Inside the Genocide: Nigerian Security Forces Show Caliphate Trend
By Geoffrey Dill
Nigeria’s security forces have made a mockery of basic human rights by failing to protect its Christian population against a genocidal Fulani campaign of terror that has gone on for twenty years, with little hope for change in the upcoming election.
Fulani militants are engaging in deliberate, clandestine migration and land grabbing. Fulani herders from the north move south under the guise of nightfall, forcibly removing Christians in droves from their homes in farming villages. The Fulani, armed with superior weapons, easily out power the Christian Farmers. Many farmers and their families have no choice but to flee or be killed. This resettlement has confused Nigeria’s normal religious demography. Traditionally, Islam was dominant in the north and Christianity in the south. However, Fulani land grabbing has shifted some Muslim influence to the Middle Belt of the country.
Security forces in Nigeria do little to nothing to prevent the violent land-grabbing. The government implicitly allows the raiding because all heads of the national security forces in Nigeria are currently held by Fulani Muslims. It is likely that the heads of security forces refuse to crack down on Fulani herders because doing so would weaken their claims to power. The security personnel are of Fulani ethnicity. They have Fulani interests at heart. Their voter base is Fulani. Any major moves to stop the land-grabbing would seriously risk their own political careers. By ignoring the problem, the security leaders and personnel are complicit in the killings.
Critics of Nigeria’s security forces have called their attempts to stop the problem a “carrot and stick” approach. The “carrot” refers to the political negotiations between the Nigerian state and religious extremists, and the stick is the promise made to the public to aggressively crack down on religious extremists. For example, heads of security made promises to stop Fulani militants during Operation Rainbow in 2011, but the security forces were bribed by the Fulani militants, thus eliminating any chance of honest, fruitful negotiations. The security forces never fully solve the problem through negotiations and soft power.
It is a never-ending cycle between the promise of negotiation and the use of violence, which only perpetuates the idea that Nigeria security forces are needed to put down extremism – despite their ineffectual, corrupt, and inhumane efforts.
These strategies taken together are all in line with the vision of a global Islamic caliphate. There are notable parallels between the actions of the Nigerian security forces and those of the radical Islamists. Radical Islamists are in favor of expanding the use and application of Sharia law; similarly, security forces (which are headed by Fulani Muslims) have allowed Muslims to migrate south and take control of Christian farms. If Muslims continue to migrate south, Sharia law may soon be in practice in the Middle Belt and southern portions of Nigeria, despite its sizeable Christian community. Radical Islamists are going to extreme lengths to make their cause mainstream; in Nigeria, indoctrination efforts in the education system are making anti-Christian sentiments more mainstream. Furthermore, many non-Muslims have been convicted and killed on trumped-up blasphemy charges in Nigerian courts, which is commonplace among radical Islamist groups. For these reasons, the rise of militant Islam in Nigeria fits well within established global patterns.
The outcome of the presidential election on Saturday could impact this disturbing trend within Nigeria’s security apparatus. Atiku Abubakar, leader of the People’s Democratic Party and challenger of incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari, has promised to make the security forces more effective, but the likelihood of this happening is slim. Mr. Buhari made the same promises when he was elected in 2015, and the conflict has continued to escalate with little evidence of reform. Abubakar is not a Fulani and would put new leadership in place across the security forces of Nigeria. This would be a step forward, but with security forces still only in Muslim hands, problems would undoubtedly remain. Regardless, he seems to be the better choice.