slaves who quickly integrated into the Muslim

culture earned social respect and sometimes freedom. The massive movement of the traditional

populations from the non-Muslim areas into Muslim societies changed the demography, religion and

culture of the non-Muslim regions.

  1. Islam and Ethnicity

Islamic identity and citizenship are rooted in the Islamic faith itself and not in ethnography or

geography. The Islamic Umma as a faith community which transcends both geography and ethnography.

Both geography and ethnography are supplanted by Islam. Islam creates its own Umma and all Islamic

faithful must leave their attachment to land or geography and ethnography and be joined to the new

Ummat-ul Islam. One abandons his traditions, religion, culture, gods, ethnicity, and language, virtually

everything to join a new Islamic community.

The non-Muslims, who convert to Islam, have to abandon their attachment to their ancestral land,

ancestral blood group, religion, culture and sometimes even the language. In fact in Northern Nigeria,

Islam Hausanizes. It appears as if a Muslim must be either Hausa or Kanuri with some exceptions like

the Nupe, Igbira, Igala, or Yoruba. Islam is a very powerful tool in Hausanization of the non-Muslims

in the North. Hausanization transforms them into a new ethnic group that has cut its ancestral umbilical

cord and links and transforms them sometimes into being haters of their own ancestral blood-group or

the ancestral land.

In the Middle Belt areas, Islam as religion is a very powerful social tool for Hausanization. On

becoming Muslims, the converts to Islam tend to abandon their ancestral land and ethnic identity by

becoming Hausa. Hausanization does bring about the change of ethnic, cultural and language identity.

A person of a minority ethnic group can easily become assimilated to the majority Hausa group through

Islam. There are many social, political cultural and religious advantages for a minority person to change

into a majority ethnic group. There are tremendous powerful social, cultural, political and religious

forces at play in the Middle Belt areas that shrink the traditional African land, ethnicity, religion and

culture. It is this social threat and encroachment that trigger the revival of ethnic nationalities, crises and

conflicts. The conflict between the majority ethnic nationalism and the minority ethnic nationalism has

often been manifested in political and economic dominance and marginalization.

Some Muslims of the Middle Belt origins seriously need a new religious, cultural and political ideology

to free them from the negative effects of Hausanization in the wake of the rise of ethnic nationalism in

Nigeria. Many Muslims, or Christians, or traditionalists have suffered violence on account of this lost

of identity. The Hausa Christians suffer isolation and discrimination even within their own ancestral

land. In the same way, some Muslims within the Middle Belt areas also suffer from this isolation and


The problem of a religious or cultural sociological process is that it creates a new identity or status for

people. Embracing a new religion may lead to change of ethnicity, identity, status or social and religious


Hausanization became more pronounced in the British colonial and post-colonial eras. Hausanization

in itself is not Islam, but a new culture that has been created both within the colonial and post-colonial

Nigeria. It later grew to become a hegemonic and dominant cultural and political tool of the socio-
political dynamics of the Northern Society.

In Yorubaland, Islam behaves differently. For example, when a Yoruba becomes a Muslim, he does not

abandon his ancestral blood-group or ancestral land, he remains a Yoruba Muslim. This cultural and

religious pattern is different from that of the North. Perhaps this explains why ethno-religious riots are

almost negligent in Yorubaland.

When one looses personality and human roots, one becomes an easy tool for manipulation, either in the

name of religion, politics, or culture. This issue reflects the menace of both Muslim and Christian youths

who have been divorced from their ancestral roots of ethnicity and land.

We may conclude by stating that the Islamic concept of ethnicity is quite different from that of the

African traditional one as explained in the previous sections. For this reason, there is a great serious

misunderstanding and misinterpretation which exists between the Muslims and the non-Muslims on the

question of ethnicity. Traditional Africans tend to be isolationist based upon the concept of a blood-
group. While Islam and Christianity tend to be assimilative by converting all others into their fold. The

fear of ethnic extinction is very great in Northern Nigeria as many smaller ethnic groups and languages

are becoming extant. An ethnic group can only be preserved through ethnography and geography.

Efforts must be made to promote the existence of ethnic groups with their ancestral lands. Hausanization

may increase the Hausa as a unique ethnic and cultural group, but to the detriment of the smaller and

shrinking ethnic groups and shrinking ancestral lands.

  1. Islam and Ancestral Land

In Islam, an ancestral land cannot be just had, it must be conquered and be humiliated and subjugated

and taken over through a jihad as we have outlined above. Land must be rid of its ancestry and be turned

into an Islamic land. Land has no ancestry because those who own such a land are infidels who are at a

state of war against God and his Messenger. Land belongs to God and infidels who hate God have no

right to it. Land must be rescued from their hands through a jihad, otherwise, it remain a Dar-al-Harb,

the abode of war.

The world is divided into only two parts: (1) the abode of peace (Islam); and (2) the abode of war. It is

an ever never ending struggles of all Muslims to reclaim the abode of war for Islam and God. Once the

land has been conquered in a jihad, it must be placed under a strict Sharia. Sharia gives the land its both

legal and divine status. Sharia could not be applied in a vacuum or in the sky, but on a piece of land.

Sharia must have land to operate; otherwise there can be no application Sharia. Sharia does not work in

a stateless society. Without land, there is can no application of Sharia. At the heart of all Sharia debates

is the central question of land. Muslim definitions, interpretations and applications of land are rooted in

Sharia and Islamic theology of land.

War in Islam as regards land which is under the possession of the infidels is not a temporal thing, but a

perpetual and persisting, never ever ending struggle until the Day of Kiyama. On the other, the African

traditional conception of land with its sacral and ancestral definitions, its legitimacy can hardly be

relinquished on any grounds. Conquests of land by others do not grant legitimacy, as land is rooted

in ancestry and the gods. From these two different definitions of land, already the seeds of crises and

conflict exist between the Hausa and Fulani and the ethnic groups of Southern Kaduna. Both Islamic and

traditional definitions of land must be mutually understood and reconciled.

Great conflicts, misunderstandings and misinterpretations exist between the Islamic concept of land and

the African traditional concept. The conquests and the territorial annexations principles of Islam when

applied to the Middle Belt areas have been the driving forces of hostility, crises and conflicts between

the peoples of the Far North and the Middle Belt. The sacredness of the ancestral land and the quest for

its preservation are the driving forces of confrontation between the Hausa and Fulani minorities living in

Southern Kaduna. The fear of losing ancestral land to the Hausa and the Fulani is a major catalyst to the

crises and conflicts in Kaduna State.

The current geographical trends and patterns, topographical and ecological changes and transformation

of the land surface and its use, will definitely drive the Middle Belt areas into a hot blood-bath and a

belligerent belt of ethnic clashes not too long from now, if nothing is done to arrest the situation. Current

massive migrations and influx of peoples of the Sahel Region of West and Central Africa are going to

create a serious human and ecological problems and disaster in the Middle Belt areas of Nigeria.

  1. Islam, Religion and Culture

Islam creates religion and culture, and religion and culture create a Muslim. Islam is not only a faith,

but also an ideology that defines, shapes, molds and drives the life of a Muslim. What comes first is not

blood ancestry or ancestral land, but Islam. Because Islam makes a Muslim, his sole identity is wrapped

up in Islam. Islam creates a new Umma, a State, and a universal Brotherhood for him. His allegiance

should be only to Islam.

With this understanding, conflict and crisis arise whenever two communities have to co-exists and insist

on exclusivist understanding and application of the tenets of their religion, ignoring all others. Every

religion has a way of defining how a society ought to be ordered. But in a multi-religious state, religions

ought to search for a common ground. Intolerance in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious or multi-cultural

society or state is the mother of ethno-religious riots, crises and conflicts.

When converts to Islam in the Middle Belt areas abandon totally their ancestry for Islam, they have a

new Umma and a universal Brotherhood to which they belong. In our context, Islam has created a new

Hausa culture and identity for them. To be a Muslim in Northern Nigeria is to be an Hausa, in outlook,

religion, culture, dress, language, etc. Thus, questions of affinity, obligations and loyalty to the ethnic

group and ancestral land have to change for being Muslim and Hausa.

In the wake of ethnic nationalism, creation of new chiefdoms/emirates and the revival of ethnic groups,

languages and customs, crises and conflicts of ethnic or religious affinity, obligations and loyalty are

bound to arise. Already, we have complaints of some people being forced to practice customs and rites

and rituals that are contrary to their new religions of either Christianity or Islam.

So far, we have examined the primordial historical social factors that are the foundations of crises and

conflicts in Northern Nigeria and Kaduna State in particular. We looked at the African Traditional

legacy and the Islamic legacy.

Next, we examine what the British colonialists did with African ethnography, geography, religion and

culture in Northern Nigeria.

  1. British Colonial Epoch and its Legacy

The Memoranda from most ethnic groups, specifically from Southern Kaduna and the Maguzawa

are rooted in African traditional worldview of ethnicity and land. During the pre-Islamic and the pre-
colonial eras, ethnic groups roamed the vast Northern territory as reflected in the colonial and ethnic

historiography and ethnography. Before the advent of the Fulani Jihad in the early 1800s, ethnic land

boundaries were beginning to be formed. The Fulani Jihad had already under Usman Dan Fodio defined

what land is Dar al-Harb or Dar al-Islam. The expansion and annexation of the territories beyond the

Hausa and Borno lands boosted the jihadist flag bearers in the Middle Belt areas, especially in the Hausa

and Fulani enclaves in the Middle Belt. The claims and counter claims of the jihadists and the Muslim

rulers, on the one hand, and that of the peoples of the Middle Belt, on the other, did not really matter

as the British colonialists were focused upon imposing Pax Britannica on the Region. The British took

their decisions at their discretion, expedience and instance.

By 1900s, the British colonial masters had a pretty good idea of ethnic boundaries by their many

updated ethnographic and linguistic maps throughout the colonial period. After independence in 1960,

the civilian and especially the military regimes brought a lot of political and boundary changes and

demographic movements of the peoples, especially into the new states capitals and local government

headquarters. Of specific interests are the demographic movements from the rural areas into the urban

areas, the influx of Southerners into the Northern cities and towns and even villages and the movement

from Hausaland into the Middle Belt areas. Kaduna city and Abuja are producing a complex case study

of urbanization and the question of the status of some ethnic groups like the Gbagyi in Kaduna and


In reference to my books, The British Colonial Legacy in Northern Nigeria: A Social Ethical Analysis

of the Colonial and Post-Colonial Society and Politics in Nigeria (1993), and The Tainted Legacy:

Islam, Colonialism and Slavery in Northern Nigeria (2010), I discussed at length the British colonial

policies, administrative practices and attitudes towards both the Muslim and the non-Muslim groups in

Northern Nigeria. In this paper, I need only make some brief remarks about how the British handled the

questions of ethnography, geography, religion and culture and some of which have become the historical

sources of crises and conflicts in Northern Nigeria.

  1. British Occupation of Central Sudan (Northern Nigeria)

British colonial rule began in West Africa at the height of the Sokoto Caliphate’s religious,

cultural, and economic power and territorial extent. Although the British colonial era lasted for

only about sixty years, it played an important role in shaping contemporary Northern Nigeria.

The Caliphate’s colonialism and hegemony was replaced by British colonial administration,

which ended the Caliphate’s practice of slave raids, slave trading and slavery, and brought the

region’s warring fac-tions under the British Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, which brought

together the three religions of the area, Islam, traditional African reli-gion and Christianity.

The British provided new socio-political structures, institutions and values, creating a new

context within which both the Muslim and the non-Muslim groups interacted and defined

themselves and oth-ers. But in doing this they also institutionalised the hostility between

Muslims and non-Muslims. As a result, British colonial rule actually strengthened the socio-
political role and status of the Muslim rulers. Furthermore, Islam was made the state religion,

with Christianity and traditional religions being given only a secondary status.

British rule also coincided with the start of Christian missionary activity in Northern Nigeria,

which further complicated Muslim–non-Muslim relations. The colonialists and the missionaries

had different goals: the former to establish political rule under the British govern-ment, and

the latter to establish the reign of Christ. They also had dif-ferent approaches and beliefs about

Africa. So although their interests sometimes coincided, they were also often at odds. At the

same time, the Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Northern Nigeria were in conflict and

each had their differences with the British administration and with the missionaries. As a result,

the British rulers had to address issues relating to the Muslim groups, the non-Muslim groups

and the Christian missionaries.

The quest to abolish slavery was the chief impetus behind British involvement in Africa south of

the Sahara, and eventually in the establishing of colonies there. William Wilberforce, a Member

of Parliament, had successfully waged a campaign against the slave trade, and then against

slavery itself, in the British Empire. In 1807, the Abolition Act prohibited all British subjects

from participating in the slave trade, and in 1833 the Abolition of Slavery Act ended slav-ery in

the British colonies. In Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism, Robinson

and Gallagher observed that British involvement was motivated by “moral suasion and duty”,

that is, by moral responsibility (Robinson and Gallagher, 1961:2)

Thomas F. Buxton continued in the footsteps of Wilberforce and found-ed the Society for the

Extinction of the Slave Trade on the West Coast of Africa, especially the Slave (i.e. Nigeria)

Coast. He succeeded in persuad-ing the British Government to send an expedition to the area to

establish a practical alternative to the slave trade, namely legitimate trade.

In 1841, the British Government sent out three ships, the Albert, the Wilberforce and the Soudan,

to explore the Niger River with a view British Colonial Rule Established in Northern Nigeria to

establishing trading relations with the states of the Niger territories (today, the northern parts of

Nigeria) so that legitimate trade would supplant the slave trade. The means was to be industrial

mission, spe-cifically industrial farms to promote agriculture and for the general social welfare

of the local communities. The mission was headed by Bishop Ajayi Crowther, a freed slave from

Sierra Leone. Although it failed, the quest to abolish the slave trade aroused the interest of both

colonialists and missionaries in the Niger territories, and both groups continued to work in the


In 1886 Britain granted the Royal Niger Company a charter to trade on the Niger River and

to make treaties with the states of the Niger territories. In December 1898 the Charter was

withdrawn and Britain brought the territories under colonial rule. On 1 January 1900, at

Lokoja, the flag of the Royal Niger Company was taken down and the Union Jack was hoisted

in its place under the authority of Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick D. Lugard, the British High

Commissioner. Between 1900 and 1903 British forces conquered most of the emirates of the

Sokoto Caliphate, including Sokoto, Gwandu, Katsina, Kano, Bauchi, Zaria, Kontagora, Nupe,

Ilorin and Adamawa. But the colonial administration managed effectively to occupy the entire

non-Muslim Middle Belt as late as the early 1930s.

The British did not establish direct rule over the defeated Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of

Kanem-Bornu. Rather, they set up native administrations using indigenous rulers and existing

institu-tions. They did not, however, grant this privilege of indirect rule as extensively to those in

the Middle Belt.

  1. Philosophy and Meaning of Indirect Rule

Some important historical factors necessitated the development of both indirect rule and

indigenous administration. After occupying Northern Nigeria, Lugard was faced with the

challenge of adminis-tering a vast region, setting up communications and exerting effective

political control with an insufficient labour force and funds. He used the existing administrative

systems of the Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of Kanem-Bornu partly to defuse the danger

of armed con-flict with Islamic forces, and partly for convenience.

Working with existing structures was also convenient, because the Muslim states already had

centralised and bureaucratic institutions and governments. Lugard incorporated them into his

system of indigenous administration, with some modifications and improvements.

Prior to the invasion of Hausaland, Lugard and others had thought that radical reforms and

changes to political structures were necessary if the territory were to be civilised and brought

into the international sys-tem. But after the conquest, the British chose to make social and politi-
cal changes only gradually. The philosophy of “gradualism” was embed-ded in the concept of

indirect rule (Whitaker, 1970:71-76) and was the reason that the British colonial administration

defended the status quo and strongly opposed any radical changes to or reforms of the social and

political structures. Lugard defined indirect rule as follows:

The cardinal principle upon which the Administration of Northern Nigeria was based was

what has been commonly called “Indirect Rule”, viz., rule through Native Chiefs, who

are regarded as an integral part of the machinery of Government and Law…” (Lugard,


Central to Lugard’s concept of indirect rule was the position and role of chiefs or indigenous

rulers and indigenous institutions in the colonial administration. In Native Races and Their

Rulers C.L. Temple describes the philosophy of indirect rule.

