Thursday 1 September 2016

ISLAM BEING IMPOSED? (Nigeria, The West and the Fulani)

Kajit J Bagu (John Paul), PhD (Edinburgh)


'Africa/Nigeria is being Islamised' is a cry you seem to hear every single day in the recent past, a cry which echoes in a different context in Europe. This cry is repeated daily in different contexts to such an extent as to make one imagine that something akin to the invincible Muslim Ottoman Army at the height of its power was encamped somewhere, and about to be unleashed upon the non-Muslim world.
Islamising Africa
Whether this is an unfounded Islamophobia or a reality, is a question I would beg not to attempt here. I would want to instead nib at the tiny question of whether Islam is being imposed. I also wish to narrow my scope by looking at 'Nigeria', and perhaps different bits of the British colonial creation by that name. Invariably, I will be talking about cries of Islamisation in the context of 'Nigeria', The West and the Fulani. Before doing this, perhaps we should briefly reflect on the dominant imaginary of what 'Islamisation' has meant to the non-Muslim.

The Sword, often associated with Islam, a symbol on the Flag of Saudi Arabia
The Sword! Yes, the sword encapsulates the dominant image of 'Islamisation'. This is a position that is supported from the self-image of Islam most importantly, as well as from the image engrafted in the minds of the non-Muslim. It is common to see the sword drawn as a symbol across many Muslim books, flags and inscriptions. And please note that I am not speaking of ISIS or BOKO HARAM, no! Look at the previous and present flags of countries that are described as 'Islamic' and you will find the sword in a short time. The flag of Saudi Arabia is an eminent example of the sword occupying a prominent symbolism.
Other symbols associated with Islam abound
One must acknowledge that this image sometimes makes many Muslims uncomfortable, especially in a world where human and liberal values have sunk deep into the human psyche and spirit. My apologies to persons of this disposition, but you can derive consolation from the fact that profound progress has been made by many committed Muslims in reforming the image of Islam towards less violent self-portrayals. In this regard I must mention a long list of initiatives across the world, driven by the teachings of Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish Muslim Cleric living in Pennsylvania USA, and the Hizmet Movement he has inspired.
Fethullah Gulen
These efforts do not stop at mere rhetoric, but go as far as doctrinal discourse. For example, Gulen proposes that in addition to the classical Muslim division of the world into Dar al Islam (realm of Islam/peace) and Dar al Harb (realm not under Islam or in darkness/war) with its implications for violence, there should be a new realm named Dar al Hizmah (realm of service). This development is taking place in a world of rising Islamic extremism no doubt, but the extremists do not have the final say in shaping the image of Islam, hopefully.

Nevertheless, the image of the sword, often a bloody sword, is what dominates the imaginary of 'Islamisation'. So my friends, when cries of Islamisation are bellowed on a daily basis, what are we to make of the images invoked thereby? How for instance, do we understand the claim/cry that 'Nigeria is being Islamised' today?


It should not be a 'discovery' to say that 'Nigeria' as a British creation, was conceived and designed to eventually be comprehensively Muslim. Any scholar who is not aware of this reality is not yet a scholar within this context. Yes, I mean it! Anyone who thinks 'Nigeria' is incompatible with 'Islamisation' should better go back and consult the 'owners', 'designers' and thus, the masters of the creation named 'Nigeria'!

When Flora Shaw gave the name in her book, her central thesis was to the effect that the path to civilisation for the 'Negro Savages' in this area, was to be located in two factors. First is the creed of Islam, also referred to as 'Mohammedanism' in those sources, and second is the 'capable rule'of 'superior races', particularly the Fulani and Arabs in Africa, for they were categorised as 'Foreign white races' whose mission in Africa was to spread Islam and to rule. Lugard repeated these sentiments consistently in his works. For them (the masters), Islam comes with a 'superior race from the North'.

I guess my point is that no contemporary 'Nigerian' leader can rightly be accused of, or credited with Islamising 'Nigeria' today! No leader can be greater than the masters whose political philosophies dominate, define and shape their very existence. Lugard went great lengths to justify why Islamisation has to be the way to civilisation, and that is where the Fulani come in. There could be no vision of the future for Negro Savages without a 'foreign superior race bringing Islam'. This design squarely agreed with the European idea of building an ínternational order'based on a categorisation of humanity into three with corresponding degrees of human dignity/entitlement to recognition. These three were the Civilised (European), the Barbarian (semi-civilised, mostly Muslim Ottomans, and the Savage (American Aborigines, Africans, most of Asia). The Fulani were thus the 'Barbarians'necessary for çivilising'the indigenous 'African Savage'. He wrote:

