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Obasanjo’s “Fulanization,” Diasporan Intellectual Impostors

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. Twitter: @farooqkperogi Two important issues competed for my attention this week: Obasanjo’s uncharacteri...

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Two important issues competed for my attention this week: Obasanjo’s uncharacteristically explosive public statement on Boko Haram and Fulani herders and the dissimulation of two US-based pro-regime apologists who are misleading the Nigerian public into believing that they are representatives of “Nigerian scholars in the diaspora.”

The news media reported former president Olusegun Obasanjo to have said that Boko Haram’s enduring homicidal fury was a manifestation of “West African Fulanization” and that the relentlessly broadening menace of murderous Fulani herders all over the country was being done in the service of “African Islamization.”

When people called my attention to these statements, I immediately dismissed them as improbable claims Obasanjo would make. Whatever you may say about Obasanjo, I said, you can’t deny that he is probably Nigeria’s most academically inquisitive former president who is also not given to flippancy. So how could he equate Boko Haram with “Fulanization” when, in fact, Boko Haram and “Fulanization” are almost mutually exclusive?

Boko Haram is a predominantly Kanuri phenomenon. Anyone who has even a faint familiarity with northern Nigerian history would know that Kanuri and Fulani people are historical adversaries, although the passage of time, colonial and post-colonial northernization policy, and semi-ritualized “joking relationship” (Kanuri and Fulani people now playfully make fun of each other, such as calling each other “slaves”) have eased the historical tensile stress between the two groups.

Many scholars place the incipience of the historical animosity between the Kanuri and the Fulani to the time of Usman Dan Fodiyo’s jihad. The Kanuri, who have been Muslims since at least the 9th century (making them probably the first ethnic group to embrace Islam in West Africa), froze off Dan Fodiyo’s jihad, whose goal was to “reform” Islam where it already existed and to replace traditional power structures with Dan Fodiyo’s protégés who were invariably Fulani.

Although Dan Fodiyo failed in his bid to take over Kanuri land, his version of Islam and the political structure he established predominate in contemporary northern Nigeria, as exemplified, for example, by the fact that the Sultan of Sokoto, a descendant of Dan Fodio, is higher in rank in the hierarchy of northern Nigerian traditional rulers than the Shehu of Borno. So, if anything, Boko Haram would actually love to “de-Fulanize” Nigeria and West Africa.

It is also problematic to say that the activities of nihilistic Fulani predators all over Nigeria are inspired by a “West African Islamization” agenda. Perhaps the greatest challenge to that narrative is the fact that Muslims are also victims of the wildly murderous rage of these anarchic brutes. In fact, at the moment, northern Muslims are disproportionate victims of their sanguinary brutalities. It doesn’t make sense to advance an Islamization agenda by killing other Muslims.

Obasanjo, more than any past president or head of state, should know this. Fortunately, it has turned out that the news media mischaracterized what Obasanjo actually said.

This was the statement that instigated the misleading headlines: “It is no longer an issue of lack of education and lack of employment for our youths in Nigeria which it began as; it is now West African Fulanization, African Islamization and global organized crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change.”

In this quote, Obasanjo didn’t equate Boko Haram with Fulanization and murderous herders with Islamization. After reading the entire speech, it became clear that he only said Boko Haram’s ultimate goal was the Islamization of West Africa, which is accurate especially because the group has transmogrified from a ragtag of Kanuri holy terrors to the “West African” branch of ISIS with territorial expansionist ambitions.

It is also difficult to sustain a logical defense against the charge that the Fulani nihilists who are on a murdering spree all over the nation aren’t on a “Fulanization” agenda because they are dispossessing people of their lands and reterritorializing places that are uninhabited as a result of their pogroms. This is as true in Benue as it is in Zamfara.

But it isn’t the fact that Obasanjo is right that should trouble us; it is the fact that, of all people, it is Obasanjo who is saying this. As a retired northern Nigerian military general told me on the phone a few days ago when we discussed this, that Obasanjo, a defiantly pan-Nigerian enthusiast who had never been publicly associated with sub-nationalist proclivities, would talk of “Fulanization” and “Islamization” in any context is the biggest indication of how much Buhari has destroyed faith in the desirability of Nigeria’s continuity as a country.

