From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Hussaini Salisu is a Fulani rice farmer as well as a herder. He holds the traditional title of Dallatun Laduga in Kachia Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Salisu is currently the Public Relations Officer (PRO), Livestock Breeders Association of Nigeria (LIBAN), Kaduna State chapter.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he said that Nigerian politicians should stop saying that foreign Fulani are behind kidnapping and banditry in the country, warning that such remarks may provoke Fulani in neighbouring countries to launch attacks on Nigeria.
Salisu also spoke on other national issues. Excerpts:
By way of introduction, are you a herdsman?
I am the Dallatun of Laduga in Kachia Local Government Area of Kaduna State. I am a rice farmer. My parents live in the bush. We farm and rear cattle. We have farmers and cattle rearers whose occupations are being threatened by insecurity, particularly kidnapping and banditry. And the only way out of this insecurity is for the government to be realistic and non-partial in ensuring that peace is restored. Fulani people have been threatened by insecurity and their cows rustled over the years. Now, the government is trying to protect the farmers so that they can work on their farms without fear of being kidnapped. But nobody is talking about protecting the Fulani herdsmen who are rearing cows. They need to be protected too. We Fulani have been cheated, myself in particular, all my cows have been rustled, and I cannot also go to the farm. And somebody will say there will be peace?. I know many people will say Fulani are the bandits, kidnappers, this is how they have been frustrated. If you continue to talk about Fulani this way, they will not have peace and if they don’t have peace, you cannot have peace yourself.
What is the implication of farmers not going to the farms because of insecurity?
Food scarcity will continue because the government says it will not import food, and now insecurity does not allow farmers to go to the farms to work. And the little farm products are being bought off by urban traders who travel to the village in search of food. So, urban dwellers rely on rural communities for food. The rural farmers and herders were living peacefully before now until city dwellers brought calamity to them by way of divide and rule in order to buy off their goods at cheaper rates. My parents were the pioneer owners of grazing reserves in Kachia, Kaduna State. My parents sponsored me to school from proceeds realised from the sales of thier cattle. Up till today my parents are in the bush rearing their cattle. But their 5,000 cattle have been reduced to 1,000 now as a result of rustling by criminal elements.
What exactly are the causes of farmers/herders clashes in Nigeria?
What used to cause farmers/herders clash was due to laying of claims to ownership of land because after the herders have penetrated thick forests and cleared the ways, the farmers would turn round to claim the areas. So, it resulted to clashes between them. But nowadays, there is no farmers/herders clashes. What we have now is communal clashes going on everywhere. Unfortunately, Fulani are the most hated people in Nigeria despite thier desires to live in peace with everybody. You cannot hate Fulani because we are hardworking people. We provide milk for the country, we provide meat for the country, and even the shoes you are wearing are made of cow’s skins. Yet we are being frustrated.
Some of our political leaders said most of the kidnappers and bandits are foreign Fulani. Do you agree?
Those causing kidnapping and banditry are not foreign Fulani. If you say they are foreign Fulani, you are implicating Nigeria because Niger Republic or Burkina Faso and any other neighbouring countries will say you are accusing them unnecessarily. They will hate Nigeria, and you are implicating the country. The Fulani in Nigeria are the most populous in Northern Nigeria. So, if you say there are foreign Fulani in Nigeria, how do you confirm they are foreigners. It is very easy and simple to identify a Fulani man. But to us, any Fulani man you see with cattle, he is of benefit to Nigeria, he is not a foreigner. If we continue to call them foreigners, we are telling the rest of the world that they are criminals. We are implicating Nigeria. This is very unfortunate. Well, if you insist that they are foreigners, you have to identify them. After all Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa are foreigners, everybody comes from somewhere. The world started from somewhere. But if you keep on saying they are foreigners, you are encouraging them to come to Nigeria to join in the fight. When you keep on blackmailing them as foreigners they will come to Nigeria to help Fulani in Nigeria to fight.
How can kidnapping and banditry be brought to an end?
Those who are into kidnapping are angry and they want to brutalise you because you have taken their products; they have nothing to rear, they have been frustrated, and they are taken to prisons because people believed that they are the bandits. Kidnapping and banditry are being tended towards the Fulani man. I can be innocently picked as bandit and be sent to prison because I am Fulani. Whatever is bad you label it against Fulani man. Fulani people have never committed crime, but you are now forcing them to commit crimes because their means of livelihood have been stolen. Their cows are being rustled. Their houses burnt, our people are killed.
What happened to nomadic education put in place for the Fulani herders by previous government?
