How Buhari betrayed Nigeria farmers during meeting with Trump – US group
By Emmanuel Ogebe
A panel of experts in USA has denounced the agreement signed by Nigeria and the USA during President Buhari’s meeting with Trump last year as “death” to Nigeria’s domestic agricultural economy.
While comparing the Obama administration and Trump administration’s policies on Nigeria, Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe opined that, “The former US administration claimed that the violence in Nigeria was not religious but a result of the marginalization of the north by the south. Now this is a false argument because for almost 70% of Nigerian history, northerners have ruled Nigeria. So how can people who have ruled for 70% be marginalized? Now I should point out that under the current administration, there’s a troubling policy. When president Buhari met with president Trump last year, President Trump got him to sign a deal to buy agricultural produce from the U.S. Now that is very troubling because it means that the farmers in Nigeria are losing their farms to the Fulanis, and then losing their markets to U.S. crops. So, that wasn’t a very well thought-out policy. Now if president Buhari cared about Christian farmers, he would have said ‘no we can’t buy food from you when we can grow it ourselves’. So that is a policy for the U.S. that needs to be reversed. We need to strengthen the farmers, not wipe them out. And that will be highly unfortunate if that happens.”
Agreeing with him, Mr. Murray, a veteran of Washington DC affairs stated that, “For those of you who don’t think that the agreement that president Buhari signed, the agricultural agreement, is an issue, you have to understand the American agricultural machine. Haiti used to be a food exporter, ok. And we took care of that. Nobody in the world can compete with American agriculture. Nobody anywhere in the world can compete with the American agriculture. We went into an area where…(we won’t go into it, but we got a small farm that we sponsor there) and there were 30 people, 40 people out working two and a half acres of land by hand. In the United States, one farmer handles thousands of acres by himself without any employee, using equipment and machinery and drones and so forth and so on. So this agreement basically is death to a huge agricultural sector in Nigeria.”
Similarly an unidentified Professor with Africa United for Peace, recommended as follows, “if we can ask the USAID to expand, if there is anyone who has influence, that the US government should involve experts to help solve, in quote, ‘the land problem’ with technology. In the US, Nebraska has the best steak and they don’t take their cows on streets. Florida, where I come from, has the second largest ranch in the US. And I have never seen one cow roam in Florida. So it is probably a (inaudible). They are cloaking and just covering up the problem. So, the US can help by directing funding to actually solve the land problem. They can establish ranches. I travelled the northeast of Nigeria against all advice and I saw that they have plenty of land unused. That is the solution. We can use technology to settle all those who say, ‘we don’t have land’. “
She continued, “All of the states of Southern Nigeria put together, land wise, are equal to 2 states in the North. Borno State is the second largest state in the country. So it really doesn’t make sense to move below the Niger or the Benue—some of you don’t even know the map— so I am talking technical pragmatic things that it doesn’t make sense for anyone to come below the Niger to look for land. The highest population density on earth is southeastern Nigeria. And so, what are the Fulanis or the Federal government of Nigeria looking for in that state to look for land for ranching? It does not make sense.”
Also responding to the proposed Ruga policy of the Nigerian government, Human Rights Lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe stated narrated how, “I visited Cameroon, and at the time I visited five years ago there were 2,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon. That number has grown to 50,000. These are Christians who were displaced from Northern Nigeria by terrorists. In 2014 when I went, we pleaded with some of them to come back to Nigeria and try and reintegrate. Some of them came back and they are outside the capital city, and for the past 5 years we have been trying to get them lands to farm on and live on. And when a friend of mine who is involved in the project with me spoke to the vice president of Nigeria asking for land. The Vice president said, ‘no, you go and talk to the churches ’. Now, against that backdrop, we have a situation where that same government is taking lands from the states to create Fulani settlements for cow and their own citizens are still refugees outside. So the impunity of the killers and complicity of the government does not allow room for reconciliation. That’s the real problem here right now. And until that is addressed, I don’t know how we can resolve that easily. “
The interactive session also addressed several other issues. The Transcript is below.
2019 US State Department Ministerial on Religious Freedom – AUP Side Event
On Monday, July 15, 2019 as part of the side events of the US State Department 2019 Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom, Africa United for Peace sponsored a program to draw the attention of the international community to the killings and persecutions of Christians in Nigeria .
