Background Image

Blog Post

Jun 10

History of the conflicts in Nigeria by Cardinal Prof Genesis Api Dawuda

History of the conflicts in Nigeria by Cardinal Prof Genesis Api Dawuda

Conflict is an aspect of society that cannot be rid of, most especially that people tend to have serious misunderstandings which usually gets settled or solved through dialogue. It’s on medical records that where a bone fractures, after it heals tends to be stronger than the other parts. Even the teeth and the tongue sometimes have a brawl which did not make the tongue to change position elsewhere.
Constructive conflicts builds society. The case of Nigeria is a sad story altogether.   
One cannot talk or write about the history of conflict in Nigeria without mentioning the history of some protest movements and political awakening in Nigeria.
There are four reasons that seems to be the problems that led to the birth of protest movements in Nigeria with the coming of the British colonial administrators;
It is apparent that by creating more emirs the British knew that the prestige of the institution will be undermined, and by classifying them under first class, second class and third class, they made it more impossible for them to work against the colonial administration. Each emir became more concerned with rendering loyal service, either to maintain his position or to be honored with a knighthood and promotion.   
Whereas in the 19th century all emirs, irrespective of the size of the territory they controlled, were of equal rank , under the British they were classified either first class, second class or third class on a basis that is difficult to know.
The first 30 years of British colonial rule in the Northern provinces was a period of enormous changes, characterized by the curtailing of the powers of emirs and other traditional rulers, and the reduction of the size of the large emirates. In name, the emirs were free to govern their people, but in actual fact, they were under the control of the residents and the District Officers.
Outside the emirates, among the non-Muslim people of the middle belt area, the major change included the imposition of British supported chiefs over groups that had been independent, weakening the power and authority of authentic chiefs and placing some groups under the emirates rather than constituting them into centralized chieftaincies.
The four reasons above seems to have led to strong resistance in the form of protests which the British dismissed s defiance of government for “a desire to continue the habits of murder, robbery, and cannibalism” and not for independence (due to discontent).
During the British Administrative reforms, many of the pagan chiefdoms rebelled and protested over their being over-lorded under emirates by the British, couple with the administrative demands for taxes and manpower for the construction of railways. This is because, the British elevated certain ones and empowered them to the discontent of those who felt that they can’t submit to a clan previously subject to them. Among such pagans are the Gwari people, Montol people and Kachia. The whole of the middle-belt region especially among the Tiv-people whose uncivilized culture was termed unacceptable by the British administration.
This brings us to the very central aspect of this project. The resistance that took the form of Mahdism, Maitatsine and subsequently Boko Haram.
It’s noteworthy to state that all the protests in the past were suppressed through devastating primitive expeditions, professionally known as military power.
The Mahdist idea according to Prof. Sa’ad Abubakar, “was equated with the time of trouble-trouble caused by the Nasara(Europeans) or by the generality of infidels.” According to popular Muslim beliefs, the Mahdi was to appear to end the trouble confronting the Muslims, cleanse the society and make arrangements for the Second Advent of the Messiah.
The Mahdist movement in history has infact threatened the Sokoto caliphate towards the end of the 19th century.  
The British came into conflict with Mahdism first in the Sudan and then in the Northern provinces at;
Burmi in 1903 and at;
Satiru in 1906. Here, it lacked the support of the Sultan and some emirs. Those emirs that were sympathetic with the rebellion were deposed.
These were;
At Katsina, Emir Yero
At Gwandu, Emir Muhammadu, installed at Ambursa in 1903, and deposed in 1906 for complicity during the Satiru revolt.
At Hadejia, the Emir Muhammadu was openly delighted at the outbreak of the rebellion and consequently, he began to defy the British authority. As a result, an expedition was sent against Hadejia, and the Emir, who put on resistance, was killed in the fighting. Hence, the Satiru rebellion was crushed by the British aided by the Sultan. Thus, Mahdism was nipped in the bud; peace reigned for a period of 10 years.
Soon, during and after the first world war, Mahdism ricocheted back in the Northern Provinces. Trying to identify their position with the rest of the Arab world on the war.
In 1916, a local Mahdi, styled “Mai Rigan Karfe”  (The man with the chain armour) arose in the Middle-Benue area to lead the fight against the Europeans. From their centre at Nukko, the Mahdists, after attacking some villages, threatened the British at Donga. They were surprised and defeated at Nukko hill. Their leader was captured, tried, sentenced to death and executed in 1917.