By Indirect Rule I mean a system of Administration which leaves in existence the

administrative machinery which had been created by the natives themselves, which

recognizes the existence of Emirs, Chiefs, and native councils, native Courts, Pagan

Courts, native police controlled by a native executive, as real living forces … by which

European influence is brought to bear on the native indirectly through European officers

– political, police, etc. and by which the European keeps himself a good deal in the

background, and leaves the mass of native individuals to understand that orders which

come to them emanate from their own Chiefs rather than from the all-pervading white

man. (Temple, 1968:30).

Consistent with these principles, the indirect rule established by the British incorporated

indigenous socio-political institutions from the Muslim emirate system, and Islamic religion,

culture, values and institu-tions, into the new colonial structure. Thus the Islamic political

philoso-phy and culture of the Caliphate formed the foundations of both indig-enous and colonial

administration in Northern Nigeria. Even though the Muslim rulers were defeated and lost their

sovereignty, their British colo-nial masters created a system in which they could continue to rule.

The British also used Muslim rulers to administer some of the non-Muslim areas, thus

subordinating the non-Muslims there to Muslim Hausa-Fulani rule.

  1. Indigenous Administration

The indigenous administrations had three basic institutions: authority, courts and treasuries. A

“native authority” was any chief or other African appointed by the governor as the executive

head of an administration. “Native courts” were developed out of the Islamic judicial system

and/or native customs and law. “Native treasuries” were created out of the fis-cal systems of

Muslim states. These institutions formed the foundations of the emirate, or indigenous model of

administration. In the Muslim areas, emirates were headed by emirs (or amirs), while in the non-
Mus-lim areas, each administration was headed by a chief or council.

Indigenous administration gave autonomy to the Muslim rulers and peoples, but in the non-
Muslim areas some ethnic groups lost their independence to Muslim, Hausa-Fulani rule.

  1. Colonial Administration

British colonial administration in Northern Nigeria had two broad, hierarchical levels

of government. At the top was the British-controlled administration headed by the high

commissioner (governor or lieu-tenant-governor); it comprised the residents, district officers

(DOs), assistant district officers (ADOs), other European political officials and technical staff,

and African clerical and non-clerical staff. Below this lev-el was the indigenous administration

of each emirate or division headed by the “native authority” or paramount chief, each with his

own staff.

The first level of administration was based on British socio-political institutions and was

controlled by the British political officials. This was the supreme authority. The second level

was based upon the indig-enous socio-political institutions and was controlled by African native

rulers. This was the subordinate authority.

The high commissioner was responsible to the governor-general at Lagos, the capital of Nigeria,

and the governor-general to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London, who was also

responsible to the king or queen, the head of the British Empire.

The central government was based in the capital. The region was divided administratively into

provinces, divisions or emirates, districts and village areas. Each provincial administration

was headed by a resi-dent, and under him were the DOs, ADOs and their support staff. The

resident represented the high commissioner in the province and was also the chief adviser to the

paramount chiefs.

British colonial policies and administrative practices can be under-stood only from the

perspective of British assumptions about Africa and Africans. Their ethnocentrism shaped their

policies and was used to justify their colonising of other countries. Their belief that some people

could be classified as more civilised than others led them to ascribe a superior social status to

Muslims and an inferior one to non-Muslims in Northern Nigeria. This resulted in preferential

treatment for Muslims and helped to institutionalise the hostilities between Muslims and non-

  1. Theories of Racial Superiority

British assumptions about British superiority were influenced by racial theories, which shaped

their view of the religion, character, cus-toms, and appearance of others. These views in turn

shaped the policies by which the British ruled their colonies.

Regarding this British “superiority”, R.E. Robinson and John Gallagher state:

Upon the ladder of progress, nations and races seemed to stand higher or lower according to

the proven capacity of each for freedom and enterprise: the British at the top, followed by a few

rungs below by the Americans, and the striving go-ahead Anglo-Saxons. The Latin peoples were

thought to come next, though far behind. Much lower still stood the vast Oriental communities of

Asia and North Africa where progress appeared unfortunately to have been crushed … Lowest

of all stood the “aborigines” whom it was thought had never learned enough social discipline to

pass from the family and tribe to the making of a State.” (Robinson and Gallagher, 1961:2

The policies that Frederick D. Lugard developed for the region were deeply influenced by his

belief in European superiority and his view that some groups in the Protectorate were superior to

others. Lugard strong-ly justified British occupation of Northern Nigeria on the grounds that it

provided wealth for Britain and civilised the peoples of Africa.

This “dual mandate” philosophy was based upon Lugard’s assump-tion that African interests and

British interests were congruent. In Dual Mandate he states:

Europe is in Africa for the mutual benefit of her own industrial classes, and of the native

races in their progress to a higher plane. That the benefits could be made reciprocal, and

that it is the aim and desire of civilised administration to fulfil this dual mandate. (Lugard,


Lugard believed that Britain had a moral responsibility to put down the disorder caused by the

evils of the slave trade and to provide good administration to the “primitives”. In Dual Mandate

he states:

It was the task of civilisation to put an end to slavery, to establish courts of law, to inculcate

in the natives a sense of individual responsibility of liberty, and of justice, and to teach their

rulers how to apply these principles, above all, to see to it that the system of education should be

such as to produce happiness and progress. I am confident that the verdict of history will award

high praise to the efforts and achievements of Great Britain in the discharge of these great

responsibilities. (Lugard, 1923: 72-80)

As already mentioned, Lugard also gave some groups in Africa, par-ticularly the Muslims,

preferential treatment. He based his assess-ment of peoples on a hierarchical classification and

on his opinion of peoples’ physical and mental characteristics. Lugard classified the peoples

of tropical Africa into three groups: the primitive tribes, the advanced communities, and the

Europeanised Africans. Lugard placed the “pure negroid” at the bottom; it was assumed that

“pure” Africans had no civilisation, and that whatever traits of “advanced” civili-sation they had

came from Semitic and Hamitic influences from the Middle East and North Africa. He classified

the Muslim Fulani and Hausa as “advanced tribes”.

Lugard concludes his analysis of African culture, religion, civilisa-tion, physical features,

character traits, demography and socio-political organisation by saying:

Such, in brief, are the peoples for whose welfare we are responsible in British tropical

Africa. They have a fascination of their own, for we are dealing with the child races of the

world, and learning at first hand the habits and customs of primitive man. (Lugard, 1923: 72-


  1. Colonial Policies towards Muslim Rulers

Even before the British fully occupied Northern Nigeria, Lugard had set a precedent for the

preferential treatment of Muslim areas. He was influenced both by his belief that Islam was a

superior religion and cul-ture and by the prospect of war.

Faced with the power of the Muslim rulers and the profound influ-ence of Islam, Lugard had to

make tactical approaches to the Muslim rulers when he tried to move into the Sokoto Caliphate.

He sent the Sultan a copy of his 1 January 1900 proclamation, which inaugurated British rule

over Northern Nigeria (ARNN, 1901–1911:147). Lugard based his subsequent correspondence

with the Sultan on this procla-mation, especially on its mandate to rule over the Caliphate and

put an end to slavery. Any caliphate or kingdom that would not submit to British colonial rule

would be made to do so by force of arms.

In 1902, the Sultan reacted unfavourably and challenged Lugard’s claim to sovereignty over the

Sokoto Caliphate by appealing to the ulti-mate source of his authority and legitimacy as defined

by Islam:

From us to you. I do not consent that any from you should ever dwell with us. I will never

agree with you. I have nothing ever to do with you. Between us and you there [can be] no

dealings except between Mussulmans and Unbelievers (“Kafiri”); war as God Almighty has

enjoined on us. There is no power or strength save in God on High. (ARNN, 1901–1911:159)

The Sultan’s uncompromising stand no doubt gave Lugard a sense of the Muslim rulers’ hostility

towards the newly established colonial rule. The Sultan declared a jihad between himself and the

British, whom he saw as kuffar. How could an Islamic state be defeated and ruled by infidels?

Faced with stiff political and religious opposition from the Muslim rulers, Lugard had no choice

but to settle the question of sovereignty by military force. Within three years he conquered both

the Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of Kanem-Bornu and imposed British colonial rule over

them and the other kingdoms in the region. He took the Caliphate’s capital, Sokoto, in 1903 and

defeated the Sultanate in the same year.

As part of his tactical approach Lugard paid attention to the reli-gious implications of British

colonial rule in the Islamic areas and made a major policy statement (ARNN, 1901–1911:162–

65). He assured the Muslim rulers that “there will be no interference with your religion nor

with the position of the “Sarikin Musulmi” (Sultan) as head of your religion” (ARNN, 1901–

1911:159). Earlier, in 1901, Lugard had made the same clear promise of non-interference in

religious matters to the Emir of Adamawa: “Government will in no way interfere with the

Mohammedan religion. All men are free to worship God as they please. Mosque and prayer

places will be treated with respect by us.” (ARNN, 1901-1911:164; Graham, 1966:17)

The British colonial rulers, who were aristocrats, were also influenced by the affinity they felt

with Muslim rulers, who were also aristocrats (Heussler, 1968, 1969).The British wanted to

assure the Muslim rul-ers of their friendship and their determination to maintain it. For that

reason, the British could not properly address the dhimmi status and near slavery of the non-
Muslims and Christians in Northern Nigeria.

As a result, the political and religious stance of the British colonial administration, which

was expressed in its policy of religious non-inter-ference, led to the development of policies,

administrative practices and attitudes that supported and protected Muslim rulers and societ-
ies. It also led to policies that prevented any social integration between the Muslim and non-
Muslim groups and any Christian activities. The colonial rulers preferred policies of separate

development similar to Apartheid (separate development of races) of South Africa. British colo-
nial attitudes and policies towards Christian missions and the non-Muslims also reflected their

principle of religious non-interference. Later, the colonial rulers made the Muslim rulers their

junior partners in indigenous administrations. They were to oversee the Africans on behalf of the


  1. Colonial Policies towards the Non-Muslim Subjects

British colonisation of Northern Nigeria redefined its ethnicity, religion, history and political geography.

In some Middle Belt areas, the British subordination of the non-Muslims to Muslim Hausa-Fulani

rulers, which led to the non-Muslims in such places to lose their rights to ancestral land and self-rule.

The Caliphate had used the Hausa and Fulani colonies in the Middle Belt as frontier states from which

to carry out the jihad and slave raids and slave trade. The British turned these pockets of colonies in

the Middle Belt into emirates and then subordinated some of the non-Muslims to Hausa-Fulani rule.

This led to some ethnic groups to lose their chiefdom and chieftaincy and ancestral land. Some had to

share their ancestral with their Muslim Hausa-Fulani rulers. In effect, under the British, the political

geography and ethnography of Northern Nigeria gave the Muslim Hausa-Fulani territorial rights to settle

and live anywhere in the North. But the non-Muslims were not given the same privileges and rights

as the non-Muslims and Christians were kept out of the emirates and urban centres of the Hausaland.

The British enacted the 440-yards rule and the Sabon Gari (strangers’ quarters) System, which kept the

non-Muslims out of the Muslim cities. The British practiced quasi-Apartheid within the emirates. In

effect, the emirate system was an extension of Dar al-Islam of the Caliphate. This policy of separate

development and the protection of the Muslim lands from any outside interference, especially, the non-
Muslims, missionaries and Southerners, shielded the Muslim lands and ethnography from undue outside

influences. The British institutionalized different policies of citizenship, settlers, strangers and land use

towards the Muslim and the non-Muslim groups. Most of the Memoranda are calling for the redress of

this colonial policy of divide and rule, segregation and uneven development of people groups.

Contemporary Christian-Muslim relations in Northern Nigeria are rooted in the bitter enmity and latent

hostility which existed between the Muslim and the non-Muslim groups because of the past demeaning

and dehumanizing effects of colonialism and slavery and in some cases the dhimmi status.

From 1900 to 1960 the British administration kept this historic ethnic and political latent hostility in

check. Then soon after independence both the Muslim and the non-Muslim groups revived the historic

latent hostility which often erupted into serious ethno-religious crises and conflicts. This phenomenon

peaked as from the early 1980s up to the present. The legacies of the Sokoto Caliphate and the British

colonialism have put the non-Muslims in Northern Nigeria at a disadvantage socially, politically,

economically and religiously. Both the abolition of slavery and political independence have done little

to change the socio-political role and status of non-Muslim peoples within the predominantly Islamic

societies in Northern Nigeria.. During the Caliphate, Islam had defined the status and role of the non-
Muslims. Then the British incorporated the Islamic colonialism and structures into the colonial social

order of Northern Nigeria with the legacy of discrimination based upon ethnicity, religion and culture.

These historical structures of inequality, discrimination have still not been substantially corrected or

transformed to meet the socio-political needs of a new multi-religious, multi-ethnic nation and multi-
cultural Nigeria.

The evils of slavery and ethnic inequality are embedded in memories, social norms and human

psychology and behaviour. Institutional forms of slavery might have been abolished, but the mentality

and attitude of slavery lingers on. Past acts of dehumanisation and the inferior socio-political role and

status of the non-Muslim groups are living social factors that continue to generate feelings of hatred and

animosity in one ethnic or religious group towards the other. The dehumanising experience of slavery

has not yet been erased from the memories of those who suffered it. Many of the Memoranda attest to

the fact of the existence of latent hostility between the peoples of Northern and Southern Kaduna. Our

task is to own-up and deal decisively with these historical and destructive latent forces. Even a minor

incidence could trigger a mighty catastrophe that can bring about heavy loss of lives and property.

It is because the peoples of Kaduna State across the divide have not really own-up and look at each

other squarely in the face and thrush out their destructive attitudes, behaviours and practices. The acts

of violence resulting from crises and conflicts and the Memoranda as evidence of such address and

document only the symptoms. The real issues are subsumed in the human sub-conscious mind. They

may never be expressed in words, but in deep destructive emotions. The caliphate and colonial physical,

psychological and petrifying wounds are still with us and we are drenched in their stench by our

incessant ethno-religious riots and violence. When we refused to be frank and blunt in facing ourselves,

we only end up in hypocrisy, self-deception and self-delusion.

  1. Ancestral Land and Citizenship as Applied in the Middle Belt

From the Memoranda, there is a pointer of a great loss of ancestral land suffered by some ethnic

groups, either under the colonial period or during the post-colonial regimes. A loss of land often

creates a serious problem of ethnicity, religion, history and political geography. An ancestral land is the

political geography of most traditional ethnic groups. Each ethnic group in Africa has an ancestral land.

Associated with this geography are the political ownership by each ethnic nationality of its ancestral

land and its right to control that land and rule themselves within its stated geographical boundaries

through their traditional chiefs and chiefdom. Thus the rights to ancestral land are the rights of self-rule

and self-identity. These rights were taken away by the colonial masters from some of the non-Muslim

groups of the Middle Belt. Foreign chiefs were imposed upon them which they saw as a gross violation

of their traditional and ancestral ethnic rights.

Nigerians as citizens defined themselves solely in terms of their ethnicity, history, religious affiliation,

culture or ancestral land. For example, the colonial masters would ask Nigerians: What is your tribe?

What is your Native Authority? What is your region? What is your religion? Where do you come from?

Are you an indigene, a native or a settler? In modern Nigeria, even today, people from one ethnic group

cannot claim rights to the land that is ancestral outside of their own geographic area. Residency and

Nigerian citizenship do not grant land ancestry. The Nigerian Constitution has yet to erase the colonial

understanding, interpretation and application of ethnography and ancestral land of origin. For this

reason, a Yoruba Nigerian cannot claim rights to ancestral land or chieftaincy in any part of Nigeria

outside of his ancestral Yorubaland, whether in Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, Enugu, Owerri, Calabar, Port

Harcourt or Benin. Similarly, an Igbo Nigerian cannot claim a right to ancestral land or chieftaincy in

those areas. In the same vein, a Hausa Nigerian cannot claim rights to ancestral land and chieftaincy

in any part of Ibadan, Ife, Enugu, Owerri, Calabar, Port Harcourt or Benin. So also a Middle Belt

Nigerian cannot claim ancestral land or chieftaincy in the Far North or the West, the East, or the Far

South. For the same reason, no Yoruba, Igbo or Middle Belter can be made a ruler of the Hausa in any

part of Hausaland. No Hausa, Bini or Yoruba can be made a traditional ruler of the Igbo in any part of

Igboland. Furthermore, no Igbo, Hausa, Bini or Middle Belter can be made a ruler of the Yoruba in any

part of Yorubaland. The Hausa and Fulani, however, who cannot claim such ancestral and geographical

rights in Igboland, Yorubaland or Biniland, can do so quite easily in the Middle Belt areas even though

historically they do not have ancestral and geographical rights as it applies to the rest of Nigeria.

