The National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Bello Abdullahi Bodejo has declared that the pictures of herdsmen bearing guns and other weapons in the social media are usually photoshopped. In his opinion, Fulani herders are mostly uneducated and consequently have no skills to operate guns. In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the Miyetti Allah leader noted: “The people alleging this just want to create problems in Nigeria. A Fulani who is not educated; didn’t go to school, how will he know how to operate gun? The people carrying guns are the Amotekun and other vigilantes being created here and there. Herdsmen are not carrying any guns; they are just rearing their cows with their sticks.”
He called on Christian pastors to join Sheikh Abubakar Ahmad Gumi, the famous Islamic cleric, in the forest to negotiate with bandits, instead of criticizing the cleric. He also claimed that Fulani herdsmen were the first to produce national revenue for Nigeria before the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta. He also spoke on the general insecurity bedeviling the country and other burning national issues. Excerpts:
Why do herdsmen carry guns? This is one question still waiting for an answer
Who gave the herdsmen guns? The herdsmen you see in the social media carrying guns were photoshopped, and they are not even Nigerian herdsmen. I have many cows and my boys are rearing them. None of them has a gun; nobody is carrying gun. The people alleging this just want to create problems in Nigeria. A Fulani who is not educated, didn’t go to school, how will he know how to operate guns? The people carrying guns are the Amotekun and other vigilantes being created here and there, yet everybody sees them and keeps quiet. Herdsmen are not carrying any guns; they are just rearing their cows with their sticks. But at any place he encounters trouble, he will stand there and confront and deal with the trouble. Whether in the bush or any other place he is threatened or killed, you won’t kill him and get away with the crime. It is the Fulani culture. These are people without addresses; they are mobile. Today, you see them in Anambra, tomorrow in Adamawa, the other time in Sokoto and they move on to another area where there is pasture. Who can trek from Ebonyi to Maiduguri? It is only the Fulani man. When you see such a person, don’t you know that there is a special grace God gave to him? Trying to deny Fulani where they eke out their living with in this country is not right.
But you have always maintained that the Fulani allegedly killing people are not from Nigeria?
There are two types of Fulani. We have those who are well educated in government, occupying very high positions and they live in the towns and cities. You also have Fulani who are rearing cows and they live in the forests and bushes. However, there are bandits who are inside the forests, but you cannot call them Fulani bandits. Like there is Boko Haram in Borno; Borno people are Kanuri. Do you hear about them being addressed as Kanuri bandits or Kanuri Boko Haram. Nobody can address them in that manner. The militants in Niger Delta have tribes, but no one has called them by the names of their tribes. Every tribe has its own criminal. A criminal is a criminal irrespective of where he comes from and he should be condemned. Communities and security agencies should deal with those criminals, but these cattle rearers are innocent. What’s more, they have always fallen victims of these criminals. If somebody is kidnapped in an area, any herdsmen they see around is adjudged a kidnapper. It is not right. President Buhari had earlier said that all these bandits are from Libya. The Inspector General of Police had also told the nation that these bandits are not Fulani. If the President and the IGP have said these bandits are not Fulani, then why do people still associate them with Fulani? Only God will judge the way other people call the Fulani bad names. You can see a Fulani rearing 100 or 200 cows; how can you call such a man bandit? You didn’t build schools for him; you didn’t build hospitals for him. You didn’t give him a house and yet you don’t want to see him. You don’t want him to exist?
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called on President Buhari to proscribe all the Miyetti Allah groups for the insecurity in the country? What is your position on this?
The Christian Association of Nigeria is a religious organisation to regulate the activities of Christians and churches in the country. But these days, it has almost become a political party. Anything that concerns security, they will be the one to talk; anything that concerns the economy, they will jump into it. Anything that concerns political parties, they must comment. Anything that concerns Fulani and farmers, they will carry it on their heads. It is better for them to turn the organisation into a political party and register it so that they can produce their own president in this country. What they are doing is not right. What offence has Miyetti Allah committed against them? How have we offended them that they should call for our proscription? They don’t even know the meaning of Miyetti Allah. Miyetti Allah or not, Fulani can defend themselves wherever they are. Miyetti Allah, which I head, is Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore. It is a Fulani socio-cultural association, just like every other ethnic group in this country has its own association. There is Afenifere for Yoruba; Ohanaeze for the Igbo; Tiv has its own and others. So, I don’t know the problem with CAN. Nobody or no power can proscribe us. Their leaders have abandoned the reason they were elected to pursue what doesn’t concern them. They were elected to advance the preaching of the word of God, but you see them jumping from one government house to the other; from one country to the other. I travelled to London last year. I saw some of them jumping from one church to the other looking for how money will come into their personal pockets, or how to support some of these desperate politicians. I will not mention names.
