•We’ll resist plot to stop Buhari’s 2nd term
Since the New Year, 2018 was ushered in, no issue has dominated public discourse as the killings following the clashes between farmers and the Fulani herdsmen in various parts of the country. But one man whose name is considered to be at the centre of the conflict is the National President, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Socio-cultural Association, Bello Abdullahi Bodejo (Lamido Fulbe). He spoke to WILLY EYA on various issues and concluded that the anti- open grazing law enacted by some states caused the crises and insisted that it should be reversed.
As the chairman of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, what comes to your mind with regards to the killings in different parts of the country. In view of the fact that your tribe, the Fulani is associated with these killings, how do you feel?
There is a long history of clashes between the Fulani and the farmers in this country. Almost about 50 years ago, the Fulani and the farmers have been having clashes but the clashes were usually settled between the local chiefs and Fulani leaders but now since the last eight years, everything has changed. What is happening in Nigeria today is not a normal clash between the Fulani and the farmers. The whole thing has been politicized and politicians are getting involved in the problem. In 2014 during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, there were clashes in Benue, Plateau and Taraba states but the media did not sensationalise it like what is happening now. In the present case, people are using all kinds of propaganda. Any time the nation wants to go into a general election to entrench a new government, people would start all kinds of propaganda. When one or two people are killed now, they would carry propaganda like a whole village has been wiped off. Now, there is no farming in the bush but anything that happens, they say it is the Fulani and farmers. Before, both the farmers and the Fulani, if they had a problem in the bush, they could easily settle themselves but now politicians are involved and they are preaching so much hatred between the Fulani and the farmers. The problem is that the Fulani do not have access to the media because many of them are in the bush rearing their cattle. If for instance, you want to call a Fulani in Benue to know what is happening to them there, it may not be possible because you do not have the number of anybody there in the bush. But the media especially the social media, they always write one side of the story. There is no balance in the stories that are being pushed out and because the Fulani are not in control of the media, anything or crime can be imposed on them and the people would erroneously believe it. The normal thing the media should do is if they hear the side of the farmers, they should also go and find the position of the Fulani. What is happening now is that some politicians who are finding it difficult to come back to power are causing the problem. Ask yourself how many farmers can buy the AK47 rifles that they say the Fulani herdsmen carry about. Instead of finding a way to end the crisis, the politicians are using propaganda to escalate it. Every time, they say it is Fulani but if you go to other countries where the Fulani are herding their cattle, have you heard any killings that were caused by the Fulani? They killed people in Taraba and they said it was the handiwork of the Fulani but the people who did it are not the Fulani. If there are such killings, the security authorities like the police should be contacted and they should be able to tell the truth. Like I said, they are stigmatizing us using the media because the Fulani do not have access to the media.
You alleged that the politicians are buying AK47 for the perpetrators of the violence in those affected places. Are you saying they are buying it for the Fulani or who?
In the last two or three weeks, the police have arrested some people with AK47 rifles but those people are not Fulani. They are mentioning some politicians who are not Fulani for buying AK47 for them and I believe them because the poor cattle herders cannot buy AK 47.
Is there any iota of truth that sometimes helicopters land in some strategic locations to drop arms for the Fulani as a way to help them in the clashes with the farmers?
I cannot even answer that question because I am not a police officer and I do not know anything about helicopters dropping arms for anybody. I have never seen any helicopter and no member of the Miyetti Allah would say he has seen any helicopter dropping anything anywhere.
As somebody who is in a position to know, from your projections, when do you think there would be peace in Benue, Taraba and all the other crises-prone places?
The problem is that some have poisoned the minds of the people against the Fulani but what I am saying is that the authorities including the governors, security agencies and the traditional rulers should go and find the real perpetrators of these crimes. They should also identify the real Fulani and the farmers and find a way to settle it because we are all Nigerians. Let the Fulani and the farmers come together with the traditional rulers, the security agencies, the governors and all the stakeholders should come together, sit down and settle this thing once and for all. The Federal Government should set up a very high committee to wade into the matter. If they destroy the cattle of the Fulani, let government compensate them and if the properties of the farmers are destroyed, let the government also pay them. Let them compensate everybody. The security agencies should also arrest those who were involved in the killings for prosecution.
Already, the committee set up by the Federal Government and headed by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo has recommended the deployment of soldiers to the affected areas; are you comfortable with that?
