National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore socio-cultural organisation, Abdullahi Bodejo, has said that there was no basis for Fulani herdsmen to apologise to Governor Samuel Ortom over alleged killings of Benue people.
Over the weekend, stories went viral that the Fulani cattle breeders association had apologised to Governor Ortom. Fuming with indignation, Bodejo told VINCENT KALU, in this interview that there was no basis for any apology because his members never killed anyone. He warned that any governor that wants to enjoy peace in his state must establish Ruga settlements for herdsmen.
It was reported over the weekend that your organisation, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore has apologised to Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom over the attacks and killings of Benue people by herdsmen. What led to this apology, was your conscience pricking you?
I am the national president of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, I didn’t apologise to anybody; our organisation didn’t apologise to anybody because Fulani herdsmen didn’t kill or hasn’t killed anybody. I was surprised where journalists got that story. Maybe, the journalists wanted story to sell their papers. It is fake news.
I’m not surprised that the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ortom was behind this; Tiv people are very good in propaganda. Ortom used propaganda and the anti-grazing law to win his second term election.
Our National Secretary, Saleh Alhassan followed his friend, the chairman of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema to Benue for a function; yes, Engineer Saleh has the right to attend any occasion in any part of this country, but not to go and apologise to anybody on what we didn’t do. The Fulani didn’t commit any offence to warrant any apology.
Thank God that the chairman of Air Peace, who is not a Fulani has come out to put the story straight that our secretary didn’t apologise to anybody at the meeting. I’m the president of the organisation and we have a national executive that the journalists could have called to verify. I’m telling you that Saleh didn’t apologise. Apologise for what and to whom?
Miyetti Allah organisation doesn’t kill; we are not killers, so why should we apologise? It is Ortom that should apologise for killing Fulani. The only thing we are fighting is the anti-open grazing law, we are in court and we will continue to pursue it in the court till we have victory. We are in court because we can’t allow that law to work.
We are insisting that Ortom should apologise to our organisation. He is looking for every avenue to justify his anti-grazing law. He should apologise to Fulani in Nigeria for killing them, for destroying their businesses and damaging our names.
Oyo State is also coming with anti-open grazing law, so it is not about Benue alone.
I have a meeting with our members; you know we have a way we monitor development across the country as it affects our members. Benue started it. This is a gang-up against the Fulani in this country or something they are doing to try to deny the Fulani their existence, make them lose all their means of livelihood.
Even though we are talking of Oyo, let us go back to Benue, where it all started. They are now rearing cows; none of these cows belongs to Fulani; they have collected the business of rearing cows from the Fulani; they have succeeded in pushing Fulani out of Benue State in order to take over their business of rearing cows. Ortom is also rearing cows. Nigerians have come to understand that cattle rearing is a very lucrative business, and so that is why they are pursuing the Fulani in order to take over their business.
I’m aware the Oyo anti-grazing law is the same thing with that of Benue, and their people also want to take over the business of cattle rearing from us. We have met with our lawyers to see how to go to Oyo to stop it. They want to terminate Fulani business in the country.
If the governor wants to enact anti-grazing law, he has to have plans for the Fulani herdsmen; he has to carve out a large portion of land for them, develop it with modern amenities and infrastructure for them to settle. He can’t just push them out like that. Oyo has a very large land and they are supposed to carve a portion for us, but they don’t want to give us, but want to do the same thing that Benue State has done. From what is going on, there are plans to terminate the Fulani business in the country.
Like you suggested, the carving out a portion of land with modern amenities for your people in Oyo, is it still in line with the Ruga project?
Yes. We are just saying the same thing, whether Ruga or cattle colony, but the only thing is that Fulani issue in Nigeria is being used to play politics. If you are losing election and you want to gain back lost ground, play the Fulani politics. If you want to win election in 2023, you can start using anti-grazing law.
We have grazing routes and grazing reserves and if Nigeria wants to solve the herdsmen and farmers clashes once and for all, you are a governor and you want to enjoy peace in your state, you don’t need any long meeting, just create a particular area for the Fulani and equip them with modern amenities. Instead of doing this, they are playing bad politics with Fulani.
