FEATURES Ruga: How clashes and endless migrations threaten the nomad’s camp
While agreeing that the camps are reducing in number in the area, he says that he does not have money to build a new dwelling. This explains why “I now live with my family under a tree.” Kire Ardo also narrates a similar story. He too lives at Bakin Kogi, having been expelled from Lafia East by the militia. He also lives under a tree in the new location, with his 2 wives and 19 children “I didn’t build a new camp, because it is expensive to do so. Besides I lost 26 cows and 42 goats, so my finances are in bad shape.”
Then there are those who construct the camps whom Daily Trust met at Bahyano. They too have a story to tell. Jibrin Ibrahim has been building camps for 11 years . He says that it could take up to 2 months to construct a camp of 4 rooms, and agrees that there are fewer camps today than they were a little while ago. This is because they have either been burnt down,or the owners fled. Abdullahi Adamu and Mohammed Ahmed are two other builders who also share the view that the Fulani camps are reducing both in visibility and number.
The world is changing Architect Idris Isa Bawa, who has done research on the architecture of nomadic societies, explains “The camp is changing. It is not as common as it used to be, because of so many factors. Also, those who build the camps are not as numerous as they used to be, and most of the nomads are turning from the way of life they used to know, owing to urbanisation and modernisation. Among the younger nomads, it is no longer fashionable to live in a camp, especially those whose camps were earlier destroyed during communal clashes. These ones think it is better to start moving into urban centres where they will adopt modern cultures.”
He speaks on the issue of change as a growing cultural force in the world at present “The whole world is changing,and the camp will gradually be transformed into modern houses in a reserve. Because of the need for constant movement by the nomads, by the time you don’t move, you have to build permanent structures. This is what is happening in some parts of the north. Some places in the north used to be camps, but they have grown into bigger settlements because the need to move no longer exists. For instance, there is the example of Sabon Gari Na Bordo in Toro local government of Bauchi state. In 2001 when there was ethno-religious crises in Plateau State, a number of nomads moved there from plateau. If you go to Sabon Gari Na Bordo now,you will see houses built with aluminium roofs. It is gradually becoming a town. This example shows that a camp can vanish and become a bigger, new settlement. This actually happens and it is correct and this is the normal process. On the other hand frequent migrations mean that the camp which hasn’t reached the stage of growing into a large settlement, is also vanishing. For instance, if the herder is left with some herds after a crises, he may decide to go into some remote areas, and live by a tree in a forest, hoping that after a few years, he will recover his cows and start life afresh. But some of them may forget about the nomadic way of life altogether, to go and settle down in a city or in an urban centre.
Like Bawa above, Hassan also thinks that the camp is threatened “So many issues negatively affect the camp today in Nigeria. When there is no school around them, they migrate to a place where they can enroll their children in schools. If there is no reserve, the nomads will also migrate, because the available space wont contain them. If they settle in a place, and their animals are increasing and there are farmlands around them which are also being used, then there will be no space for the animals to graze, and the nomads will naturally leave.” He says that many nomads have abandoned their camps because of the effects of rustling,and moved to the city to live a more settled existence. On those who construct the ruga, who are also key to the survival of the dwelling “The skill of constructing the camp is collapsing. This is because those who can build the camp are now moving to the city, where they certainly won’t construct the camp.” ‘Many non Fulbe have never
seen a camp’ Hassan now shows how violence triggers migration and affects the camp, an example being the post election violence in Kaduna state in 2011 “In southern Kaduna where I come from, when post election violence occured in 2011, a large number of camps totaling 70 households migrated to different locations. Some went to Bauchi, Nasarawa, Abuja and other places.”
But Hassan has also noticed a significant change in the camp “The architecture of the camp has been changing.It used to be a more permanent structure, but on account of constant clashes which have grown over the years, the nomads have resorted to the construction of thatch dwellings which are easier to dismantle.” Dr. Baba also provides reasons for the camps decline “Because of population pressure and the fact of urbanisation the camp is threatened, and so it is decreasing in number, as well as in size. Finally, the camp will disappear, and even today many non Fulbe have never seen a Walbe or camp. At best of times, the camp is temporary. Eventually, it grows into a settlement, just as in Sokoto where there are settlements which began as camps.”
Saving the camp Bawa recalls that many nomads are keen on retaining the camp as it is, but with some changes “most of the nomadic Fulani want to preserve the camp, but they desire a modern way of doing the ruga. My research proposed modern materials for the construction of the camp. These items will be lighter in weight, instead of materials like grass which are hard to preserve. I sold the idea to the nomads and the response from them was good. So far,my idea has not been translated to reality, but I hope it will come to fruition soon.”
He states “The camp plays a very important role in the life of a nomad,and preserving the camp means preserving pulaaku, and in preserving pulaaku, you are helping the general society, because leaving the nomads to abandon Pulaaku has implications for the larger society itself.” Bawa says “The future of the camp depends on the sustainability of the way of life of the herder.If the Fulani nomad is compelled to abandon that system, then naturally the camp may vanish, but if the nomad is allowed to continue with his way of life,then the camp will be preserved.”
On the way forward, Momale, speaking against a background of the collapse of the extended family system, adds “The smaller family unit emerging today can be nurtured to provide the guidance that the head of the households were providing in the past.”
He points out “The head of the household who used to provide moral upbringing, training and orientation, is no longer there. Also, the parents are not adequately taking over the role of the head of the camp, and the role of the grandparents, that is the females, who supported the head of the camp, no longer exists. To address the problem is to support the nomads to recognise their new roles in an ever changing environment, and to promote education among the pastoral families.”
Jalido thinks that if the nomads will be helped to reside in grazing reserves, their camps will not only be protected, they will endure “Grazing reserves should be set up for the nomads. The reserve will have a veterinary clinic, dams, schools, doctors and ample space for the camps. The camp will flourish in the reserve, rather than vanish as we see happening today.”
Daneji camp near Ajaokuta, Kogi State. This serene setting is slowly fading as a result of many factors. Inset: Herder has built a new camp with palm leaves.
Many camps were set ablaze during recent conflicts in Nasarawa State.
‘Having lost our camps, we now live under the trees.’
Shuaibu: ‘I disagree. The camps are increasing in number.’