From proclaiming IPOB a “terrorist” organization and instructing the mass slaughters of its unarmed members while overprotecting murderous Fulani brigands who have been called “the fourth deadliest known terrorist group” in the world by the Global Terrorism Index, to appointing a security council that is almost exclusively Muslim and northern, to his unprecedented levels of nepotism and small-mindedness, etc. Buhari has shown that he doesn’t care if Nigeria collapses under the weight of his thoughtlessness, toxic sub-nationalism, and incompetence.

Diasporan Intellectual Imposters
Several people on Twitter called my attention to the existence of a politically partisan, pro-government association that calls itself the “Association of Nigerian Scholars in Diaspora [sic]." People wanted to know if I was a member of the association—or if I had any familiarity with its existence and work.

People reached out to me because the association issued a tendentious press statement on May 20 commending the reappointment of CBN governor Godwin Emefiele and urging Buhari to retain his incompetent service chiefs even in the face of the escalating loss of lives and the deepening and widening of the theater of insecurity throughout Nigeria.

I had never heard of the association and have never met anyone who has, although the Vanguard described it as the “umbrella organisation of Nigerian scholars in the Diaspora.” It turned out that the statement was signed by Professor Bitrus Gwamna, whom I met last year in Columbia, Missouri, during the annual convention of the Zumunta Association, USA Inc., an association of northern Nigerians in the US.

A search of “Association of Nigerian Scholars in Diaspora” on Google yielded another disgracefully pro-regime propaganda signed by Professor Gwamna and Professor Pita Agbese (famous journalist Dan Agebese’s younger brother, whom I also met in Missouri) on behalf of the "Association of Nigerian Scholars in Diaspora [sic]."
Pita Agbese

Titled "Diasporan Nigerian Scholars Fault US Report on Corruption, Insecurity," the report quoted Gwamna and Agbese as describing the US State Department’s 2018 human rights report on Nigeria, which every sober Nigerian knows to be factual and accurate, as "legitimizing the criminal activities of terrorists and extremists in Nigeria," among other utterly ridiculous and indefensibly pedestrian, not to mention willfully mendacious, farrago of nonsense passed up as a press statement.

I initially thought the names of these gentlemen, for whom I had a lot of regard, were fraudulently used without their knowledge or permission by pro-regime propagandists in Nigeria. But my preliminary findings show that Professor Agbese, who lives in the same city with Professor Gwamna, has a record of pro-regime propaganda, particularly in support of the military.

For instance, in September 2018, six months after his vituperative press statement against the US State Department and in defense of the military’s horrendous human rights abuses against innocent civilians, he organized a “conference” in Minnesota where he invited Nigerian military generals to come “educate” Americans on the military’s “successes” in fighting terrorism and other forms of insecurity.

His public participation in Facebook forums, particularly Idoma-themed Facebook groups, also shows that he is an unabashed apologist for the Buhari regime—and for the Nigerian military. I have no idea what Professor Agbese’s connection is to the Buhari regime and to the military in particular, nor do I care.

Nevertheless, I want to alert the Nigerian public to the fact that the "Association of Nigerian Scholars in Diaspora" does not represent all Nigerian scholars who live abroad. It is a two-man association that isn’t even formally registered in the US—or anywhere in the world.

Many of us who have a heightened moral conscience, whose intellect isn't for sale, who cherish decency, who aren’t two-bit mercenary intellectuals, and who are intensely aware of the avoidable abyss Buhari is obstinately leading Nigeria to won’t ever be part of such an association.


  1. Sir, I thought Agbese is a Tiv name? I am wondering if your use of "Idoma-themed" is accurate. Just drawing your attention in case it was in error.

    Beside, you have again made my weekend. Heaven preserve you, Sir.

    1. Thank you for dimensioning the import of Obasanjo statement and warning accurately. Those who have ears to hear will hear and heed the warning. You again reemphasized it in "the avoidable abyss Buhari is obstinately leading Nigeria to".

  2. I don't think the writer was writing about Agbese as relates to Idoma,he was referring to Professor Gwanma.

    1. Patriotism and patriotic writing sticks to facts no matter who is in power or governance. You have demonstrated that over time and that's what makes your pieces timeless. Always a delight to read.