Since when the Ruga started, I’m yet to see any, except the efforts being made by the Zamfara State governor. No other governor is doing anything about it; it is still politics. Look at the support given to rice farmers through anchor borrowers programme; it is running into several billions of naira, and yet there is nothing for the Fulani business. Some people are saying cattle rearing is a private business, but the about 99 per cent of the cows we are eating in this country are from Fulani. States are making revenues from cows. For example, in Lagos, over 6,000 cows are killed daily and the state government is making so much money from that and that is the way it is in other states of the country. These governors are not serious, that is why they are talking about anti grazing laws; they are not serious in maintaining peace in their state; they are not serious in carrying everybody along. They want to politicise Fulani issue. See how they are criminalising the Fulani man; these people they arrested for criminal activities are not Fulani, some of them have learnt Fulani languages and people say they are Fulani.
Even small children have been made to believe that the problem of this country is the Fulani. But Fulani are very peace loving; they don’t have any problem. Look at what happened in Benue, our secretary went for a meeting and he met Ortom, then it was turned that he went to apologise. Apologise to whom? Saleh can’t apologise to anybody because no any Fulani killed anybody in Benue State. Let them go and ask the police and the DSS on the identity of the people they arrested; they are not Fulani people.
You said Fulani didn’t kill anybody in Benue, who killed those people in Agatu, Benue State?
Army and police made some arrests. All those they arrested, were they Fulani? Go and ask the security men the identities of those arrested over the killings. Police prosecuted those involved in the killings, go and find out who they are. The anti-grazing law is the main project of Ortom and his people. It is because of the anti-grazing law that Ortom won his re-election and that is why he is carrying it on his head.
Another thunderstorm killed some cows in Ondo State last week, do you suspect foul play?
Thunder is a natural occurrence. Why journalists are writing about this issue is because it happened where they can access, but in the bushes and forests, it is common. This is from God; we cannot say that somebody invoked thunder to kill Fulani cows.
The last time it happened, where about 36 cows were killed by thunder, you asked the government to pay the owners compensation, do you still stand by that?
All the people in the state and animals, including chickens, pigeons etc are under a governor, and the governor can do anything to help anybody who has one problem or the other. A governor who has a large heart and wants to carry everybody along ought to support the owner of the cows. It is an appeal because a Fulani doesn’t have any other business except cow; cow is their business, company, industry and everything.
The Southeast governors and the Ohanaeze, about two months ago banned the movement of cows into the region by leg, and directed any cow coming into the region must be by vehicular transportation, but your members are still not obeying that. Are they not being lawless?
No, they are not lawless. All these small, small laws, remember Nigeria has one constitution. The Nigerian Constitution is already guiding us on how we can do our business. You can go to Southwest, Southeast, South-South, etc and do your business without violating the constitution.
These governors should not tell us how to do our business or how to move our cows. They have money, so if they want us to be using vehicles to bring our cows, there is no problem, so long as they would be the ones to provide the trucks free of charge to us.
It is part of the politics; no tribe can say this tribe or the other tribe cannot do businesses in their area.
Fulani are different from every other tribe in this country; they are very peaceful and they are so large in this country. I don’t want anybody to put eyes into the Fulani because some bad politicians from the North, Southwest, Southeast and South-South are demonising Fulani as criminals.
It is very simple: Let the Southeast governors provide the vehicles to convey our cows to their area, then we can call our people to make use of the vehicle. Is there anybody that wants to suffer? Why will I trek from Kano to Enugu, when there is a free vehicle for me? Trekking long distance is very painful; it is done because there is no option, but we welcome it with both hands if the governors provide us with free trucks.
If they cannot provide the trucks free for us, they should allow us continue with our suffering by trekking long distances. Let them provide security for everybody, especially our people to do their business.
There is this story of cow disease spreading in the country, and some states are about banning the consumption of cow meat, what is your organisation doing to arrest this?
That is why I said that our leaders are doing the wrong thing. What are they doing to solve this problem? If they ban the killing and consumption of cows in their states, is it dog they will be eating or rat? Is it bush meat they will be killing in the village and take them to those in the town. It can’t work.
Let them devise means to get vaccines for the cows. Fulani have been paying for the vaccines; nobody gives them drugs free. Let them provide the vaccines and they have veterinary doctors in their states, they can guide the Fulani so that everybody will be eating healthy cow meat in Nigeria.