Buhari and Fu­lani Herds­men

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

This na­tion, un­der the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, a Fu­lani man, owes el­der states­man and for­mer Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion, Chief Olu Falae, a huge debt of grat­i­tude for the ex­tremely re­strained and states­manly man­ner he handed his or­deal in the hands of herds­men who re­cently kid­napped him. If Falae had been a typ­i­cal Afenifere or O’dua Peo­ple’s Congress chief­tain who had suf­fered that trauma in the hands of the Fu­lani, Buhari would not have stayed in New York for seven days for that UNGA meet­ing which took place dur­ing the pe­riod of that high pro­file kid­nap saga. He would have had to cut short his stay and rushed back home to con­tain what was clearly a clear and present se­cu­rity dan­ger. If it had not been Falae, a wise el­der and pa­triot, but some­body else, he would have since re­gain­ing hs free­dom af­ter a ran­som pay, granted se­ries of in­ter­views, spon­sored write-ups and held meet­ings to whip up eth­nic sen­ti­ments in his favour and against the Fu­lani no­mads. Such a gam­bit would have struck a chord in the hearts of mil­lions of Nige­ri­ans who har­bor bit­ter re­sent­ment against Fu­lani no­mads for there is hardly any eth­nic group in this coun­try who have not suf­fered in one way or another in the hands of the an­i­mal rear­ers. For me who have signed a covenant with my hum­ble self and with my God to use my writ­ing to say only what will build this coun­try up and not de­stroy her, I see the hand of God in the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of the Falae kid­nap. Even if ran­som was paid be­fore the old man was re­leased un­harmed, it was a good thing that noth­ing more dread­ful had hap­pened to him. For if what we all fear had hap­pened to him, Buhari would have had on his hands a real se­cu­rity threat. I also be­lieve that God al­lowed the ugly in­ci­dent in­volv­ing such a dra­matic per­sona to take place and dur­ing the lead­er­ship of a Fu­lani man to draw Buhari’s and the na­tion’s at­ten­tion to a mat­ter that has per­sisted for so long and which now, clearly re­quires ur­gent na­tional at­ten­tion. In many of my com­men­taries, I have of­ten drawn at­ten­tion to the is­sue of no­madic herds­men, not­ing that some­thing has to be done to en­sure that they carry out their an­cient means of liveli­hood in a more sus­tain­able man­ner and in a way that they can live in peace and har­mony with oth­ers in the fed­er­a­tion. I have of­ten ranked the Fu­lani herds­men men­ace as con­sti­tut­ing even a higher se­cu­rity risk to this na­tion than the Boko Haram ter­ror­ists. There is hardly any eth­nic group in this na­tion who has not had a clash re­sult­ing to blood­shed on both sides with the no­mads. The time has come for us to do some­thing about these avoid­able bloody clashes. Let no one who has a mind to solv­ing this prob­lem speak about graz­ing routes and the fact that no­madism is an age-old way of life of the Fu­lani. Those are worn-out ar­gu­ments we have heard over the cen­turies which have not helped in ad­dress­ing the prob­lem. The truth of the mat­ter is that we do not even need a na­tional sum­mit or any other such de­lay­ing tac­tic that would fur­ther lead to more blood­shed. We have wit­nessed the shed­ding of so much blood over this mat­ter that we can­not af­ford to waste any more time. The so­lu­tion is ranch­ing. The Fu­lani must be made to owe loy­alty to a ‘soil’.

Now they ‘own’ ev­ery land and they are not us­ing it re­spon­si­bly in a man­ner that they can earn the good­will of oth­ers with whom they must nec­es­sar­ily in­ter­act. Power with­out re­spon­si­bil­ity is the pre­rog­a­tive of pros­ti­tutes. No one else can ex­er­cise power like that and there will be peace and har­mony. Over the years, Fu­lani no­mads have built up re­sent­ment against them­selves among many com­mu­ni­ties in the coun­try. This re­sent­ment can lead to the erup­tion of spon­ta­neous fury that can lead to real trou­ble in the coun­try any day. This must be avoided. And there is no Nige­rian pres­i­dent who has been bet­ter place to re­solve this mat­ter than Buhari who is a Fu­lani man and leader of the no­mads as­so­ci­a­tion. He has to sum­mon courage and tell his kins­men that no­madism in the 21ar cen­tury Nige­ria is sim­ply un­sus­tain­able and is fraught with so many dan­gers. It should worry our brother no­mads that at one point the Tiv peo­ple of Benue banned the eat­ing of cow meat and the pres­ence of the herds­men on their soil. The Tiv rea­soned that cost of cow meat in terms of

the de­struc­tion of their farms and the killing of their peo­ple have sim­ply proved too much for them to bear. If oth­ers are pro­voked to fol­low the Tiv ex­am­ple of eco­nomic war­fare to achieve a politico-ad­min­is­tra­tive goal, it will surely make things ex­tremely hard for the Fu­lani. Such war­fare will com­pel the Fu­lani no­mads to strip them­selves of their Nige­rian na­tion­al­ity and move else­where where their lifestyle will be ac­cepted. In case the Pres­i­dent is not aware of it let me let him know that there is a con­spir­acy the­ory been bandied about that the Fu­lani un­der his lead­er­ship have a grand plan to re­sist any ef­fort to make them set­tle in one place. That their plan is to be al­lowed to roam free and wide so that they can more easily in­fil­trate other eth­nic groups, as­sim­i­late and then sub­due them for a Fu­lani em­pire. It may sound pre­pos­ter­ous but many be­lieve that is the planand that has con­trib­uted in no small mea­sure to build­ing up re­sent­ment against the Fu­lani. Con­spir­acy the­ory or no, the Fu­lani herds­men chal­lenge of­fers Buhari a unique op­por­tu­nity to ex­er­cise states­man­ship. As I said ear­lier, if there is any Nige­rian pres­i­dent who can solve this prob­lem, it is Buhari be­cause he is Fu­lani and he is pres­i­dent now that the mat­ter has reached its peak. The Jonathan ad­min­is­tra­tion had said it had bud­geted N100 bil­lion to be­gin the first phase of the re­set­tling of the herds­men. What has be­come of that plan or the pro­ject? The mantra of this ad­min­is­tra­tion is change. One of the changes I want to see is the dif­fer­ence in the way the Fu­lani no­mads earn their liveli­hood. They must be made to set­tle in ranches spread across the coun­try and spare us the trauma their pres­ence on peo­ple’s farms bring to mil­lions of their non-no­madic com­pa­tri­ots from Sokoto to Port-Har­court.

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