Alhaji Saleh Bayeri, a lawyer is the national chairman of GAN Allah Fulani Development Association, a parrellel organization of Miyetti Allah.
He served as national secretary of Miyetti Allah for almost two decade and was member of the various national and international humanatarian organizations.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Bayeri described the failure to achieve success in herdsmen attack to direct involvement of Miyetti Allah in the process while living the main Fulani assocition.
He also blamed the Federal Government for insincerity and genuineness on the execution of the suspended Ruga Settlement programme. Bayeri also proffered solutions to the problems. Excerpt:
It appears that GAN Allah is a new association in the country unlike Miyetti Allah. Can you tell us more?
GAN Allah was registered in 2016 as a development of assocaion of Fulani ethnic group. It came about as a result of the need that we needed a modern association, we are in digital age,and we need an association that will reflect the reality of today. We cannot be in a digital era and operating a system in doldrums. Or like Miyetti Allah which was registered since 1988 but remained dormant and ineffective. The other association was simply for anybody who is a cattle rearer or livestock farmer, why make it an association for any ethnic group whithout necessarily having affliation to specific ethnic group. GAN Allah has membership all over the country and the Diaspora. It is an association mainly for people with Fulani ethinc blood irrespective of his or her occupation. Because it was expetrenced in the past that some ethinc groups who looked like Fulani suffered the same way Fulani are suffering. We felt it must be unfair that you must be a herdsman before you join an association or being a farmer. In our own case, if you own the entire cattle in Nigeria, provided you are not a Fulani, you stand disqualified from being a member.
GAN Allah is purely a Fulani ethic association like Ohanaeze for the Igbo or Afenifere for the Yoruba. This is what makes GAN Allah different from Miyetti Allah and other associations.
You have been the secretary general of Miyetti Allah for almost two decade, one would wonder why you decided to form a parrellel association instead of supporting Miyetti Allah?
Yes, that is an interesting question, life is not static, life has no provision for permanent change and it does not mean that because I have been in Miyetti Allah for 20 years, and I found that it was not making any significant change and not carrying out responsibilities that it was established for, then I should remain without joining any other organization that will promote a cause. We were once younger and now we are elders. As the Miyetti grows there is no significant change since we left, and most of the changes we have introduced were abandoned. So, later we felt there is need to establish an association for thenFulani ethnic group in Nigeria and diaspora, unlike Miyetti Allah. We have a seven-member Board of Trustees. One is a traditional ruler, the Emir of Dutse, in jigawa State who is representing the hierarchy of Fulani traditional leadership including Hardos. The six other members are, former governor of Adamawa State, Alhaji Murtala Nyako is representing North-East; Prof. Ango Abdullahi is representing North-West; my humble self, respresenting North-Central; Sulemain Yakubu Ebeti, representing South-West; Abubakar Abubakar, representing South-South from Edo and Ardo Seedu Baso, respresenting South-East from Enugu.While Miyetti Allah has all its five trustees from Northwest,none from Northeast and none from North-central. For you to have vibrant and functional association, you must have a broad base and widely spread leadership and membership from each zone, including vice chairmen. That is why we have members even in the Diaspora.
What are strengths comparatively that made you more competent to represent Fulani in Nigeria than the Miyetti Allah?
Since our coming in 2016, the first we did was to enlighten our Fulani members by strictly having an association that will protect and promote Fulani interest based on our constitution. The constitution is our everything, we spelt out everthing that is why we have high discipline. One of the important sections of our constitution is that GAN Allah is not a political association and it does not support any political party.That is why you will not hear GAN participating in any polical party activity or identifying with any candidate. Unlike other associations who go and mobilize supporters in Abuja.
It is an obvious fact that there is serious insecurity in the country and Fulani ethnic group has been at the centre stage of all allegations of criminal activities. What is your position on this?
