By Chukwudi Nweje
Former Minister of FCT, Muhammed Abba-Gana in this interview, proffers solutions to the rising tension over farmers/herders clashes in the country. He also spoke on other issues.
What is the best way to address the Fulani/herders clashes to douse the rising tension in the country?
As the population of the world continues to increase every year in most countries of the world, there is a lot of pressure on available land and also on available fresh water sources. Land is needed for housing, schools, hospitals, industries, farmlands, livestock production etc., and also water for both domestic use and agricultural crops production and livestock production and industrial and commercial use etc. It is said that land and water will be the new sources of tension and war among countries and communities.
About 75 per cent of Nigeria’s landmass is in the 19 states and FCT, all in the northern part. And the 17 states of the Southern part live on the 25 per cent or so of the landmass of Nigeria. Even this 25 per cent is threatened by oil exploration, oil spilling, ocean surge or rising sea levels because of climate change and also gully erosion diminishes a lot of available land. Also in the Northern part as a result of misplaced priorities and absence of good governance for a long time, some of the Northern states could not stop the devastating desert encroachment in good time. From now on, aggressive afforestation/reforestation must be also a priority of the far North states. As we in the North live on about 75 per cent of Nigeria’s landmass, it’s not at all reasonable to insist on using the diminishing 25 per cent of the land in the South which they are now resisting.
In the North, there is large expanse of lands which can be acquired, cleared and used for RUGA, and small agricultural dams can be quickly built. Boreholes can be drilled. Schools for nomadic education can be built. It’s really time to stop this ancient culture of nomadic way of life.
Before now, the Fulani were cohabiting well with all tribes; why does it seem that they have become perpetual aggressors in all conflicts in the country?
4. The Fulani cattle rearers are a classic case of blaming the victims. Most of them have not even state or country of origin let alone getting any benefit, security or welfare. Even the nomadic education started long time ago has failed because it’s impossible to have mobile schools, mobile teachers and without most of basic amenities/utilities available in normal townships and villages. What we have now is the consequence of abandoning people to live in an exclusive and ancient culture for so long. It’s unkind and costly to allow such culture to continue in the 21st century and become source of political instability.
There is a conspiracy theory that most of the Fulani herders being accused of perpetrating banditry, and other crimes in the country are not even Nigerians; do you agree?
• There are the settled ones who are well integrated/assimilated into other ethnic groups, the herdsmen or nomadic Fulani, and the bandits. Within this sedentary/settled group of Fulani, you will find the highly educated, moderately educated, artisans or those with some kind of vocational education. There are Fulani of distinction in the civil/public service at all levels of government. A good example is Alhaji Ahmed Joda, former permanent secretary, federal ministry of education and also former chairman, NCC and chancellor of Bell University, Ota. Alhaji Musa Bello, our permanent secretary, finance in the Northeastern state before he moved to the federal ministry of finance as permanent secretary. Both of them are still alive and proud Fulani. There are many others. Like Prof. Iya Abubakar who had 1st class in Mathematics from university of Ibadan and went to U.K. and got his Ph.D. in Mathematics. The first Northerner to get Ph.D. in Mathematics. He was V.C of ABU, minister of defense in the 2nd Republic and also senator of the federal republic of Nigeria. Also, another great Fulani academic, politician and public administrator is Prof. Jubrin Aminu. Well-known cardiologist. He also graduated from the university of Ibadan and went to U.K. for higher studies and specialization. He was V.C university of Maiduguri, minister of petroleum and education and senator of the federal republic of Nigeria. The great late Brigadier Zakaria Maimalari, the 1st Sandhurst trained military officer in Nigeria, is also a good example of a settled, integrated/assimilated Fulani. His family is in Maimalari/Yusufari district of former Borno province, now in Yobe State. Also, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur is another distinguished Fulani who has contributed a lot to the political, economic and business development of Nigeria. Alhaji Bukar Abba Ibrahim a well-known quantity surveyor and builder is also born of a settled Fulani father and Kanuri mother. I am not sure whether he speaks Fulfude well. But his father came to settle in Goniri, Yobe State decades ago. Bukar Abba Ibrahim had been governor of Yobe State for nearly 10 years and senator for about 12 years. We used to call him Bukar Fulata when he was a fine small boy in Goniri primary school. All this shows that the nomadic Fulani were wasted generation. This should not be allowed to continue. We must settle them along with their cattle and educate them and train them to be part of the human civilization. Therefore, it’s a matter of regret that the political elite particularly from the Northern part of Nigeria have allowed the nomadic Fulani to live in their wild, ancient and unprogressive culture outside the human civilization and now causing tension and threatening national security.