Topic: “Nigeria – Is it Ethno-Religious Cleansing or Herders/Farmers Conflict? A Deep Dive into the Conflict Drivers in the World Deadliest Place to be a Christian”
Mr. Asemota SAN, Chair Nigerian Christian Elders’ Forum
Mr Murray, Chair, Religious Freedom Coalition
Ike sole survivor of Boko Haram massacre of Christians
Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe
TRANSCRIPT OF Q&A INTERACTIVE SESSION AT AFRICA UNITED FOR PEACE (AUP) EVENT: CLIMATE CHANGE OR JIHADI GENOCIDE IN NIGERIA? Part 2 of 3
Question and Answer
Barr. Emma Ogebe: We will now go into an interactive session of questions, and answers. But before we do, I do want to especially want to recognize someone that I met today who is here by God’s divine arrangement. I just learned that she has Nine hundred (900) pastors in Nigeria. Herself and her late husband planted about 34 bible schools in Nigeria. And she was late for the Brownback event and was told about the Nigerian event. She said, “look I have so many Nigerian children, I must stay for this event”. She said something to me that struck me. She said that “oh we lost three (3) pastors in Nigeria”. So, her own ministry has been a victim of the attacks against Christians. And I said to her, I said, “And this is why you need to speak about the situation”. And in the last week or so I spoke somewhere else and someone came and said, “oh my father was attacked”. There are many people who are silent victims even here in America who haven’t spoken out. And so on behalf of Nigerians we thank you for your work and your late husband’s work in Nigeria, and we forgive you for not speaking out. So go and sin no more. This is probably the first time a layman has absolved a bishop. But we do need your voice to speak out. I will say two things before we go to questions and answers. One is that there is a church in Nigeria that has lost over 10,000 members. Now, I don’t mean people who stopped going to church. I mean people who were killed. It is very well documented. When I first testified in the US congress about this, it was 8,000. A few years later, I contacted them and it had gone to 10,000. I haven’t updated those figures in probably 3 years. So it is an excess of 10,000 at this point. But what is ironic is that that church is a plant of an American church, The church of the Brethren. And The Church of the Brethren does not speak about the atrocities that their Nigerian chapter has experienced. And so that’s why Nigeria is the deadliest place to be a Christian. But most people haven’t heard about it because most people are not speaking out about it. And so I wanted us to keep that in mind that this is a much larger crisis than we realize. And not enough people are paying attention. If the only thing that comes out of today’s meeting is that you are aware and you share what you’ve found out, that I think would be a plus. And so at this time we are going to open up for questions, and if you are going to ask questions please introduce yourself and ask your question.
1st Question: So this is initially for the chairman. What is the relationship between the federal government and the Fulanis?
Mr. Asemota: That is a good question. Today, I think the federal government is controlled by the Fulani. Definitely the armed forces, the head of the armed forces, the chief of army staff is a Fulani, the chief of air staff is a Fulani, the national security adviser is a Fulani, the inspector general of police is a Fulani. So if you look at all the intelligence… that’s the relationship. Soone can safely say that the Fulani control government.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Let me quickly add a point here. The president of Nigeria has been speaking from two sides of his mouth. While he was abroad, he said that the attackers are Libyan-trained attackers who came into Nigeria. He went back to Nigeria, and there was a massacre in Benue State on New Year’s Day, and over 80 people were killed. And when the governor of Benue went to meet him, the president said, and I quote, “for god’s sake go and accommodate your brothers”. And so, people are asking, “In the international community you are saying it’s Libyan terrorists who are coming in to attack your citizens. Now you are saying that these are your brothers and you are demanding that the people who were killed should accommodate them.” So it shows you that he is actually condoning what is going on. And we’ve heard statements from the government that indicate clearly that they’ve taken sides. Now I saw a couple of hands for questions. I saw that, I saw you, and you. So, we’ll do a lady, a gentleman, and a lady. So let’s go with you ma’am.
2nd Question: I wanted to ask… I deal with herdsmen/farmerconflict more broadly, in Nigeria and outside of Nigeria. And one of the things I run into and I talk with people on both sides of the conflict is, there’s this perception of hate of the other. And obviously in Nigeria the situation is at such a point where the farmer level and the Christian level are on the receiving end. In other parts of the Sahara, like in Mali, even our Holocaust memorial museum have identified that it is the Fulani that are at risk of having mass atrocities committed against them. So I wonder what your thoughts are on how we can break the cycle of ‘they hate us, we hate them and so we must fight’ and fight the fight that we need to fight without hating, whether it’s the herdsmen, or the Fulanis, or the Muslims in the country.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Who wants to take that?
Mr. Asemota : I will take it. I think the history of land in Nigeria is very interesting. In the South, there was a traditional way of giving out land. Whereas in the North, they had what you call ‘the land use or certificate of occupancy’. Now, the certificate of occupancy developed during the colonial period, because the British would not acquire your land if they did not pay compensation. And before our amalgamation of 1914, the Fulanis had driven out a lot of the occupants of the land. So the British had to device a means of providing for ownership. So they left the money to the Emirs in the hope that when the people come back, they would get their land back. But the British would not take a land without paying for the land.() The military came and introduced a commission of enquiry and there were…, I think about 18 of them, I am not too sure of the number, including a friend of mine who was the justice of the supreme court. And it was the minority opinion that the land use came into being and became law.
