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Flashback: Obadiah Mailafiya: Hatred, bigotry & intellectual thuggery



By Babayola M. Toungo

Mr. Obadiah Mailafiya is a person that I previously held in high esteem because of certain objectivity he brought to public discourse. However on reading his “Genocide, Hegemony and Power in Nigeria”, this high esteem I had of him became diminished . In the said article, Mailafiya tried strenuously to prove the allegation of genocide and hegemony against the Fulbes and their being aliens in Nigeria to the extent of rewriting history of the Fulbe to suit his attempt to re-write contemporaneous history . What is glaring in Mr. Mailafiya’s essay is nothing but a furtherance of the myopic world view of colonial imperialism and present islamophobia exhibited elsewhere that others here in Nigeria wish to adopt and paint the Fulbe. I will say to Mailafiya “Facts are sacred sir, therefore you can’t change anything lying through your teeth.” The man has always presented himself as an intellectual – what I have always struggled to understand is whether he is the academic or thuggish type. He always comes across as a victim without a cause with a penchant to create villains on whom to hang his grievances. In all, throughout the rambling piece he has penned, the only truth I could find in the article is his quotation form Gramsci. Which he failed to apply to the issues he was raising.

In his fixation of trying to hang the Fulbe he didn’t bother to reconcile the contradictions inherent in his write-up. For instance, he postulated that “historians the world over agree that the original home of the Fulani people is the Futa Jallon in the Upper Guinea highlands of the West African Republic of Guinea” who are these historians? The colonialist or Anglo-American pontificating culturalist who tried to make the world his or her own? In the next breadth, he continued, “…the Fulani are thought to have emigrated from North Africa and the Middle East in ancient times, settling in the Futa Jalon Mountains…”. There may be a different meaning for ‘original’, which I may have not come across. For Mailafiya and his fellow dreamers, who crave for the establishment of a “Middle Belt” of their warped dreams, the Fulbes are original to every country and continent, bar Nigeria. The Fulbes can’t be Nigerians and therefore are fair game to be targeted for annihilation. It is in this type of propaganda that pretext is provided or veiled “hate speech” given credence to provide the environment for ethnic cleansing. Mailafiya’s attempt to re-write the history of the Fulbe is a message that could be interpreted that the Fulbe’s origin is elsewhere therefore they are not Nigerians to enjoy the benefit of the s of citizenship and therefore they could be treated at will and to their detriment.

Our good Doctor failed to tell us when the Fulbes came to Nigeria and the tribes they met in what is today known as Nigeria. But in the typical fashion of the emerging ethnic bigots masquerading as intellectuals, Mailafiya couldn’t even crosscheck his facts about the Sokoto Jihad – where it was fought, Dan Fodio’s participation and how it reached the Fombina. Attempting to separate the Caliphate and the Fombina is part of the mischief of Mailafiya and his frustrated group who think they can wish away the past. Nobody took the jihad to Tiv land and Shehu Usman Dan Fodio did not fight anywhere near Tivland for him to be ‘wounded’ in battle which led to his death. Is this the new fable? “Dream on sir.”

Mailafiya took time to detail the travails of the Fulbe in Guinea with relish and one can feel him practically drooling when he got to this part and how he wished this same thing can be applied as a final solution to the Nigerian “settler” Fulbes. Oga, how do you present a people who could not rule in their “original ancestral land” as hegemonic in a country where the likes of you are the lords of the manor? He glibly said the Fulbes are about 20 million spread all over West Africa, can he tell me any other tribe with such a spread and number in the west coast?

“The lack of political opportunities in Guinea explains why the Fulbes turned their attention to Nigeria,” so proclaimed our sage. So the British Empire saw in the Fulbe a contemporaneous empire building traits indigenous to West Africa? And this is the narrative that the likes of Mailafiya want to perpetuate? So Fulbes are just turning their attention to Nigeria? Compared to the history that Mailafiya is relying on, when did Nigeria come into being? Is it a construct of the British colonial enterprise? The Fulbes? Or the likes of Mailafiya? The great success of the Fulani jihad led Shehu Usman Dan Fodio and his son Muhammadu Bello preceded the 1884 Berlin Conference and subsequent colonial chicanery of the French and English particularly in respect of what is now known as Nigeria. Were the Mailafiya’s of this world represented at the Berlin Conference? Or in the Colonial administration of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria or the amalgamated territories of Northern and Southern Protectorates? Mailafiya reminded those who might have forgotten that the country had three leaders of Fulani extraction in the past – Shehu Shagari, Murtala Mohammed, Umaru ‘Yar Adu’a “and the current incumbent of our High Magistracy Muhammadu Buhari”. Na wa wo! Why was Buhari qualified as “High Magistracy”? Mailafiya unwittingly showed his hand – the target all along is Buhari. Lacking the courage and firm conviction to come out and attack Buhari, he chose the well-beaten path of ethnic hatred.