Conversely, a Christian or traditionalists from the Middle Belt cannot claim ancestral land rights in any

part of Hausaland.

Why is the case of the Middle Belt different from the rest of Nigeria? The British concept of ethnicity,

land and citizenship was rooted in their own British heritage. One may be a British citizen, but he may

not be a Scott, or Welsh, or Irish or English. Being a Scott, or Welsh or Irish or English is not granted

by British citizenship or residency, but exclusively by ancestry and geography. The British brought the

same thing to the colonial Nigeria, but curved out the Middle Belt as an exception.

Why is the Middle Belt an exception in both land and citizenship matters? It is unique because its

ethnicity, religion, history and ancestral land were interpreted differently by the colonial masters from

those of the rest of Nigerians in the Far North, the East and the West. Earlier, the Caliphate had claimed

some parts of the Middle Belt through the jihads, the wars of expansion and the annexation of lands

and territories. Later, at the arrival of the British, they turned the Hausa-Fulani enclaves and colonies

in the Middle Belt into emirates and districts. The British consolidated these enclaves and colonies

into districts, divisions, emirates and provinces under indigenous administration. The British colonial

structures, the emirate system, indigenous administration and the philosophy of indirect rule gave a

colonial status to the Islamic territories in some parts of the Middle Belt.

Even prior to the Caliphate era, the Hausa traders and the Fulani pastoralists, lived in their own separate

colonies or the zangos as distinct from the indigenes. Islam consolidated this early settler and non-
indigene communities scattered throughout the Middle Belt. The British simply took these early Hausa

and Fulani concept of settler-stranger-indigene concept of community and created the 440 yards rule

and the Sabon Gari System. The concept and practice of non-indigeneship, settlers or strangers was a

colonial consolidation of the early Hausa and Fulani concept of communal separation of un-equal ethnic

or religious groups.

In Hausaland, the passport to indigenization is assimilation or integration. If a non-Hausa wants to

be an indigene, he/she must have to integrate or assimilate. The Kanuri have integrated in Kano and

became Hausawa and the same in Zaria. Identity change by religion or culture facilitates integration

or assimilation. A Yoruba man or Igbo man who refuses to assimilate or integrate in Kano or Katsina

would ever remain a settler or a stranger. Without assimilation or integration, it is very difficult for one

to claim indigeneship in the Far North, West or East. It would be foolhardy for a Yoruba man or a Birom

man, or any other to claim indigeneship in Kano or in any parts of the Far North if such a one refuses to

assimilate into Hausa.

But Nigerians are forcing and advocating for a different case in the Middle Belt. Traditionally, the

Hausa and the Fulani or any other have generally refused to assimilate or integrate in the Middle Belt.

Particularly, the Hausa and the Fulani have ever remained distinct, different and even stand aloof.

It is with this posture that some of them are laying claims of indigeneship in the Middle Belt which

could not be done in the Far North. Here we can see social and ethical disparity which is the source

of crises and conflict between the Hausa and Fulani, on the one hand and the other ethnic groups in

the Middle Belt, on the other. This social and ethical disparity is sometimes given to religious and

political manipulations, but only in the Middle Belt. When the Middle Belters began to have their own

chiefdoms, in some places, the Hausa and the Fulani would refused to be placed under this arrangement

and would demand for their own emirates and emirs. In colonial times, the Hausa and the Fulani had

always been the rulers and this makes it difficult for some of them to submit to such Middle Belt

arrangement. The issues of assimilation and integration are social factors that are roots of many crises

and conflicts in the Middle Belt. The Jos and Kafanchan crises are deeply rooted in ethnography,

geography, religion and culture of the Hausa and Fulani, on the one hand and that of the other ethnic

groups, on the other. The settler-indigene crises and conflicts are also rooted in the issues of assimilation

and integration. What the Hausa and the Fulani want done in Jos or Kafanchan cannot be done in any

part of Hausaland. Ancestry of both ethnicity and land are the primary causes of conflict and crises

generally in the Middle Belt between the indigenes and the Hausa and Fulani. Any political or religious

solution that does address these primordial social factors, it is far from justice and fairness. Imposition of

the will of the powerful or the majority would only inflame crises and conflicts.

British colonialism had defined Nigerians in terms of their ethnicity and land ancestry. Because of

this social fact, they have also Nigerians in terms of indigeneship or settlership. For example, if one is

born a Yoruba, or Ibo, or Hausa, or any other, automatically that one is associated with an ethnic group

and ancestral land. If a Hausa man is born in Port Harcourt, he is defined in terms of being an ethnic

Hausa with his home ancestry in Hausaland. This is what British colonialism has made of all Nigerians.

The argument that a Nigerian if born in a certain place, he is automatically an indigene of that place

does not fit any conceptual and British colonial culture in Nigeria. In fact, the only geographical area

where people make such bogus claims is the Middle Belt. No Nigerian can make such a claim in the Far

North, West, or East. British colonialism had carved out Nigerian ethnic groupings according their land

ancestry and there are ample ethnographic colonial maps that had defined each ethnic or language group

according to their land ancestry. The smaller ethnic or language groupings may stand the chance of

losing even their very little portion of ancestral to the powerful ones. This could be done by mere use of

force of arms, assimilation or enculturation. The other by contrived constitutional means. For example,

if Nigerian citizenship should be defined by residency, then the Middle Belters would be disadvantaged

because of what the British colonialism had done to both their ethnicity and land of ancestry. Every

Nigerian who resides in the Far North, West or East knows that he/she is a stranger by the ancestry of

land and ethnicity. Who would even dare to make such claims? The only claim that is valid for any

Nigerian is that of ancestry of both ethnicity and land and without that, something had gone wrong. It

could be the manipulation of British colonialism of ethnography or geography.

Since the British colonialism had imperially carved out all the ethnic groups based upon their land

of ancestry, Nigeria must on this historical basis protect the smaller ethnic groups from having their

ancestral lands being confiscated by the powerful ethnic groups. This can only be achieved if a land

and ethnic law is promulgated primarily to protect all ethnic groupings of Nigeria. This socio-historical

background is what can be the foundations of Nigerian citizenship. Those desiring to apply wholesale

the American experience of citizenship to Nigeria would invariable disadvantaged only the Middle

Belters. Nigeria can modify its primordial values, but must be done in such a way that in the long run

no one is disadvantaged or schemed out. Nigerian citizenship based upon the American experience or

residency concept cannot be fair and just to all Nigerians. All disputes pertaining to indigeneship or

settlership in the Middle Belt must have to be settled and resolved for the well-being of all ethnic groups

in the Middle Belt. They must be guaranteed of both their ancestral ethnography and geography.

Generally, the non-Muslim groups had a subordinated status in the hierarchical structure of the Northern

Colonial System. Even in their own ancestral lands, they were made second-class citizens with a dhimmi

or slave status. The Muslim Hausa-Fulani rulers who had no ancestry in the Middle Belt were made their

rulers and thus had ancestral land rights in the area. Thus the political geography of the Middle Belt was

redefined to give the Muslim Hausa-Fulani territorial rights for the whole Northern Region. The only

group of Nigerians who have been subjected to a different understanding, interpretation and application

of colonial ethnography and geography are the peoples of the Middle Belt. Even in their own ancestral

lands, the non-Muslims in the Middle Belt were at best, second-class citizens.

With the creation of Kaduna and Abuja as capital cities and territories, confused and conflicting

interpretations and applications of ethnography and geography have arisen which requires a new

definition of Nigerian citizenship, but not based upon the American experience or residency as it has

been pointed out already.

During the colonial era and since independence, the indigenous peoples of the Middle Belt have

campaigned for political independence and resented the continuation of the non-indigenous rule and

claims to their ancestral lands. The British colonial masters defined the Nigerian ethnic groups, not as

individuals, but as people-groups with a distinct ethnicity, history, religion, culture and ancestral land.

Each ethnic group under the colonial masters was given a geographical territory as its ancestral land.

The British were able to monitor and traced individual Nigerians back to their ethnicity and ancestral

land. They had the colonial maps which defined the political geography and ethnography of all ethnic

groups in Northern Nigeria. Because of rapid population growth, urbanization and migrations, there

are some ethnic groups that stand the danger of becoming extinct. The endangered ethnic groups stand

in dare need of protection and preservation from the powerful and numerous ethnic groups that could

easily swallow them up. There is a great need of developing a policy of preserving such ethnic groups

from extinction.

Under both the Caliphate and British colonialism, Muslim–non-Muslim relationships were based upon a

hierarchical classification of human races or civilizations. The legacy of these social hierarchies affects

the way in which the Muslim Hausa-Fulani and the non-Muslims of the Middle Belt relate to each other.

Classical Islam and British racism produced a social order that results in inferior status and role for

the traditionalists, Christians and peoples of other faiths. In some Northern States, the non-Muslims

and Christians still carry the stigma of inferiority of the bye-gone years of slavery or dhimmi status.

They still suffer discrimination on grounds of religion or ethnicity and are sometimes denied the

opportunity of holding key political positions. These discriminatory practices seek to limit the influence

of Christians and other non-Muslims even if they are in the majority or are present in large numbers.

Some powerful Muslim groups still believe in the Caliphate and British hierarchical classification of

people groups and seek to maintain their status as second-class citizens.

Many Memoranda alluded to the fact of dominance, discriminations and lob-sided recruitments into the

civil service. Care has to be taken as many of such are only perceived or assumed.

The Northern social order created by the British for the peoples of the Middle Belt has continued to

haunt them even into the post-colonial era. In summary, the British:

  • Did not utilise the socio-political values and organisations of the non-Muslim groups in the

development of their administration; rather, they looked upon them as an obstacle, “primitive” and of a

“lower grade;

  • Robbed the non-Muslim areas of their political and cultural independence and protection, which the

British claimed as justification for their colonial rule;

  • Consolidated the hegemony of the Muslim Hausa-Fulani rulers over the non-Muslim areas and made

the Muslim emirs junior partners in governing the non-Muslims. As a result the limits of Muslim Fulani

rule before 1900 were inordinately extended, thus justifying Islamic hegemony over the non-Muslim

groups under the administrative supervision of the British political officers. Subjected the non-Muslim

groups to the dominant Islamic culture and rule in the hierarchical structure of Northern Nigeria, thus

giving them an inferior status and socio-political role;

  • Modified and institutionalised the slave and dhimmi status of the non-Muslim groups. During the

Caliphate era, this was defined by Islamic dogmas, but in the British colonial era it was

defined by racial theory of the Anglo-Saxon pride. The new British colonial social order made Muslim

Hausa-Fulani rulers the junior rulers of the non-Muslim groups;

  • Institutionalised the hostility between the Muslims and the non-Muslims by incorporating them both

into one colonial political system.

The British did what they could according to the prevailing circumstances of the times. As masters of

the day, we can state that what they did has some consequences even in the post-colonial situation. The

burden of correction and drive towards democracy has been left in the hands of Africans. Can they be

able to correct the weaknesses of both the Caliphate and the British colonial systems?

For example, the British colonial structure superimposed the emirate model of administration over

the non-Muslim groups. The non-Muslim groups had two colonial structures placed upon them: that

of the British and that of the older Caliphate. At independence, the British superstructure ceased to

exist, but the Caliphate model continued, and it dominated the post-independence politics. Some of the

Memoranda reflect that even after independence, some of the non-Muslim groups continued to have

Muslim rulers imposed upon them against their wishes. They listed some forms of discrimination in

the economic sphere, in the choice of the locations of industries, schools and other institutions and in

the sharing of national revenue, rewards and statuses. By and large, the current attitudes of both the

Muslims and the non-Muslims towards each other in political and social matters were greatly influenced

by both the legacies of Islam and British colonialism. The Caliphate and British policies, attitudes

and administrative practices towards the Muslim and the non-Muslim groups built into them a latent


The non-Muslim or Middle Belt issues of subordination, maltreatment and discrimination are very

sensitive matters politically and religiously. Both the Caliphate and the British only used people, land

and religion to accomplish their empire goals and long since gone. The non-Muslims and the Middle

Belt peoples must have to come to terms with themselves and eschew bitterness, resentment and

hostility against the descendents of the empire builders. They must face their psychological and spiritual

matters squarely and deal with them in terms of forgiveness, reconciliation and even renunciation of

some issues.

Similarly, children do carry the guilt and the burdens of their fathers as committed against others.

The guilt and the stigma which some of us are still carrying on account of the Caliphate, British

and missionary legacies, must have to be dealt with by the present generations through forgiveness,

reconciliation and renunciation. It becomes sad and unfortunate if the present generation would continue

in the sins of their fathers.

Because there is a huge presence of guilt, shame and stigma with all of us whenever we have an ethno-
religious crisis, we need to bring to the table these burdens that our fathers have been carrying, which

have also been passed down to us. As a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural people, we need

a common ground approach and solution to our historical problems.

There is an emerging new social factor that will be a serious thorn in the flesh, that is, the modern

question of the pastoralists Fulani. Post-colonial regimes have not adequately addressed this belligerent

social factor which British colonialism did not address.

Where do we place and also how do we define the pastoralist Fulani?

  1. The Pastoralist Fulani

There are many Memoranda on the case of the pastoralist Fulani. Prior to the Jihads and the British

colonial rule, there were very important highways linking Hausaland and the Middle Belt. The

pastoralist Fulani had a mutual understanding between them and their host communities in the Middle

Belt on the use of those highways for the cattle. Secondly, there was also a mutual understanding as

regards annual seasonal migrations. The pastoralists would spend the dry season in the Middle Belt areas

and the rainy season in Hausaland. The cattle routes over the years have become well established and

respected. This cattle-economic practice brought mutual benefits to both communities. Economically,

the pastoralists need the host communities in both areas and both host communities need the pastoralists.

The pastoralists did not own land but by mutual agreement with their host communities, land was

always given to them for their cattle use. But in recent times, due to desertification, migrations and

increase in population and urbanization, land is becoming a scarce commodity. In both the host

pastoralist communities in Hausaland and the Middle Belt, the pastoralists are finding the use of land

for their cattle very difficult. The practice of seasonal migration is increasingly becoming very difficult.

Both in Hausaland and in the Middle Belt areas, these host communities are beginning to deny the

pastoralists the use of land. The seasonal pastoralists who used to return to Hausaland in the raining

season are finding it difficult to do so due to shortage of rain, desertification and the refusal of the

unwillingness of the Hausa host community to have them back. The pastoralists are now being forced

to stay permanently in the Middle Belt areas which now cause social and ecological problems. Some

pastoralists are engaged in warfare with their host communities as means of enforcing their permanent

stay in the Middle Belt areas.

On account of these difficulties both the Federal Government and some State Governments have created

pockets of Grazing Reserves for the pastoralists. But these interventions are nowhere meeting the

needs of the pastoralists and the host communities. There have been too frequent clashes between the

pastoralists and their host communities throughout Northern Nigeria.

The pastoralist problem is increasingly becoming bigger than the entire Northern States as the

pastoralists of the entire Sahel Region of West and Central Africa are moving en-mass into the Middle

Belt areas. In order to solve this big problem, there is a great need of negotiation with each potential host

community for the permanent settlement of the pastoralists as season migrations and the maintenance

of cattle routs are increasingly becoming difficult. The economic value of the cattle and the well-
being of the pastoralists and their host communities are matters of great concern. Terms and conditions

of settling the pastoralists have to be drawn by mutual agreements between the pastoralists and the

host communities. Grazing Reserves and cattle routes are to be created and supervised by all the

stakeholders, the Government, the pastoralists and the host communities.

As regards land matters, it is not only the pastoralist’s needs that need to be met, but others as well

in view of migrations and urbanization. Terms and conditions of the use of land have to be mutually

negotiated with the host communities who still lay claims of ancestry. Where two or more ethnic groups

are laying claims of a particular piece of land, a proper use of the science of ethnography and political

geography is required through diplomacy and negotiations. There are some very sensitive Memoranda

on the claims of ownership of some disputed ancestral lands.

