By Prof Zacharys Anger Gundu
Governor Bala Mohammed is a ranking spokesperson for the Fulani of the whole world. He was the one who reminded us on a national television programme that the Fulani is a ‘global citizen’. This reminder was borne out of the fact that the Fulani are in several African countries in West and Central Africa. He argued that the Fulani have no respect for land borders. His nationality is ‘just a Fulani man’ and when there is need for reprisal attacks, in a country like Nigeria, it’s not the Fulani man within Nigeria that takes responsibility but the Fulani man outside the country. Reprisals in Fulani tradition according to Governor Bala Mohammed are predicated on the culture of vengeance. The Governor had also argued on the programme that whatever monies Nigeria would spend to ‘settle’ the Fulani in one place would have to cover those in Nigeria and those in other countries. That could only mean that the Fulani of the whole world are targeting to choke the country as a second home if they are to come out of nomadism.
In that television appearance, Governor Bala Mohammmed had thrown up three explosive issues on the Fulani burden. The first issue was the idea of the Fulani as a global citizen, blind to boundaries between countries and states. The second was the Fulani penchant for vengeance and self-help while the third was the idea that any ‘settlement’ of the Fulani of Nigeria is necessarily a ‘settlement’ of the Fulani of the whole world.
Even though each of these issues is loaded and complicates the Fulani burden on the country, Governor Bala Mohammed last week in his remarks at the closing ceremony of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) amplified his earlier position by not only justifying the Fulani substitution of the shepherd stick with the AK-47 but by also justifying the Fulani colonization of the Nigerian forest wherever it is found for grazing his animals. In these remarks, Governor Mohammed went further to argue that Government has failed to protect the Fulani culture of nomadic pastoralism and insofar as the Fulani traditional livelihood is threatened, the Fulani is justified to abandon his shepherd stick for the AK-47 with which he can better defend himself. The Governor also said the Fulani has the constitutional right to use any forest in the country to graze his cattle. Hear him, ‘No person owns any forest, the forest is owned by Nigeria’.
It is quite clear to any discerning patriotic Nigerian that the country is carrying a disproportionate Fulani burden whose logic is difficult to unbundle. Nigeria is a modern state in the 21st century. In a modern state, the concept of a ‘global citizen’ that encompasses an entire ethnic nationality is high nonsense. It is a cocktail of confusion and a canopy for mischief. Even the ‘global citizen’ moving across borders with high value intellect and knowledge, carries a passport and appropriate travel documents to enable him move through legal routes. The ‘global citizen’ no matter the arrogant pedestal he stands on recognizes national and other boundaries. He also recognizes personal property and cannot indiscriminately appropriate land and other resources for use in the name of ‘global citizenship’. No country in the 21st century can throw its borders open to ‘global citizens’ whose only trade is nomadic pastoralism spiced with blood? Which other African country is readily accepting the ‘global citizenship’ of the Fulani? Can the Arab move with impunity between countries of the Middle East and North Africa just because he perceives himself as a global citizen? Can the Bantus of Southern and Eastern Africa crisscross the countries of Southern and Eastern Africa at will just because they are Bantus and global citizens? Will they be allowed to organize their self-help predicated on vengeance and impunity, oblivious of the laws and security systems of their host countries? Governor Bala Mohammed is wrong on this issue and that he keeps repeating it may mean that he is laboring to undermine the foundation of the nation state.
Bala Mohammed is also wrong on the issue of the Fulani culture of vengeance and self-help. This is an issue which other Fulani intelligentsia like Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State have gleefully pontificated on. Nasir El Rufai had actually warned the army in Jos to be mindful of the Fulani because they never forget nor forgive an injury. According to him, even if it takes one hundred years, the Fulani will return for their pound of flesh. If the Fulani are that mean, how can they conceivably have a place in a nation state that draws its strength from its plurality? Allowing everyone to drink from the poisonous pot of vengeance to settle scores will defeat the concept of the rule of law which foregrounds the nation state. It is also for the same reason, that no country would allow its citizens to organize their security oblivious of the state. If everyone were to carry military grade weapons in the name of self-defense and for the reason that the Government and people have failed to protect him, what will become of our country? There is no justification for any citizen, including the foreigner, carrying prohibited weapons in the country purportedly for self-defense. Such a justification would be a call to anarchy and the lowest point in our national life especially when it is coming from a Governor who ought to know the implication of carrying such weapons.