Now, fortunately we have an imam here. There’s something called, ‘sacred space’ in Islam. And anywhere the cattle had gone or where they had occupied or one like this, which the British had given them a certificate of occupancy, automatically becomes an Islamic land. So they had to go bring some people from Mali, and from other places to come, and they are the people who are…So the point of the issue is that, there’s a conflict between the land use act, which even the military themselves put in place and the sacred space, as provided under the Quran. If I am operating a law given to me from God, I am supposed to ignore any other human law. So, until we settle this point( and it comes down to the question of democracy and Sharia) and we sit down and realize that we are in Nigeria, we all can live together, we are all in this space, then we can then move forward.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Thank you very much. Let me add here a couple of facts. Now, a dear Christian elder who converted from Islam to Christianity shared with us some years ago that there was actually a fatwa. What had happened was while Jihad was going on some Islamic scholars came together and said, ‘listen, if we conquer all the pagan tribes and convert them to Islam, we will not be able to pillage their women and their property if they are fellow Muslims. So we need to let some pagans be so that we have people to pillage’. And so this was part of the reason that they didn’t conquer some of the pagans in the north. When the British came, those pagans became Christians. And so there was actually a systematic, well thought out strategy to leave a people who will be hewers of wood, fetchers of water, who will be pillaged. And it is that subset of the Jihadi worldview that allows Fulani herdsmen to go into farms and eat the crops, and kill off the pagans or the infidels that they find there.
But I will share with you a couple of incidents that happened. A spouse of a judge told us how as a side business they were rearing cattle, and they hired a Fulani man to tend the cattle. And one day the herdsman came and told him, ‘I nearly killed someone today’. And he said, ‘Why would that happen? You know this is a family of a Judge, we can’t have our staff killing people.’ And he said, ‘Well, I took your cattle to graze on someone’s farm and the farmer tried to shoo us away, so I nearly killed him’. So, that is the mindset. There’s a sense of entitlement that ‘we can kill these people and take their land’. Now, the family dropped this fellow, because they didn’t want that sort of thing to happen and got another Fulani man to herd their cattle. This is to show you that people recognize them as being talented in herding cattle. So there’s definitely some elements of…. It’s not hate when you can employ them. The next Fulani man absconded with their cattle. Remember this is the family of the judge. The family tried to recover their cattle. Finally, someone told them, ‘You know what? You need to let this go otherwise worse will happen to you’. So, a lot of Christian communities are just living in fear and in dread. Literally they are held hostage by fear and dread. And that is why the Fulani men operate all the way up to the South. Last week the daughter of a prominent Yoruba Leader was killed by them. And as we speak, there’s no reprisals; people are just really scared. And the security infrastructure of the country is completely controlled by northern Muslims. So, that’s the situation.
At this point, I know that I said we’ll take question from there. Yours is a follow up to that, so since it’s a follow up, we’ll take that quickly before we go to the Imam.
Anonymous: So we have people affected directly, so we know what is happening. I came back home from Nigeria. What we’re having is not the matter of ‘this people hate this people and this people hate this people’. I mean, If you come to my property and you begin to destroy my farm, you won’t expect that I will love you. Because I am not going to your property to deal with anything that you have. Some of the things you are speaking about is happening a lot in the north. Now they are now coming to the south, going to the communities. They take their cattle opening grazing, graze everywhere. And then they come to your community, they graze your farm and you get angry, and they show impunity. And if anything happens, they are ready to fight-they are already armed with instruments to fight and they begin to kill. And once there is any incident and any of the cattle is hurt, what happens is that few weeks or few months after there is an invasion that comes to the place. Now you see that government keeps making policies to protect them. Now they are having a RUGA that they are doing now. They want every state to give them places where they will graze.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Let me wrap that up. I said that I was going to make two points. The other point that I wanted to make is: I visited Cameroon, and at the time I visited five years ago there were 2,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon. That number has grown to 50,000. These are Christians who were displaced from Northern Nigeria by terrorists. In 2014 when I went, we pleaded with some of them to come back to Nigeria and try and reintegrate. Some of them came back and they are outside the capital city, and for the past 5 years we have been trying to get them lands to farm on and live on. And when a friend of mine who is involved in the project with me spoke to the vice president of Nigeria asking for land. The Vice president said, ‘no, you go and talk to the churches ’. Now, against that backdrop, we have a situation where that same government is taking lands from the states to create Fulani settlements for cow and their own citizens are still refugees outside. So the impunity of the killers and complicity of the government does not allow room for reconciliation. That’s the real problem here right now. And until that is addressed, I don’t know how we can resolve that easily.
So, we are going to take the Imam and then we are going to come to you.
Imam: Thank you everyone. (inaudible)It is a privilege for me to be here. (inaudible) I will like to commend our father, because I have been hearing about him. Thank you for being here. And at the same time, I have heard a lot here (inaudible). What I am hearing here, majority of what you are saying is correct. But I want to remind us. I am not asking a question. But I also want to give us background information that we need to know. I want to correct something— you may not know. The Fulanis are not representing the Muslims. I want us to get that clear. They are not representing Islam. We do respect that we are so disturbed that Christians, like you mentioned, like you described, is a massacre, it’s not a violence or conflict. At the same time, Muslims were being massacred and we have that authoritatively. In 2015 we carried out the study on Boko Haram. (Inaudible) I was on ground in Maiduguri and Adamawa. And the returnee Boko Haram we had them at the IDP camp and the Military confinement where we interviewed them. And I must tell you the truth, the Fulani as they are, you know they have consumed the Hausa? Fulanis are different from the Hausas. And the issue of Jihad and sacred land, you see, this is where we came in to sensitize people that when you talk about sacred ground, it doesn’t have anything to do with herdsmen taking people’s land. Sacred grounds are places of worship, as we have in Mecca and we have in Jerusalem. So, these are coined statements to perpetrate their own intention.
