When a mosquito falls in love with you, you reciprocate the love by doing your best to kill it. While this approach works sometimes, some other times, trying to kill it only results in near-misses and self-inflicted slaps. Imagine that mosquito becoming genetically modified to have an armoured exoskeleton, and showing its love by biting and chewing (not piercing!). You now have an exaggerated view of the violent relationship between Fadan Karshi and the notorious Fulani herdsmen, a marriage made in hell.
Fadan Karshi is a predominantly Christian agrarian community in Kaduna State’s southernmost local government area, Sanga, peopled by the Ninzom and Gwandara tribes. After Gwantu, the LGA headquarters, Karshi is the most popular and most populous part of Sanga. Some residents even claim it to be more “bubbling” than Gwantu. The town sits at a spot that makes it a transport hub as most vehicles from Nigeria’s south and lower northern states pass through Karshi en route to Jos. With its closeness to Jos (Plateau State) and Akwanga (Nasarawa State), many residents feel greater connection with these states than with Kaduna State, whose capital is over three hours away.
Fadan Karshi is surrounded by many hills and fertile lands. This vegetation that offers residents abundant land for farming, also attracts Fulani herdsmen and their cows. Thus begins a recount of an abusive relationship. What’s my business in this? Well, the federal government threw me to Karshi for the one-year national service. Here’s a little of the abuse I know.
In 2014, after some arguments over trespass on farmlands, Fulani gunmen invaded the peaceful community. After the first wave of lethal attacks, the government drafted soldiers to keep the peace. The Fulanis attacked again, and this time, some soldiers paid the ultimate price in addition to the unarmed sleepy villagers either shot or burned to death. These attacks made Karshi a shadow of itself, as many surviving residents ran for their dear lives. The Fulani herdsmen took up positions at the hills and proximate areas, effectively making them no-go areas for Karshi’s residents, a situation that subsists until now.
When posted there in June 2015, the Fulani issue was one that gave my friends and family members serious concern. As corps members, we learnt that “wisdom is profitable to direct”. One unwritten rule in Fadan Karshi is that you should avoid arguing with any Fulani—an argument can later cost your life. At night, soldiers, police officers and local youths patrol the community to prevent a repeat of the 2014 attacks.
Despite the presence of the soldiers, Fulanis have been fingered in the seemingly random murder of some persons in the community. Each time a death is announced, the veil of fear thickens in Fadan Karshi. Armed robbery incidents on the roads around Karshi have also been blamed on Fulanis. The herdsmen have effectively made life difficult for people in Karshi and surrounding villages. They have now added another token of friendship.
On Sunday, May 1, 2016, around 10pm, gunshots began discordant tunes in Fadan Karshi. By daybreak, someone informed me that the Hakimi (District Head) had been murdered. Since my national service ended two weeks ago, I am no longer in Karshi, so I called two persons to confirm the news. The murder was confirmed—a double murder, the Hakimi was killed alongside his young nephew. Residents of Karshi have pointed fingers in the direction of their abusive domestic partner, the Fulanis.
I met the late Hakimi in October 2015 when I and some colleagues went on a courtesy call to his unimposing palace. Although our visit was late, having been posted there since June, he welcomed us, and we all spoke freely. After expressing appreciation for our service in his community, he gave us a blank cheque to ask for help whenever we need it—his house was open to us. I would later meet him at the Sanga LGA secretariat, where he was once again, very friendly. He has now been gruesomely shot.
As a corps member, my lodge lacked neighbours; many houses were empty, with some rooms going for as low as ₦400 per month, due to Fadan Karshi’s slow recovery from the 2014 attacks. With this high profile murder, one can expect that the gains since 2014 would be reversed as fear would chase some persons out of the town. Nobody wants to die, even though life is hard in Nigeria.
The government would say it is doing its best to address the situation. Does it think anyone believes that “boboo-ing”? The armed Fulanis are not hidden. People know where they camp around Fadan Karshi. Why hasn’t any security agency received orders since 2014 to flush those hills? Even the murder of soldiers could not trigger a response. If this was Odi or Zaki Biam, the story would have been different. Maybe things would change when the government finally pushes people to lose faith in it. Maybe the people of Sanga would copy the Beroms of Plateau State and acquire arms to match the murderous Fulanis, bullet for bullet, dead bodies for each person killed. Maybe, just maybe, then the herdsmen and their elitist backers would gain some much needed sense. As for the slain Hakimi, like the men of the Night’s Watch in the Game of Thrones would say, “his watch is over”. Adieu, Hakimi Bala Madaki.
Image Credit: wikihow.com