The American constitutional provisions for citizenship as a solution for indigenes-settler problems can

only be applied in the Middle Belt areas as it has been pointed out already. The indigene-settler palaver

is strictly a Middle Belt social phenomenon. We have already explained what the British colonialists

did that created this unique problem for the Middle Belt. We are yet to see the same land and citizenship

claims by Nigerians in the Far North, West and East as they do of the Middle Belt. The East, the West

and the Far North are protected by ethnography, geography, religion and culture. Only the Middle Belt

is the exception where these primordial social factors do not receive the protection of the Nigerian State

and the majority ethnic groups. It is not only the pastoralists who are eying the Middle Belt, but other

majority ethnic groups in Nigeria that need space for expansion. Thus, the Middle Belt areas need a

national policy to protect it from the encroachment of the powerful and numerous groups. Hausanization

and migrations are likely to threaten the traditional ethnography, geography, religion and culture of the

Middle Belt areas.

The rising phenomena of the pastoralists fighting with the indigenes of the Middle Belt are rooted in the

fact that the traditional migrations between the Far North and the Middle Belt has almost come to an

end. The pastoralists cannot go back to the Far North as they use to do traditionally due to the reasons

that have been stated above. These pastoralists have taken to physical fights with the indigenes. The

reason for the frequents fights is to secure land. They have nowhere to go. They find it difficult to go

back to the Far North due to reasons stated already. But fighting the indigenes or claiming indigeneship

is not the solution. Declaring a war with the indigenes would only make matters worse. Most of the

indigenes in the Middle Belt still hold on to the African traditional definition of land, no matter what.

Even though the pastoralists are a minority in the Middle Belt, they count on the protection of the

might of the State and their own majority ethnic group. Somehow, external forces would help them to

achieve their quest for having a pie of the ancestral lands of the Middle Belters as their own land. This

belligerent attitude of the pastroralists must be addressed and dealt with in a peaceful manner.

It is now becoming more clearer as to how to address the crises and conflicts in the Northern States of

Nigeria to some large extent. The socio-historical roots are very important in our understanding of the

crises and conflicts.

How does the colonial social order look like?

  1. Summary: The Colonial Social Order

This summary will be of great help if we are willing to find concrete solutions to our social and

structural problems as a nation and as a people. It gives us a guideline of identifying the root causes, if

such problems are still with us which need to be corrected.

What social order did the British Colonial Administration built especially in Northern Nigeria? The

success or the failure of the Nigerian social order depends very much upon what social structures and

social values uphold it and also guide the spirit of its social dynamics and social transformations and its

political system, social and religious relations among and between the various people groups.

In contemporary Nigeria, the presence of the structures of inequality, insecurity and incompatibility and

a variety of conflicting values, make it even more difficult for a development of a national consensus on

the norms and values of national politics, ethics and integration.

The issues raised by the Memoranda can be classified into the following emergent social structures and

values of the British colonial social order in colonial Nigeria.

  1. That the colonial social order was characterised by:

(1) The establishment of districts, provinces, and regions based upon racial or tribal inequality and the

pattern of dominance-subordination relationships between ethnic groups and regions;

(2) Differential or preferential treatment of ethnic groups and regions;

(3) Stratified inequality in political, social and economic spheres;

4) The creation of new ethnic hierarchies and tribal social units;

  1. That the long-term consequences of the colonial socio-political policies and values were:

(1) the institutionalisation of the socio-political conflicts between ethnic groups and regions;

the uneven social, political, economic, and educational development between ethnic groups and regions;

(2) the development of social and historical advantages or disadvantages of ethnic groups and/or regions

in the colonial and post-colonial systems;

(3) the continuity of the unjust colonial structures and values in the post-colonial Nigeria;

(4) the setting up of unbalanced political system at the center for the regions and within regions and the

introduction of the politics of population and domination.

3 That social and political policies and administrative practices and attitude of the Colonial

Administration towards ethnic groups were based upon:

(1) Social, cultural and religious differences of the ethnic groups;

(2) the concept of racial/ethnic inequality of the tribal and religious groups;

(3) colonial justification of racial, cultural and religious differences of the ethnic groups in implementing

such policies.

These were the socio-political values that upheld the colonial social order. It is important to note that

the Colonial Administration established the Nigerian social order upon the principles of social injustice

(imperialism), racial or tribal inequality and the differential and preferential treatment of ethnic groups

or regions or religions. It was because of this reason, among many, that the colonial experiment was

doom to fail because it was founded upon socio-political values that in future would generate negative

social principles and values. The continuity of these colonial negative social principles and values and

unjust political and economic structures in post-colonial Nigeria that have compounded our problems.

The British colonial masters righted their obnoxious imperialism, paternalism and colonialism by

granting political independence to Nigeria in 1960. But unfortunately, Nigerians themselves have held

on tenaciously to those structures and values of internal colonialism. Cultural and ethnic independence

are yet to be granted to some Nigerian people and religious groups. Hence the cries of many Memoranda

for a political redress.

The Colonial Administration used ethnicity/tribalism, land, culture and religion to establish the colonial

social and moral order. Issues arising have become the foundations of social, structural, religious and

communal crises and conflicts in both colonial and post-colonial Nigeria.

We have moved by a time-line from the legacy of Traditional Africa to Islam, British colonialism and

now the legacy of Christian Missions.

  1. The Legacy of Christian Missions

In reference to my book, Theory and Practice of Christian Missions in Africa: The History and Legacy

of SIM/ECWA in Nigeria, 1893-1993 (1999), I discussed at length the activities of Christian Missions in

Northern Nigeria. Christian Missions did their missionary work within this complex context: traditional

Africa; Muslim society; and British colonialism. In this paper, I need to bring out some salient issues

worthy of note.

The work of Christian Missions in the Southern Nigeria is completely left out of this analysis

in view of our subject. The case study of the work of Christian Missions in Northern Nigeria

brings out by far more socio-political issues that are endemic to crises and conflicts in Nigeria.

The ethno-religious riots and Boko Haram are the characteristics of a northern society and less of

Southern Nigeria.

British colonialists and Christian missionaries advanced into the Niger territories almost

simultaneously during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The colonialists were

in Northern Nigeria to end the slave trade, estab-lish legitimate trade and “civilise” Africans.

While Christian missions were also in Northern Nigeria to stop the spread of Islam in Africa, to

win Africans for Christ, and to fulfill the “Burden of the Sudan.” Their differing mis-sions led to

serious conflicts in Hausaland. Those conflicts, and the colo-nialists’ promise of non-interference

with Islam, resulted in discrimina-tion against Christian missionaries and people who became


In Northern Nigeria, Christianity was established by faith mis-sions that opposed British

colonial policies. They were not a tool of the colonialists; indeed, the British colonialists saw

Christianity as a threat to their “mandate” for tropical Africa. In the Middle Belt, the work of

Christian missionaries brought a measure of freedom to the people. The non-Muslims under

British-Muslim rule were subjected to forced labour and servitude, and Christianity was seen

as liberating agent. In some places in the Middle Belt, Christian converts rejected the servitude

and the inferior status imposed upon them, in some cases refusing to submit to forced labour

or to pay taxes. The allegiance of the people shifted from the British-Muslim rulers to the new

missionary-convert teachers and evangelists. Christians in Northern Nigeria saw Christian

missions and Christianity as libera-tors from the colonialism of the Sokoto Caliphate, the

Sultanate of Kanem-Bornu and the British Administration.

  1. Christian Missions and the Colonial Administration

Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) was among the first pioneering Christian missions in Northern

Nigeria and in later years it became one of the largest, covering a wider geographical territory

than any other single Mission in Northern Nigeria. There were many other Christian Missions

which operated in Northern Nigeria, such as, Church Missionary Society (CMS), Sudan United

Mission (SUM), Church of the Brethren Mission (CBM), United Missionaiy Society (UMS),

Roman Catholic Church (RCM), Dutch Reformed Church Mission (DRCM), Lutheran Mission

and other small ones.

The Middle Belt of Nigeria was abandoned to Christian missions by colonial religious and social

policy. The bulk of educational, medical, literature and social development activities in the

Middle Belt was borne by Christian missions. The colonial masters did very little in terms of

modern development in the area. Without Christian missions, the Middle Belt would have been

abandoned to ravaging domineering and enslaving socio-political and religious forces of the day.

Christian missions have done by far more to the development of the area than the colonial

masters and the Hausa-Fulani rulers. Some peoples of the Middle Belt were enslaved, plundered,

subjugated, dehumanized and denied their basic human rights under both the Caliphate and

British colonial rule. Christian missions came as their liberators.

The conflict between the colonialists and the missionaries were quite revealing in the annual

reports of the British residents in the Provinces. They registered their displeasure with the

activities of Christian missions. They saw Christianity as subversive and dangerous to British-
Muslim rule in the North. The attitudes of the British and the Muslims towards Christians and

Christianity were institutionalised in government policy, which in most cases worked against the

inter-ests of Christians in the North.

Some major colonial policies towards the Christian Missions can be listed as: Christian Missions

banned from the Muslim emirates until the early 1930s; colonial regulatory policy on missionary

activities in the North; colonial views on education, social change and Christianity.

Between the 1910s and the late 1950s, the British Colonial Adminis-tration promulgated several

regulatory policies to control the activities of Christian missions, ostensibly in defense of the

principle of religious non-interference. These policies found their full expression in 1955 in the

Missionary Permit, which compelled individuals to apply to the Government of Northern Nigeria

for a license to operate as a mission-ary. It is important to note the conditions under which

missionaries could operate were only for Christian missionaries and nothing for the Muslim


  1. In towns or villages or quarters of towns or villages which are Mohammedan or

predominantly Mohammedan, not to preach at all in the vicinity of mosques, or in the

markets, or other places to which the public particularly resort, and not to preach in

or near other public places except in so far as the Native Authority may through the

Resident give his Consent thereto.

  1. Not to carry out house-to-house visiting among Mohammedan residents for purposes

of missionary propaganda except in compounds at which a previous indication has

been given that such house-to-house visiting would be welcomed generally by the

people of the compound.

  1. Not to distribute or attempt to distribute Christian literature to Mohammedans unless

there has been a spontaneous request from an adult individual.

  1. To conduct yourself and to encourage all members and followers of your mission to

behave in such a way as will not offend the religious beliefs and observances of any

section of the community, whether Moslem or non-Moslem.

  1. To refrain from and discourage any action which might be detrimental to the approved

system of administration or lead to inter-tribal discord. (SIM Archives, Missionary

Permit, April 1955).

These and many more conditions inhibited any real understanding between the missionaries and

the colonial administration, because both had much at stake. After Lugard’s departure in 1906,

his successors intensified the controversy. These post-Lugardians, such as Giruard, Temple and

Palmer, had been powerful residents of the Muslim emirates. Their conception of indirect rule

led them strongly believe that indigenous administration, particularly in the Muslim areas, should

be protected from the subversive influence of Western civilisation. They viewed the Christian

missionary as disruptive, and this perception intensified their fears and suspicions. In their

attempts to control Christian missionaries, the colonial administration sent out memoranda and

government circulars to all residents and district officers in Northern Nigeria on how to check

their activities. Colonial regulations were imposed on itinerancy, evangelism, visitation, preach-
ing, church planting, mission stations, religious instruction and schools, and relations with

Africans. The negative impact of these regulations on the status of African Christian converts

and of Christianity itself endured into post-colonial Nigeria. When Christian missions faced

the problems imposed by the reg-ulatory policies, they often reacted by making charges against

the colonial administration. These charges reveal the status of African Christian converts and

Christianity relative to that of Muslims and Islam. Some of

these charges were:

  1. That the Colonial Administration prohibited missionary work in the Muslim areas

contrary to the British common law of religious freedom and toleration.

  1. That the Administration aided the advancement of Islam into the non-Muslim areas

and that Muslim missionaries and traders were allowed to propagate their Muslim faith


  1. That British colonisation of Northern Nigeria gave impetus to the rapid spread of Islam

beyond the confines of the Muslim areas.

  1. That the quarter-mile rule and the Township Ordinance were means of keeping

missionaries out of urban centres and that this hindered relationships between the

missionaries and their converts.

  1. That the Administration had prevented the missions from preaching publicly and that it

was often very difficult to obtain permission to plant churches and build new mission

stations and schools.

  1. That the Administration favoured Muslims over African Christian converts and that

sometimes Christian converts were persecuted by the colonial officers.

  1. That the Administration was anti-Christian and pro-Muslim
  2. That Lugard was friendly with the missionaries and that he never opposed missionary

work but rather encouraged it.

  1. That the post-Lugardians did not understand Lugard’s policies; instead they

promulgated anti-Christian policies.

  1. That the Muslim Emirs were friendly to the Christian missions and would have allowed

missionaries in their territories but for the opposition of British colonial officers (Turaki,

1999a: 215-216).

  1. Christianity and Colonial Views

The education policies of the colonial administration were based upon European racial theory

and were hostile to the spreading of Western civilisation and Christianity. Christian missions

were viewed as a threat because they brought powerful agents of social change into the Middle

Belt: a new faith and Western education. The British and Muslim rulers did not want people to

convert to Christianity or have access to Western education because such religious and social

changes gave a measure of rights and autonomy to some Christian converts who had been treated

no better than slaves. The colonial political officers preferred the status quo that pagans should

remain pagans and retain their dhimmi or slave status so that they could be controlled effectively.

The emirate model imposed upon the non-Muslim groups was threatened by Christianity.

To control the impact of Christianity in Northern Nigeria, the ear-ly British administrators

promulgated ordinances to control educa-tion and prevent “unsatisfactory” mission education

from spreading through the North. In an attempt to control the rate of social change, especially

in Muslim areas, it based education on a policy of separate development of the Muslim and the

non-Muslim groups, a kind of rudimentary apartheid. The colonial administration also regulated

mis-sionary education because it did not like the influence that this had had in Southern Nigeria.

Some administrators wanted to preserve African culture and claimed that Christianity was a

destabilizing force.

In 1906 Lugard said, “Racial distinction should be accepted as the true basis of African

education” (Lugard, 1923:431, 1933a:11, 1970:131). Furthermore, he objected to the teaching of

the missionar-ies on equality:

I am informed that they preach the equality of Europeans and natives, which, however

true from a doctrinal point of view, is apt to be misapplied by people in a low stage of

development, and interpreted as an abolition of class distinction. (ARNN, 1901–1911:470)

The views of other colonial officers on education and their strong aversion to African Christian

converts also affected the converts’ sta-tus.

The colonial administrators found support for their fear of disrupt-ing African societies through

Western education from prominent writ-ers and anthropologists. The views of those who wanted

to preserve African culture echoed the ideas of Mary Kingsley, a British writer and explorer, of

E.D. Morel, a British journalist, and of Lugard himself.

Mary Kingsley believed in the preservation of African culture against the “evil” and the

“destructive” forces of Western civilisation (Kingsley, 1964). Morel was a strong advocate of the

preservation of African cul-ture and believed that Africans must be educated in a manner specif-
ic to them. He was opposed to “Anglicisation” and “Christianisation” (Morel, 1968) and feared

that Western education might lead to “dena-tionalisation” or “detribalisation”. (Morel, 1967)

Particularly interesting were Morel’s views on Islam and Christianity. In Affairs of West Africa,

which was first published in 1902, he said,

Islam to the Negro is the stepping stone to a higher conception of existence, inspiring in his

breast confidence in his own destiny, imbibing his spirit with a robust faith in himself and in

his race. Christianity does not do this for the Negro. The effects, indeed, it quite discourages.

Instead of inculcating a greater self-reliance, it seems to lessen that which exists. The

Christian Negro for the most part is a sort of hybrid. He is neither one thing nor the other.

(Morel, 1968:230)

In Affairs of West Africa, Morel also says, “Islam, despite its shortcom-ings, does not, from

the Nigerian point of view, demand race suicide of the Nigerian as an accompaniment of

conversion” (Morel, 1968:230). He believed that under Islam “the whole bearing of the man

suggests a consciousness of citizenship, a pride of race which seems to say: ‘We are different,

thou and I but we are men’” (Morel, 1968:230). Morel’s views provided a rationale for negative

colonial attitudes towards Christian missions, and especially towards African converts to

Christianity and the influence of Western education, and for the promotion of conser-vative

education policies.