The issue of Jihad, when Usman Dan Fodio was doing his Jihad, that people turned to cleansing of the whole thing, they had their own intention. But coming to the present situation is that, Nigeria as a country, we as Muslims believe that there lots of things that are wrong. And I will like to state here that as we have this issue in the north going on, we also have in other places that Muslims are being killed. But we will not say that they are killed because they are Muslims or Islam. Nigeria has ethnical issues and political issues. I don’t want us to waste our time, me as a Muslim I can never… Recently you had a Muslim, an Imam harboring Christians that people wanted to kill. And he said, ‘I am going to save these people. These are my neighbors.’ This is also going on. Where we have majority Muslims, we have Muslims that are there saving the lives of Christians. And at the same time, I was a victim where a Christian saved me when we were travelling from Kaduna and we were passing through Diberum (Inaudible)and we were there on a mission to intervene in some of these crises. And we were captured by the Christians and they wanted to execute us. But a Christian came on and said, ‘These people are working for peace, you cannot do this’ and pleaded on our behalf.
So my question is this, please sir, I am pleading with you. My concern is this: how do we work together as religious communities to solve this problem rather than pointing accusing fingers.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Beautiful, thank you very much. We have a quick response from the panel.
Mr. Asemota : Within our petition to the British Parliament, we asked the British Parliament to intervene in one issue and one issue only, whether Islam is compatible- that is whether Democracy and Sharia are compatible. Because the problem is that Islam provides that laws made by ordinary humans are unacceptable. Therefore, the Quran is superior to the constitution and that’s why our president did not swear on the Quran. He had a bag on the right arm—whatever that means. For me he affirmed. And once we agree that both Democracy and Sharia are compatible, our problem will be solved. But when the question of who killed, oh yes, the first ( Video Cut).
But the Igbo shops will be attacked. Igbos killed, almost 800 Igbos were killed in that thing. When it’s an issue between (inaudible) and one sect. After they have silenced the moderates, they then decided that the moderate cannot talk, so they descended on us.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Thank you very much sir. Now I promise that…yes, I picked you. So, you go and then professor Esogwuwill go next. Yes, ma’am.
3rd Question: (Muddled Question-inaudible to transcribe)
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Yes, that was Boko Haram. And the Nigerian denomination of The Church of The Brethren is called EYN. It’s so well documented. In addition to that the majority ofthe schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram where members of that church. So over 200 of those girls were from that church alone. That church in particular has the worst casualty rate of any church on the planet today. EYN church. I know we tried to invite the leader of the church to be here, I don’t think he made it.
Murray: Emmanuel, two minor things, and I will be quick. First of all on the situation with the churches being quiet: I talked to a bishop in Iraq, and asked him, ‘why don’t you speak out about the horrors here?’ And basically what he said—this will seem rather untrue but I happen to know it’s true—and he looked at me and said, “we speak out, it gets worse. And we are better off taking blows and being silent than we are of speaking out.” So… I know, I know. Unfortunately, particularly with large churches—particularly with the Catholic Church as an example, and with the orthodox church where there’s a large structure, where there is lots of property involved that can be damaged or can be attacked (inaudible). It is in fact a big problem. Second of all, the Boko Haram. One of the biggest fights that we had in Washington, DC was through the Bush and Obama administrations because they refused to tag Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. They insisted that it was just loosely knit criminal gangs— even though the leader of the Boko Haram himself held up his Quran and vowed religious war against all Christians and any Muslim who did not believe the Quran exactly as the Boko Haram says. And our government still refused to label it as a terrorist organization or refuse to label what they were doing. And again this goes back to, unfortunately, it goes back to money and oil.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Let me quickly say this, talking about people not speaking out. I know half a dozen Americans who were attacked by Boko Haram. This includes an FBI agent, this includes a diplomat working for the United Nations, this includes missionaries, and the US government kept it quiet. They suppressed that information till this day. Because if it had emerged, they would have had to take responsibility for a group that had targeted Americans abroad. So… I think it was World Magazine that did an expose on at least one of the American survivors of Boko Haram attack. So, the conspiracy of silence is saddening, and this is why we have to outsource this to you to speak out and protect the vulnerable churches at home who will get targeted for speaking out. I have been targeted by the Nigerian Embassy here. Leah’s mother who was here a few weeks ago was similarly targeted. Attorney Asemota has been targeted by the Nigerian government. So, it comes with the territory.
We will go to the Professor for her intervention.
The question that I want to address is ‘what is the solution?’ As Christians, I think we should love even our enemies. The triumph of evil is that good men keep quiet. But then the question is, ‘What should good men say? How should we speak out? What ought we say?’ We just keep criticizing and not bring a solution. That’s one thing that I am hoping and pleading that at the end of our discussions that many of you who have powers would have, you know, something tangible to say. One thing I will suggest, having lived in Maiduguri, I was in Yobe- I just left Yobe–when they kidnapped (the same day), they kidnapped the girls. The hotel I stayed then, you can actually oversee further the Sambisa forest. So, what will be the solution?
