The world’s attention has been focused on the Boko Haram insurgency, much of which is concentrated on Borno and the north east. An equally pernicious and deadly holocaust has been ongoing in the Middle Belt; in the ancestral savannah of Adamawa, Plateau, Taraba, Southern Kaduna, Nasarawa and Benue. Much of it is unreported – a silent war against an unarmed and defenceless people. The term “Fulani marauders” has been used to describe these invisible hordes.
In reality, they are highly sophisticated and well-armed mercenaries, most of them from neighbouring countries. They kill and maim without mercy; highly mobile bandits who move about in the bushes, lurking to pounce upon their victims in the primeval darkness like bloodthirsty hounds. Ambush and surprise are their stock-in-trade. They specialise in dawn raids, moving with speed; a guerrilla army without a clear political cause other than Jihad and mayhem. Once they descend upon a village, they would first torch it with petrol and fire; as children and women scamper out, they would then descend upon them with guns, bayonets and swords; a people devoid of mercy or humanity.
For several years now, this has been the lot of the people of the Plateau, Kaduna State, the rural villages of Mubi and Hong and the Jukun and Kuteb tribes of Taraba State. These killings have spread to Benue State where Tiv farming communities have been under siege for several years now. In the case of Plateau State, the “original sin” centred on issues of religion, political participation, land and the so-called “indigene-settler” dichotomy. Violent clashes have led to the death of thousands and material devastation on an unprecedented scale.
Although some sort of stalemate has been reached under the deft and unbending will of Governor David Jang, the villages of the Plateau have continued to be at the receiving end of almost daily attacks by invisible and faceless “Fulanis”. People have been attacked in churches during requiem mass as well as in markets and village settlements. In the case of Kaduna, tensions had been latent since the disputes over land and markets at Fadan Kataf. Then we had the so-called “Sharia riots” which spread from the state capital to as far as Gwantu in Sanga Local Government. After two major violent uprisings, a kind of Carthaginian Peace prevailed in Kaduna.
To this day, the once cosmopolitan city has become divided like Beirut. However, subterranean attacks have continued unabated. Farmers in the remote villages of Southern Kaduna have been enduring nightly raids from shadowy reptiles garbed in army uniforms alleged to have been supplied to the bandits by the Nigerian military during the time of General Dambazau. As recently as Saturday, 27th December, while youths were revelling in their Christmas festivities, the bandits descended on the sleepy village of Tattaura in Sanga Local Government. Some 11 youths were gunned down and many others wounded. The attackers escaped unscathed while the whole village was plunged into mourning. In the course of 2014 alone, more than 2,000 people were killed in Southern Kaduna, of which 700 in Sanga alone. In the month of January, 49 farmers were killed by Fulani raiders in the villages of Anzere, Ungwar Dauda and Fadan Karshi. From May to June, more than 300 souls were lost to these murderous killers.
On 23 June alone, more than a 150 were killed in dawn attacks in Fadan Karshi, with many more wounded and over 400 houses torched down. In the same town, a few months later, in September, more than 100 were again killed. When a women’s leader, Christiana Ezekiel Musa, led a team of women to register their protest with the state governor, Ramalan Yero allegedly took a punitive action against the hapless woman. Nasarawa State has become the latest and most devastating killing field in the Middle Belt. A silent holocaust has become the defining character of its local politics. The primary target is the Eggon people. Fulanis have been imported into the state with the primary aim of decimating the Eggon people and ensuring that they are disenfranchised against the upcoming elections.
Over a month ago, the Fulanis were rumoured to have killed the Mbotse priest, Baba Allakyo. They have celebrated their victory by massacring the Eggon while raping their women and torching down their villages. Entire farming communities have fled their homes. In towns such as Assaikyo and Dedere, women are being raped on a daily basis while their husbands and children are being hunted down like wild game. The Eggon are the single most dominant ethnic group in the state. And they are probably the most educated. The aim is to dislodge them by force while dividing people along ethnic and religious lines. Nasarawa State has been my home for much of my life. I can testify that the level of insecurity in that state has never reached such frightening proportions as it does today.
By Obadiah Mailafia