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Damilola Agbalajobi’s Explainer Factors On Kaduna’s Conflict Fault lines: Why She Was Unfair To Ahmed Makarfi


The Oasis Reporters

November 2, 2019









Senator Ahmed Makarfi, former governor of Kaduna State.

On September 22, 2019, The Oasis Reporters published an article by Damilola Agbalajobi, a Political Science lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in South West Nigeria titled, ‘Explainer Factors That Foster Conflict In Nigeria’s Kaduna State.





She started off with some broadsides thus, “Nigeria’s Kaduna State has been embroiled in conflict for decades. The violence has its roots in ethnic tensions between the state’s Muslim and non-Muslim populations.





The state is located in Northwestern Nigeria. It has a population of approximately 6.1 million people. The majority Hausa-Fulani tribe are predominantly Muslim and herders of cattle and the non-Muslim minority are mainly farmers.”



With the above statement mentioning a non existent tribe, it was so easy to notice that the academic was building a faulty platform to mislead herself and ultimately her audience. There’s no such tribe as the Hausa-Fulani tribe. There’s the Hausa tribe that has existed in Northern Nigeria for over a thousand years before the Fulani’s came from their homeland in the Fouta Djallon mountains in Guinea on the wave of a supposed Islamist Jihad, 200 or so years ago. They conquered the Hausa, then started ruling them under a newly designed emirate system.



Fulani are the ruling class while the majority Hausa population remain the subjects. It remains debatable if the union is an entirely joyful one, or even mutually beneficial one. The two tribes do not speak the same language. The one group simply learnt the other’s language! Period !

Besides, the two languages are mutually unintelligible to the other.




“The conflict between these two groups most recently flared up in October 2018 when communal clashes left at least 55 people dead. The resurgence of violence provided a convenient talking point for President Muhammadu Buhari on his campaign trail.



The president has made the fight against insecurity a big component of his campaign. But while he has talked tough about the violence he hasn’t acted accordingly to ensure that peace prevails in Kaduna”.




Agbalajobi went on to write on “A history of violence”

“In Kaduna State the Hausa-Fulani majority occupies the north, often referred to as “mecca”. The minority Christian population reside in the south, or “Jerusalem”. Since 1980, violence fuelled by these divisions has claimed about 20,000 lives.



The Hausa-Fulani have historically wielded governmental power and control over the states political and economic structures. This has damaged relations with the non-Muslim minority. The non-Muslims are often referred to as pagans and they have been ruled by the dominant Muslim population for years.



These ethno-religious differences have been entrenched by the dominant Hausa-Fulani group who make up 60% of the population. The group has marginalised the 30 minority non-Muslim tribes who make up the remaining 40%. These tribes are now predominantly Christian.”



Before further comments are made, here’s one point. She says that the Hausa-Fulani group has maginalized the 30 minority non-Muslim tribes who make up the remaining 40 percent that are predominantly Christians.




However, that fact is not wholly correct. The source of the marginalization stems from the British colonial masters who, acting without a thorough appraisal of the ethno religious factors and only thinking of the convenience of the indirect rule political system they had introduced, forcefully put the minority tribes under the hegemony of the Fulani emirate system, whereas they were never conquered by the Fulani Jihadists.



The Hausa’s had nothing whatsoever to do with this.



The relationship between the Fulani emirate system and the Southern Kaduna people was not an easy one. Consequently, in their internecine strifes and struggles, innocent Hausa people have been caught in between, unfortunately, because they share the same Islamic religion with the majority Fulani people.



Though, this doesn’t becloud the fact that there are a good number of Hausa people, as well as a good number of Fulani folks who are Christians. They mix more with other tribes and people who are mainly Christians, inter marry etc, while maintaining some respectable distance with their fellow tribesmen and women who are Muslims.



Agbalajobi further posits that “Muslim/Christian divide has exacerbated socio-cultural differences between the dominant and minority groups. These differences were intensified by uneven development, economic disparity, and the political marginalisation of the minority population.



For example, the Hausa-Fulani group has imposed its leaders on communities right from the governorship of the state to the local government.”



The current governor, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, stood for reelection on a Muslim-Muslim ticket, which flew in the face of expectations that he would run on a Muslim-Christian ticket.




“Combined, these factors have fuelled the recurrent protests in Kaduna.

The minority Christian populations have continued to agitate for inclusive governance that will allow adequate representation of non-Muslims in the governance of the state. As well as the use of violence the minority population routinely votes as a block when choosing candidates for office.