The first, I think, is to force the government of Nigeria to decentralize security. I have heard the US ambassador say that after the Benue massacre and the Jos killings. If we can put pressure on the US government and insist that the Nigerian government decentralize security so that every state will be able to protect its own people. (inaudible)Number two is the US AID has a lot of money which the Obama, I served when Obama was president, and so I left when his presidency ended. He gave a whole lot of money to be spent in northern Nigeria. And currently the US has been spending millions, tens of million of dollars in the northern part of Nigeria, and they are dedicating it to education, because they think that illiteracy makes people vulnerable and they are easily convinced and they are bought over by terrorists and then used to evoke all these things.
So if we can ask the US AID to expand, if there is anyone who has influence, that the US government should involve experts to help solve, in quote, ‘the land problem’ with technology. In the US, Nebraska has the best steak and they don’t take their cows on streets. Florida, where I come from, has the second largest ranch in the US. And I have never seen one cow roam in Florida. So it is probably a (inaudible). They are cloaking and just covering up the problem. So, the US can help by directing funding to actually solve the land problem. They can establish ranches. I travelled the northeast of Nigeria against all advice and I saw that they have plenty of land unused. That is the solution. We can use technology to settle all those who say, ‘we don’t have land’.
And I do bear witness that not all the Muslims are bad. They were wonderful to me. But in principle, their core belief is that the Christians are below them. I adopted a young Christian—and I am going to sit after this—from southern Kaduna 5 years ago. His father was alive. And he had 5 siblings, together all 6. And Emmanuel knows. I could not hold myself, I was driving when they came and killed all his uncles, all of his aunts, he had no home. I had to rent a place in Kafanchan to put his mother. When I adopted him I took him to Abuja. So, he and his sister are the only ones…,and his mother, they are the only ones that are alive. Who killed them? The Fulanis. They have taken over their land. And actually his siblings were buried in the mass grave not long ago. It was two months ago that this happened, not a long time ago. He could not be comforted. This hour I can call him to talk to you. So this is real, because the hatred of the Muslims and the belief of the extremists—not all the Muslims— and the belief that they subjugate the Christians. So we can help them, with Christian love, by solving the problem of security, giving them the land— not giving them land in Southern Nigeria for instance that particular case is ridiculous. All of the states of Southern Nigeria put together, land wise, are equal to 2 states in the North. Borno State is the second largest state in the country. So it really doesn’t make sense to move below the Niger or the Benue—some of you don’t even know the map— so I am talking technical pragmatic things that it doesn’t make sense for anyone to come below the Niger to look for land. The highest population density on earth is southeastern Nigeria. And so, what are the Fulanis or the Federal government of Nigeria looking for in that state to look for land for ranching? It does not make sense. So, two things: Technology—that the US funding be directed to use technology to solve the problems. The second is that the US insists on democratizing security and that will help a whole lot.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: The former US administration claimed that the violence in Nigeria was not religious but a result of the marginalization of the north by the south. Now this is a false argument because for almost 70% of Nigerian history, northerners have ruled Nigeria. So how can people who have ruled for 70% be marginalized? Now I should point out that under the current administration, there’s a troubling policy. When president Buhari met with president Trump last year, President Trump got him to sign a deal to buy agricultural produce from the U.S. Now that is very troubling because it means that the farmers in Nigeria are losing their farms to the Fulanis, and then losing their markets to U.S. crops. So, that wasn’t a very well thought-out policy. Now if president Buhari cared about Christian farmers, he would have said ‘no we can’t buy food from you when we can grow it ourselves’. So that is a policy for the U.S. that needs to be reversed. We need to strengthen the farmers, not wipe them out. And that will be highly unfortunate if that happens.
I do want to add 2 quick points here and then we will come to the young lady from the ICC. Last week a top Muslim cop-he’s retired now- a Fulani Muslim cop(very well renowned because he was an anti-corruption fighter, he did fellowships here in the U.S when he was on exile), admitted that the Fulanis are killing Christians because they are upset with the current president that he failed them. So it’s no longer… This is what we call in law…, this is a star witness. This is a smoking gun, in this case it a smoking torpedo, because he admitted that yes we are killing Christians but the reason we are killing Christians is because the president failed to keep his promises. Now if your problem is with the president, why are you killing the Christians? But we have that, you can look at that, it’s online now, (inaudible).
Finally I do want to say something about the biggest massacre last year in which over 200 Christians were killed in Plateau State. I was speaking about it then on the radio here in Washington, and when I went home the next day, my dad who was visiting told me that I had lost relatives in the attack. Now, if anyone wants to say that I am advocating because I am biased, I lost relatives… No. I’ve been advocating on the subject consistently for years, little knowing that I myself would lose relatives. And in that massacre we lost 4 family members: a father, a pregnant mother and two children. The children were 4 and 6 years old, a boy and a girl. How is that a conflict when they were killed in their own beds?