We accept any position of the Federal Government. You know that in Nigeria, there are many associations of the Fulani but our association is the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Socio-Cultural Association. We need peace and anything that the Federal Government can do to bring about peace, we support it and we also support anything that any state government can do to bring about peace. Even the Benue State government, anything we can do to support them, we would try our best. But let me tell you the truth, the people doing these things are not Fulani because I know that the Fulani do not kill people. So, if the Federal Government wants to take any move to stop this crisis, we would support it 100 per cent.
There is a perception by a reasonable percentage of Nigerians that all these killings in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Enugu and some other affected places are done by the Fulani; are you not worried that the development maybe setting up Nigerians against the Fulani tribe?
That is what I said that they are using the media to stigmatise the Fulani but I can tell you that the Fulani people do not engage in those kinds of things. The problem is that the Fulani do not have access to the media. Many of them even stay where there is no telecommunication network. So, any lies they tell about the Fulani, it is easy to believe because you have not heard their side of the story. This week, some people in Nasarawa killed people and over 70 cows and they said it was done by people from Benue. As it has happened now, nobody would go and ask what happened. Who is inside the bush to know what is happening to the Fulani in the bush? Let the journalists and the media tell Nigerians the truth and let the public get the clear picture of what is happening.
The Minister of Defence said the crises in Benue and Taraba are being caused by the implementation of the anti-open grazing law and encroachment on the already established grazing routes. Do you agree and what do you think should be done?
The anti-grazing law has caused a lot of crises and if you have been following all the stories trailing it, since the anti-open grazing law started in Benue State, we have not been happy with it. We had to rush to court because you cannot just sleep, wake up and implement the law like that if actually we are in one Nigeria. This is a country and if you say that somebody has signed a law in only one state, it is not right because it is a new development in Nigeria. The Fulani who are the traditional herders do not know the law you are talking about and you need to take time to explain it to them. The herders are not educated and you cannot just wake up, sign a law that affects them and impose it on them without giving enough time to explain the import of the law to them. How can you do that without creating the necessary awareness about the law? The people you created the law for, you do not know them as many of them are usually in the thick bush. Some of the Fulani since they were born do not even enter car or go to the highway. All they do is to herd their cattle. If they are the kind of people who come to the city and interact with people, they would know about the law, but these are people who stay inside the bush. All the crises that we are seeing now, it is the anti-open grazing law that is causing them. You heard what the Minister of Defence said; he is in a high security position and he cannot just wake up and say something that he is not sure of. He made it clear that it is the law that is causing the crises. He has made the research and he has a very good security report. He must have networked with other security agencies before coming out to say that the law is causing the problem. The situation is very difficult to explain. Had it been since this thing started they have been able to arrest some Fulani in the act, they can say yes the Fulani are the people doing the killing. If that happens, we would not have anything to say because of the material evidence but it is wrong to accuse the Fulani when you have never caught them in the act. I listened to the Police Public Relations Officer and he said some people bought AK 47 for those that were arrested and those arrested are not even Fulani. So, why should everybody be blaming the Fulani for the killings?
The allegation is that President Buhari is Fulani and virtually the whole nation’s security architecture is in the hands of the Fulani, hence they are getting protection from the authorities. The perception out there is that no matter the offence a Fulani man commits under this administration, he may go scot-free. Do you agree?
Let me tell you the truth. In 2014 when President Jonathan was still in power, there were crises in Plateau, Benue and Taraba states that almost destroyed the country. That time they were calling the name of Jonathan but now that the All Progressives Congress(APC) has taken power from the PDP, and changed the government, the problem has shifted to Buhari. Some people who lost the elections do not know how they can sit down without getting anything from the government. These are the kinds of people causing the problem and hoping that they would go back to power. During the Jonathan’s time, you remember the Ombatse cult problem in Nasarawa State. That crisis alone was even threatening the country as many security agents were killed but there was no much propaganda. Now, even if a husband and wife quarrel, they would say it is a problem caused by the Fulani. I know why they are saying all these; it is because President Buhari is a Fulani man. Buhari is fighting corruption and all these people who looted our money are not happy and they are fighting back in many ways. Many of them are being chased about by the EFCC and they are not happy and they want to cause problems because election is approaching. President Muhammadu Buhari is a very straight leader and is not protecting anybody. And let me tell you, if Buhari did not win the 2015 presidential election, I do not know where Nigeria would have been by now and I do not know what would have been the fate of the Fulani in Nigeria today. Maybe if Buhari did not win, the Fulani by now would be migrating to Cameroun, Niger, Chad and other places. This is because during the Jonathan’s time, nobody had the interest of the Fulani at heart. They were always killing the Fulani and nobody was talking about it. But thank God that since Buhari came to power, he has been fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, cattle rustlers, Niger Delta militants and the problems are coming down. Why this is happening now is because we are approaching 2019 general elections. Somebody would wake up, pick a newspaper, which carries only one side of a story and go with it.
