National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodejo, has said the Fulani would weigh the plans that each of the presidential candidates of the different political parties have for them in the post-Buhari era before deciding who among the candidates would get Fulani votes next year.
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, he also said, among others, that the Federal Government should create a separate Ministry of Livestock Development and Nomadic Affairs to ensure that all the challenges confronting Fulani herdsmen are tackled.
For long, after your Dialogue Programme, there have not been clashes between herdsmen and farmers. But last week, in Benue State, herdsmen allegedly killed scores of people. What brought about this again?
The case of Benue is different from any other state in Nigeria because the governor, Samuel Ortom politicises a little crisis and magnifies it beyond proportion. The reports that we take to be relevant are those from the police and the DSS, but we don’t rely on what the governor says. The only report we have from our people is that the Fulani are crying because they alleged that a military jet threw bombs in their settlement, between the border of Benue and Nasarawa states, killing people and cattle. There is always problem in that area. I saw the pictures of cows, children and women and men killed by the bomb.
When did this thing happen?
About a week ago
You mean a military jet bombed a Fulani settlement in Benue and Nasarawa border?
Governor Ortom was shown on TV where about 60 persons allegedly killed by herdsmen were being buried. But no one heard about the purported bombing of a Fulani settlement.
Since Ortom introduced this anti grazing law, there have always been crises between ethnic groups at the Benue and Taraba borders. So, I don’t think it is the Fulani that are killing people there because we have created the awareness and they know it is not good for them to kill people they are living with. We warn them that it is no more acceptable to kill people and that where they are attacked, they should not carryout reprisals, instead they should report to Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, and we’ll report to the security agencies for appropriate actions. This one that they are saying it was Fulani militia that carried out the attack, we don’t know any militia ort have any militia. They are not our members; we don’t know them. The only thing I know is that our people are crying because of what they are passing through at those border areas.
Some people say that the militia group is the military arm of Miyetti Allah?
Under my leadership, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore doesn’t have any militia group. For what and what do we want to do with it?
Because of this alleged massacre by herdsmen, and his refusal to commiserate with the people, the Benue governor accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of being a member of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore. Is Atiku your member?
One thing I want to make very clear is that Ortom is somebody who can say one thing today and tomorrow, he would recant. Have you not seen him apologising to the Fulani and the whole nation that he has offended the Fulani? I saw it on social media where he was said to be apologising to our ethnic group. If he has a problem with Atiku, it is something different; he should not bring us into it. We are not even with Atiku because in politics, Ortom is Atiku’s boy. Before the Benue governor came up with the anti-grazing law, we met Atiku and implored him to prevail on Ortom to drop that law, but the PDP presidential candidate ignored us and he didn’t talk with Ortom. Now two of them have political issues and they want to bring us in.
If the governor said Atiku is a member of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Ortom is a member of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) because everybody rearing cows is a member of MACBAN. He is also rearing cows. But, if you are not a Fulani, you cannot be a member of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, of which I’m the leader. Atiku is our member. Yes, I accept him to be our member.
Atiku was supposed to have blamed Ortom over that anti-grazing law that is causing the problems between herdmens and farmers, but now, they have political differences, he is now coming to blame the governor. This was something that he should have done at the beginning before the anti-grazing law could see the light of the day. But now, it is late. So, we are not happy with Atiku because when we needed him most, he didn’t help us by calling the governor to order. If he had prevailed on the governor, the anti grazing law wouldn’t have come up in the first place.
To justify his position against the Fulani, Ortom can call anybody any name. However, if says Atiku is our member, he is right, we can’t deny him, but it should be noted that Atiku failed us at our critical period. If you are not Fulani, you are not our member, but MACBAN is for everybody that is into cattle breeding. Its membership comprises people from different ethnic groups across the country. It is not only Fulani; there are other people there. Ortom is a member, as he is into cattle breeding.
Why is the Benue governor mentioning your group?
It is because we came out and challenged him that the law was not good for the Fulani and we went to court to obtain an injunction to stop him. So, he took our association as his personal enemy, but we are not his enemy. He is not happy with us because we rose to challenge him in the court. Even now, we don’t need that anti-grazing law. The law is not good for both the Fulani and the Tiv people.