And this is why I really recoil at the narrative that says that it was competition over land. They were sleeping in their beds. Let me point out to you in response to your question that in Benue State ,as he pointed out, we went into a camp where there were 34,000 refugees—and it was meningitis that broke out—these people, that state is almost 100% Christian, and in one camp 34,000 of them were there. Now they’re enough to wipe out any of the herdsmen who came. But that reaction is not there that is why they are there in the camps, afraid for their lives. In Plateau state there are over 44 villages that Christians have deserted and are now occupied by the Fulanis. Again, in Plateau State, the Christians are the majority.
So the moment…what we are afraid of (I can tell you we are having a frank discussion), what we are afraid of is when the dam bursts and the Christians say, ‘we are not going to take this anymore’. That’s when we’re going to have a real problem because the herdsmen are actually very few in number compared to the communities they are attacking. And so this is an issue that could be resolved with dialogue. But when you have a government that is blind to the injustice, that actually strengthens the injustice, it’s very difficult to fix that problem.
Murray: I want to add for just a few minutes. For those of you who don’t think that the agreement that president Buhari signed, the agricultural agreement, is an issue, you have to understand the American agricultural machine. Haiti used to be a food exporter, ok. And we took care of that. Nobody in the world can compete with American agriculture. Nobody anywhere in the world can compete with the American agriculture. We went into an area where…(we won’t go into it, but we got a small farm that we sponsor there) and there were 30 people, 40 people out working two and a half acres of land by hand. In the United States, one farmer handles thousands of acres by himself without any employee, using equipment and machinery and drones and so forth and so on. So this agreement basically is death to a huge agricultural sector in Nigeria.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Thank you very much, Bill. That was a very good point to be made.
4th Question: It seems to me that leadership in Nigeria needs to be aroused, needs to be awakened to the catastrophe that’s being caused by them to their own people. The leadership of this nation, the agricultural mission of this nation, coming from a farmer family myself, I think is not at fault, it is unaware of the catastrophe that is being caused. Why would a government harm its own people? Is there ignorance or another motive?
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Good point. Let me respond to that quickly. We will take the ICC lady and then we will take you later.
But quickly here: The Imam mentioned that Muslims are also being massacred. That is happening in the state called Zamfara State. And for a while we were puzzled: in the middle belt, it’s Christians being killed. Why are Muslims being killed in Zamfara? And one of our lawyers investigated and found out that the Muslim Emir in that community refused to identify as Fulani. He was pressured to claim that he came from the Fulani heritage, because all the emirs in the northern Nigeria are Fulani presiding over people who are not Fulani. They are really actually a small tribe in the country. And because he refused to accept that he was a Fulani Muslim, there was open season on them. Remember the Fatwa I mentioned? If you can minimize the order, then it’s open season on their property, and so on and so forth. Till this day in northern Nigeria, Christian girls are being snatched on the street and married off into Islam. The Chibok case was only that famous because it happened in the hundreds. But non-terrorists, everyday people, abduct Christian girls consistently, and this has been going on for many years. So it has just come to a boiling point.
So, we’ll take the young lady, and we will continue.
6th Question: (inaudible)
Professor Emenyonu : Thank you very much for bringing up that question. I will also like to thank ICC—international Christian Concern. June 5th last year, the ICC had a program at the senate, I don’t know whether you were there, focusing on the killings in Benue. Then we had this massive massacre that happened in Benue. After that we went… a group of interns from ICC plus a mobilization director, his name is (inaudible). We went to senate offices to create awareness with literature and all that to kind of bring to their awareness what is going on. I think that is very commendable. We appreciate that. I never met, you know, you never can tell the extent to which initiatives like that can go to put people in power on notice that they need to do what they are supposed to do. So that advocacy, we the ICC carry out on behalf of Nigeria, Africa, and all the places. It’s highly commendable and that goes a long way. On an issue of this magnitude, there is no one person or one organization that has all the answers. People can do what they can do, and then you never know how far it would go. I do believe that ICC is making a difference and we look forward to working more collaboratively with ICC in expanding the influence and the work you are doing.
You raised the issue of the Nigerian government, I want to say this: The Nigerian government is complicit in what is going on. If Buhari is sitting face-to-face from me, I will say it to his face. You’ve had highly respected Nigerians… Theophilus Danjuma was the chief of Staff of the Nigerian armed forces. He came out openly and he told people to rise up and defend themselves because the Nigerian army, the same army he commanded, was complicit in what is going on. The spokesperson of the president came out, these things are all online—you can google them, came out openly and told the victims, he said, ‘why are you not giving up your land because you are claiming ancestral rights to the land? Then he said, ‘Of what use will that be to you when you are killed and buried under the land? Why don’t you give up your land and live?’ This is the official spokes person of the president. Now, the communities that are attacked, right? When the Fulani herdsmen move-in, you will see no law enforcement. When they finish killing, when the people gather together to either bury their people or mourn, then the army, the Nigerian army, the police will move in and begin to arrest the victims.
The inspector general of police has come out openly speaking in defense of the Fulani herdsmen. The head of the defense, like the equivalent of the secretary of defense, they have all come out openly to speak in defense of the killer herdsmen, and on and on and on. So, at this stage in the game for anybody to pretend that they don’t know that president Buhari is behind what is going on is too late in the day to do that.