The British colonial administration employed anthropologists to gather ethnographic materials

as the basis for formulating government policies on various ethnic groups. Most of these

government anthro-pologists shared the views of Kingsley, Morel and Lugard on culture,

religion, education and social change.

Morel’s and Lugard’s views on education and social change can be summarised as follows:

  1. The rejection of missionary education in favour of the Government’s
  2. The alienation of the missionary influence within the Emirates.
  3. The development of an educational system based upon separate development of ethnic

groups and racial inequality.

  1. Emphasis upon moral education based upon religious principles and cultural lines.
  2. Emphasis upon the preservation of traditional values as opposed to denationalisation or

detribalisation or Anglicisation or Christianisation.

  1. The influential Morelian views of the superiority of Islam over African Christianity.
  2. The development of anti-Westernisation and anti-Christianity policies among the post-
  3. institutions which are threatened by Western civilisation and Christianity (Turaki,


The group of people most adversely affected by colonial policies on education and social change

were the Christian missionaries and the Africans who converted to Christianity. The latter were

subjected to all kinds of ridicule and persecution by the British colonial rulers. These and similar

policies that seek to control Christianity have continued in some of the Northern States to the

present. Some were re-enacted soon after the take-over of mission schools in 1972/73. Some of

the Northern States do not Christian Religious Knowledge in Public Schools, establishing of new

churches, Christian burial grounds and other restrictions. These policies and attitudes towards

Christians in some Northern States only add up crises and conflicts.

  1. Christian Coverts and Colonial Treatment

Many British colonial officers were opposed o Africans being convert-ed to Christianity. They

called the converts insulting names such as “mission boys”, “black white men”, “half baked”,

“rebels”, “hot heads”, “detribalised”, “denationalised”, “anglicised”, and “Christianised”. The

colonial rulers hated the African converts because they saw them as a threat to African customs

and traditions and to the authority of the colonial government, the emirs and the traditional

chiefs. The colonial office in Kaduna was flooded with Provincial Reports by the residents on

missionary activities and the havoc supposedly being caused by the so-called “mission boys”.

In many areas of the Middle Belt the British refused to allow Christian missions to establish

mission stations or schools for fear of conversions and the effects of education. Some British

colonial rulers incited the local people to reject Christian missionaries who came into their areas.

Some advised the Muslim rulers not to allow Christian missionaries into their emirates. Some

British colonial officers destroyed Christian places of worship and denied permits to Christian

missionaries. All these steps were meant to restrict the spread of Christianity, which was seen as

a threat to British-Muslim rule in the North.

In the early 1930s the British colonial administration lifted the embargo on the activities of

Christian missions in the Muslim areas

This missionary background helps us to understand the basis for British colo-nial policies,

administrative practices and attitudes towards both Muslim and non-Muslim communities and

towards Islam and Christianity. The British colonial officers discriminated against Christian

missions and African converts in many ways. They frowned on Christianity as a religion,

viewing it as a destabilising influence within the region. For this and other reasons, they made

second-class citizens of non-Muslims and institutionalised the dhimmi and slave status imposed

upon them

Some of the crises and conflicts between Muslims and Christians in the Northern Nigeria are

rooted in the British colonial policies and the suspicion over the activities of Christian missions

and their converts. Nigerians cannot continue in this kind of religious policies and suspicions.

Freedom, respect and protection of religion should be made a primary national value that

Nigeria must attain and preserve. Nigerians should be able to put behind them the obnoxious

policies of the past eras of the Caliphate, British colonialism and Christian missionaries. The

misgivings that religious bodies have about these historical legacies whether good or bad, should

be discussed and discarded. Traditional, Muslim and Christian bodies should address amicably

all sensitive issues and negative values that religions generate.

In the private, religious bodies or ethnic groups or regional groupings tend of imposing their

values and institutions upon others. In consequence, this attitude only leads to crises and

conflicts. The collective will of all Nigerian people groups is necessary for creating a conducive,

harmonious and peaceful Nigeria. From the contemporary social prognosis, there is a possible

threat of the clash of violence of people and religious groups, the extinction of some ethnic

groups and languages, and the possible drift of massive population into the Middle Belt areas of

Nigeria. Can we follow reason and save ourselves from self-destruction through incessant riots,

violence, crises and conflicts.

  1. Christian Missions and Ethnicity

Ethne or a people-group occupies a very important place in Christianity. Christianity reaches out

not only to individuals, but also to people-groups. An ethnic group as an entity receives is the

primary goal of missions. Many missionaries came to Africa because they received God’s call

for a particular ethnic group or region. The early pioneers were often referred to as a missionary

for Tangaleland, or Gbagyiland, or Jabaland, or Hausaland. A missionary prepared himself/

herself for ministry among the people of a particular ethnic group. A missionary had to learn the

language and to be able to reduce that language into writing.

Many languages in the Middle Belt areas have been reduced to writing, especially through

Bible translations. This missionary activity has done far more to preserve African languages,

African identity and ethnicity than any other means. Christian missions contributed immensely in

consolidating Hausa as the lingua franca of Northern Nigeria. Christianity was the major factor

and means of spreading and consolidating Hausa as a lingua franca.

The type of Christianity that was brought to the Middle Belt affirms the ethnicity and the

languages and the localities of the peoples of the Middle Belt. It was from the missionaries that

the peoples learn of human rights, dignity and freedom. Some of the early protests movements

against the colonial rule were motivated by some Christian values and the work of Christian


Christianity helped the peoples of the Middle Belt to retain both their ethnicity and languages.

The major difficulty which the colonial masters faced with the peoples of the Middle Belt was

their quest for freedom, rights and equality of human beings. Some of the crises and conflicts in

the Northern States are as a result of some of the peoples’ refusal to capitulate to domination and

oppression. When people are enlightened, it is very difficult to subjugate them.

One of the most difficult forms of socialization is to ask masters and servants to become friends.

Political, social and religious socialization will be a difficult task to undertake.

From the legacy of British colonialism and that of Christian Missions, we now come to the

legacy of the post-colonial period of the nationalists, parliamentarians and politicians after

independence in 1960.

  1. The Parliamentarians

The parliamentary system at independence (1960) was a continuation of the colonial system. The

parliamentarians, in other words, “tribal politicians” or “tribal nationalists” were groomed to take-
over or stepped into the shoes of the colonial masters and not necessarily to restructure the

colonial system in terms of human values, principles of justice, peace, equality and freedom.

They imbibed and sanctioned colonial values and practices and did use the inherited colonial

system and the inherited primordial values and institutions to boost, strengthen and entrenched

their tribal or regional dominance in regional and national politics. Since the colonial system was

founded upon an unjust social order and an imbalanced political structure, and unjust moral

values of tribal or religious superiority, the parliamentary system which inherited this unjust

colonial social order could not stand the test of time and collapsed in January 1966 as the

Military forcefully stepped in.

Why did the “inherited” parliamentary system and with its inherited primordial and colonial

values fail? It was bedeviled by many negative social values and practices, such as:

  1. It was founded upon the colonial unjust social order and the imbalanced political structures;
  2. Ethno-regional politics, which was characterised by domination, fears, rivalry, aggressiveness,

manipulation, corruption, greed, etc.;

  1. Unacceptable revenue allocation formulas and the distribution of resources and their

politicization, which led to uneven or unfair distribution of resources;

  1. There was the denial of democratic process of government in terms of equal representation

and participation in government;

5.The blatant misuse of State resources and power, and corruption, nepotism and tribalism.

These negative social values and practices, which were incorporated and entrenched in the

colonial social order, were later to become the motivating political factors and values for the

parliamentarians. These parliamentarians failed at any substantial restructuring of the unjust

colonial social order and negative values because they were controlled and dominated by their

sub-national and parochial values, which stood against national unity and integration and

universal human values of rights, equality and freedom.

Unfortunately, Nigerians themselves have held on tenaciously to structures and values of

inequality and injustice. Full independence is yet to be granted to some Nigerian people groups

as some of the Memoranda assert. The British have somewhat corrected their imperialistic,

paternalistic and colonial attitude and mentality by granting independence to Nigeria, but

regrettably, some powerful groups in Nigeria have held on to their primordial and colonial

values and structures which have held some Nigerians in bondage and servitude. “Internal

colonialism” still persists and has not been corrected in some areas. Governor Jaafaru Isa and

Governor Ahmed Makarfi have sought to correct or extend such by the creation new chiefdoms

and emirates.

By looking back, at independence, the parliamentarians did not correct the unjust colonial

structures, which have become foundations for religious and communal conflict soon after

independence in 1960. The task for politicians and government is that of correcting the injustices

of the past generations.

Next, the military legacy.

  1. Military Regimes: Nation-State Building and National Integration

In world history, the military have been the best instrument of nation-state building. Some of the

most powerful nations in history and even in our modern times have been built by their military.

But the Nigeria’s military might and force could not overcome the suffocating and strangling

power of ethnocentrism and primordialism. Nigeria’s military was seduced and incapacitated.

They handed over Nigeria mutilated, battered and crippled. George Washington, Bolivar,

Napoleon, Lenin, Mussolini, Stalin, Haile Salesse, Mao Tsetung and many others effectively

used the military to build their nations.

The soldiers who took power from the parliamentarians in January 1966 succeeded in correcting,

somewhat the imbalanced political structures through the creation of new states, local

government reforms and new revenue allocation formula. The Military regimes succeeded also

in centralizing the political system at the centre and weakening regionalism. The successes of the

Military regimes are many but their rapid nation-state building and national integration had

created new political, social and economic and religious problems, such as:

  1. Even though the Military regimes created states and local governments to solve the problem of

political imbalance and fears of domination, they have rather created new imbalances and fears

of domination within the states and local government areas. The new majority-minority issues

within states, ethnic and sectional rivalry within states or geo-political regions still abound and

have even become more intensive over the years;

  1. The soldiers, unfortunately, usually allowed themselves to be used, controlled, manipulated by

certain powerful political pressure groups and institutions for their own political or economic

well-being and other sub-national interests, such as religion, ethnicity, class and sectionalism;

  1. The Military philosophy of centralization-decentralization of governmental functions; national

development plan, political reforms and indigenisation policy did not clearly define the


national goals, objectives, ideals and values; purposeful leadership based upon national goals

and objectives and the mobilization of the nation toward achieving such set goals and objectives

in social, economic and political life; development of a sound economic system, educational

system, health system, the judiciary, the police, and the national services system, as means to

raising standards of living and national development; nationhood and citizenship and national


  1. The Military regimes preoccupied themselves with structural and constitutional reforms and

neglected the most important area of our national life, that is, the moral reform of the nation

which was contingent upon the unjust colonial social order. The moral decadence of the life of

the nation sabotaged any social, political and economic reforms of the Military. The reason being

that the negative values of the colonial social order, which remained unchanged and uncorrected,

frustrated any meaningful reforms;

  1. The soldiers saw themselves as national saviors or as modern nation-state builders and for this

reason introduced many socio-political and economic reforms. There was an assumption by the

Military those structures of inequality, insecurity and incompatibility and political and economic

imbalances can be corrected by states creation, local government reforms, economic

development and constitutional and social reforms. To be successful in achieving these goals, the

soldiers saw the necessity of building strong state machinery based upon the principles of

bureaucratic-authoritarianism (of Latin American examples) and statism (of socialist examples).

The State assumed the position of a “Leviathan’” (sea monster) and embarked upon the

centralisation of state power and bureaucracy. State control was made possible through military

might and the accruing oil revenues.

The desire to achieve a good level of political and economic development led the military into

borrowing indiscriminately and the use of development theories and public policy-making which

were borrowed from Western and Islamic social sciences. The question of relevance of these

developmental theories and models of economic and political development was hardly raised as

has been clarified.

The Presidential System under President Shehu Shagari (1979-1983) was a Military Experiment

which failed woefully because it did not take into account, (1) the cultural background, the

colonial legacy and the primordial values of Nigerians; and (2) the religious, moral and ethical

state of the nation. Nigerians who entered into national politics with their strongly held colonial

values and ethnic, regional and religious values sabotaged the Presidential System. The old

ethno-regional and religious politics of the parliamentarians was somewhat revived and political,

state and national corruption went out of proportions.

Even though the Military developed a very strong Constitution of 1979 with strong emphasis

upon social justice and federal character and also had provisions for good government and

national ethical structure, yet it failed on account of those reasons already stated. Principally, it

failed because: (1) there was no strong political machinery for enforcing the provisions of the

Constitution and the national ethical structure and (2) the operators of the Constitution and the

government manipulated them for their selfish and sub-national interests.

The failure of the Military Experiment was not due to the weakness of the structural,

constitutional and social reforms, but rather the absence of what General Murtala Mohammed

outlined in his speech to the Constitution Drafting Committee which all pointed to the ethical

and moral state of the nation. General Murtala’s address was predicated upon moral and ethical

principles such as social justice, rights, freedom and equality of citizens and human beings.

Here we can see a powerful motive of ethics and morality built into the Constitution. General

Obasanjo’s famous Jaji Address, a few years after General Murtala’s Address was more of a

treatise on moral political philosophy. This address was a call to all Nigerians to take up the

question of national morality and ethics seriously.

It was only in 1982 that Nigerians in large numbers became aware that the national problem

was more than just being political and economic, but ethical, moral, social and religious. For the

first time, the managers of the Military Experiment came to the public to announce the need for

an “ethical revolution” in the country. The need to address both public and private life, conduct,

morality and social behaviour and practice became so acute in that President Shehu Shagari

launched an Ethical Re-orientation Committee. During this period, national politics and national

life was anything but moral and ethical.

Generals Buhari and Babangida) in 1983 took over power from President Shehu Shagari. They

have observed with great concern that the fundamental objectives and directive principles of

state policy as stated in the constitution seem not to guide national and state policy-making.

The conduct of public officers and of the operators of the private sector has revealed a serious

lack of honesty, hardwork, humility and humaneness. The attainment of self-reliance in

political economy has continued to be a mirage owing to wholesale adoption of foreign values,

institutions and consumption patterns and the continuation of colonial cultural bondage.

Furthermore, national and individual life has not been significantly moderated by the national

ethical structure as contained in the Constitution. This is what General Buhari and his Deputy

General Idiagbon stepped in to correct. As Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Major-General

Tunde Idiagbon at the launching of the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) had this to say about the

moral and ethical crisis facing Nigeria:

“the terrible evils of indiscipline, lack of faith and commitment and corruption have

eaten deep into the nation’s fabric”.

Furthermore, he listed, “other undesirable manifestations like greed, dishonesty, impatience,

discourtesy, vandalism, indecency, brutality, armed robbery, drunkenness, tribalism, ostentation,

selfishness, insensitiveness to filthy surroundings and many other readily identifiable ills of our


General Babangida’s regime sought to address the serious socio-political and socio-economic

questions. He embarked upon the eradication of ignorance and the emancipation and the

liberation of “chained” and “enslaved” citizenry. True freedom, and rights must be grounded

and rooted in economic self-reliance and social justice, hence the society must be reconstructed.

Programmes such as. Mass Mobilisation for Social and Economic Self-Reliance (MAMSER),

Directorate for Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI), National Directorate for

Employment (NDE), Better Life for Rural Women (Better Life) and the Structural Adjustment

Programme (SAP) were set up to restructure and reform society.

General Babangida produced the 1989 Constitution and established a Presidential political

system based upon two political parties.

The military regimes in their impact have succeeded in arousing the negative colonial values

described in the previous sections. The examples are: the Sharia-Secularity debates; religious and

communal riots; ethno-regional politics, consciousness and interests; military-civilian rivalry;

and fears and suspicions over policies and practices as favouring some ethnic groups and some

sections of the country. Examples of such military actions are:

  1. General Buhari and Idiagbon amended the “personal” definition of Sharia in the 1979

Constitution, which aroused counter reactions from the Christians. The contentious issues

of the Sharia debates were reduced to quiet state policy.

  1. In 1986, the General Babangida’s Regime sought to redefine the secularity of the

Nigerian state by enlisting Nigeria as a member of the Organisation of Islamic

Conference (OIC). The Muslim-Christian rivalry was inflamed and heightened. This

incidence also almost ruined the Debates of the Constituent Assembly in 1989 on the

Sharia issue. The Military had to intervene and stopped the Debates on Sharia since it

was capable of destroying the existence of Nigeria. Sharia was declared a “no go” area

and was taken out of the hands of the Constituent Assembly.