With the negative perception of the Fulani tribe in Nigeria today because of the killings in some parts of the country, don’t you think it would affect Buhari’s chances in the 2019 presidential election?
Nobody should try to remove Buhari in 2019. All the Fulani in Nigeria today, our eyes are open. All of us are behind Buhari; we have seen that they want to destroy the Fulani because of Buhari. We would not allow anybody to intimidate the Federal Government or to take Buhari’s mandate; we would be ready to follow him and fight it. We are ready to do anything to ensure that Buhari comes back to complete the good work he is doing. The people criticizing him are just few and nothing would affect his chances of coming back.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was one of those that supported Buhari in 2015 recently wrote a letter to him not to seek re-election in 2019. With such a letter coming from a strong personality like Obasanjo, don’t you think that Buhari may not be re-elected in 2019?
President Obasanjo is respected in the country because he ruled Nigeria under the present democracy for eight years. As for the letter he wrote, he knows what he is doing. You know that Obasanjo is now a real politician. But to tell Buhari not to run in 2019, he does not have the power because he has only one vote like any other person. What I can assure you is that 87 per cent of Nigerians are with Buhari in the race for 2019. Nobody would allow him to poison people’s mind. Those people in the Bush do not know whether Obasanjo asked Buhari not to run for re-election in 2019. I want to also commend some governors who are supporting the government. I thank the 16 governors who have already agreed to give space for the cattle colonies. Obasanjo tore his PDP card in 2015 but he cannot do that to the APC.
The former Senate president, Iyorcha Ayu recently said in an interview that five Northern emirs are behind the Fulani herdsmen and that they usually support their activities, how true is that assertion?
The emirs under Uthman Dan Fodio that you are talking about are more than five. Go and research about it. The first people who ruled this country are the Fulani. If you are an emir and a Fulani man, you cannot throw away your people. The emirs support us but none of them would support any crisis. Like the Fulani, all other tribes have their own groups too. Do you believe that any emir would ask anybody to go and fight because they want power or what? There is no benefit in that. No emir would support the Miyetti Allah to go and fight; they are patrons of the association.
You said the Benue anti-open grazing law is the cause of the crises between herdsmen and farmers but as the law has already been passed, what do you think is the solution to the problem?
You know we are already in court with the Benue State government because the anti-grazing law is not acceptable to us. We do not like the law because it does not give room for the Fulani to rear their cows. What they are trying to do is to chase the Fulani out of Benue State. This is one Nigeria and the human rights charter allows us to go anywhere and do our business. If they want to create this law because of the Fulani, let them also stop the Igbo who are buying provisions and other items to sell in Benue. I call on the governor of Benue State to cancel the law. It is better for them, for us and everybody in the country. We have been close to the Tiv people but this law wants to destroy the relationship between the Fulani and the Tiv people.
On the issue of cattle colony, many states are hesitant to support it because of the perceived expansionist ambition of the Fulani people. The impression is that if you give the Fulani land, over time he would expand it beyond the boundaries you have given him and will even be ready to fight you if you want to ask questions. Some support this argument with the story of the migration of the early Fulani settlers in the North led by Uthman Dan Fodio. What is your take on that?
All these people who are kicking against the cattle colonies are the enemies of the Fulani people and they are also enemies of progress of the nation. Before now, we already knew about the existence of cattle colonies but they are just playing politics with it because President Buhari is in power. They are saying President Buhari wants to collect people’s land and give it to the Fulani. But they forget that the Minister of Agriculture who is trying to introduce cattle colonies is not a Fulani man. He is even from Benue and it was him who brought the idea. In other countries where you have the Fulani, there are no problems and it is because of the way they are managing the issue of cattle rearing. In some countries, herders take their cows about and even if they stray unto the highway, the vehicles would stop and they would pass and there is no problem with that. We should know that 99.9 per cent of cattle consumed in Nigeria come from the Fulani. Anybody kicking against the cattle colony is not ready for peace. Some countries in Africa are already practicing it. Most of these people shouting against it stay in the cities for about 10 years without travelling home to see their parents and they would be shouting that there should not be cattle colonies. These are the kind of people that are causing problems in the country. They just wake up and start talking without knowing the history of the country. Our association is happy about the cattle colony and we thank God that about 16 states have already supported it. By the grace God, the crises would come down. And the idea of cattle colony is from Audu Ogbeh and not Buhari.