Let me say something about… this is not an issue. At times people say as Christians Jesus Christ says, ‘turn the other cheek’, right? I’m a Christian, I believe that. But when a determined group of people move into communities mowing people down, cutting open pregnant women and killing their babies, right? It’s not a question of forgiveness; you stop them. Simple. You stop them.
You don’t allow them to kill the innocent, mow down people just like that. It will be like saying when Hitler was invading Poland and so on and so forth to start talking about forgiving him. You stop him. President Buhari like I said, if he is here I will say it, his hand is in what is going on, because he is on record as having said that he will do everything within his power to make sure that Sharia law is imposed all over Nigeria. This is on record. He has not denied that statement and so on. So, its up to the governments of the world. Last year at the ministerial during the closing plenary, I stood up to speak and I said, ‘look, Buhari was here last year. President Trump told him to stop the killing of Nigerian Christians’ and that was on record. But it abated for a while and then it continued. Before the last election Nigeria had, the killing stopped. Right? The killing stopped. After he got himself back into power, the killings have continued. So, anybody pretending that they don’t know what is going on, it’s too late in the day. The danger is this, Emmanuel had alluded to this, It’s getting to the point where the Christians will also take up arms, because you can’t keep on killing people, and there are no consequences. The sad thing is that if it ever gets to that, the things that happened in Rwanda and many of these places will pale in significance just because of the sheer number of the population of Nigeria and the fact that also Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. So that’s why we organize programs like this. That is why we advocate so that those who can bring their influence to bear to let the Nigerian President to stop this quest to subdue, dominate, and impose his faith on other people, to stop it before it gets out of hand.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Thank you very much professor (inaudible)for your remarks. Now, we are beginning to wrap up our remarks with Nate and with Dave.
7th Question: Thank you gentlemen and ladies for putting this on. I was able to travel the last year and a half or so 4 times to Nigeria personally. I have gone to Benue, I was in Plateau State a couple of days after the major attack last year, there in the local villages that had the attack happen. Has been alluded to, we’ve been running farms now in Nigeria for farmers who have been attacked in this place, upward of 40 hectares for 75 families or so in each of these villages. So we have a big stake in this kind of play when you try to understand it. One question I do have, and this more I guess for the Nigerian gentlemen, what is the Nigerian Church doing, specifically more so that the church in the south, which has kind of separated itself off from what I have seen? We’ve alluded to it too, the professor here did at least, giving lands so we can build ranches and things like that, as well as security in the north. What is being pushed forward for that in Nigeria right now in Nigerian government that would, yes, give land but in a compromising way where the Christians or the landowners would be paid for rather than just taking it from those landowners. What is being pushed forward for that?
Mr. Asemota: We had a problem that is why ‘The Christian elders’ was established. What has happened is that the government and intelligence services appoint leadership even among the Christian churches. And anytime there is something to be said, their agent speaks for the Christian. That’s what compelled us to come together. Even though we cannot fight now (including general Danjuma, one of us) at least we can speak out. Now, we have problem with the north too. The election for the president of CAN was between a southern pastor and a northern pastor. We the elders we drew the amount of time, the period the south has served and the period the north has served and we said it is now time for a northern bishop to be the president of CAN, especially because of the problem they have in the north. In the same church the secretary disagreed against his own bishop and the north was divided. As a result, the votes were lost and the southerner is being called upon to be the president of CAN once more(inaudible). And we had written again, pointing out that notwithstanding all this and we don’t think so. So the point is that, yes it is true that the south are not doing much, don’t forget the southerner is now the vice president and he has a lot of influence. He’s a pastor too, he has a lot of influence among his own side. But he is now being put on the spot and that is why I plead that those Nigerians will be able to get the fact. He is now being embarrassed. In the past he came here and everything was fine. Back home he’s being embarrassed. If our leaders come to America and they are told the truth, I’m sure when they get back home, they will help. So this is the situation. We need a change of leadership because the president of CAN has been so compromised and we’ve have pointed that out.
Barr. Emma Ogebe: We have to wrap up at this point. I think I recognize him for the last question. I wanted to again emphasize the (inaudible) the intellectual dishonesty regarding this issue. When the massacre happened last year-200 people killed- we had western embassies and others saying, ‘no it was a conflict between elders and farmers’. But when the story emerged that a Muslim imam saved the lives of 300 Christians, they blew it out of proportion: ‘Oh Muslim Imam saves 300 Christians’. But before you said it wasn’t religious. So, this is how the story is being distorted till this day.
8th Question : So for the past, maybe 5 years, I have been asking Emmanuel ever since I met him and heard his story at the life-defending freedom conference. I found him after he left the stage and I said, ‘Emmanuel, what can I do? I’m a small attorney from Arkansas, I don’t have international contacts, I’m just one guy, what can I do to stop this?’ Because I hear the story of Christian brothers and sisters, and whether they are Christian or Muslim or any other people, I hear the story of people that are innocent being massacred. And everything about me says, ‘What can I do to stop this?’ I don’t just want to talk about it and talk about it and talk about it. I want to do something to stop it. He has told me a lot of things and finally I started coming up with a lot of answers. I’m a trained lawyer and a trained mediator. The first thing that I’ve figured out that we’ve got to stop doing is using the war model. We think as both sides of all these conflicts. We think that the war model is the way to stop something. It’s not. The war model doesn’t work. Killing each other doesn’t work.