Governor Bala Mohammed is also wrong on the issue of ‘settling’ the Fulani. While ‘settling’ the Fulani of Nigeria as a way of discouraging them from the nomadic lifestyle should be a priority, it should be clear that Nigeria is not under obligation to ‘settle’ the Fulani of the whole world. We may owe the Nigerian Fulani a place of abode to settle and stop moving from place to place in the name of the cow but as a nation state committed to the citizenry; we have no obligation to the Fulani of other countries. If the Fulani of Nigeria nudged by their kith and kin from other countries are under the impression that they can cleverly stake violent claims to swathes of land across the country for citizens of other countries, we must see their actions as high treason. Why are the Fulani resisting ranching when ranching can strive in all parts of Northern Nigeria including the Sahel areas south of the Sahara? Which modern state can compromise the comfort and security of its citizens to allow the influx of foreigners whose past time is vengeance and who are ready to spill blood to support an obsolete way of life?
Bala Mohammed is also wrong on the issue of the Nigerian forest. His position that no one owns the Nigerian forest except the Federal Government is patently false. Under all our constitutions since 1951, forests have been on the concurrent list. In the First Republic, the Northern Regional Government enacted the Forest Reserve Law that prohibited residency and animal grazing in the forest reserves. No state in the North has amended the First Republic Forest Reserve Law to allow for citizens to settle in their forests and graze in them. The situation is the same in Southern Nigeria and it is only impunity that would make anyone to suggest that the Fulani herdsman can take over the forests of the country for settlement and grazing.
Time has come to regulate nomadic pastoralism and upgrade it for the sake of the livestock industry, the Fulani herdsman and the crop farmer. Ranching is a more productive template for livestock production. They’re several ranching templates that can take care of the small or large cattle owners. If the Fulani herdsman settles down to ranch, his children will go to school and several amenities that are hitherto not accessible to him will become available. At the moment, open and violent grazing is at the expense of the crop farmer whose farm has been destroyed and whose ancestral lands have been annexed for grazing. The position of several Fulani umbrella groups whose members are steeped in nomadic pastoralism that the Fulani would need time to buy into ranching and that Northern Nigeria is not suitable for ranching is not tenable. If the Fulani herdsman has transmuted from a pastoral nomad to a bandit in a matter of years, I am not sure how a transition to ranching with its many benefits will need so much time. Ranches can also be established anywhere including harsh climatic niches like deserts. There are ranches even in Saudi Arabia and there is nowhere in Nigeria that ranches cannot flourish.
This is the time for patriots to speak up and relieve the country of the Fulani burden. It is not a necessary burden except if the agenda is a forceful takeover of the country for the Fulani of the whole world. If that is the case, it is difficult to see how it will fly, even with the amount of blood letting across the country. It must also be emphasized that opposition against the Fulani burden in the country is not part of ethnic profiling, a point made by Governor Bala Mohammed and others. No one is profiling anyone in the discourse on the Fulani burden. The facts speak for themselves. The Fulani militia, by 2014 was listed as the 4th deadliest terror group in the world active in Nigeria and parts of Central African Republic. Leading Fulani umbrella bodies including the ‘twin brothers’ of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore as well as GAN Allah Fulani Development Association have variously claimed responsibility for massacres across the country. Nasir El Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State had also a few years back paid ransom to the Fulani of the whole world to stop them from attacking Southern Kaduna. The Sultan of Sokoto himself has admitted that out of every 10 bandits operating in the country, 8 or so are people of Fulani extraction. The Fulani are not only steeped into banditry, they are also accomplished cattle rustlers, arsonists and rapists. Yes there are Fulani who are not all of these, but on the whole, the Fulani are at war with the whole country and are gradually coalescing as insurgents and making it difficult for anyone to avoid looking at them as a burden in the country. We are invited to see through the Fulani camouflage.
The author is a Prof of Archeology at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Chairman of Council of Benue State University, Makurdi