Mahdism continued to thrive, no thanks to Sa’id, the son of the 19th century Mahdist leader in the Sokoto Caliphate. The movement developed almost to a stage of armed uprising in the 1920s. Sa’id’s base at Bunbulwa in Fika emirate, attracted a large following of dissidents and malcontents. In 1922, the British claimed to have discovered a plot aimed at unseating the Sultan Muhammadu Mai Turare, because of his strong inclination to the British. In 1923, the Resident of Borno also reported a plan by the Mahdists to incite the army unit at Maiduguri to revolt. These disclosures were sufficient enough to alarm the British colonial administration. Consequently, the Mahdist centre, Bunbulwa, was attacked and broken up.  It’s leader Sa’id b. Hayat, was arrested and detained at Buea until 1945. Subsequent investigations revealed that there were plans for arms import from North Africa and that the Lamido of Adamawa was involved. He was reprimanded. Thus, the Mahdist movement under Sa’id was destroyed, but there was still unrest in other emirates. In Gwandu(1923) and Katsina extended down to the 1940s. It’s important to know that the British also labeled certain chiefdoms as Emirates for easy administration in order to undermine some of them.
(It’s so sad to note here that the Mahdist beliefs goes contrary to what the Hadith documented about the Imam Mahdi, his ancestry descent and his coming from the Israeli stock. Ushering an era of peace and prosperity, not war and misery. He shall appear like overnight and all of a sudden he’ll preach peace and embark on human and physical development which will precede the return of Prophet Isa (Kalimatullah-Ruhullah). Sorry, I’m not a Muslim but a Jewish Rabbi researcher who compares notes. Please look-up information at this link about Imam Mahdi HYPERLINK "" )
The Mahdism protests led to the following policies by the British Administrators;
More stringent colonial control in the northern provinces
The British reinforced Frontier Patrols, especially along the border with the French territory to the North and East.  
Arrangements were concluded with the French for a common policy towards Muslim dissidents and the Mahdists.
The Mahdist movement had led to panic in the 1920s and the British felt the whole imperial structure was at stake. A new approach to the question of governing the Muslims in the Northern Provinces was felt to be necessary.  
Policies designed to eliminate all traces of Mahdism and othersubversive tendencies were pursued.
In 1925 Palmer, the Lieutenant Governor of the Northern Provinces, built up the position of loyal emirs and chiefs heading powerful Sole Native Authorities to suppress sedition.
The constant fear of emirs and chiefs about the fear of the Mahdists, led the British to continue to treat them as agents of the colonial administration.
Later another major crisis was to engulf the whole country six years after independence from the Brits; the easterners felt they were sidelined  in the governance of the country through tribalism, nepotism, and the northernization policies that guided administration in the Northern region. Soon, there was protests and riots in the south-western part of the country in 1966 which led to a coup that cost the lives of two top citizens of the Northern Region Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (First and only Prime Minister of Nigeria) and Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto (First and only Premier of Northern Region of Nigeria) . This assassinations is somehow linked to fear of Islamization tendency of the whole country by the Northerners according to some account, since Sir Ahmadu Bello was the grandson of Uthman Danfodio and the Vice President of World Islamic Council. His administrative campaign has been double-edged, preaching and expanding the cause of Islam while doing his administrative work of the Northern Region of Nigeria which led to his converting and turbaning of many pagan chiefs as emirs, which aggravated many Christians and southerners most especially of the Igbo stock.
When Gen Aguiyi Ironsi came into power, his announcement of a unitary government was his own undoing, Northerners in the Army shouted mutiny… “Aware!” (meaning, let country split) and so many Igbos lost their lives hence their clamour for independence in an effort to secede they named themselves The Republic of Biafra, which led to a civil war from 1967 and ended with a surrender in 1970 with the Biafrans losing not less than 600,000 lives and close to a million starved to death. The Igbos came to be known as Nyamiri (meaning give me water) after the civil war.
In the Middle-Belt, Jos Plateau State to be precise, the issue has some twist as the whole partitioning of chiefdoms under emirates forced the Hausas in Jos to claim indigene-ship   of the area. Jos is the part of the country that has one of the best weather very clement and accommodating all through the year. Jos Plateau State is the melting pot of the whole country, a miniature Nigeria if you’ll permit me to say so. It was the choice of the Brits as residence of the Queen and Prime minister of England peradventure the second world grows very sore and if England is not comfortable for safety Jos is their best bet in Africa. So they grew all the kinds of Aristocratic fruits, vegetables and other food crops, making Jos very unique among all the neighbouring towns and villages. This made Jos to be an envy of the whole country, not for thriving industries but for a clement weather and variety of Nassara(White man’s) food crops and the hospitality of the people and its serenity. This was not left to continue because the quest for territorial invasion took over. Natives suddenly became unwelcoming because of the ploy of the Hausas to claim their land, records show that a Hausa chief has been making every effort to be identified as chief of Jos instead only the chief of the Hausas in Jos. The Resident in Jos had case with this man in 1929 which records showed the man had too much ‘rikichi’(mischief maker).    
It will be important to recollect here that it was at Keffi in Nassarawa state that the platform for the establishment of British Colonial rule took root in Northern Nigeria. The killing of Captain Molony in Keffi in 1902 is said to have served as a pretext for the British occupation of Northen Nigeria, thus bringing to an end the famous Fulani Empire of Usman Dan Fodio.                 