We’ve got to figure out, in mediation terms, we’ve got to figure out the position and interest of the other person, find common interest. Muslims and Christians have some common interest. We have some scripture in common. If you read the Quran very well, you can see the Quran referring to the older testament. We have lots of things in common. But that’s not what we talk about because we focus on the war model. We’ve got to get past these position bars, which is the Fulanis and the farmers. They have their positions, but they also have some common interest, which is the lives of their children. We’ve got to get to the spot where the Christians look and they recognize that there is an interest if we go back to Mr. Fodio back in …, what year was that? Way back in that time, Mr. Fodio came and took over some of Nigeria and at that point you had all these Fulanis who think that they have a claim to this land. Just like when the American white people came into America they thought that they had a claim to the land and began massacring all the native Americans. The claims were messed up, but we got to understand the other side’s perspective to understand that and stop the fighting.
I was in Jerusalem sometime back and— my name is David like I said, which is a classic Jewish name even though I’m not Jewish—and I was in the cab with a cab driver named Mohammed. And being the kind of the dumb guy I said, ‘Ok, what religion are you?’ and he said, ‘I’m Islamic’. And just to go along with the stereotype, this is the only advice my wife told me later, just to go on with the stereotype I said, ‘ So, You and I generally we don’t get along very well.’ And he said, ‘You’re Right’. And I said, ‘As a Christian in your cab, the stereotype is that you would like to kill me.’ Then he says, ‘no’. And we both agreed that we had families that we would like to survive and that we are not interested in the war model, we’re interested in the peace model. And then he said…, Mohammed said something very interesting to me, he said, ‘ It’s our leaders who are the problem’. We both have families. Emmanuel has a family, I have a family, you have a family. We want our families to live and thrive and be happy. But as long as the bad leaders are controlling things, that’s our problem.
This gentleman right here asked me earlier, ‘What do you do if you’re advocating this peace? What do you do with the people who are not in favor of it, who refuse? And I explained that I was in a conference sometime back with the Dalai Lama, I was with him, he was speaking, and I was listening. Someone asked him, what do you do with the evil leaders in the world? And even the Dalai Lama, one of the biggest passivist you can find, said, ‘sometimes you have to get rid of the person who is insisting on the war model to be able to work on the peace model’. Peace doesn’t work with everyone, sometimes you have to find that person. So finally, I guess my question is What can we do rather than talk?
Barr. Emma Ogebe: Thank you very much, David. David actually drove up from Arkansas to be here. Let’s give him a round of applause. I want to recognize Henry and his team who also came in from Arkansas yesterday. It looks like Arkansas is the official state for Nigeria(inaudible). I want to especially thank the members of the African Christian Fellowship who are here. It’s very important to understand that the theology of Africans is strictly worship. We haven’t advanced to the level of advocacy and engagement. And so I am touched that they are at the point where they feel, you know, we need to take a stand and they put together this event. So let’s clap for the members of ACF. And of course the head of the Africans United For Peace who drove all the way from Connecticut to be here. And our key facilitator, Professor Esogwu who came all the way from Florida as well to be here. So many people…. I know of people who worked all night and then drove here for this meeting. So we appreciate you all.
I just want to say about the peace model you mentioned: I was talking to a Christian in Agatu after 300 Christians were massacred in 2016. And he is part of the peace committee. And he said when he had a peace meeting with the herdsmen, he said to them, ‘we will be at peace if you will bring your wives and your families and your children to live with us.’ And this is something many people don’t realize: the Fulani herdsmen actually don’t have villages in the middle belt of Nigeria. Their families are wherever they are, they come into these communities and kill off these people’s families. So you really literally almost don’t have a situation in the middle belt where anyone is going in and killing their family. Again, pointing to the fact that this is largely a one-sided battle. And when he made that proposal, they ignored him. They are never going to bring their families here. I want to make this very important point if this is the only thing you learn about this crisis: the attackers are not Fulani herds people. It’s Fulani herdsmen. There are no Muslim Fulani women going out and killing Christians. Many people don’t realize how very specific this atrocity is. And I want to end with the fact that they are actually more brutal than Boko Haram. You can find a Boko Haram survivor but you can rarely find a survivor of the herdsmen..whatever is living that comes across their path, they will kill. The only survivor of a Fulani attack that I saw was a man who was a Muslim in Benue State. He identified himself as a Muslim, he showed them his family Mosque and they let him go. So it’s actually more evil than Boko Haram. With that I want to thank Peggy for hosting us. Let’s give her a round of applause. And I want to thank Bill for also putting this together.I want to thank Mr. Asemota who came all the way from Nigeria. And most of all I want to thank Ike who took time off from work, travelled all the way and came with little Ike. Let’s give them a round of applause. Thank you so much and God bless you.
Prof Emenyonu, Ph.D President Africa United for Peace