Well, it is a long story. We discovered that with the advent of democracy in 1999, because of the military government which hitherto held power suppressed the citizens. Some people who are mischievous and have desire to be lawless because of the fear of the military people were forced to pipedown and they pretended to be good citizens. In 1999, the people because their brothers became councilors, senators and other political associates, believed that everyone now has the right to move around and because their brothers have clinched power from the military and were dealing with affairs, so in most cases, they started taking laws into their hands. Forcefully , they started injecting other bbiases into Nigerian communities such as ethnicity, religious and sectional differences, as well as general hatred. So, some people saw the democratic dispensation as a licence to go all out to settle their grouges and take vengeance. So, with the full advent of democracy, some people started taking their community strength to chase out some people they do not want to see in their community. Some people realised that those in possession or as a means protection started getting double barrel guns or AK47. But when these problems came to Fulani communities, Fulani adopted it as protection in replying their attackers. You don’t even have to be told about the quantum of property lost through rustling by Fulanis including cattle. So, since then some started to look for ways of defending themselves. You cannot defend yourself against people that are more than 100 at a time with daggers and other dangerous weapons, that is the begining of this balance of error to survive. At the end of the day people must fear the person, the conflict between farmers and herders started dwindling up to the point of destruction of crops and armed banditry, cattle rustling that led to other killings. So, farmers rose up against herders. Since then possession of arms became prevalent for reprisal attacks. Some people realized that you can only get this arms when you sell cows and get AK47, they later turned to be be using them for blocking of roads because the herders eventually lost their cattle to the operations of rustlers. So, they now attack on roads, kidnap or threaten people as the last option, which is terrible and unlawful. Since then some people began to see the efficacy of using weapons for their selfish interest. Farmers thereafter because they could not farm again, their children also started to be involved in armed robbery, cattle rustling and armed banditry, which have constituted major problem in the country. Though this is a different dimension tp the southern part of Nigeria where some people considered killings through various forms for rituals.
Recently, the Federal Government introduced a programme called Ruga settlements across the country. Some governors especially in the South and few of the North have rejected it. What is your stand on this?
Well, I am not optimistic about this government in this direction because for four years, we have suffered terribly. The Federal Government did not intiate our programmes. When they came they did not ameliorate the problem, it even later became worst. You see this problem started in 2014 with the convention of the national conference. In that national conference ,one most crucial issue discussed during the session was farmers/herders conflict. There were over 90 submissions by ethnic associations, unfortunately for us, I was in Miyetti Allah as an interim national secretary. That time Anyim Pius Anyim was the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, we indicated our interest on the people that will be at the receiving end of the national conference. There were six members each representing the geopolitical zones, unfortunately, despite of all applications , out this representation we were never given one representation. The problem was our absence in that conference. Some positions were that Nigeria could not tolerate open grazing which we have inherited right from the olden days. So, because we were not there, there was no issue to revert the decision, up till now there is no alternative to open grazing. So, since then the problem continued to exist. When this government came in those people have continued to show their interest in anti-open grazing . they keep hammering that the resolution of the conference on open grazing should be implemented. Unfortunately, this government allowed this policy to appear as if it is being implemented. Because open grazing is still on and herdsmen are attacking or resisting evacuation and migration. This compounds the major problems in our community. Many herders are against grazing reserves because they see this nomad activity as a culture which exposes them to know much through migrating from this part of the country to another while also eating variety of foods in addition to the physical exercise involved which cure some diseases like malaria and others. Later this hatred against open grazing made some farmers to support it. So another contradiction by government is that they later said what they want for the Fulanis was ranches, which some state governors said we have the land why should Federal Government come to provide ranches to the farmers while we are the owners of land. Where will you build the ranches? You can see how Ekiti State stopped Fulanis from grazing, the same happened in Edo and Taraba states. We have instituted a case before a court of Jpjustice against the Taraba State government through our lawyer, Prof.Yusuf Dankofa, which up till now the governor couldn’t explain what led to the promulgation of law banning open grazing. In fact, every Nigerian knows how the Fulani were killed at Manbilla town. We also sued the Federal Government and Taraba State government at International Criminal Court, ICC, on the same massacre where over 900 people were killed and 30,000 cows were missing. This is a urgly situation and injustice against Fulani, which has never happened in the history of Nigeria. GAN Allah will continue to fight for injustice against Fulani and will not support any criminal activity committed by Fulani person either.
Don’t you see the rejection by governors as an infringement of constituional rights of the Fulani?
It is why we took the Taraba State government to court, because the constitution of Nigeria and international law which Nigeria subscribed to stressed that there is freedom of movement by citizens and also freedom to own property depending on where the property is to be acquired. You can enter any part of Nigeria as you so wish and also pursue and acquire property for your livelihood without restriction within the ambit of the law as a Nigerian citizen. Restriction of citizens from movement in part of this country is unconstitutional and the law frowns at it seriously. It is an absolute breach of the Nigerian Constitution for a state government to enact a law above the Nigerian Consitition just stop some people from lawful movement. As I said , there is confision and attempt to victimize the Fulani, government promised to provide routes for the Fulanis, later they said ranches much, later cattle colony, now they are proposing creation of Ruga settlement. Honestly, it is even difficult to believe the Federal Government proposal talkless of some state governments rejection of the issue. There is element of insincerity in the whole issue. If they really mean good for Fulani let them implement what we proposed for them long ago.