South wants to use Fulani herdsmen to destroy the North – Ango Abdullahi
The Spokesperson for the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof Ango Abdullahi, has described the herdsmen crises in the Middle Belt as a plot by the South to split the monolithic north. In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, also dismissed the All Progressives Congress (APC) committee report on restructuring chaired by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
According to him, the report is the position of some of the party leaders and not that of Nigerians.
Why is it that the more attempts made to fix Nigeria, the more complex the situation becomes?
This is what we have been experiencing in Nigeria for very many decades. While some are trying to build, some are working hard to dismantle. It is difficult to answer this question in terms of who to identify as builders, and who to identify as destroyers. Nigerians are very good at blame games; blame others for some of their own faults. This is what we have been doing over the years, trading blames, instead of looking at problems objectively together and trying to find common solutions to them. I can give you an example. The former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari is one.
From onset, I am not defending the president or anybody in government, but looking at the letter on the basis of Obasanjo himself – a two times former leader in Nigeria. The thing that is baffling me is that he is claiming to be the, “Holy Father”, of the Nigerian project.
He was the head of affairs between 1976 and 1979, and he has forgotten that he was the president for eight years, between 1999 and 2007, and even at that, he tried to manipulate the constitution to elongate his tenure beyond what was constitutionally allowed.
Here is a man that sees himself as the only perfect former president of Nigeria. I remember very well that he didn’t spare former President Shehu Shagari, who succeeded him in 1979; he didn’t spare Buhari, who toppled Shagari; he also lashed out at Ibrahim Babangida during his own tenure; he still went after Abacha and so on.
I cannot understand how Nigerians are hailing him, and I couldn’t believe that the only perfect former Head of State is Obasanjo. This is ridiculous. It is even a shame that we allow this kind of space in the minds, and also in the political space of this country; to try and claim this and using it as one of the African leaders and so on, and roam around the world on our behalf. It is really shameful on us, but you see hypocritical politicians going to Ota on pilgrimage, when there are a lot of people for them to go and learn something from, morally and politically. But here is a man, who is busy parading himself, as the righteous “Holy Father” of the Nigerian project. I totally reject that, and I think I know him well enough from 1976 to date.
The APC committee on restructuring has come up with it recommendations on how to restructure the country. What is your position on this?
APC is not Nigeria, or Nigerians. It is a political party. The party is only expressing its opinion on behalf of its members. I question it because the exercise they undertook in terms of consultations around the country, were talking to their party members, especially the leaders of their party. I don’t accept that the report of El-Rufai committee truly reflects the position of APC members as a whole, let alone reflecting the position of Nigerians.
I think that is beyond us to believe that its recommendations are sacrosanct. I don’t think they should be. Consultations should continue in terms of what Nigeria should be and should not be, and every Nigerian has a stake to contribute to his opinion on this matter. I don’t see why we are rushing over it. This country has been in existence for over 100 years during colonial rule, and has been in existence for nearly 60 years after our independence, and there have been many constitutional conferences in the country; there have been also talks and consultations in terms of how to govern.
In all the constitutional conferences I have attended, some people were honest enough to say that the core constitutional document is not the problem, the problem are the operators of the constitution; unless you want to change Nigeria into another thing, I don’t think anything could come out of the so-called restructuring. All the elements that would make for good governance are already in our constitution. What has happened over the years is that those who operate the constitution have failed to operate it in such a way that this country would benefit.
Northern Elders Forum was in the news recently when Dr. Paul Unongo resigned as chairman of the group. We learnt that he didn’t resign out of his own volition, that he was asked to resign or be removed because he was accused of using the platform to support Buhari, and also using it to demean Atiku. What is your view?
No, no. The best person to address whether he was forced to resign or he voluntarily resigned is Paul Unongo himself. Don’t rely on speculation. Unongo is my friend; we have been together for 64 years. I know him very well. When he holds an opinion, he holds it very clearly. The issue that he is on the side of Buhari against somebody else must be his personal views, and his personal views should be respected because he is a voter, and on the voting day, he would go with his voter card to vote for the candidate of his choice. If the candidate of his choice is Buhari, then on the election day, I’m sure he would cast his vote for him. On the issue that NEF adopted a candidate, this is where I’m emphatically saying, that there was no time that we discussed this subject in our meeting, let alone taking a position about it. This is not one of the positions of NEF.
But the late Maitama Sule before his demise had insisted that Unongo should succeed him as the chairman of NEF?