The whole article was a bunch of contradictory postulates. What has come to be known as the “Sokoto Jihad” was never for slave raiding and other reasons Mailafiya wants to ascribe to it. The underlying reasons of the Sokoto Jihad have been well articulated that I could only advise Mailafiya to go and read the books written the leaders of the Sokoto Jihad or latter day historians like the late Abdullahi Smith. When the Imperial British came to this part of Africa, it was only the emirates that stood up to them and the British had to use superior firepower to subdue the emirs. The British destroyed the emirates, not strengthened them. Any elementary reading of history can tell you that. I now know why many of the likes of Mailafiya are opposed to the teaching of history in our schools – so that they can rewrite it. The British destroyed the Caliphal system because emirs under the Caliphate resisted the conquest, while others welcomed them with open arms. Could the British, who were accompanied Christian missionaries, be supportive of an Islamic Caliphate to the extent of supplanting existing Christian chiefdoms as alleged our “erudite” scholar? Can he tell us when the Berom chiefdom was created, before it was stealthily converted to that of Jos?

In attempting to demonise the Fulbe, Mailafiya glibly linked the Fulbe with slave raids in the Middle Belt. The usual “divide and rule” argument perpetrated the British colonialist and now perpetuated the likes of Mailafiya. Were the Fulbe jihadists ever in “his” middle belt? I think what he is trying hard to hide (or deny) is the fact that he is failing to place the blame at the feet of those that sought to use our population to provide cheap labour whether here in Africa or their other colonies elsewhere in the world. In all historical narrations real scholars, I have never come across such brazen lie that Shehu Usman Dan Fodio took the jihad to the Tivs. That was not the modus operandi of the Sokoto Jihad. It was local leaders that were convinced of the egalitarian aspirations of the Sokoto Jihad that went to Sokoto or specifically to Shehu Usman Danfodio to declare their allegiance and be made part of the Sokoto Jihad. I hope Mailafiya understands the difference that the Sokoto Jihad was not about conquest of “geographical territory” in comparison to British Imperialism. I therefore cannot fathom the point Mailafiya was trying to make here knowing he is lying through his teeth. Feeding the minds of young innocent ones on a diet of hatred and bigotry?

The average Pullo hates being called a ‘hausa-fulani’ because such “new mongrel race” as postulated Mailafiya, is a creation of his friends, the then Lagos – Ibadan press, just to compress the population of the two groups. A term, or yet still – a new mongrel race – coined Mailafiya and his challenged bedfellows, is now to be used as a weapon of hatred the same people. Claiming that most Fulbe are largely settled in urban Nigeria is admission clearly coated with bile. To admit there are settled Fulbes in urban Nigeria is to jolt the narrative out of sync. He rambled on about the Fulbes not able to speak Fulfulde, scattered across states like Gombe, Adamawa, Katsina and Kano. I wonder what point he was trying to make this assertion. He alleged in his disjointed piece that the Fulbe are now on a rampage of “killing, pillaging and burning down entire villages”. Why are they doing so? Just for the heck of it? History taught us about causes, courses and effects. Not only do they kill, according to Mailafiya – they also destroy farmsteads and repopulate them with their own. Can he be benevolent enough to give us the name of one such farmstead destroyed and repopulated the Fulbe?

In the recent haste of ethnic profiling and hate mongering, I cannot remember coming across a poorly done hate crusade someone strenuously trying to present himself as not preaching hate. I will like everyone to read his piece and see how hatred and bigotry spew out.

If Mailafiya found the call TY Danjuma to his people to come out and defend themselves to be in line with the Nigerian Constitution, in conformity with the sacred precepts of the Law of the Nation, Natural Justice, Equity, Good Conscience and the dictates of the Just Law Theory, why does he begrudge the Fulbe from enjoying such legal protection?

Intellectual thugs and a complicit media bred the Rwandan crisis. The genocide started with dehumanizing the Tutsis (a Fulbe group) politicians and their intellectual thugs in the media; the killings started and did not stop until about 800 thousand souls were wasted. When the Tutsis gained control of the country in 1995, they restored peace, social harmony and egalitarian cohabitation that is genuinely federalist. There have not been reported that the Hutu’s have been harmed on a “retaliatory ethnic attacks the Tutsis” because of who the President of Rwanda is. Neither did Kagame attempt to create hegemony for the Tutsi’s because he is one.

Let’s be well advised to be mindful of what we say in our utterances made public or in the public.

Toungo is a public affairs commentator.

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