National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Abdullahi Bello Bodejo has dismissed the ban on open grazing declared recently by the Southern Governors Forum. He has also instructed Fulani herdsmen not to obey the directive but to keep grazing their cattle wherever they find themselves in all the states of the country.
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the leader of the Fulani socio-cultural organisation stressed that the governors were jokers, accusing them of plotting to take over the cattle business in Nigeria.
How will Fulani herdsmen cope with the ban on open grazing declared by the Southern governors?
We are going to follow the law and see how to approach some good leaders in the South-East, South-West and the South-South. We will also approach the Inspector General of Police and other security agencies to protect our people.
It is not about grazing; it is a plan against Fulani people. Some people want to hijack the cattle business from us. Anywhere you go now, you see Fulani grazing cows and you will think they belong to them. No! The cows belong some people in that area or community. If you go to Benue, the state that first promulgated the anti open grazing law, you can see cows grazing; their owners are Tiv people. Even the governor, Samuel Ortom, has so many cows. They want to chase us away and continue with our business.
What these Southern governors are trying to do, some other African countries tried it, but it didn’t work. So, this one will not be an exception. You can’t just wake up without plan B, and say you have banned open grazing. This business has history; we didn’t just wake up and start cow rearing. It is a blessing from God; it is God that blesses us with this business, it is not like farming or palm wine tapping business. This is from the beginning; the only thing is how to transform the business. These governors are confused; they are trying to deny Fulani their rights and means of livelihood. Nigeria has only one constitution, which the governors are breaching. We may approach the court to stop them from carrying out their plans. The process by which they arrived at their decision was wrong. They were supposed to have invited us because we are part of their various states. If you are a governor, you are a governor for everybody living in that state. Since we live in all the states doing our business, it behooved them to have invited us to the meeting. I don’t know who is giving them this evil idea. No state can progress without Fulani being in that state; any state without Fulani is backward and poor. Fulani attract blessing. They don’t have problem, but unfortunately, people attribute kidnapping, robbery and banditry to them. It is not fair. They have not seen their people killing police and other security personnel. How many police stations have Fulani burnt? How many policemen have Fulani killed? But they want to tamper with the business God has blessed us with. The governors are very wrong.
You said other African countries tried to ban open grazing and it didn’t work, but these governors seem determined to execute it.
I say it categorically that this ban on open grazing by the Southern governors will never work. The only thing that can stop us from grazing in any area is if there are no grasses and water in such place. Fulani don’t have borders or boundaries; they don’t need permission to graze their cows from one area to another area.
There is no law, no constitution prohibiting them from doing so. Fulani are educated and they believe in leadership. They follow the constitution, which permits them internationally to graze anywhere. ECOWAS permits us to graze anywhere, but any person that commits a crime, let the law of the land be visited upon such a person.
Do these governors want to tell me that in their states, only Fulani herdsmen are their problems? Let them know that what they are doing is against the law. They are confused and they don’t know what they are doing in their respective states. They are confused and also jokers. That law cannot be obeyed. You can’t wake up and ban somebody from doing his legitimate business without providing a Plan B for him. Are they not in Nigeria? If they have a hidden agenda, they should make it open for everybody to see. They don’t have a reason for what they want to do. Governors have powers and if they wake up and decide to do whatever they like with the Fulani, then we shall see. They should remember that before them were some leaders in this country and if all these leaders, Zik, Awo, Ahmadu Bello, etc had toed their line; this country would not have been here for them to be governors. God has blessed some parts of this country with oil, some parts with agriculture and others with cattle rearing. However, we don’t want anybody to tamper with what God has blessed us with.
You said you are going to petition the IGP. Why?
We are going to write to the Inspector General of Police to provide enough security to our people wherever they may be in the South because they are under threat. This morning I have received 46 calls from our people there who want to leave, but they are scared of what may happen to them on the way. Since the governors are the chief security officers of their states, they should provide security for them to leave their states. Grazing or no grazing, the Fulani will survive. A Fulani man can trek from Abuja to Cameroun, from Abuja to Somali, Abuja to Central Africa. It is only Fulani that can do that. You can’t dictate to them how to run their business or their lives. You didn’t provide electricity, water, school, hospital to them. Now, people are taking vaccine for COVID-19, you don’t remember them. They are doing their businesses inside the bush and you still want to stop them, and yet they are feeding you with the meat! If we order our people to leave the South, may be the governors will be eating dog meat. I don’t know what they will be eating if we stop our people from going there.
If you were a farmer, you took a bank facility to plant maize, millet, cassava, and then cows descend on the farm and eat up the crops, what would you do?
Is there any nearby police station in that area? Is there any court in that area? Such a wicked person is supposed to be arrested, prosecuted and jailed. Such person is not a good rearer. In Nasarawa, Plateau states, for example, we have a vigilante that joined hands with the communities. We will send our vigilante to arrest any person who commits this kind of atrocity. If he is a small boy, they will arrest his father and everybody in the house and take them to the police station and force them to pay for the damage done to the farmer. We are good leaders, we can’t support anybody who will go and destroy somebody’s farm. That is what the governors should do. They are supposed to join hand with the good Fulani to deal with those who are spoiling our names, which is better than waking up to ask our people to leave their area.