  1. In 1992, General Babangida normalized relations with the State of Israel. This was a

unique and unusual move by a Head of State who himself was a Muslim. The reaction of

both Muslims and Christians were muted in view of the religious sensitivity in diplomatic

circles in Saudi, Israel and the Vatican.

  1. General Babangida realising the crucial role of religion, he set up a religious body

(ACRA) to arbitrate between the Government and the religious bodies and also to

moderate the belligerent posture of the Christian and Muslim groups.

  1. General Abacha made Nigeria to join the Islamic Eight and sent representatives to the

OIC. He welcomed the Islamic Bank.

  1. General Abacha created the six zones: Northwest, Northeast, North-Central, South West,

Southeast and South-South.

  1. General Abubakar Abdulsalami produced the controversial 1999 Constitution.

Under the military, religion became a plaything of the powerful. It was no longer the wish

and the desires of the people but the most powerful can scheme and manipulate religion at the

expense of national interest and unity. Compromise and toleration were long dead!

Military Local Government Reforms and State Creation

Military Local Government Reforms of 1976 brought about very serious socio-political changes

in Nigeria. The Native Authority (NA) that was discarded addressed adequately the issues of

(1) indigene-settler-stranger questions and (2) the role of local government in development and


In the NA system, all children born within the NA were considered indigenes and were

entitled to all the benefits that the citizens of the local government enjoyed, like education and

scholarships and civil service. During the NA era, the question of who is an indigene, or settler,

or stranger were never raised and not one was excluded who was known to have been a resident

who qualified. For example, in Lafia NA, the Tiv were indigenes, so also were the Hausa and

Fulani in Jemaaa and in other places. During the military era, states and/or Local Governments

were created as a reward given to the military and political elites of certain ethnic or religious

groups in certain states. Such states or local governments were given to the elites to run the states

or local governments as they deemed fit. The citing of capitals of states or local governments

brought about riots and crises in places like Jigawa State, Delta State, Nasarawa State, Ife City,

Ibadan City and Jos City. The military created states or local governments, or refused to create

certain ones in order to please some people or some ethnic groups. After the creation of some

states, some residents who were indigene in the NA era suddenly became non-indigenes or

settlers. In some local governments creation, the population composition of the various ethnic

groups changed in terms of majority-minority or Muslim-Christian ratio which intensified the

crises and conflicts between ethnic or religious groups. Jos North Local Government is the

best example of this socio-political change during the military era. The same socio-political

phenomenon affected the ethnic and religious compositions of Kaduna metropolis. As a result,

politics, urbanization and migration in some states and local Governments are governed by

religious or ethnic ratios.

The military philosophy of state and local government creation was also based upon political

mathematics in balancing the numbers of states or local government between Northern Nigeria

and Southern Nigeria. This political mathematics took root in the British colonial Nigeria which

used population as means of political balancing or dominance between the North and the South.

Furthermore, most of the states in the North were created by the military based upon the ethnic/

religious, or north-south axis. Usually the northern parts of a state were predominantly Muslim

Hausa, Fulani or Kanuri, while the southern parts have a large minority population of the non-
Muslim, non-Hausa-Fulani-Kanuri. As it turned out, each northern state has a majority Muslim

Hausa, Fulani or Kanuri and a minority non-Muslim, non-Hausa-Fulani or non-Kanuri. This

political arrangement has created serious imbalances in politics, religion, ethnicity and culture.

The majority-minority syndrome whether in ethnicity or religion plagues some northern states,

such as, Kaduna, old Plateau, Kebbi, Yobe, Borno and a few others. The colonial dominance-
subordinate relationships between ethno-religious groups were perpetuated in the military state

or local government creation. The cries of religious, ethnic, political or cultural dominance and

discrimination are found in many states of in Northern Nigeria. Kaduna State is the best case

study of this type of military philosophy of state creation or local government creation.

What are the socio-political issues which have militated against military splitting of Kaduna

State? Who benefits or loses should Kaduna State be split? Some aspects of the contemporary

animosity, fears or suspicions that exist between the North and the South of Kaduna State are

rooted in their primordial social factors of the political mathematics of population ratios between

Muslims and Christians, the emergence of the majority-minority conundrum of religion and

ethnicity, the aroused sentiments of indigenes versus settlers questions and Christian-Muslim

relations. The political, religious or cultural alignments across states or local governments are

increasingly becoming a dominant political feature of Northern Nigeria and Kaduna State in

particular. For example, a majority ethnic or religious group in a state or states can become a

minority in a certain part of a state or states. Similarly, a minority group in a state or states can

become a majority in its own area of dominance, or a majority group in a state or states can

become a minority in the minority area. The complicated ethno-religious crises and conflict in

many parts of the North stem from this rival social composition. The ethno-religious riots in

Kaduna State since 1987 to date has been complicated by this majority-minority conundrum.

Reprisal attacks meted against a minority group residing within a majority are usually motivated

by the ethno-religious composition of the majority-minority social factor.

The military state and local government creations intensified (1) the north-south rivalry within

some states; (2) majority-minority rivalry in many states; (3) Muslin-non-Muslim rivalry in some

states; (4) indigene-settler rivalry; and (5) political control or dominance of either the state or

local government by rival ethnic or religious groups.

Because Kaduna State has not been split, it is plagued by the fears and schemes of (1) the

political games of groups that find themselves as a minority in a given area: (a) the minority

groups in the North which come from Southern Kaduna, (c) the indigenous minority groups

in the North; (c) the minority groups in the South which come from Northern Kaduna, (d)

the indigenous minority groups in the South; and (2) the political games of groups that find

themselves as a majority in a given area: (a) the majority groups in the North, (b) the majority

groups in the South. This type of ethno-religious divide could compound the nature of state

politics, state and local government creation, ethno-religious relations, and the indigene-settler


The impact of the Local Government Reforms of 1976 can also be observed in the philosophy

and role of governance. The reforms were made when petro-dollars were in abundance. The

principles of revenue generation, good governance and development at the grass roots suffered

a setback. The reforms were based upon the principles of massive funding from the Federal

Government. This led local governments and gradually later the states to eventually lose the

principles of self-support and self-governing. Both local governments and the states totally relied

on the Federal Government for almost everything. The Local Government Reforms contributed

immensely in opening up the floodgate of corruption and underdevelopment at the grass-
roots. Gradually the philosophy of government was exchanged for consumption. Gradually,

government lost the concept and principles of good leadership and good governance. The

majority of Memoranda address the economic issues which have been abandoned as a result of

corruption, lack of good leadership and good governance.

The military regimes and their reforms brought Nigeria down to the level of underdevelopment.

Development/transformation takes place at two levels, (1) at the level of humanity, this includes

individuals and people groups, human communities and societies, or nations; and (2) at the level

of creation, and this includes the environment, the land, the sea and the sky. These two levels

are related to each other by means of human spiritual and moral skills, educational skills, and

labour and manual skills. First of all, we need to focus on transforming the individual whose

mind needs a proper and correct orientation, renewal and development. How do we achieve this

in our nation? A Nigerian is a person who has a mind, a culture, a religion and a worldview. He/

she lives in an environment, a community, a society, a nation and in the world. This requires

giving him/her a functional education and training in the arts of spiritual and moral skills, labour

and manual skills, and educational skills that can lead to the renewal and transformation of his/

her mind, culture, worldview and environment. The primary objective is to help a human being

know how to manage himself/herself as an individual, develop and transform his/her people,

environment, community, society and nation. Effective transformation is training a human being

in the arts of spiritual and moral skills, labour and manual skills, and educational skills so that

he/she can be capable of developing and transforming his/her human potentials for the good

of humanity. It is teaching him/her in regards to how to use these three basic skills to create

a viable and healthy society, environment and nation. This requires that we re-orient, renew,

transform and re-educate an average Nigerian to change his/her mind, life style and ways from

the destructive beliefs, habits, attitudes, behaviours and practices that militate against the well-
being of himself/herself, others, the land, the environment, the community, the society, and the


It is unfortunate that an average Nigerian or a community is not fully trained, prepared and

groomed to master all human skills and potentials that can transform human beings and the

environment. This failure is primarily rooted in the ignorance of humanity and creation. The

problem of poverty, unproductivity and underdevelopment is rooted in a faulty definition and

understanding of both humanity and creation. The environment, community and society are

aspects of creation that can be developed and transformed for the good of all humanity. Man

needs to acquire spiritual and moral skills, educational skills and labour and manual skills that

can help create a healthy humanity, economy and environment.

Most of the Memoranda that harped on economics would ever remain unmet because our

concept of development does not focus on total transformation of a human being and the


What Nigeria did the Military hand-over?

  1. Post Military: The Fourth Republic

By the time Chief Obasanjo took over as the elected President of Nigeria in May 1999, the

Nigerian polity had swung to the extremes of the politics of ethnic nationalism and Islamic

revolution. Sub-nationalism, primordial, ethnic/tribal, cultural and religious values have taken

over the national moral order. The real issue is not democracy, but group identity, be it tribal,

regional or religious. The national psyche has become deadened by the oppressive years of

military rule and that of the moral decadence of corruption and indiscipline. Its ideology is not

democracy, but nihilism. It is more prone to chaos, disorder and instability than to orderliness

and stability. Its watchword is violence rather than peace.

Ethnicity and religion have dominated the political scene since President Obasanjo took over in

  1. This is a revival of parochial and primordial values and sub-nationalism. This is a protest

against national integration. We have signs of irredentism and balkanization. Cultural, ethnic and

religious groups have emerged to sponsor these sub-national sentiments, such as, OPC in the

South West, Bakassi in the South East, MASSOP in the South-South, ACF in the North and

MBF in the Middle Belt and Sharia in the North. These groups are not signs of stability and

unity, but militancy and revolutionary and are out to defend the causes of sub-nationalism as

against national unity.

The current political parties have been weakened by intra-party feuds which are deeply rooted in

sub-national and ethno-regional interests. The signs for political, economic and social instability

and violence are rife.

The Sharia debates and the setting up of Islamic theocratic states in some northern states are

based upon exclusive religious mentality. This has given room for misinterpretation and

application of the Constitution. Religion has given the mandate for doing so even at the expense

of our corporate existence and social contract. The fact that Nigerians have allowed religion to

be the basis of defining our corporate existence and constitutional interpretations, they have in

consequence bowed down to the revolutionary forces of instability, violence and conflict. This is

a reflection of what rules the psyche of a typical Nigerian: lawlessness, violence, arrogance,

corruption, indiscipline, moral decadence, parochialism, ethnocentrism and primordialism. The

present psyche of Nigeria needs exorcism, revival, transformation and change.

Given the nature and the high profile of religion and the frequent religious crises in the country,

President Obasanjo set up a religious body (NIREC) as a means of getting both the Muslim and

Christian leaders to meet from time to time to deliberate on religious and national matters.

Besides, the Government has consulted with various religious and communal groups in search

for peace and solutions to communal and religious clashes, violence and conflicts.

Two dreadful social factors that have arisen within contemporary Nigeria are ethnic nationalism

and religious militancy. They are the rule of the day. How did Nigeria arrive at these during its

nation-state building? The rise of ethno-regional politics and religious riots and conflict are signs

of the crisis of nationhood.

The combined work of the soldiers and politicians has brought Nigeria to the brink of

collapse and ruin. Opportunities of building a strong virile Nigeria were wasted at the altar of

ethnocentrism, primordialism, corruption and failed leadership.


The Military factor is quite influential in the revival of the “old” regional, tribal and religious

values. The Regime of Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi in 1966 ushered in the Ibo dominance,

though briefly, while General Gowon’s ushered in and also instituted the dominance of the

Northern military officers in the Armed Forces. It was not until the Regime of Generals Murtala

and Obasanjo that religion began to assert itself as a dominant political factor within the

successive Military Regimes. The explosive and heated debates about the constitutional status

of Sharia have only succeeded in placing Sharia and religion of the “old” North in the centre of

our national political arena. Nigeria since then has been dangerously divided on the question of

the constitutionality of Sharia and the secular status of the State. The “old” North had Sharia and

customary laws, while the “old” South had secularity and customary laws.

With the Military decentralisation of regional political powers and centres and the increasing

centralisation of political powers at the centre (Lagos), and the subsequent creation of many

states which weakened regionalism and regional political centres, those groups interested in

acquiring and using political power must have to fight it out at the centre (Lagos).

The political elites and the Military class that dominated the centre would in consequence,

whether consciously or unconsciously impose their socio-political values at the centre. The

policies, administrative practices and attitude of the Government at the centre whether civilian or

military would no doubt reflect the socio-political values of its operators.

Nigeria is a nation that is undergoing a crisis of nationhood. These are the signs:

  1. Revival of “Old” Regional and Ethnic Values

The Political Transition Programme of the Babangida Regime and its political programmes have

succeeded in raising a serious “National Question”. The crisis of nationhood bears upon several

salient factors, such as; revival of the “Old” regional and ethnic and religious values. From the

previous sections, we have observed that the fall of the First Republic (Parliamentary System)

was as a result of ethno-regional politics. Ethnicity and regionalism were the major political

factors that brought the demise of the First Republic.

As a result of the unpredictable nature of the State and its Political Transition Programme, the

political programmes enunciated have in consequence unleashed and aroused the negative innate

qualities, and socio-political values of Nigerians. More than any regime, the negative colonial

values have re-emerged and are re-asserting themselves in contemporary Nigeria.

The examples of which are the sharia-scularity debates, religious and communal riots, ethno-
regional politics, consciousness and interests, military-civilian rivalry, fears and suspicions over

policies and practices as favouring some ethnic or religious groups and some sections of the


  1. Revival of Religious and Communal Sentiments.

In contemporary Nigeria, religious, ethnic, sectional and regional sentiments are rife and are also

quite high. From 1982 to 1984 we witnessed intra-religious riots and as from 1987 to 2001 we

have witnessed increasing inter-religious and inter-ethnic riots.

The religious riots of Kaduna State in 1987, those of Bauchi and Kano States, 1991 and Taraba

and Kaduna States, 1992 and 2000 are worth mentioning and studying. The communal riots of

Benue, Taraba and the Zangon Kataf of Kaduna State, 1992 are also worth mentioning.

The frequency of the religious and communal riots in the Northern States is the current

manifestations of the long-term consequences of the colonial legacy in Northern Nigeria. In

Kaduna State, Bauchi State and Taraba State (Jalingo episode), the battles were fought at two

fronts: religion and ethnicity. The Zangon-Kataf episode defined the colonial historical conflict

between the Kataf and the Hausa which was not corrected by the political overlords of the

Kaduna State whether civilians or military. While that of Bauchi State was between the Hausa-
Fulani and the Sayawa. The bone of contention centred upon chiefdom and political autonomy.

These ethnic groups want their own chiefs and chiefdoms and not to be placed under Hausa-

Fulani rule. The religious riots in Kaduna City, Zaria City and Ikara in Kaduna State in 1987 and

1992 defined the resurgence of the colonial religious conflict of the Muslim and the non-Muslim

groups in the colonial system. The perpetrators of the religious riots in Kaduna State and Bauchi

State targeted primarily Christians of Northern States’ origin. This fact should not surprise

anyone as we have already seen how the Colonial Administration created the two antagonistic

communities within the Northern System. The questions of socio-political role and status and

patterns of dominance-subordination relationships between ethnic groups still generate rivalries,

resentments and contempts.

The political philosophy of the military and especially that of General Babangida was quite

conducive to the resurgence and revival of the colonial negative values, whether religious or

cultural or ethnic or social.

Central to the issue of religion in Nigeria is the question of Christianity in the Northern States

of Nigeria. It has become necessary that this issue be looked into: the plight of the Christians of

northern origin. Christians of northern origin are the products of the work of Christian missions

in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria. They hold and present a unique position in the Christian-
Muslim relations in the history of Nigeria. Boko Haram’s is the instrument that is enforcing a

new definition of Christians and Christianity in the Northern States. It is religion that defines

who is a Northerner and who is not. If Boko Haram can be used to achieve this, so be it. The

minority status and weakness of Christianity in the Northern States is being gradually confirmed

by Boko Haram.