Time will not allow me to continue this essay, below are historical records of conflicts in Nigeria till date and pictures.
1.    In 1978 during the Constituent Assembly sitting on the Shari’ah debate which nearly led to a bloodletting situation because the Christians don’t see any justification in allowing the Muslims practice Shari’ah Law in a Plural and Secular state.
2.    In 1979, members of the Muslim Students Society(MSS) at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, took matters into their hands when they rioted on the streets of Kaduna and Zaria, took matters into their hands when they rioted on the streets of Kaduna and Zaria. They came up with the idea that either Nigeria adopted the rejected Shari’ah law or the country be split up. This bout of religious riots, termed ‘Islam-Only’ uprising, on account of inscription the rioters defiantly scrawled on walls, led to wanton destruction of property and disruption of academic life at the university. But with hindsight, this was a mere tip of iceberg.
3.    Between June 1978 and December 1980 alone, 34 religious clashes were recorded involving Islamic groups.
4.    In 1982 Nigeria played host to two important Christian personalities. His Holiness Pope John Paul visited Nigeria in February 1982 during which 94 deacons were ordained in Kaduna. The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury visited in April of the same year during which he laid the foundation stone for the construction of a church in Fagge, Kano. These visits drew the ire of Muslim Fanatics resulting in rioting and the burning of churches in Kano. At the end of the day eight churches were completely burnt down and the newly erected church in Fagge seriously vandalized.
5.    In January 1986, the secret upgrading of Nigeria in OIC(Organization of Islamic Conference) from an Observer to a membership status during General Babangida’s regime led to a bitter quarrel between Christians and Muslims. Which led to four religious disturbances and the build up to the bloody Kaduna crises of 1987.The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) estimated that 153 churches were burnt and hundreds of lives, including that of the clergy and their families, were lost.
6.    In June 1988 During the ABU Zaria students’ Union election violence erupted when it transpired that the Muslim candidate was losing to a Christian.The campus was invaded by Muslim hoodlums from Samaru village afflicting violence on Christians.
7.    On April 20, 1991 violence broke out of Tafawa Balewa which quickly spread to other towns leaving hundreds of people dead.
8.    On October 11, 1991 religious riot once again broke out in Kano. This time around Muslim youth attacked Christians in Sabon Gida and Fagge areas over a crusade organized by Christians with the German preacher, Rev. Reinhard Bonnke as guest speaker. He narrowly escaped being assassinated.
9.    The same month Christians were attacked in Katsina over a Publication.This publication sparked off riots which did not only stop at the burning of the DAILY TIMES offices but spread to the  destruction of property of Christians in Katsina and other towns like Sokoto and Kaduna.
10. In April 1992 crises once again erupted in Tafawa Balewa. This time around, Muslims attacked the Seyawas over the use of the town abattoir. The Muslims attacked the Christians alleging that they slaughtered pigs in their section. The riots were to spread to other towns in the State. Many Churches and Mosques were destroyed during the riots. A notable Nigerian historian noted: “ This riot was so fierce that most religious conflict analysts seem to agree that it was more of war than riot.”
11. The same year the Zango kataf riots broke out over the ownership of land between the indigenous Katafs and the Muslim Hausa-Fulani.
12. About the same time, Kano again went berserk attacking and killing Christians, looting and burning their shops after decapitating an Igbo trader and parading his head on a wooden spike around the town. Gideon Akaluka, the victim, was alleged to have used a page of the Koran to wipe himself in the toilet. How this was proved will never be known but a trail of Christian blood followed his terminal exit.
13. In 2001, 2008, and 2010 the city of Jos and its environs in Plateau State suffered terrible assaults from the Hausa/Fulanis. So many lives and property were lost and churches burnt down.

(To be continued.)

Add Comment:
Please login or register to add your comment or get notified when a comment is added.
2 people will be notified when a comment is added.