Why is the law not good for the Tiv people?
Before the governor was born, the Fulani and the Tiv people have been cohabiting and he grew up to this mutual relationship between these ethnic groups. They were together doing business; there was no crisis, but now, he has driven every Fulani out of Benue State and he came out to say that Fulani were killing his people.
Do you think the Buhari government can still create grazing reserves in the remaining days? And if it is not done, what will be your next line of action?
There is nothing that can happen. Nigeria is too big to accommodate everyone. Even if you are 17 years old or you are 100 years or more, one day you’ll go and leave Nigeria. We are not happy with President Buhari and some state governors. We the Fulani are not happy with them.
Sine the Buhari administration started about eight years ago, we thought that by now, he would have succeeded in solving all these Fulani herders’ issue. The president has always given directives to the Ministry of Agriculture to find a solution to the problem, but they went on to politicise it. Today they came up with cattle colony; another time it is cattle ranching. Many state governors collected money to establish ranches, but none did anything. It is Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-rufai that gazetted some grazing reserves. If Buhari doesn’t sign or create grazing reserves, we believe that the person that would take over from him will listen to our cries and carve out grazing reserves for us.
One Alhaji Ya’u Malammadori recently said that all the Fulani socio-cultural groups have adopted Tinubu/Shettima.
We have many presidential candidates. Last week, the Jigawa State governor invited me to join him in Minna, Niger State, where Tinubu was going to have a town hall meeting with Northern agro-commodity groups. We went to Niger State to listen to them for their agenda for the Fulani, they discussed what they were supposed to discuss, but the agenda for our people wasn’t discussed. We want all these presidential candidates to come and say what they would do for the Fulani herders. Any of them that comes to meet with us, this is our position which I wanted to present at Minna, but I was not given the opportunity.
The candidate should know that the core objectives of our organisation, among others are: To mobilise the Fulani in defence of our unity as nation, and imbibe the spirit of patriotism and nationalism among the Fulani pastoralists, and encourage extensive participation in the peace making and developmental process of Nigeria; creating awareness on the need for peaceful co-existence among Nigerians, and to serve as a platform to educate our members on their roles in promoting peaceful co-existence, and serving as a means of re-orientating our members to become peaceful co-existence advocates. Also, to mobilise towards the eradication of any form of politically motivated violence under the disguise of ethnic or religious agitations, and to annex the vibrancy and strength of our members towards ensuring peaceful and ethnic harmony in Nigeria and to massively mobilise the Fulani pastoralists to participate in the 2023 general elections.
The challenge confronting the Fulani pastoralists today are mainly – the declining grazing areas as a result of climate change and population increase, cattle rustling and banditry and kidnapping of our members, as well as laws prohibiting grazing without provision of any alternative, and low level of education. In this vein, the next government should consider the plight of the herders in the county by creating a separate Ministry for Livestock Development and Nomadic Affairs to ensure all the challenges confronting our people are tackled. These candidates should know that our problem is different from that of crop farmers. None of them has said anything to us up till now. We want Tinubu and Shettima to come openly and say what they will do for the Fulani if they win the election.
Why only Tinubu when there are other candidates?
No, no. Any of the presidential candidates is free to come and meet with us. Why I mentioned Tinubu/Shettima is because they organised the town hall meeting with farmers in Minna. But they didn’t say very clearly what they would do for us. However, I have relationship with some governors, like the governor of Kebbi; the national chairman of APC is like a father to me. We have been together in the past. Even at that we want to know their programme for us.
If none of them comes to tell you his agenda for your group, what position will you take?
I believe people will come and speak on their behalf. But by body language, I’m closer to APC than any other party. If you see me with Tinubu or Shettima in a corner, what should come to your mind? I have been with Shettima for a long time, and he is a very good person. It is still better for all of them to come and speak with us, and then we weigh them to know the candidate to support.
If your people say this is the candidate they prefer and you want another candidate, how do you arrive at a meeting point?
It is very difficult to say this is the way I’m going and they would say otherwise. I mean the Fulani in Nigeria and in the whole of West Africa. The direction I want them to follow is the way they will follow fully. We have already put down what Atiku, Obi, Tinubu or Kwankwaso will do for us when any of them becomes the president.