  1. Revival of Sectional and Regional Sentiments

The revival and the resurgence of the “old” regional values and the religious and ethnic values

even under the Military regimes have, in consequence induced the current sectional and regional

sentiments. The age-long fear of political, religious, cultural and economic domination by some

ethnic groups or regions or sections is currently being revived and in consequence, politics is

highly polarised along these lines. In Kaduna State it is along the North-South divide. The quest

to have access to and control political power and institutions and the state machinery is re-
asserting such parochial and sub-national values. The majority-minority conflict of political and

economic control of states has become sharpened in the military and post-military regimes.

The new political axes of the polarity of North versus South, and Islam versus Christianity or the

new political regions of the Far North, Middle Belt, West and East, South-South are indeed the

contemporary expressions of sectional or regional or ethnic or religious sentiments.

Has the Military class succeeded as a “corrective regime” in forging a new Nigeria devoid of all

social ills, corruption and moral decadence, which the Military set out to correct and eradicate?

The military had succeeded in exhuming ethnocentrism and primordialism, and militant ethnic

and religious groups that live under the divisive religious, cultural, sectional and regional

sentiments. Either Nigeria’s national sentiment is long dead or it is yet to born. We no longer

live under any national values, ideals, objectives and standards. Might is right, where dominant

groups seek to impose their sub-national values upon the rest of us Nigerians.

The question of Christians of Northern origins as raised by militant Islam must be given more

priority than Boko Haram. Boko Haram if it could be a camouflaged disgruntled Northern

politicians then it possibly be the political voice of the majority North as against the minority

Middle Belt. By chasing out of the North Christians from the South, the agenda is very clear,

majority North versus minority Middle Belt. The battle lines had been drawn since 1980 after

the Iranian Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeni of 1979. Hausanization, migration,

Islamization, pastoralization and the extinction of smaller ethnic groups and languages of the

Middle Belt are very serious contemporary social issues that need to be addressed urgently.

What is the state of Christians of Northern origins?


Many of the Memoranda address the plight of Christians of northern origin. For this reason it

needs to be addressed specifically. What is the place of Christians of northern origin in the

religious question of Nigeria? We need to examine this religious group as unique in Christian-
Muslim relations in Nigeria. What the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 and

1999 states about the governance and the fundamental human rights of Nigerians in Chapters I,

II, III and IV are far from being realised by Christians of Northern origin in their respective

ancestral lands and Sates. Historically, Christians of Northern origin did enjoy some relative

fundamental human rights as from 1900s up to 1972, that is from the inception of the British

Colonial Administration, through to the NPC Government under Sir Ahmadu Bello, the

Sardauna of Sokoto and relatively under General Gowon until the take-over of Mission Schools

and Hospitals by various States of the Federation in 1972. Prior to this, the NPC Government of

Northern Nigeria took over missions Primary Schools and created the Local Education Authority

(LEA) much earlier. Christians of Northern origin did enjoy some aspects of their fundamental

human rights under the Colonial Administration and even under the premiership of Sir Ahmadu

Bello. The serious erosion of their fundamental human rights started as from 1973 and grew

increasingly worst year after year up to the present. This apparent loss of Christian rights was as

a result of increasing power and dominance of Islam and the application of the tenets of Muslim

Sharia in the Northern States. Christians of Northern origin began to lose their fundamental

human rights under the era of military regimes and it has reached its peak in this democratic


Since 1973, Christians of Northern origins have been subjected to all kinds of religious, cultural,

social, political and economic discrimination, alienation, persecution and marginalisation. The

primary reasons for this lost of fundamental human rights is simply because (1) they are

Christians and (2) the increasing drive for Islamization and application of Sharia in the Northern

States. On account of these, there is a very strong aversion against Christians of Northern origin

by some State Governments and some Muslim groups in the Northern States. The strongest

manifestation of this aversion is in this present democratic dispensation. What an irony? The

primary reason for Christian persecution by some State Governments is because these State

Governments see themselves as exclusively Islamic. As it were from democracy to theocracy.

The persecution of Christians is seen not only as coming from some Muslims groups, but also

from some State Governments that are supposed to provide them with solace and succor and to

protect, preserve and defend their human rights. It is important that we list acts of deliberate and

systematic denial of the fundamental human rights of Christians of Northern origin as from 1973

to the present. This is what Christians of the Northern origin are saying about their plight and

position in some of the northern states.

  1. What Christians Say About Some State Governments’ Actions and Attitude Towards


It is important to state that not all State Governments in the North practice what some do as

listed below:

Refusal to grant C of Os for the building of churches

Refusal to grant and assign burial grounds to Christians

Refusal to grant fairly and justly radio and TV times to Christians in contrast to Muslim’s


Refusal to allow the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge in Government Institutions

Discrimination against Christians in matters of State appointments and promotions

Use of Government Media Houses to propagate Islam as against Christianity

Use of Government Funds to promote Islam and Islamic Institutions as against those of


State Government judicial application of Sharia against Christians

The high-handedness of Government on inter-religious conflict and riots involving Christians

and Muslims

  1. What Christians Say About Some Muslim’s Actions and Attitude Towards Them:

It is important to state here that not all Muslims share the views of some Muslims towards

Christians as listed below:

Attitude of differential and preferential treatment in matters of Islam or Christianity

Incessant killings of Christians and burning of Christian churches, institutions and houses since

1980 to the present

Practice and application of Sharia as a tool to persecute and subjugate Christians

Instituting acts of violence and conflict against Christians

Disregard and lack of respect for Christians who are their kith and kin

Intolerant and arrogant attitude towards Christians in public matters.

In modern Nigeria of today, it is very difficult to ascertain why State Governments and some

Muslims in some of the Northern States have singled out and targeted Christians of Northern

origin for religious, social and political discrimination, persecution and marginalisation. The

potent tool, which some State Governments and some Muslims use to discriminate, subjugate

and marginalise Christians, is the STATE MACHINERY and the SHARIA, the Muslim Legal


Christians of Northern origin as it is now seem not to have protection against the atrocities of

some State Governments or some Muslim groups under the present 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

The provisions of the Constitution are not strong enough to protect them from the persecution

and discriminatory practices of self-declared Islamic States and Muslim Sharia in some Northern

States. If Christians of Northern origin or from other states are to enjoy the provisions of human

rights in the Constitution and in their respective States as it is the privilege of their Muslim

counterparts, their plight and provocation in the Northern States must be redressed and corrected

by justice and the National House of Assembly and the Federal Government. There must be

constitutional provisions as national statutes of protecting, preserving, promoting and defending

the fundamental human rights of Christians in the Northern States. Secondly, the Federal

Government should set up A Human Rights Commission to study and monitor thoroughly the

case and condition of Christians in the Northern States. This same request can be made as a case

for the protection of the rights of Muslims in the predominantly Christian areas, particularly in

the South. Muslims need to be protected against the abuse of human rights by some Christians

and some states in the Federation.

It is a historical fact that the entire North including the predominantly Muslim areas benefited

from mission education, medical work and literature work. Nobody can deny the historical and

substantial contributions of missionaries and Christianity to the growth and development of the

vast Northern Region of Nigeria. Just a few decades ago, missionaries did their work all over

Northern Nigeria. As a result, we have Christian converts in those areas.

Some Muslims and some State Governments in Northern Nigeria have refused to recognise the

fact that there are Hausa and Fulani that are Christians. There are Northern indigenes that are

Christians and as indigenes, they have the right of full citizenship in the Northern States. By

virtue of birthright and birthplace and by religious preference and freedom, they demand their

constitutional and human rights. The State Governments belong to both Christians and Muslims

who are indeed kith and kin. They deserve to have the rights of State/Government and to practice

their Christianity anywhere in the Northern States unhindered and unmolested. The same can be

said of any Muslim anywhere in Nigeria, especially in the Middle Belt area.

Some indigenous Christian groups in Yobe State have been chased out of their ancestral land

towards the end of 2011 by some ravaging Islamists. This is a very unfortunate incident that has

grave ramifications for Christian-Muslim relations in the Northern States. As both Islam and

Christianity are foreign in origin and nature, there should be an understanding and respect for a

religious choice of an individual or a group. African ancestry, brotherhood and solidarity should

be the common ground and basis of all African descent to tolerate, respect and to understand

each other. Ethnicity, religion, culture and land are the givens of life by the Creator and for

this reason, stand as the foundations of humanity. What is required of all of us is to affirm our

differences in ethnicity, religion, culture and geography/land. It makes no sense in modern

Nigeria for a Nigeria or a group of Nigerians to be denied their ancestral rights on any grounds.

The embarrassment of Boko Haram is that it is using jihad and militancy to achieve the same

old objectives of weakening Christianity in the Northern States. Could Boko Haram be one of

the contemporary strategies of inflicting fears into the minority Christianity in the Big North?

Hypocrisy and religious bigotry have hindered any effective and sincere answer to the question

of Christians of Northern origins.

The truth is, both Islam and Christianity are foreign religions in the North. Our forefathers

practiced African Traditional Religions before they became converts to Islam or Christianity.

If Christianity is a foreign religion in the North, so it is with Islam. If Northern Muslims claim

the rights of citizenship based upon Islam, so it is with Christians. If Muslims claim the rights of

Sharia so it is with Northern Christians, the claim of their State and Christian rights. You cannot

give one thing to the other and deny the other the same thing. If Nigeria must give Muslims in

the North their religious rights, they must also give to Christians in the North their religious

rights also. There cannot be peace, unity and stability where there is no justice, freedom and


The question of the place of a northern Christian in the Northern State must have to be addressed

very seriously.

There are two major volatile issues for Nigeria to solve, namely, the question of the place and

status of Christianity and the question of the use and distribution of land, all in the Middle Belt

of Nigeria. There are ominous signs of the Middle Belt becoming a future “blood-bath” of

Nigeria, if these two social factors are not properly handled and addressed by Nigeria. We have

already seen and witnessed the might, power, influence and dominance of the Majority in the


Why have history, social forces and dynamics conspire against Nigerians?

Instead of producing national values, ideals and standards of morality and ethics that build

people and the nation, Nigeria is replete with negative social values. Not values that are national

building blocks, but very destructive evil and wicked values and forces that are a prohibita to

nation building, development and transformation.

What are those negative social values?


Whenever Nigerians are asked “Why things don’t work in Nigeria”, they easily list a catalogue

of things: corruption, indiscipline, tribalism, poverty and many others. But these are only

symptoms. Nigeria’s negative social values are what make things don’t work in Nigeria. Nigeria

has enough man-power, resources and money and what it takes to build a virile and prosperous

nation. The problem of Nigeria is not lack of man-power, not lack of resources. It does not have

good national and sustainable values. Rather, Nigeria is replete with negative social values

that are obstacles to national development and transformation. For any meaningful national

development and transformation to take place, Nigerians must have to deal with the historical

and current spade of negative social values.

This section summarises the entire paper by reducing our discussion to some social ethical

values, attitudes and practices as are found in the Nigerian social environment right from the

historical past to the present. We simply outline the negative social and ethical values that pose

great obstacles to political, economic and social development of Nigeria, which help to create

the atmosphere of crises, violence and conflicts. They are the fodder for corruption, religious and

communal conflict and social crisis and political instability and economic underdevelopment.

The purpose of this list is to give guidance on how to identify and deal with these root causes of

crises and conflicts. These negative social values have been the by-products of social dynamics

and nation-state building right from the traditional era to the Caliphate era to the colonial and

missionary era and to the post-colonial era. I will only list them with brief comments.

  1. Practices of Inequality and Injustice

Nigerian pre-Islamic and pre-colonial societies had well-developed racial or tribal myths to

project their worldviews, thought, and feelings about their origins, values, greatness, glory

and destiny and pride. These primordial values were later incorporated into the new colonial

social order. They became the hidden “authority codes” or “core cultural” values which defined,

conditioned and molded social behavior, attitude and practice and general conception of life and

the world. This incorporation of primordial values, therefore, helped to entrench the continuity of

traditional values and influence on the new Nigerian state and Nigerians in general.

These primordial values influenced ethnic or tribal or religious attitudes and practices in a

number of ways across the ethnic groups in Nigeria, such as:

  1. Prescribed inferior-superior statuses and socio-political roles of ethnic/tribal groups

Ethnic/tribal groups are known to have ascribed to themselves (1) superior status over all others;

and (2) superior socio-political role in society or State. From this vantage position, they usually

prescribe (1) inferior status to others presumed to be lower than they in human hierarchical

classification; and (2) inferior socio-political role in society or State to all those presumed to

be lower in status. Throughout history, humankind has for all ages, practiced ethnic/tribal or

religious discrimination, prejudice, stereotyping, differential and preferential treatment. Others

have treated fellow human beings according to their “ascribed” or “prescribed” status and socio-
political role in society. Such primordial values are deeply rooted in the worldview, conscience,

attitude and practices of ethnic/tribal/religious groups.

When an ethnic group/tribe or a religious group uses the concept of superiority or inferiority

against others, the socio-political consequences are grave. The application of these in human

relations is unjust and negative. They reflect the creation of inequality among human beings. The

result of this injustice manifests itself in all kinds of atrocities and inhumanity. Others are denied

the opportunities of equal treatment and representation simply because their group has been

labeled or stigmatized. Social behaviour, attitude and practice based upon such values abound in

societies and are the sources of communal and religious conflict.

This very social fact is a reality in Kaduna State especially as it involves relations between the

peoples of the Northern and Southern parts of Kaduna State as stated in some of the Memoranda.

The same can be found in many places across Nigeria.

  1. Practices of tribal injustice and inequality against certain groups

Do ethnic/tribal or religious groups practice injustice or inequality against others? The answer

is in the affirmative. Such values and practices have their basis in ascribed/prescribed status and

socio-political role of groups in society. The socio-political role of an ethnic/tribal or religious

group in a given society or State has been determined by what social status has been ascribed

or prescribed. This can be observed in practices of discrimination, prejudice and differential

and preferential treatment of fellow human beings based strictly on ethnic/tribal/religious


One is treated thus not because of individual merit but because of what ethnic/tribal/religious

group one belongs. Labeling of individuals or groups based upon ethnicity or tribalism or

religion has had devastating consequences upon human beings and such practices abound in our


This very social fact is a reality in Kaduna State especially as it involves relations between the

peoples of the Northern and Southern parts of Kaduna State. The same can be found in many

places across Nigeria.

  1. Provisional unequal opportunities to ethnic/tribal/religious groups in economic matters,

social access and mobility, and recruitment into civil service

Unequal opportunities to various groups within society or State are a common practice in

Nigeria. Opportunities, access, and social mobility, statuses and rewards within societies and

states are usually determined by ethnic/tribal/religious factors and not necessarily by personal

merit or circumstance. One’s ethnic group or tribe or religion usually determines recruitment

and employment of civil servants or personnel. Distribution of state’s statuses and rewards

are usually based upon ethnic/tribal/religious affinity, loyalties and obligations. Tribalism has

characterized both State and ethnic practices and attitudes throughout the ages. Such are meted

against certain individuals or groups not because of personal merit but group’s identity. Such

practices abound in Nigeria.

This very social fact is a reality in Kaduna State especially as it involves relations between

the peoples of the Northern and Southern parts of Kaduna State in matters of state’s politics,

governance and leadership. The same can be found in many places across Nigeria.

  1. Denial of full participation or representation in government, political freedom, equality

and human dignity and rights to certain ethnic or religious groups

Cases abound where certain ethnic or religious groups are denied full participation or

representation in government by both the State or power groups that control the state machinery.

This act of denial is usually caused or justified by in-group affinity, loyalty and obligations.

Similarly, in some cases, individuals are denied political participation or representation simply

because of their ethnicity/religion. There are cases, where certain ethnic/religious groups are

denied their political rights and freedom, equality and human dignity. Such practices abound in


This very social fact is a reality in Kaduna State especially as it involves relations between the

peoples of the Northern and Southern parts of Kaduna State in matters of state’s policies. The

same can be found in many places across Nigeria.

  1. The general neglect or failure to develop certain ethnic groups and areas

Practices of neglect or the refusal to develop certain groups and their areas or regions are quite

common. These acts of neglect or refusal are mostly based upon ethnic/religious considerations.

Citing of industries, amenities, institutions, district and regional headquarters, etc., are usually

based upon these human values rather than on good political and economic reasons. Cases

abound where states or powerful ethnic or religious groups have abandoned others to neglect

simply because of what group they belong or where they come from.