Will you invite Buhari to mediate over this matter?
We will like the Federal Government to intervene between Fulani and these governors who don’t like them. They should be made to know that this country is one and forget about those their boys – IPOB and Oduduwa boys. These boys are joking and we are not part of their joke. We don’t have time for that. They killed Fulani fathers and children. I urge the security agencies to go after these killers.
Talking about killings, last month, some people alleged to be herdsmen killed about 25 people in Ebonyi State. What do you say to that?
If other people kill some people, they pin it to herdsmen. How many herdsmen have the police in that area arrested? How many herdsmen are in police custody? Herdsmen were not responsible for the killings. They can say Fulani were the ones involved, but how many of them were arrested? I can only believe it if the Commissioner of Police says that they arrested a Fulani or some of them who did the killing. The propaganda is too much. Like a big lie that Ortom told. He said Fulani attacked him and he ran away. How did he recognise a person who wanted to kill him while he was running? Did he have any video to prove they were Fulani? Some people are now learning Fulani language. Like in a video, one boy alleged to be a Biafra person was speaking pure Fulani language and people will take him for a Fulani. If such a person goes to kill, and he speaks Fulani, people will say the killer was a Fulani man. Let the police do their investigation, and thereafter people can draw conclusions. Many people are trying to cause trouble because Buhari is a Fulani man. Everybody is angry with the Fulani.
How do you mean? The late President Yar’Adua was also Fulani, and there were no such issues…
Yes, Yar’Adua was Fulani. He tried to unite the country. He gave the Niger Delta militants amnesty. Buhari is also in the process of uniting the country. Till now, the Federal Government has not looked into our problem. I get very much annoyed and curse such people who say Buhari is backing the Fulani. He has not done anything for us. We are the first people he is supposed to do something for, but he hasn’t done anything for us. See how they are funding rice farmers. See what work he is doing in the South. We are calling on him to wake up and give us our grazing areas. We may consider paying a courtesy visit to Southern governors on this issue and make them see reason to reverse their position. If they can’t invite the Fulani associations, they are supposed to invite the Sultan of Sokoto and other emirs, who are also Fulani for that policy. Some people were educated and went to school through the Fulani, so they are not supposed to treat us in this way. Thank God that the Nigeria’s constitution gives the governors only four years and the highest is eight years. These governors who came up with this evil law, some of them in the next two years will become former governors. We also believe that those who will replace them will change the narrative. We believe in one Nigeria and we want everyone to be one. I’m about going to marry an Igbo girl from Enugu. Then these people shouting Biafra will see that the leader of Miyetti Allah has become their in-law. A Rivers State man is married to my aunt and they have ten children – some of their names are Kate, Ndidi, Kingsley, etc. If I go to Rivers State, nobody can chase me out because I have cousins there. But it should be pointed out that Igbo and Yoruba cannot stop Fulani from grazing their cattle in their areas.
We have separatist agitators who want to leave Nigeria. What is your view?
If the country breaks up, we don’t have any problem. Even if they break it into 32 parts, it is not a problem to us. But let them not forget that the Fulani are cooking their food under the trees in the bush. If you are looking for Fulani trouble, be ready to leave the city and join him to cook your food under the tree. Or else, allow him to be. Don’t touch them. If you chase the Fulani away, you kill their mother, father, and others, do you think you will sleep with both eyes closed? They don’t look for trouble, but don’t look for their trouble.
You said if Nigeria splits, it doesn’t concern the Fulani. How do you mean?
The Fulani don’t have borders. If I want to migrate to Ghana now, nobody can stop me. If a Fulani man wants to relocate to Sudan, can you stop him? So, we don’t have a problem if they tear Nigeria apart. But the only thing is that our forefathers suffered to build Nigeria and they treated everybody, Igbo, Yoruba and others equally, and that is why we are saying let Nigeria be one united country. But we are not scared of anything. For Yoruba, if you leave Ogun and Lagos, you cannot see any other Yoruba country again. It is the same thing with the Igbo. Go anywhere, you can see Fulani, even in the 36 states. The only thing is that you can’t appreciate their population because they are inside the bush and don’t care what is going on in the city. How then do you want to chase them out? I’m directing all the herdsmen in the South not to leave or go anywhere and they should continue to graze their cattle in that region because it is Nigeria. They should not mind the governors who have violated the constitution that guarantees everybody freedom to live and do legitimate business in any part of the country. They can’t expect the Fulani to respect their law, which is inferior to Nigeria’s constitution. Let them think on how to provide basic amenities to their people instead of fighting the herdsmen. Fulani are not problem in this country, but some desperate politicians are trying to give them a bad name. Some of these Southern governors have seen that their tenure is ending in two years time and they are not popular among their people to the extent that any candidate they sponsor for election, even for councillorship in 2023 will fail and that may be the reason for the meeting, to cause confusion in the country.
I want to tell these governors, even in their dreams, none of them will be president or vice president in this country. If they have a hidden agenda, let them make it open so that Nigerians will advise them. I don’t know what they are looking for.