'Islam as a militant creed which teaches contempt for those who are not its votaries, panders to the weakness of the African character- self-conceit and vanity. Centuries of lawlessness have made the African a worshiper of force ... quick to adopt the creed of the conqueror, chiefly for the prestige it brought. It's very excess, the capture of women as slaves and concubines, and the looting of villages ... form the beau ideal of his desires if he can be the aggressor ... And there is much else which appeals to the African in the religion of Mahomet.'
Lugard 1922, The Dual Mandate, 77.
The British Colonial 'Masters', 'Owners' and their Fulani Rulers of 'Nigeria'.
That statement reflected, and probably remains (in a subtle way), the voice of 'The West', author of 'Nigeria' and master of its philosophical undertones. It is a voice which echoes into the past and the present of 'Nigeria', Africa and the global South. For Lugard and 'The West' he represented, Islam was the right religion, and the Fulani who were considered a 'foreign white race', made-up the perfect composition for framing a political philosophy for this 'savage' collection of 'Negroes' for the most part. This explains the approval he sought and obtained in 1902 from the Colonial Office in a memo, to use the Fulani as 'Rulers' (1902 Annual Reports of Northern Nigeria). The islamisation of 'Nigeria' was thus accomplished at its creation. If anything, things have not gone to plan in accomplishing this vision. To the colonial British mind, the Negro should be Islamised since s/he is 'too inferior' for 'strict Christianity'.

I think Sir Ahmadu Bello understood this well enough and worked hard at his conversion campaigns even as Premier of the 'Northern Region'after the índependence'of 'Nigeria'in the 1960s. Successive leaders of 'Nigeria' probably betrayed this vision, especially the non-Muslim ones. Paden's account of numerous visits by Sir Ahmadu Bello to Guinea, Sierra-Leone, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon among others, along with the celebratory pomp with which he was welcome 'home' in those societies, says a lot about the fact that Ahmadu Bello understood this well quite well. The declaration by him and the Lebanese leader issued in Lebanon on his visit, acknowledged that the Fulani and the Lebanese were of 'common stock'. Such is the reality of how contemporary and profound the pattern goes.

But why do I mention the Fulani? I do so because Lugard's vision could not be complete without the 'Fulani' as a 'superior, foreign race.' Of course the 'superior' and 'ruling' race cannot be 'foreign' despite being foreign, just as immigrant Europeans cannot be 'foreign' in America where they are the 'superior', 'ruling' identity, despite being foreign and indigenous to Europe. I guess those raising alarms of 'Islamisation' can realise that so long there is 'Nigeria', a British colonial imaginary, Islamisation is, and will remain part of the matrix as designed, and the Fulani are the 'superior', ruling identity. US Secretary of State John Kerry has to be conscious of this, and so the itinerary on his 2016 visit to 'Nigeria' was apt in prioritising the Sultan of Sokoto and Northern Nigerian Elites under the banner of 'Northern Governors'.

Should it be news that Uthman Dan Fodio's Sokoto Caliphate collapsed in 1902 with Sultan Attahiru's death at Burmi when he and the loyalists of the Fodio legacy made a last stand in battle against the British detachment of the West African Frontier Force (WAFF)? This is old news! That which emerged and existed thereafter, has been a Western creation, a Fulani religious power structure far superior to the one which perished along with the Fodio's green flag in 1902, on the field of historic battle that fateful 27th day of July. The new Sultan (also named Attahiru) installed or imposed by Lugard and honoured by the West, is part of the 'Nigeria' imaginary. To the best of my knowledge, it is only the Sultan of Sokoto who has had the honour of being conferred the title of 'Companionship of St. Michael and St. George' by the King of England. This was right after the 'massacre' at Satiru, a village near Sokoto where some Hausa 'rebels' had resisted British rule and attacked a detachment of the WAFF, killing and capturing a Maxim gun. The Sultan's loyalty was such that his forces not only matched with the WAFF and killed all 2000 inhabitants of Satiru, but he went ahead to prohibit the habitation of Satiru thenceforth. That strenghtened the Fulani the special place given them by the West. This buttresses why the Fulani must rule for the British, Western vision and construct of 'Nigeria' to be realised fully.


The dynamics of the foregoing have probably been significantly reflected in Kaduna State, the capital of 'Northern Nigeria' as designated by Lugard in 1912. Taking Kaduna State for instance, the indigenous 'inferior races' rallied to vote one of two Fulanis at the last elections. Other aspirants were simply ignored. And so El-Rufai, won decisively, and almost immediately 'de-indigenised' the state.
Governor Ahmed Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State.