  1. Rivalry and Antagonism

Within Nigeria, the existence of rival and antagonistic communities abounds. Before European

colonisation of Nigeria, Nigerians existed in different communities and conflicts between them

existed in wars of territorial expansion, slave raiding and slave trade. Under colonialism, some

of these historical social and cultural conflicts between various communities were somewhat

incorporated and institutionalised by the new colonial social order. As a result, the colonial

powers institutionalised a potential of ethnic/religious tensions, violence and conflict. These

communities were usually not nurtured under the principles of human equality, justice, human

co-operation, harmony and respect for human rights and dignity. Instead, they were nurtured

under the colonial social order, which allowed and even encouraged tribal and religious

intolerance, inequality and differential and preferential treatment of groups.

The colonial masters left behind them at independence rival and antagonistic communities,

which were nurtured and brought up separately. The fears of ethnic/tribal domination, political

and economic control, and cultural and religious dominance and control in post-colonial Nigeria

led to suspicions, tensions, violence and conflicts.

Can we trace contemporary government or ethnic policies, attitude and practices that reflect

ethnic or tribal or religious superiority or dominance of one or more groups over others? Do

national policies widen the gap or entrench the historic differences of ethnic or tribal or religious

communities? Are there traces of government or ethnic policies, attitudes and practices, which

seek to impose the supreme dominance of one ethnic or tribal or religious group over others? We

are witnesses to several major catastrophic ethnic or religious tensions, violence and conflict in

our country. These social factors are establishing themselves as the distinguishing characteristics

of socio-political norms across Nigeria.

The history of modern Nigeria has revealed the increasing polarization and intolerance of

ethnicity, regions and religion.

  1. Stratified Inequality and Social Hierarchy.

Stratified inequality and social hierarchy within Nigeria can be observed historically in the

following ways:

  1. The subordination of one or more ethnic groups to the other’s rule and political control

The making of a modern Nigerian state and the establishment of colonial social order did

subordinate some ethnic groups to the rule and political control of others. This was resented

and rejected by many ethnic groups but had to acquiesce under colonial bayonets and powers.

Colonial masters did not correct this internal colonialism before leaving the Nigerian scene

at independence. Many ethnic groups did not celebrate political independence as free human

beings, but did so under the uncorrected internal colonialism. They were still under the rule

and political control of the privileged ethnic or tribal groups when independence came. In post-
colonial and post-independence Nigeria, many ethnic groups are yet to earn their political

freedom and equal status with others. The mantle of colonial subordination is still being cast over

them. Religious and ethnic conflict and tribal wars of secession and political control have been

motivated by these collective feelings of ethnic, tribal and religious pride. Political process and

peaceful means could not correct these and in consequence have resulted in civil, religious and

ethnic conflicts.

  1. The institutionalisation of the dominance of one or more ethnic or tribal groups through

the development of their ruling families or elites and the use of their socio-political values

and institutions to build a modern Nigeria, to the neglect of others

Colonial masters did develop and use the already existing tribal social values and institutions to

build the colonial social order. The advantaged and favoured ethnic or tribal or religious groups

were the ones that were usually developed and trained for political leadership. They then became

the junior partners with the colonial masters in administering the affairs of the colonial state and

especially in overseeing certain under-developed ethnic or tribal groups. The most privileged

groups had their cultural and religious values incorporated into the new colonial social order

and for this reason had a prior advantage of exerting their cultural and religious dominance and

influence over the new colonial state. Those so disadvantaged had to leave under the dominance

of others. Fears and resentment of such cultural and religious dominance and political control

often lead to tensions, violence and conflicts. Similarly the arrogance, pomposity and pride of the

advantaged ethnic/tribal/religious groups often lead to resentment, fears, tensions and conflicts.

  1. The maintenance and defense of the privileged position of the ruling ethnic groups and

the maintenance of their socio-political status quo

It is a common phenomenon in Nigeria to see changes of state leadership not initiated by

democratic means but by the use of force through coups d’etat or by one or more ethnic groups

taking up arms against the so-called state. This is because the privileged groups do not believe

in sharing or democratizing political power nor give opportunities to others also. Brute power

and military coups d’etat are the means of forcing out entrenched political power and status quo

or bring into the political arena those who have been denied for so long. Ascent or descent from

political power of ethnic groups is a common political phenomenon. The struggle to maintain

and defend a privilege political position and the quest to dislodge others has kept Nigerian

politicians in a perpetual belligerent state.

  1. The creation of political elites to succeed the colonial masters at independence with

heavy concentration of one or more ethnic groups in different geo-political centres within


The development of political elites has often reflected heavy concentration of one or more ethnic

or tribal groups. This phenomenon has been the reason for advocating the concept of “federal

character” which aims at securing fair and even distribution or representation. Attempts at

correcting this political imbalance have resulted in political crisis and instability in Nigeria.

Ethnic groups so advantaged and those so disadvantaged do not usually agree on what political

formula should be used in order to establish viable political and economic institutions. Rivalry

and wrangling among the political elites as to who should control political power and the state

have dominated the contemporary political scene in Nigeria.

  1. The unjust political and economic institutions, which reflected ethnic or tribal biases and


One of the principal reason why injustice increases in Nigeria is that the inherited unjust

structures of inequality of the imperialist colonial era and/or of the pre-colonial era have been

uncorrected by post-colonial programmes of nation-state building. If the inherited patterns of

inequality were not deliberately corrected, those already in positions of advantage would keep

the rest in a subordinate position. Correcting structural and political imbalances has never been

an easy task. Prescribed solutions through the theories and models of political and economic

development have only aggravated and confused the situation. That was the problem of the

Military political engineering of Nigeria. In the final analysis, it all ended up in a state of chaos,

confusion, social decay, indiscipline and moral decadence.

Does stratified inequality still exist within Nigeria? Is it political, economic, religious, ethnic or

tribal? Are there structures of inequality, insecurity and incompatibility within Nigeria? If there

are, what sort of socio-political values do they generate? Do they impede a healthy relationship

between ethnic groups and/or the State?

  1. Political and Social Alienation

A general study of Nigeria reveals that there are certain ethnic or tribal or religious groups that

were denied or alienated from any active political participation in both colonial and post-colonial

political systems at the local, provincial, regional and national levels. The fundamental basis of

colonial alienation of certain groups from active political participation was its erroneous racial

concept of their inferior status and socio-political values and roles. Reasons given by the colonial

administrators to justify their policies were usually presented as tribal or racial “inferiority”

and political “immaturity.” The alienation of certain groups from political participation in the

colonial system denied them the opportunity to develop politically and economically. This social

inequality created uneven development of all groups within the given states.

Colonial social order was hardly a just and participatory society. It did not seek to maximize

participation of all sectors of society and the welfare of all persons or groups, and even

development of all groups and areas within states. At independence, national leaders did not

correct these but even incorporated their pre-colonial traditional values with that of their colonial


Are there still practices and policies undertaken by governments or groups in post-colonial

Nigeria, which display systematic alienation of other groups in the area of political, social and

economic participation? What values or social structures, which are being propagated that

reflect exclusive ethnic/religious values and practices? Political, economic, cultural and religious

control of the State machinery has always been interpreted in terms of “group power” and not

otherwise. The symbolic representation of the group in power or government satiates ethnic/

religious feelings and consciousness.

  1. Pattern of Ethnic/Tribal Relations

As already stated, pre-colonial tribal societies of Nigeria used racial or tribal myths to project

their worldviews, thought, and feelings about their origins, values, greatness, glory and destiny

and pride. Under colonialism, new racial theories were introduced such as the innate or

biological superiority or inferiority of races or ethnic groups or cultures or religions. Colonial

rationalization of the superiority of certain races or ethnic groups over others consolidated the

pre-colonial tribal myths and religious differences and stereotypes and thus in consequence

was institutionalised within the colonial system. Colonial racial theories gave collective pride

of particular racial groups or “tribes” a rational and so-called scientific bias. These, in effect,

formed the basis of the development and the continuity of primordial social values which are

plaguing Nigeria.

What are the patterns of ethnic or racial relations across Nigeria? Are they characterised by

discrimination, prejudice, intolerance, aggressiveness, alienation, dominance, parochialism,

etc? What sub-national values which belong to exclusive ethnic or tribal or religious groups,

which seem to over-ride national integration, patriotism, loyalty, citizenship and commitment to

national goals, ideals and objectives?

  1. Existence of Antagonistic Communities

Before the British colonisation of Nigeria, two broad communities existed in Northern Nigeria

and conflict between them existed also in wars of expansion, slave-raiding, and slave trade.

Under colonialism, the social and cultural conflict between these communities were somewhat

institutionalised through colonial policies, attitudes and administrative practices. In effect, the

Colonial Administration institutionalised a potential of religious or ethnic or cultural conflict

among communities, which were developed and nurtured separately and in isolation to each

other. These communities were not developed under the principles of human equality and justice,

human cooperation, harmony and respect for human personality and dignity and rights. Instead,

they were nurtured under religious and cultural intolerance, racial or tribal inequality and of

differential treatment of ethnic and religious groups.

A combination of these social and moral values, practices and attitudes of ethnic/religious groups

compound tensions, violence and conflict in Nigeria. From our study, we have observed that

there were some social values and institutions, which belonged to specific ethnic or religious

group, but such were incorporated and institutionalised into state policy, practice and attitude.

Nation-state builders used ethnicity, culture and religion to established new states in Africa in


These negative values cannot allow good leadership and good governance to emerge in the

country. Have the best doctors, lawyers, administrators, engineers, professors and many others,

our negative values would disarm them for any effective performance.

What must done to tackle our negative social values?



The current national political setting and debates have failed in addressing the national question

of Nigeria since independence. The basis for this assertion is the necessity for Nigeria to have a

new political discourse that is rooted in Nigeria’s nationalism and which we seem not to have.

Three major reasons are being advanced why Nigeria needs a new national political discourse,

culture and philosophy.

  1. The first reason for a new national political discourse is that Nigeria needs a new crop of national

political leaders who will move Nigeria forward and play clean national politics that transcend the

divisive, reactionary, domineering and hegemonic old politics of ethnocentrism, primordialism,

regionalism and religious bigotry. This new national political discourse will expose the obstacles and

the dangers that old politics of ethnocentrism, primordialism and regionalism have posed for Nigeria’s

unity, development and nation building since prior to and after independence. The paper had already

carefully outlined most of these negative core values and obstacles. We need a new national political

discourse that will promote the virtues of nationalism, national unity, national values, standards, federal

character, civil religion and a national ethic. A guild of journalists, the academia, religious leaders

whose religious values and ethics are co-terminus with Nigeria’s geo-political entity can be in the

vanguard in leading this new political discourse at all levels of our national life. Nigeria in this new

dispensation needs a new political discourse, philosophy and culture that transcend anything sub-
national: ethnicity, regionalism and political religion.

  1. The second reason for a new national political discourse is that Nigeria needs a new crop of national

developmental political leaders that will move Nigeria forward and institute radical reforms and

transformation of the Nigerian environment and peoples. The new national political discourse will

concentrate on the necessity of grooming national developmental political leaders with a primary agenda

for national development of both the environment and peoples through massive training and acquisition

of labour skills, technology and functional education. The new national political discourse will provide

a national united voice that holds all political leaders accountable to the people and the nation. National

and public pressure must be sustained until national development political leaders begin to emerge

in Nigeria. Old political tricks of elephant projects and siphoning of public funds and all forms of

corruption are to be exposed through national political discourse. Mounted efforts through massive

participation of the general public of putting sustained pressure on political leaders until they adopt

national values and standards of development of both the environment and the people.

  1. The third reason for a new national political discourse is that Nigeria needs a new crop of morally and

ethically transformed national politicians that will move Nigeria forward and institute radical national

moral and ethical reforms and transformation of the Nigerian peoples. The new national language

and slogans must be of necessity of a national ethic and national ethical structure. A new conception

of a minimum public moral and ethical code for all Nigerians to subscribe to and uphold. Minimum

Public decorum, decency and good manners be developed to reflect a new national trait, patriotism and

citizenship. How to be a Nigerian or “this is not in our character”, can be slogans that can create a sense

on nationhood or nationalism. There is so much that mass media, journalists, scholars and universities

and institutions of learning and religious groups whose values are co-terminus with the Nigerian

geo-political entity can do in changing the national political discourse that promotes our national

unity, values and standards and to de-emphasize the divisive and negative values of ethnocentrism,

primordialism, regionalism and religious bigotry. We may want to state categorically, that ethnicity,

primordial values and religion are very good in themselves. They all have good and positive values

which must be harnessed for the common good of all. However, the negative and divisive use of these

can tear the country apart and for this reason, should at all cost, not be brought into national life, which

become the source of conflict, crisis and violence as we have witnessed in our short national history and

also as outlined already in this paper. Should violence erupt in Nigeria, the root causes are always the

wrong use of ethnicity, religion, culture or regionalism to achieve our selfish or sub-national ends.

How could this be achieved? Nigeria needs prophets, social reformers and transformers, martyrs and

God’s divine intervention that can use Nigeria’s ethnography (ethnicity), geography (land), religion

and culture to build a new Nigeria. Nothing will ever work in Nigeria unless the negative values of

ethnocentrism, primordialism, regionalism and religious bigotry are dealt with. My next paper explains

how this could be done in Nigeria.


From our study of social history, we can draw some conclusions. It appears as if, the entire

Nigerian society which originated from a single African traditional society has been divided

and consolidated into two broad antagonistic societies with very deep divisions in ethnography/

ethnicity, geography/land, religion and culture. This divisive nature of the Nigerian society

affects how both rival and antagonistic groups (North versus South) handle the issues of the State

and Government, the family, religion and culture. The national North-South dichotomy can be

repeated in the North between the Far North and Middle Belt. The same is also true of Kaduna

State and many other States in Nigeria.

But these concluding points apply specifically to Northern Nigeria.

  1. African Traditional Era: undivided humble beginnings and origins.
  2. Islamic Caliphate Era: Divided into Hausaland vs. Middle Belt; Muslims vs. non-
    Muslims; Dar al-Islam vs. Dar al-Harb.
  3. British Colonial Era: Divided into Colonialists vs. Missionaries; Muslims vs. Christians;

(Muslims, British Colonialists and Hausaland) vs. (Traditionalists/Christians,

Missionaries and Middle Belt).

  1. Post-Colonial Era: (Parliamentarians, Muslims and Hausaland) vs. (Parliamentarians,

Traditionalists/Christians, Middle Belt).

  1. Post-Colonial Era: (Soldiers/Politicians, Muslims and Hausaland) vs. (Soldiers/

Politicians, Traditionalists/Christians and Middle Belt).

As summarised above, Nigeria and Northern Nigeria in particular, is a deeply divided society on

the basis of ethnography/ethnicity, geography/land, religion and culture. Over the centuries they

have deeply wounded each other. The coming of the foreigners (Islam, Christianity, colonialists

and missionaries) into their midst has further deeply divided them. They have misused their

differing ethnography, geography and the acquired foreign religions and cultures as tools for

self-destruction. They compete with each other with the aim of total annihilation of the other, but

if not, dominate them. Land issues and the question of Christianity in the Northern States will be

the most significant challenges that lies ahead. Unless these two issues are adequately dealt with,

only God can knows the catastrophe that lies ahead of this part of Nigeria. Therefore the task of

solving the problem of religion and land in the Middle Belt of Nigeria becomes imperative.

In conclusion, you can now make up your mind whom to believe has a solution to Nigeria’s

problem. If you are asked to fix Nigeria, how would you do it? Great nations in the world,

did not at first start by applying political, economic and educational models and theories as

prerequisites to nation-state building, but they made a primary deliberate efforts at defining and

transforming their ethnography, geography, religion and culture by making them viable and

conducive for development and transformation. For Nigeria to be developed and transformed, it

must have to address and transform its primary and primordial social factors as outlined in this

paper. It is how to transform them, harness their potentials and tame their excesses. How can we

develop and formulate a common ground approach that can create harmony, balance and unity in

diversity out of our ethnicity (ethnography), land (regions), religion and culture? The next paper

as a follow-up to this deals with how to address The Problem of Nigeria. We have just concluded

looking at The Problem with Nigeria which is its endemic proneness to crises, conflicts and

violence as rooted in our manipulated ethnography (ethnicity), geography (land), religion and



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