We all rallied round him. I was the person that phoned Unongo that a decision had been taken that he should take the place of Maitama Sule. I was the one who relayed the message to him after a meeting he didn’t participate in because we didn’t invite him to be part of the discussion, but at the end of our discussion, unanimously we said he should take the place of our late leader, Maitama Sule.
How do we find a lasting solution to the herdsmen crises that are trying to consume the nation?
When we saw this coming, the Northern Elders set up a committee under my chairmanship for us to really take a look at the matter so that we can also offer some ideas and advice to the stakeholders. In that case, it was the issue of the Benue State anti-open grazing law.
The committee worked very hard, we brought in a lawyer to also see what we have done, and he wanted to do a through job on that, but unfortunately before we finished, the implementation has started in Benue, and followed by the crisis.
So, we decided that our report was overtaken by events. We still have the report but we stood it down because there is no point offering advice when things have gone away from where we were hoping they would be. We are hearing all sorts of solutions being proferred by authorities. The report I read in one of the dailies, says that, “the Federal Government opts for military option.” I’m disappointed if this story is true. What the Federal Government should be looking for is the legal, constitutional and social solution to this kind of problems; they can’t succeed in opting for the military. Are they going to fight a war against who and on whose side are they going to fight if they are going to fight? Have they decided who is wrong, and who are they going to fight?
The herdsmen clashes in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Southern Kaduna, etc, will it not affect the relationship in the North; watering down the monolithic North?
That is the bottom line. It is politically driven. We have been having herdsmen for over 200 years or 300 years ago in Nigeria, particularly we in the North. I haven’t seen how this crisis between farmers and herdsmen would lead to attacks and loss of lives. This is a politically driven agenda, perhaps, intended to split the monolithic North; we have been talking about the monolithic North for a long time politically in this country. I have been involved in debates against some respected people from the southern part of this country who believe that this country is not balanced because the North is too big; because the North is too politically united, so there must be a way of disrupting this unity, and this is what we are seeing on ground today, and the elements that are being used are the Fulani herdsmen. This matter would be looked at properly; political alliances and so on are welcome. You don’t need to lose blood, or property to engage in political alliance or whatever you want, or still, you don’t need to introduce excuses that will lead to loss of lives. We saw this when the Boko Haram was on ground; they said the Northerners created the sect to disrupt former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, which led to his failure in the last election, and so on.
Now that Boko Haram is out of the way, the new excuse is the Fulani herdsmen.
This is what is happening in other places except in areas that you are talking. We have seen what they called a new handshake across the Niger; it is political, and we have seen the mourning that has taken place in Benue and other places to show that the northern North is not in tandem with the Middle Belt; it is all politics. Our Middle Belters don’t need to take the agenda that appears to be a thing of distrust. We are not going to force anybody into a relationship politically or otherwise. We see this as a political agenda.
What are your expectations for 2019 general elections?
We are waiting for politicians to come and tell us what they have for Nigerians. I can assure you that the NEF will be watching closely. What we will be looking for, are people who are going to give us good governance. We are not worried about all these political parties that have failed over the years.
Nigerians should be looking for good governance. From the records we have and the politics we have seen especially in the last 20 years, show that political parties are virtually the same. The same elements that circulate themselves from one party to the other, the damage they caused in the last party is the damage they will be causing in the next party they join, and the same damage they will cause in the party to be formed.
What Nigerians should be looking for is good governance, which can come from a party or a candidate. The most important thing is that good governance should come from a system. One individual no matter how good he is, if he finds himself in a bad system, he cannot function, and would not succeed no matter how hard he tries. Lets pray that we find good candidates in a good system. The system we have on ground is very suspicious indeed because their records are anything to be proud of – the PDP record is very clear to all of us. They are circulating themselves, the struggle now is the control of government, not necessary for good governance, but for stealing money. We have seen this before, and nobody should deceive us anymore. If we put our hands together, we will be able to make a distinction between the struggle to control power and the struggle to serve Nigeria and Nigerians. For 2019, you can be sure that Northern elders, all of us will be looking out very clearly to make sure we separate the grains from the chaff, whether in the form of political party or in the form of candidate.
You said the system is bad, but we have a president who is said to have high integrity?
I told you that it takes a good person to work in a good system to succeed, but unfortunately the president, a good man is overwhelmed by a bad system and that is why he cannot perform. The system is in form of political parties, which has denied us independent candidacy. Like in the First Republic, there were people who won elections as independent candidates because people could not make a choice among parties. But now, these people have insisted that for you to stand for an election, you must belong to a political party even if you don’t believe what the political parties are doing.