Nobody supported nomadic education to stand the test of time since it was established 35 years ago. Government and the general public did not support nomadic education. It is still at the primary level. It is not supposed to be at the infancy level after 35 years of its foundation. It should be well funded for the betterment of the society. If you are educated you cannot be engaging in criminal activities. The Fulani participated in the nomadic education, but the government did not motivate the school. Most of the classes were under the trees. How can you study under trees in this modern age of Nigeria’s history. They are supposed to build functional schools for them.
Don’t you think dialogue is the way out of the present situation of insecurity between government and bandits?
Is government ready to dialogue with anybody. The government is fighting those who are aggrieved. The government should bring them closer and negotiate with them. Look at what Sheik Ahmed Gumi did, he went to bandits’ enclave, even while all of them were holding gun, trying to negotiate with them. This means that they can be negotiated with. You cannot go closer to any other tribe with gun, but you can go closer to a Fulani man with a gun and tell him to drop the gun, and he will drop it. Yet nobody did that with them. You want to have peace with this people and yet you refused to support Sheik Gumi who told Nigerians that these bandits are ready to make peace, but nobody supported Gumi. How can peace reign when you don’t support somebody who is making the move.
Are you saying that this government does not believe in negotiations with bandits?
Ask yourself, you are a journalists, have you heard where the government is negotiating with them? There is nowhere that negotiation is going on. We have many political associations among the Fulani, nobody is negotiating with them. People who are making room for negotiation are being criticised, they are being called criminals too.
Federal Government has recently resolved to reopen grazing routes across the country. What is your reaction to this?
That is what President Buhari said, not the government. And what did the southern governors say, they said no to open grazing. Every other Nigerians said no. And they want to have peace. You cannot have peace when you don’t want me to survive. The government should be allowed to create grazing reserves. But animals need to move about because they are not like pigs or goats that you can tie them in one place. You cannot keep 1,000 cows in one place. They cannot survive without moving about. The government is not helping the Fulani if it keeps the cows in one place.
The argument here is that the era of cows moving about is gone in this modern age and time. Don’t you think so?
The whole system of Nigeria is not operated in a modern way. When the president wants to make speech he uses microphone; who created the microphone, it is the European. All the technology is from the European people, and yet you said you want to modernise grazing, what are you modernising. Then go ahead and modernise the economy so that everybody becomes rich. If you create grazing reserves for the Fulani, you can then arrest them if they go out of their ways to destroy anything. Take a look at the Kachia grazing reserves, we are living peacefully with the communities and our neighbours, there is no fight between us. They are on their own, we are on our own.
For some Nigerians who were born and grown in rural communities, they often tell peaceful and cordial relationship with nomadic Fulani. But all of a sudden there was mistrust and suspension between the Fulani and the people in the host communities. What went wrong?
It is the urban people that brought this disaffection to the Fulani and the local people in the rural communities. The urban people brought calamity to them. They have made them to fight one another.
Look at the farming system in the country, the farming system is collapsing, rearing is collapsing and the urban people want to survive from the farm produce of the rural dwellers. Now, the local people cannot farm again because of the calamity from the city. For instance, there is a town called Zangon-Kataf in southern Kaduna when the Fulani have been living with the natives for over 300 years until Hausa people from urban areas caused fight for them.
How did the urban Hausa caused the fight?
The Hausa urban are traders, they are not farmers. So they manipulate the native farmers, bought off their farm produce at a cheaper price. So also they manipulated the Fulani herders, picked up cows, the meat at cheaper rate. And before you know what was happening, crisis stepped in between the native and the Fulani.
Do you see an end to this crisis?
From the beginning of the world crisis was in place. It can never stop, but it can be minimised. However, bombs are being thrown at our cattle.
In the Southeast, some groups of Igbo are agitating for Biafra republic, and in the Southwest, similar groups are asking for Oduduwa republic. What is your reaction?
When such republics are created there will never be peace in Nigeria because we will continue to fight with our former brothers. We will not want to see one another because we were once together as brothers and now you don’t want to see me. They will even fight each other over land because there will not be enough land for them. And whenever they want to travel to any part of the world they must pass through Nigeria. But if they want to separate, let them go. We the Fulani people will survive if the country breaks up because we are the most populous in the North. We are the pioneer rulers of northern Nigeria. All the northern rulers are Fulani from inception.
Why are you addressed as Hausa/Fulani?
Well, if they want to benefit from us, they address us Hausa/Fulani. We are Fulani, so you cannot call us Igbo/Fulani. If Hausa want to benefit from us they hide under our name. If it is a wrong thing, they say they are Hausa. If it is a right thing, they will say they are part of the Fulani. Once you are a Muslim from Niger Republic and enter Nigeria you become an Hausa man. Even as a Nigerian once you are a Muslim people tend to call you Hausa.