The man is probably a perfect reflection of the colonial vision of the superior Fulani rulers. In 2012 while I was doing research in Edinburgh, Scotland, I took note of his statement in July, when the Federal Government muted the idea of attacking a 'Fulani military camp' on a rock near Jos. This was right after some lawmakers were killed by 'Fulani attackers' within the Riyon-Barkin Ladi axis where the militant camp was allegedly based. He warned that no military or civilians should dare attack the Fulani. Today, he is governor and Buhari, a Fulani Grand Patron, is president. Lugard must be exclaiming: 'perfect!
El-Rufai's message on attacking Fulani 'Militia' near Jos in 2012

Governor El-Rufai knows his roots and pedigree. He recently said his roots are in Guinea. And so understandably, the diversity of identities indigenous to the state would be a problem that should be 'solved' by possibly being wiped-out or homogenised if possible. I recently advised his friend, my teacher at ABU Zaria (Professor Yusuf Dankofa) in a comment via social media, to lecture him on the constitutional mechanisms for governing a pluralistic society (in view of his background as a Quantity Surveyor), but it seems to bear no fruit so far. This approach of problematising diversity was Governor El-Rifai's deeply-held notion as expressed in a January 2012 speech at Abuja, titled 'The Nigeria of our Dreams'. There he implied that plurality is a problem that should be eliminated in building 'a nation'.
Today, ‘Fulani herdsmen' are seemingly attacking widely, if reports are something to go by. But it seems the 'inferior races' are comfortable despite the attacks which have been a pattern for many years now. They voted significantly for these leaders in Benue, Plateau, Kaduna etc, but the attacks go beyond these areas to Enugu and other places as reported. The atrocities are sad realities indeed, but this is 'Nigeria', a child/creation of the West where 'Fulani privilege' it seems, needs to trump many 'things'. In  this context, the proposed 'Grazing Reserves'designated for territories that are ancestral to the índigenous savages' may very likely produce greater rupture where the sentiments of the 'indigenous savages'are ignored as they are likely to be. I guess this point is increasingly becoming manifest. On the whole before I conclude, I can understand how the idea of a 'Nigeria-The West-Fulani' connection can seem fuzzy to the common person. That is why I must request pardon and understanding for heaping the fruits of profound research on you.


But in conclusion, here is one thing you could at least take home: 'Nigeria' was created through the thinking, hardwork and exertion of Western/British colonial adventurous undertakings. It's principles, prejudices and pillars were set by the colonial creators. If Islamisation is part of that construct in an imaginary within a 'Nigeria-The West-Fulani' design, then you better not accuse leaders who have become automatons in a set matrix. Automatons often have little to do with the origins and designs of structures, matrixes and systems wherein their roles have been pre-defined and pre-determined. To ask too much of them would be misplaced in terms of either giving them credit for the system crafted by the 'masters', or look to them for too much of a solution. 'Nigeria' has owners and masters, even the name of it does.

The message for those raising issues with this real construct of 'Nigeria' would therefore be something as follows: If you want a country to call your own, you better get down to work in the best way possible, using all the democratic and liberal tools available to this age, including those which make the lingering colonial achievements look suspect and no longer viable or defensible. You may need rare skills for this task, especially constitutional theorists of the contemporary, cutting-edge kind (not the lovers of colonial legacies you have parading as 'leaders' and 'activists' all over). In this, those especially who have become 'authorities' in the existing order (whether academic, political, economic or social), must be viewed with skepticism. They are draped in the logic of this system, a system clearly bereft of emancipatory potential. It can no longer respond to contemporary challenges because its philosophies are spent, no longer viable, morally legitimate nor sustainable.

As for me, my ship has set sail in the quest for a better world in Cognitive Justice. What I mean by this is that the logic of racism and inequality which shaped and still dominates the 'International Order' needs to give way to the logic of equality and true human dignity at all levels: global and domestic. In terms of socio-politically organising pluralistic societies, the colonial 'Nation-State' and its uncritical post-colonial (or neo-colonial successor), needs to be replaced by more suited constructs. One of such is the idea of the Plurinational State, and by this, I do not speak of 'Multinational States' as an idea which has so far been the preserve of the pluralistic West (United Kingdom, Canada, Spain etc). I speak of a Plurinational State construct which transcends the discriminatory categories by which racism has been made central to the globalisation of the last 500 years, and pivotal to the structuring of the 'International'. These categories three typical categories: The Civilised'', 'The Barbarian' and 'The Savage' must disappear in rhetoric, and most crucially, it must be banished from the logic that rules world orders and structures. It is the vision of what I have called a 'Pluriversal World Order'.

We must join the positive influences which are dedicated to the optimism that indeed, a better world is attainable!

Dr Kajit's research at Edinburgh focused on 'Cognitive Justice, Plurinational Constitutionalism and Post-colonial Peacebuilding'.

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