This year, tensions have been triggered by Governor El-Rufai’s decision to make the gubernatorial election a Muslim affair and this has increased the likelihood of post election violence especially if the electoral processes are not transparent.



She then proceeded to reel off some ‘Factors in the current crisis’



“In 2000 the then Governor Mohammed A. Makarfi introduced sharia law in Kaduna State. This dramatically intensified religious tensions as the introduction of sharia law further polarised people and made the Christian minority even more fearful of their Muslim neighbours.”



Indeed, the introduction of the Sharia legal code occured while Ahmed Makarfi was governor. He was just an innocent young governor who found himself sucked into the cauldron. And he was quite aware that backing out of the introduction would be politically disastrous for the new government.




Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had emerged the President of Nigeria, a position that had always been dominated by muslim northerners. This has given a certain group of northern muslims, an unfortunate feeling of entitlement syndrome. The fact that power had for once, gone southwards was seemingly resented by the group that feels they alone were entitled to leadership in Nigeria.



The resentment seemed to be ever present in the acts of Sani Yerima, then newly elected governor of Zamfara State, a largely agrarian Hausa state, but ruled by Fulani Emirs.



Sani Yarima was the first to introduce the Sharia legal code in his state. Besides, he was of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. The move was intended to push the far Northern State governments where the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP were in charge to join the bandwagon and equally declare rule by Sharia Code or be tainted as not being Islamic enough, in a Muslim dominated region.




Kaduna State fell into this category.


Therefore the governor, Ahmed Makarfi as well as Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, etc all had to launch Sharia rule rather reluctantly.



Ahmed Makarfi again happens to be Hausa by tribe. The angst and furore this singular event unleashed on Kaduna State was mindboggling. He understood the historical injustice that was fuelling strife in his home state, and knew exactly what to do. Introduction of Sharia legal code became the tipping point that propelled Makarfi into doing the unusual.



He freed the Southern Kaduna minority tribes who were largely Christians from the suzerainty of Fulani hegemony. He granted them indigenous Chiefdoms by using his Attorney General, Mark Jacob Nzamah who drafted all the legal instruments.



Almost immediately, all the hate and acrimony in Kaduna State evaporated. Peace was ushered in and it held for 20 years, until religious skirmishes were once again introduced for political reasons.



One salient point to note was that Ahmed Makarfi freed the minority tribes from Fulani rule, yet he left the current lordship of Fulani rule over his Hausa people at status quo level. Perhaps in recognition of the intermarriages and the same religion they and the Fulanis practice together. He alone can best explain this.



Agbalajobi had equally added that “the introduction of sharia law led to even more violence. Attacks and counter attacks claimed the lives of 1,295 people and an unstated number of bodies were buried without identification”.



Furthermore, she added that “there is also an occupational dimension to the violence.



The Hausa-Fulani are predominantly cattle herders while the people of southern Kaduna are mostly farmers who cultivate food crops for a living. Violence periodically flares up between the herdsmen and farmers when the herdsmen migrate to the south in search of pasture.



The migration triggers conflict over land use, land ownership, and encroachment of farmland.


Reprisal attacks from the farmers are common. This dimension of the conflict has been made worse by the religious differences of the actors and the perceived bias of successive Kaduna State governments against the Christian minority.”



She still gets it wrong on the occupation of the peoples. It is fair to say that the Fulani people are largely nomadic cattle rearers. That is largely true.
Just as the Southern Kaduna people are mostly farmers. But on the Hausas, she was wrong. Hausas are no cow herders. They are largely farmers.



Writing on Politics of marginalisation, Damilola Agbalajobi says, “In addition to the conflict between herdsmen and farmers, Kaduna State has a long history of marginalising its minority populations. In southern Kaduna they have historically been excluded from political leadership.



This has been linked to the low level of socio-economic development in area compared with the north. As a result, the Christian population’s struggle for political power and territorial control has intensified. This resistance has been met with continued suppression by the dominant Hausa-Fulani class.



The power struggle is usually more pronounced during election time. Elections allow both groups to sponsor their candidates to public office. Indeed, the rivalry over El-Rufai’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is evidence of the push and pull between Muslim and Christian.



The politicisation of these identities will continue beyond the election unless Nigeria’s leaders take serious action to redress the power balance between the state’s Muslim and Christian populations.



– Additional research for Damilola Agbalajobi was done by Idowu Dare Leke. He holds a BSc in Education and an MSc in Political Science from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria. His research areas are the dynamics of environmental resource conflicts, migration studies, ethno-religious conflicts, democracy, and development studies in Africa.

Written by Greg Abolo

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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