Change and con­ser­vatism in Mun­zali Dan­tata’s Tam­munnde: Hope on the Hori­zon

Sunday Trust - - TAMBARI -

Ti­tle of Book: Tam­munde: Hope on the Hori­zon Au­thor: Mun­za­l­iDan­tata Genre: Fic­tion Pages: 195 ISBN: 978-978-956226-8 Re­viewer: Sala­matu Sule

The novel, Tam­munnde: Hope on the Hori­zon is an at­tempt by Mun­zali Dan­tata to trace the his­tor­i­cal evo­lu­tion of the re­la­tion­ships be­tween the no­madic cat­tle herders and farm­ers in Nige­ria as rep­re­sented by the pro­tag­o­nist Bappa and his host com­mu­nity of Ok­i­tipupa.

Bappa, a no­madic Fu­lani from Gerei in far­away Adamawa State leaves his na­tive land in search of a graz­ing space for his herd of cat­tle un­til he fi­nally camped at Ok­i­tipupa where he and his two sons, wife and mother lived for many years.

The novel de­picts how in the past, the Fu­lani no­mads used to en­joy mu­tual re­la­tion­ships with their host com­mu­ni­ties. At that time, there were lo­cal al­ter­na­tive dis­pute res­o­lu­tion mea­sures for the res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes be­tween the no­mads and their host. Lately, pres­sure from eco­log­i­cal prob­lems and pol­i­tics has led to the break­down of this mech­a­nism.

“What a pity, he thought. In his youth, the Fu­lani were wel­come in Benue, the food bas­ket of Nige­ria where the fer­tile land was good for their cat­tle. When did things go wrong? Why couldn’t prob­lems be set­tled am­i­ca­bly as done for ages?” (pg. 141)

The strug­gle for space be­tween the no­mads and the farm­ers has been com­pli­cated by the claims of tra­di­tional rights and con­sti­tu­tional rights. While the farm­ers based their rights to the land on tra­di­tion the no­mads based their rights on the free­dom of move­ments from the con­sti­tu­tion.

“Let us re­mem­ber that these farm­lands are all we have. Our fore­fa­thers toiled to im­prove the lands, which they left for us. We too hope to en­joy them and leave them as in­her­i­tance to our chil­dren and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. So if any­body thinks it is okay to come and de­stroy our crops, then he must be sick in the head”. (Pg.31)

“There are many eth­nic groups in this coun­try, each en­gaged in their own vo­ca­tions. Ours is herd­ing cat­tle. Why are peo­ple at­tack­ing our tra­di­tional vo­ca­tion?” Bappa asked. (Pg.42)

We read from the book that Bappa and his fam­ily with sev­eral other herders were forced to take flight from Ok­i­tipupa and other places. Oc­ca­sion­ally, they stop to rest in the course of their move­ment only to fi­nally ar­rive at Adamawa where they hope for a new Hori­zon.

Home did not pro­vide Bappa and his fam­ily the suc­cour he longed for, in­stead the con­se­quence for reach­ing the much talk about hori­zon led to the tragic fate of Bappa who was not only killed by his own kins­man but also a son of his friend as against the dreaded peo­ple of the host com­mu­nity.

Bappa is bent on keep­ing tra­di­tion alive against any form of cul­tural and so­cial en­croach­ment. He op­poses the plea for his sons to ac­quire no­madic ed­u­ca­tion or any other west­ern form of ed­u­ca­tion that would al­ter the tra­di­tional ways of life of the Pul­laku. He de­tests his brother’s con­sis­tent visit and in­sis­tence on the need to face the re­al­ity and adapt to the rapid change that is tak­ing place.

Un­like Bappa, Anas is of the view that the fail­ure of the Fu­lani man to adapt to change is re­spon­si­ble for the kind of nar­ra­tive he re­ceives from the pub­lic as he has re­fused to see rea­sons with the need for a graz­ing re­serves for his cat­tle, he prefers for his cat­tle to move about to freely graze and ex­er­cise.

At what point did the ro­man­ti­cised no­mads whose artis­tic por­traits adorn many ho­tel, halls and gal­leries drop his stick in favour of the AK47? At what time did the once mu­tual re­la­tion­ship turn sour?

In Tam­munnde, we un­cover the is­sues of cat­tle rustlers and ban­dits who take ad­van­tage of the ex­ist­ing sit­u­a­tion by caus­ing harm to both the host com­mu­nity and the Fu­lani and added to this, are the at­tempts to politi­cize the is­sue for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

The tragic end of Bappa sym­bol­izes his lack of un­der­stand­ing of the nat­u­ral and so­cial forces at work that is, the ef­fect of en­vi­ron­men­tal changes and the rapid pop­u­la­tion growth and ur­ban ex­pan­sion on the hu­man per­son­al­ity.

Mun­zali in this book re­minds us about the need to ap­pre­ci­ate his­tory and civ­i­liza­tion while also ad­vis­ing the gov­ern­ment on the need to pro­vide graz­ing re­serves for the herders. He also ar­tic­u­lates the need for tack­ling the is­sue which is fast be­com­ing a na­tional question purely from an eco­log­i­cal point of view as op­posed to the politi­ciza­tion and eth­nic chau­vin­ism that is colour­ing the dis­course.

The the­matic pre­oc­cu­pa­tion in the novel can­not eas­ily be ig­nored by read­ers as the most bug­ging is­sues to­day. Some of these themes in­cludes: Change ver­sus con­ser­vatism, con­sti­tu­tional rights ver­sus tra­di­tional rights, iden­tity, eth­nic chau­vin­ism and po­lit­i­cal ma­nip­u­la­tion of the cat­tle and farm­ers clashes in Nige­ria.

Tam­munnde is an ad­di­tion to the ex­ist­ing nar­ra­tive about the life of the fu­la­nis as in Cyprian Ek­wensi’s The Burn­ing Grass and Wale Okedi­ran’s The Ten­ants of the House. It is told in a racy, lin­ear and read­able style with a supremely ironic twist at the end given vent to the novel’s un­der­ly­ing meta­phoric al­lu­sion to the hori­zon which is never a fu­tur­is­tic at­tain­ment but some­thing to work to­wards to­day.

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