Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



United Action by Working and Poor People Urgently Needed

By Lanre Akinola

The recent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Southern Kaduna and the attendant loss of lives and destruction of properties, coupled with the demonstrated inability of government at all levels to arrest this violent crisis, has brought to the fore the need for the working and poor people themselves across the country to unite to take necessary and urgent steps to stop recurring clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country. It was reported that more than 200 lives, along with thousands displaced and properties worth millions of Naira, were lost to the recent crises in Southern Kaduna. The crises in the Southern Kaduna degenerated to the extent that the Governor of Kaduna State; Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was attacked when he paid visit to the affected communities.

The immediate cause of the perennial conflicts between the herdsmen and farmers is the alleged destruction of farmlands by the herdsmen while grazing. However the fundamental causes are on one hand the unresolved national question (i.e. the inability of the various tribes and ethnic groups which the ex-colonial masters brought together, without prior consultation or democratic discussion, to create Nigeria to agree on living together as one) and on the other, the impact of climate change and desertification which is forcing herdsmen/livestock farmers Southward in desperate need of greener pasture for their cattle.

Unfortunately, some political and religious leaders mischievously described the recent conflict in Southern Kaduna as religious crises because the majority of the herdsmen are perceived to be Muslims while the majority of the farmers who are mainly indigenes of Southern Kaduna are perceived to be Christians. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 17 Southern States stated in their statement thus: “The nonsensical killings in the Southern Kaduna cannot be justified in whatever way and as such the CAN is holding Governor El-Rufai responsible for the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen in the area. How can the Chief security officer of the State watch Christians die in their number even at a time he placed curfew on them?”

The truth of the matter is that the recent conflict in Southern Kaduna has nothing to do with religion as similar conflict between herdsmen and farmers have also happened in predominantly Muslim communities across the country. Recently, there was a clash between herdsmen and farmers in a predominantly Muslim community in Zamfara State. However given the combustible nature of Nigeria’s national question and the role of political leaders who often fan embers of division for their selfish interests, any conflict can easily degenerate into an ethno-religious one.

The unabated conflicts between the herdsmen and farmers in Southern Kaduna and other part of the country is as a result of the failures of successive governments both at the state and federal levels to provide a lasting solutions to the crises. Instead of providing long lasting solutions to the crises, the political leaders always exploit the crises to their own advantage by deepening the divides along religious and ethnic lines in order to occupy or remain in political offices.

The lasting solution to the crises between herdsmen and farmers is for the government at various levels to, through democratic discussions involving farming communities and the herdsmen/livestock farmers, create designated grazing routes or alternatively build publicly-owned and democratically managed ranches, along with adequate water supplies, all over the country, which should be made available to the herdsmen at affordable cost. If government can build shops, motor parks, abattoirs, etc then there is nothing wrong for the same government to build publicly-owned ranches or create grazing routes in all the local governments of the federation.

The government has failed to both defend communities or arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these heinous crimes The country’s statute books adequately provide for the arrest and prosecutions of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes whether Muslim or Christian; whether the crimes are committed in the name of religion or ethnic group. But either the state does not act or, when it does, it does so with wanton brutality and violence which often results in the innocent suffering.

Unfortunately, the above-outlined tasks are not something that the Nigerian neo-colonial capitalist state can implement. 56 years after independence, the national bourgeoisie has failed to fulfill any of the requirements for the development of a modern economy. This, apart from industrialization and modern utilities, includes a genuine agrarian reform programme that could both ensure land redistribution and the encouragement of modern farming and animal husbandry/livestock farming techniques. Today ancient farming methods and tools are the prevalent forms in the countryside while a large majority of farmers are small landholders tilling a plot or two of lands. In the same coin, animal husbandry/livestock farming methods are still at a primitive stage with grazing over long distances being the prevalent form. Whereas in more developed countries, ranching has become the prevalent form with far superior advantages over the primitive form. Therefore the herdsmen versus farmers violent clashes is one of the brutal testament to the failure of capitalism to develop Nigeria as a modern state with a truly independent, modern and self-sufficient economy capable of ensuring harmonious development.

It is important for the poor and working people not to be swayed by some political and religious leaders to divide them along religious and ethnic divides. Instead, we call for democratic and united defense bodies made up of elected representatives of farming communities and herdsmen to jointly protect farming communities and herdsmen and their cattle against attacks. Such a democratic defense body must also lead the process of investigating and securing the apprehension of those that are perpetrating violence from both sides of the divide. As we have poor and oppressed among people of Islamic faith so also we have among people of Christian faith. The poverty level of the poor and oppressed across religious and ethnic divides was caused by the ineptitude, anti-poor capitalist policies and looting of our common resources by political leaders across religious and ethnic divides. Among the alleged looters of our common resources being prosecuted by the present government are Muslims, Christians, Traditionalists, Atheists, Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos, etc.

When our collective right is being violated by the political leaders through mindless lootings of our common resources as well as exploitation of the poor working masses, it is not done along ethnic or religious divides but rather they are united to loot as part of the privileged class collaboration and interest. Therefore, the poor and oppressed of all faiths and ethnicity must as of necessity come together to form a working and poor peoples’ party with a view to take political power and change the existing rotten capitalist system to a socialist system whereby we can collectively and democratically manage our resources, end perennial religious and ethnic conflicts, eradicate poverty and ensure better the living conditions of workers and poor masses.