Sequel to a recent meeting between Miyetti Allah and Southeast governors on mounting a joint vigilante group in the Southeast, which was later kicked against by the governors. How do you see plan by Miyetti Allah to have vigilante across the country?
To me , it looks like there is complete lack of leadership , leadership that will be responsible for correct guidance and purposeful direction of prgrammes in the Miyetti Allah Association. The people that you want to counter the vigilante in their states have a sound structure. Of course, your members in that state are enough to carry out whatever you want to do there, why should you think of coming to establish something they already have. Southwest and Southeast are relatively well coordinating peacefully in terms of farmers and herders relationship until recently when things are actually not getting better. I cannot see the reason Miyetti Allah should leave the war zone and go to an area where there is relative peace. You see, Miyetti always try to copy what GAN Allah is doing or try to do. You see, we had established GAN Allah Fulani intelligence squard some years back and it was a strong vigilante. Its activities are not pronounced, its members are not disclosed because we want our agents to give us information, they go out and come back with strong vital information undisclosed. We have twin brothers, one is a criminal and the other is not, so we made the innocent to give information about the criminal. This cannot be done if the other twin brother criminal knows that his twin brother is the one that exposes him. So, this is the example of how we operate. Our own is a covered vigilante and it has achieved a lot in exposing criminals and their activities. The Inspector-General of Police had approved the vigilante for us for the past three years, we have been working with security agencies on information gathering. I think they might have seen our documents with security agencies and they are trying to copy the same. So, what is the rationale for Miyetti Allah going to Southeast to establish vigilante group. If you establish a vigilante to serve you because of your peculiar problem of what use will it have hence you are the target for all allegations? Why not establish it for yourself and if at the end of the day, you succeed , they will come to ask you about your succees story and thereafter they request you to give them some people that will help them to arrest their own problem. That is how it should be not to go and use it for political reasons or because you want to intimidate some people that will be respecting you. You can see how they reacted because of the action and statement of Miyetti Allah. Many of them are involved in politics and seeking for fat contracts here and there. In fact, they said they need one billion to search for criminals and so on that means they are trading with criminal activities. I keep saying as a Fulani Association, the current Miyetti Allah has been our problem. The earlier the government realized that Miyetti Allah is a bad partner the better. You see, we are aware that before these crises, there is no place that the Miyetti Allah has not gone to demand for operation. They went to Zamfara and nothing was done, they went to Katsina still nothing was achieved,they came to Kaduna, their activity was even worst, Kogi, Ekiti and so it was in Edo. The worst of it all was in Benue. Miyetti Allah had never helped any Fulani herder.They only go and meet government officials with an arrangenment for their personal interest. As soon as they are taken care of, they agree with whatever is before them and leave the herdsmen in trouble, you can see now, they went and made an arrangement with the Southeast governors under a kind of security meeting. They never consulted herdsmen on whether they agreed on the terms. By simple interpretation of the agreement, it means that there will be no herdsman in the Southeast. You have to carry cows in trucks to sell in Southeast, buy their grasses there and then you return to the North. This also means that the cows do not have to exist there. They have to be in North, only their feeds should come from East.The Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi who is the South East Governors Forum Chairman came out to expose this barter arrangement of Miyetti Allah. So, you can see the funny arrangement. How can you mortgage the existence of Nigerians on their legitimate business to a section of the country? It’s just like asking an Igbo to bring the spare parts to the North and take goats back to the East instead of money. This does not make sense at all. This is our problem with Miyetti Allah. Though I am not surprised because whenever there is a policy on Fulani herdsmen we always have fault because of wrong channeling. There are more solutions to the present insecurity or breaking of law and order in the country than the present measures taken.
If you are asked to proffer solution to the problems of insecurity, what will you give?
Well, the crisis is complex though there are ways out, and the word solution is very difficult, but the most important thing to start with is enlightenment. Government should be proactive and trace the causes of the problems. Look at relationship between the farmer and herdsmen who had been living together for a long time. Constant dialogue at different levels, local, state and federal with the stakeholders is very essential. Government had not done a lot of enlightenment campaign. Also socio-economics in equality and growing rate of poverty and our approach to security situation are some of factors that need to be looked into and discussed as a step towards finding lasting solutions to the problems.