There are many other towns in Borno and Yobe states that are mainly Fulani like Gumsa, Jajere, Ngelzarma, Kollere, Jakusko etc.,. The Fulanis in Borno and Yobe states speak Kanuri very well, speak their own Fulfude and Hausa. And they are all highly educated. They participate in public service, politics, business, commerce etc., like any ethnic groups in Nigeria. But the time has come for all the settled Fulani of distinction to join other patriots of distinction and the federal government, state governments to give support to the National Assembly’s ban on this ancient nomadic culture, which has now generated so much base sentiments causing political instability.
But what is it about the Nomadic Fulani?
The nomadic Fulani are called the herders. They are like the migratory birds. They do not stay or live in one place. Some move from country to country, state-to-state and region-to-region looking for grasslands and water sources for their cattle. The real nomadic Fulani is friendly, simple minded, witty and intelligent and they know everything about the cattle and the forest they live in. and they do not make much demand from the governments at all levels as a matter of right. Once they have water and vegetation for the cattle to feed. They may look lean/thin and hungry but they have strong muscles. Because they are always on the move and mostly in the forests, they are missing the opportunity in getting education, scholarship, science, technology, the arts etc. and so cannot contribute to human progress and civilization unlike their settled cousins who are highly integrated/assimilated through long periods of inter ethnic marriages, commerce, trade and education and cultural diversification.
Therefore in this 21st century, all the member countries of the African Union must resolve to end this ancient and unprogressive culture called nomadic way of life. It’s unkind and even costly for the rest of human civilization to leave them behind. Particularly in our country Nigeria, recent happenings show that this nomadic vocation has already become a serious source of political instability. Ending this ancient nomadic practice is a win-win game for all concerned – good for the Fulani nomads and their cattle and good for rest of the country.
In this 21st century with increasing population putting pressure on available land and water resources, we must create cattle/livestock production systems, which are efficient, and already being used in many countries of the world. Already, Nigerian population is one of the fastest growing in the world. And this additional population need land for housing, agricultural crops production, schools, hospitals, offices, industries, markets, and enough water for domestic and industrial/commercial use and agricultural crop production as well as livestock/poultry production etc. With increasing population and decreasing available land and water resources, it’s said that there will be increasing tension and even war among communities and countries for the control of available land and water resources. Therefore, Nigerian leaders at all levels must wake up and urgently attend to land and water resources matters because they have become matter of life and death for many people all over the country.
•As about 75 per cent of Nigeria’s landmass is in the 19 states and FCT, all in the Northern part. And the 17 states of the Southern part live on the 25 per cent or so of the landmass of Nigeria. Even this 25 per cent is threatened by oil exploration, oil spilling, ocean surge or rising sea levels because of climate change and also gully erosion diminishes a lot of available land. Also in the Northern part as a result of misplaced priorities and absence of good governance for a long time, some of the Northern states could not stop the devastating desert encroachment in good time. From now on, aggressive afforestation/reforestation must be also a priority of the far North states. As we in the North live on about 75 per cent of Nigeria’s landmass, it’s not at all reasonable to insist on using the diminishing 25 per cent of the land in the South which they are now resisting.
•The third and last group of Fulani are not large in numbers; they are those involved in widespread banditry and kidnapping. Banditry and kidnapping are criminal acts under the law. And in all ethnic groups and religious groups, some bandits and kidnappers exist. And the Fulani bandits and kidnappers should be arrested and prosecuted just like those in all other ethnic groups without any exception. Some Fulani who have lost their cattle or employment to cattle rustling and millions of unemployed youths of other ethnic groups under the influence of hard drugs have created the current kidnapping and banditry industry. The idle mind they say, is the devils workshop. We must restructure our economy and run our economy such that not many people are left behind.