I do not envy nor loathe the Fulani tribe. I only pity them. Their excesses and dirty manoeuvrings wherever they are found notwithstanding. This is despite all the perceived advantages we believe they enjoy in the Nigerian system, particularly, the easy route to the top. Even the lower class among them exhibit so much superciliousness in their carriage. And worrisome though, an average Fulani fit perfectly into the profile of any criminality you can think of. Official corruption, robbery, rape, kidnapping, banditry, mention it! Either by facts of history, past activities and present dispositions, the accusations stick on the race. Just look at the history of the Northern emirates and the domination of the Hausas by the Fulani’s who came and was welcomed as nomads.
Although, the race, is perhaps, the most fortunate in the continent of Africa. The race have produced Heads of State or President across regions of the continent. From Central Africa, through West Coast and the North of Africa, they are found in commanding positions of the Military and Governments. In Nigeria, they have risen to hold the Nation by the jugular, both politically and militarily. They have produced about five heads of government and controlled virtually the entire religion, traditional and political institutions in the North, up to Kwara State, in the heart of Yoruba land. To further push their ego, in Nigeria, when the vehicles registration authority was ruminating on the need to enhance the vehicles registration identities, some States in the North went overboard to adopt all manner of politically provocative slogans: Born To Rule, State Of Power. Others merely chuckled and moved on. They are not only in government, but also in power!
The Fulani people, historically are not part of any community indigenous to any local communities in the Lord Lugard area called Nigeria. Be they are from the Futa Jalon highlands, from Mali, Sudan, or even from Central African area of the Continent. The noticeable fact is that they have migrated and now congregated in the Northern part of Nigeria, turned the place home by displacing the local Hausa tribe, from where they are spreading wildly to other parts of the country. Their major occupation is nomadic animal husbandry, living a nomadic life with their herds of cattle and goats. If they do not do this, they find their way into the military.
Nurturing herds from region to region, following weather and rain forest for good pasture to feed their herds, is their way of life. Most of these Fulanis are born inside the cells they built inside huge forest reserves, far in the deep forests and they grow up until they can move a herd around. Mingling with people of different mentalities is nil. So also is social interaction with others. Their lives cantered on the cows and goats they tend to and so their mentality. This seriously impacts on their general behaviour whenever they come in contact with others.
By nature and by indoctrination, they consider their flocks of far more importance than any other thing in sight; and in many cases, the herds are mostly violent, and so are the herders. Their nomadic lifestyles have been tailored along the herd’s lives. This is a problem we all have to find a solution to. I do not believe the United Nations (UN) will come and help here nor the African Union (AU). We have to locally find a solution to this problem. Already, they have been categorized as part of the country and the Federal Constitution respects the inalienable rights of all Nigeria to move freely, and live freely in any part of the Country.
This is an issue the Southern states can creatively dance their way out. They only need to go back to the basics. The Cross Rivers State cannot deny the existence of Obudu Cattle Ranches in Obudu built since the First Republic, only they cannot account for it nor its proceeds. So also is the Ekiti, Lagos, Osun and Ogun States. Some cannot even remember the site of the various Cattle Ranches built by the government of the defunct Western Region. Since we shortsightedly collapsed these futuristic projects, we must rise now and creatively reconstruct better ranches that will take these flocks out of the farmlands or we continue facing the crude nomadic herders and their idiosyncrasies.
The bane is the myopic thinking of the brigands that got to power and started sharing or destroying public institutions and facilities to build personal empire. Today, while the flocks in the various ranches have been consumed at the various government houses, the perpetrators are now the biggest investors in the free range cows violating others farmlands and plantations in the region. These AK-47 carrying frail looking Fulani boys are not the owners of the herds. The flocks do not even belong to their fathers. They are mainly recruited through the Seriki to tend to the herds. The owners are far away in the cosiness of their mansions. The real identities of these owners cut across all the tribes and political divides in the country. Truth be told, an AK-47 is not what you can pick across the counter. Neither the bullets. The cartel issuing these arms out do not domiciled in any of the various cells in the forests. They are the powerful within the society.
Giving these arms to these boys posits many dangers, intended and unintended. Such weapon in the hand of a hungry teenager will definitely turned into a means of survival. This is where banditry, rape, robberies, kidnappings and killings set in.
I still have to pity the Fulani because these herders mainly fit the profile of a rapist, robber, bandit and kidnapper. But it could well be far more than these. There is a large scale kidnapping, either for ransom or for ritual ongoing across the Yorubaland today. The Fulanis have been variously fingered. Here, I beg to disagree.
I was in a rustic community in Ekiti State late last year for an assignment. At a bush meat and palm wine joint we got talking. I noticed lots of young guys just out of their teens living rather big. A local teacher quipped: ‘Oga, leave those boys alone. Most of them are my students. They dropped out in JSS One, some in Two, few wrote the School Certificate Examinations. Today they all rich’.
‘Rich ke!’ I exclaimed. ‘Yes rich. They have no job, and do not ever leave this town’. He gulped his palm wine and left. I later gathered they are into Yahoo Plus ritual money business. Not to bother my mind further, the story of that unfortunate girl in Mowe area of Abeokuta, Favour, whose boyfriend and the mother slaughtered and used the heart to make pepper in Ikoyi Ile, Osun State came flooding to my mind. I too quickly finished my palm wine and made for my car! A case of kidnap for ritual. These are not Fulani boys, but Yoruba boys.
To empathize with the Fulani is to forget the Alimi and Afonja’s saga in the 18th century Oyo Empire. Afonja eventually lost his power and life to the wily manoeuvrings of Alimi, and consequently, the main Yoruba Empire, Oyo suffered and eventually collapsed. The influx of Fulanis into Yorubaland did not start with Afonja. They have been circling the Yoruba region for centuries, using the powerful tools of trade and religion.
Metaphorically, it is easier to fix all criminalities on the Fulani herders men. Robberies, rape, killings, and kidnappings. But if we are to try to unearth the facts of these criminalities, we shall find out that the Fulanis are not operating in isolation. Local Yoruba boys, and others Southern and Middle Belt boys are actively involved in all these terrible acts. The case of the Priest who kidnapped himself in Ekiti State in year 2019 suffice here. He is a Yoruba man, yet the crime was fixated on the Fulani herdsmen.
The truth of the matter is that The Bretton Wood’s Conference of 1844 had bounded us together in a most anomalous and incongruous geographical contraption called Nigeria. The Fulanis historically have no home. And the jobs they know howe to do is fast going out of fashion. Besides, incomes from such job can hardly sustain them, hence resort to large scale criminality. I am not deceived. As things stand today, I want to believe the Fulanis, all over Africa, have adopted Nigeria as a country of their own. Therefore the mass influx from Sudan, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, Ghana et al. it is quite easy for them to come in. The porous and leaky border routes in the North help this. And by the time the railway line linking Nigeria to Niger is completed, there will be free entry and exits for the Fulanis all over the Northern hemisphere of Africa to Nigeria. It is the Southern Nigeria, especially the Yoruba that need to creatively rejig their agricultural programmes and find a way of blocking nomadic cattle rearing in the zone.
Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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