Once again, the two socio-cultural groups that are always angrily opposed to each other, the Middle Belt Forum [MBF] and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association [MACBAN], are out there looking for each other’s jugular as the former’s call on its members to defend themselves and the latter’s reaction to this position have fully indicated. While the National Executive Committee of the MBF, as stated by its member and President of the Southern Kaduna People Union, Honourable Jonathan Asake, at its recent meeting in Keffi, Nasarawa State, not only complained about what it considers as rampant attacks on some communities in the Middle Belt Region [MBR] but also advocated self-defence, the Chairman of the Nasarawa State chapter of MACBAN, Bala Mohammed Dabo, said the group has already resolved to deploy all available legal means to protect its members.
All along, these two groups and some others like them have been claiming to be the champions of the interests of their members and consistently take positions and make declarations that are most sensitive to majority of northerners and, by extension, Nigerians. Most of their actions and reactions clearly indicate a penchant for the manipulation of the sentiments and emotions of the people, all in a bid to execute their various agenda that are not necessarily relevant or helpful to peaceful co-existence and security in the territories they operate.
Communities in the north are openly hostile to one other because, more often than not, numerous socio-cultural and religious groups easily indulge in acts that smack of either instigation of their members or unwarranted attack on their largely perceived enemies. This explains the persistent violent attacks and counter-attacks which not only continuously consume lives and property but also, as Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar once furiously remarked, increasingly make the north the most difficult place to live in.
The on-going exchange between MBF and MACBAN is a clear example of their usual reckless approach to issues of peace and security and a total disregard for the pressing need for quick de-escalation of violence in the north. Although in this particular case MACBAN is softer as it has shown preference for the exploration of legal means, both groups have, over time, exhibited insensitivity to the existing volatile situation in most parts of the north which their styles have continued to aggravate.
What is most regrettable is the fact that the crises in the north are self-inflicted because they are products of the recklessness, insensitivity and docility of the northern individuals and groups. It is, in fact, most obvious that the various categories of the northern leadership have failed to appreciate the compelling need for the effective management of the diversities amongst the various communities that should ideally serve as a source of strength, but which have unfortunately been turned into a basis of the incessant killings and destructions that have become almost daily occurrences in the region.
It appears that groups like the MBF and MACBAN are always waiting or, in fact, looking for an opportunity to raise issues that are likely to rapidly arouse emotions of their members so that a tension that can give birth to violence will be generated. By their activities, these groups are far more instigators than counsellors or mediators, which is the reason for the fast spread of violence across the north and the resultant decline of the fortunes of the northerners in almost all aspects of life.
There is tremendous validity in the argument that had such groups been founded on the basis of a genuine intention to address all those issues and situations that have actually or just assumed to have constituted some risks to their members and other people they would have been extremely cautious in the manner they deal with matters of concern to the various northern communities. The fact that the rate of the multifarious crises continuously rises is an incontrovertible evidence of failure of the groups to institute necessary mechanisms for the avoidance and resolution of conflicts.
It should be realized that communities in the north had, prior to the formation of a lot of such groups, existed and related with one another in a relatively determined manner. Even the past complaints over marginalization by some of them, as valid as some of them might be, had not led to the kind of violence being experienced now because there were more counsellors and mediators than instigators at the time.
For example, the Middle Belt, as a geo-political expression, is not the creation of the MBF and was not founded or conditioned on the basis of the aspirations of the present leaders of the forum. The persistent debate over the definition, composition and size of the territory is enough to expose the weakness or even baselessness of most of the agitation for self-determination that is basically the forum’s vocation.
Similarly, MACBAN’s strategy for the execution of its assignment is too conceptually narrow to satisfy the basic yearnings of the Fulani. The history and population size of the Fulbe race or even just Fulani cattle breeders are too much for the association to handle, which therefore makes its self-appointment as the defender and promoter of the interests of the Fulani absolutely ridiculous.
The accusation of discrimination or neglect that each of the two bodies consistently makes against the federal government is fully indicative of their low appreciation of some of the basic challenges of governance. It is an attitude that shows the reluctance of each one of them to play maximum positive role towards the reduction of the violent crises either through collaboration with the relevant agencies of government or meaningful engagement of all the sides involved.
At a time when greater majority of the northerners have become victims of several crippling afflictions, it is only expected that socio-cultural groups like the MBF and MACBAN will appreciate the vital need for them to seek ways for the quick amelioration of the sufferings of the people. It is only when they become providers and sustainers of peace initiatives and security measures that the two groups can be seen to be vital instruments for the mobilization of the people towards the attainment of common good.
What is most fundamentally required now is the clear show of caution and restraint on the part of the members of the various northern communities so that they will not continue to be victims of the antics of those groups, mostly made up of opportunists and attention-seekers, that claim to be the champions of their diverse interests. There should be adequate criteria for the scrutiny and assessment of the activities of the groups with a view to establishing whether or not they are, in real sense, for or against the north.