Matthew Kukah, Catholic bishop of Sokoto diocese, says demonising herdsmen, especially those of the Fulani extraction, could lead to a breakout of violence.
Kukah, who spoke on Tuesday at a colloquium on fake news and hate speech organised by the Olusegun Obasanjo centre for African studies, an arm of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), said hate speech often precedes any genocide experienced in history.
Following incessant attacks by suspected herdsmen whom some tag Fulani, the clergy likened the profiling of the Fulani to what happened to the Igbo leading up to the Nigerian civil war between 1967 and 1970.
“If it is Fulani today, yesterday it was the Igbos,” he said.
Reacting to the controversy around the picture of herdsmen used on the Nigerian passport booklets, Kukah asked why the focus was on the herdsmen when there are symbols of other ethnic groups on the passport.
“When I look at my passport, it has the coat of arm and map of Nigeria. Then right in front of the data page where all my information is, I have the Bini. I am not a Bini man, but I am eminently proud of this. I didn’t even know it was here, because I had to go through the passport page by page,” he said.
“When I opened the passport the first thing I saw was Zuma Rock, then I see Tiv dancers. Who gave them permission to put Tiv dancers? Then I got to next page, before I came to this poor Fulani man who is standing with his cows.
“Suddenly, this is the only thing we have chosen. Why is it exciting? It is exciting because this is the time for us to ‘hate’, literally tag every Fulani as a herdsman. We are on a very dangerous precipice.”
The priest asked those in leadership position to stand up and tell where the country is going.
He also urged Nigerians to be each other’s keeper and avoid ethno-religious profiling in dealing with each other.
He added that the media should sieve through in choosing who to give audience to avoid persons who propagate hate and mischief.