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