Is your association registered?
Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore is a properly registered organisation. Former President Goodluck Jonathan is our grand patron. We chose him because our organisation is open; we are not clandestine; we have our constitution. We brought him because of what he has done for this country, his achievements and love for the country. There is also Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), which has to do with anything that concerns cattle breeding. But Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore is about uniting Fulani people; it is a socio- cultural association. If you are a farmer, a governor, etc, it is purely for Fulani. However, if you did something outstanding in the country, we have the reason to give you appointment.
Does Jonathan know he is your grand patron?
Yes. When he was the President we went to the Banquet Hall in Aso Rock and presented the certificate as the Grand Patron of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore to him. It was a big ceremony. We were there with prominent Fulani and he graciously accepted.
Does the fact that you are registered mean you cannot be proscribed?
We are registered with all relevant agencies and we have not done anything that should warrant our proscription. So, nobody can ban us.
The reason for the call for the proscription of your association is that it is alleged that your members are committing all sorts of crimes, fuelling insecurity across the country?
That is not true. Let the security agencies comb the forests and fish out the criminals. They think that any Fulani rearing cows in the bush or forests is a criminal. Yet innocent Fulani rearing their cows in the forests are the number one victims of these criminal elements. Everybody is talking down on herdsmen now, but we should remember that before Nigeria started producing oil, the first revenue in this country was from Fulani. At that time, it was called Zangali. Through Zangali, money was collected as tax from each cow. Imagine the revenue from tens of millions of cows at that time. It was from this that the money for oil exploration was got. Most people don’t know the history of this country; they just wake up and start talking anyhow. We are trying to promote peaceful and harmonious coexistence in this country, but some people would just wake up and start shouting: ‘ban Miyetti Allah, ban Miyetti Allah.’ Anybody who has not talked about Fulani is not yet satisfied. These people, nobody gave them electricity; nobody gave them education. Nobody gave them hospital and no amenities for them, yet they are not complaining but managing their lives in the forests and bushes. Any day Miyetti Allah is banned, every other tribal association will also be proscribed, including CAN.
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom also called for the arrest of Miyetti Allah leaders for the killing of many people?
Don’t mind Ortom. He didn’t pay salaries to Benue workers for many months. He used Miyetti Allah or Fulani herders to campaign and be relevant in the state. He made Fulani people to lose up to ten million cows in Benue State. He introduced anti-grazing law to send Fulani out of the state. We are in court over it. Nigeria has a constitution, which permits anyone to stay in any part of the country and carry out his or her legitimate business, but he is trying to create his own constitution to stop Fulani from entering Benue.
He forgot that before he was born, Fulani and Tiv had been living together in that land. Before he left his kabukabu business for politics, Fulani and Tiv people were together and doing their business that is why we call them Munchi. If a Tiv sees a Fulani in another place, he is happy because we are almost the same. But the governor has brought conflict between us and Tiv. He brought the anti-grazing law to intimidate Fulani. They arrested about 2000 cows and the owners would pay heavy fines to get them released. He should not forget that in two years now, he would be a former governor of Benue. He didn’t do anything for the state; he didn’t try for Tiv people and he didn’t try for Fulani people. He just came to put confusion between the two ethnic groups; he would be surprised after he had left office, Fulani and Tiv people will come back together.
Sheikh Gumi is asking for amnesty to be given to these bandits that have been killing people, kidnapping and rustling cow. What is your take on this?
Gumi is a very good Malam; we respect him. He is also a Fulani from Sokoto. What he is doing is very good. Anything that can bring solution to this insecurity should be encouraged and supported. The military and the police have been going there severally with the aim of ending the banditry, but they have never made any success. There is supposed to be Plan A and Plan B. Plan A is the use of military force. And, if it is not yielding any result, then Plan B is what Gumi is embarking on. That is talking with the bandits for them to put down their guns. Don’t even try to call them Fulani; just call them bandits. There is nothing that concerns Fulani with them. Innocent Fulani are rearing their cows and are being kidnapped, their wives are being raped and their money collected. If amnesty will solve the problem, I’m totally in support of it. What Gumi is doing is very good, I urge pastors to also join him to go into the forest and preach and pray with them, as all of them may not be Muslims.