  3. What is in all these for Peta Agbese and his fellow praise singers, for a Buhari regime that is clearly despicable?

  4. Adamu Muhammad DodoMay 25, 2019 at 6:09 AM

    Prof. I'm uncomfortable with your articulation in the quote below describing the activities of weed smoking irreligious and uncultured Fulani group that has turn wild exhibiting the wildlife they professed for a living: "It is also difficult to sustain a logical defense against the charge that the Fulani nihilists who are on a murdering spree all over the nation aren’t on a “Fulanization” agenda because they are dispossessing people of their lands and reterritorializing places that are uninhabited as a result of their pogroms. This is as true in Benue as it is in Zamfara."
    I don't think the Fulani herdsmen fitting the defined category have any tribal agenda to pursue moderously. They only have vengeance, exploitation and oppression perhaps in part, as a form of irreligious protest against their path blockage and farm lands on once "a grazing field."
    Their attrocities: savagery and barbarity, do not exclude other "not like them Fulbe" farmers and even herders who are not spared of cattle rustling.
    You've made brilliant piece Related to this previously.
    It's all about terrorism out of the ranch rather than a Fulanisation agenda.

    1. You're right, Dodo, but perhaps we need to agree on what Fulanization means. If you displace a people from their native place of abode en masse and populate it with only your kind, what do you call that? There's no evidence that the Fulanis who displace people and take over their lands are doing that on behalf of all Fulani people. And that's not even the argument of people who talk of Fulanization; Fulanization in the quote you excerpted simply means populating places previously lived by other ethnic groups with Fulani people.

  5. I always enjoy reading your articles

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  7. OBJ is always right. He chooses is written words carefully and timely. Even on the security where we thought PMB would performed, he has equally failed. I foresee change of an event in our democracy, I don't know how, where and when but it's closer to our door step.

  8. I strongly disagree with you Gilbert Alabi Dichie. The writer is objective and analytical enough. Certain set set of people with questionable objectives are on the loose killing others at will and you say they're not out there to pursue a devilish agenda?

    1. Samuel Bibi, is there evidence that Buhari, being a Fulani leader of Nigeria, is pursuing a so-called "Fulanization" agenda?

  9. Do kidnappers for ransom and armed robbers simply want to make money or do they have an agenda to pauperise their victims? Do culprits of exam malpractice simply want to get grades they don't deserve or do they have an agenda to corrupt and destroy the exam body? Do policemen who collect bribes from citizens simply want to make money or do they have an agenda to destroy the police force where they work? Do thieves who steal farm produce just want the produce for themselves or do they have an agenda to cause famine?There seems to be an obsession with "agenda" in Nigeria when, in reality, the motives of people who do wrong are a lot simpler and usually limited to individual selfishness. If there is no agenda in the four examples above, why is "Fulanisation" agenda attributed to Fulani criminals? Can't they commit crimes from personal selfish reasons like everyone else? Groups with agenda are usually organised with a name, command structure and philosophy and they commit violent acts in the name of their group like boko haram does. Ipob has an agenda to set up Biafra and they are very clear on that. Boko haram has an extreme Islamisation agenda and they are also very clear. There is no Fulani group anywhere in Nigeria with a stated agenda which makes any accusation of agenda to be just in the imagination of the accuser. The Fulani who commit these crimes are nomads who are not known to be interested in land for settlement. It is therefore improbable that they will populate any land from which people have been displaced. They usually promptly depart from locations where they commit violent acts. If "Fulanisation" is the takeover of land, I don't think it exists.

    1. If armed robbers are relentless, organised and concerted, then we will attribute their exploit to more than becoming wealthy.

      The fulani attack is organised, relentless and concerted. They appear to have an army who presently are terrorising travellers on Abuja-Kaduna road. They have a body that speaks for them and defend their battles, they have warned that Nigeria belongs to all the fulanis and do not recognise the nation's borders.

      What further proof do you need that they have an agenda beyond banditry?

  10. Not all agendas are stated and made public. Some are hidden.

  11. I cry anytime I read articles from Nigerian scholars, whom this government has out of ignorance, never deemed it fit, to involve them in the affairs of this Nation. Thank you once more sir, for this wonderful piece. I learnt a lot.

  12. Well thought through article as usual.

  13. There's no doubt that the idea of Islamization of the whole of Nigeria exists in the minds of some conservative Muslims especially in the North. What pleases me is the reality that series of northern leaders never gave it any thought. Sadly ,it isn't that way with President Buhari. I'm happy you know this ,sir.

    What pains me is that Plateau State is often forgotten when the subject of killings and displacement of farming villagers is discussed. Mention is often made of Benue and Zamfara despite the reality that before it started in these latter states, a lot of villages have been taken over, their inhabitants displaced. The culmination was the killing of a serving senator and a state MP. The villages involved are close to a hundred. Please ,note this in subsequent commentaries on this matter.

    Thank you ,sir.

    Yiro Abari.


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