National President of Miyetti Allah Kautel Hore, Abdullahi Bodejo, has said Southeast governors and Ohanaeze want to divide Nigeria by their directive compelling Fulani herdsmen to transport their cows to the region. Speaking with VINCENT KALU, the leader of the Fulani socio-cultural association, said for peace to reign in the country, every state must carve out a portion of land for his ethnic group to settle.
What is your view on the state of the nation, the pervading insecurity in the country?
Nigeria is like the giant of Africa. She is not insulated from security challenges facing countries like America, India, Germany and others. As a Fulani cattle rearer, I’m not competent to comment on security issues, which fall within the purview of the army, police and DSS, NSA and other security advisers.
On the other hand, security is everybody’s concerns; the Fulani are victims of this insecurity in the country, and that is why I have to comment on it. The insecurity situation in the country is very terrible, especially for Fulani; we are being attacked here and there all over the country.
Just like other people have provision stores, cosmetic shops and other businesses, our cow is our business, and calamities and other things happen to the herdsmen and because there are no telephone networks in the forest and bushes where they stay, we may not know about it. It is terrible for them.
You just said that cow is the business of the Fulani, the trouble is that people say that you cannot use your business to destroy others’ businesses; that is, you can’t use your cows to destroy their crops in the farm
Fulani deal with animals; animals can be controlled when they are eating and are not hungry, but the moment they don’t get something to eat, it becomes a big problem.
One person can control 100 cows if they are not hungry, but the moment they are hungry, even eight people cannot control them. Up till now, I’m still rearing cows and if my cows destroy any farm, we know how to settle ourselves, that is, the farmers and the cattle rearers.
The real farmers and the real Fulani cattle rearers are having this problem inside the bush, but all these attacks here and there are caused by these politicians who are eating security funds, and so begin to escalate the crises. Now the bandits are attacking and stealing Fulani cattle and causing crises.
All these places where you have herdsmen and farmers crises, go and check well, and if need be, research on the history of the crises, you won’t see where cattle had destroyed farms; these crises are usually created during the election period.
During election time, you find crises; even when a man fights his wife, they would say the Fulani caused it. Everybody wants to politicise the Fulani issue. Everybody wants to use Fulani issue to blackmail the federal government because the President, Muhammadu Buhari is a Fulani. Everybody wants to use the cattle issue to eat money from the government. People who want to make money from the government are not usually happy when they see the Fulani in areas where they are at peace with their host communities.
All these noises across the country are not about the herdsmen and farmers; it is about people trying to make money from the government. The moment there is a little problem, they issue press statement and give to all these newspapers that will publish that Fulani did this or that, which is to demonise them, but the only exception is The Sun, which makes sure it balances its story, that is why we the Fulani like to read it.
Last week, the Southeast governors and the Ohanaeze met and directed that anyone bringing cattle to the Southeast must transport them and also banned herdsmen in the region from using AK 47 rifles, what is your position on this?
This is a challenge for the northern governors; they are supposed to prepare a place for all our cows before we are taken by surprise. About 99.9 per cent of the cows consumed in the Southeast, Southwest and the entire South are from individual Fulani cattle owners. These people who are shouting cattle this, cattle that, go and check, they are eating cow meat almost every day.
If they ban the cow from coming to their area, they will be one of the people to miss the cow. I will call a meeting to see what we can do because we cannot allow our Fulani people to continue to go to danger zones.
These things they are doing show that they are not good Nigerians. Good Nigerians are supposed to accept every Nigerian to do his business in any part of the country by whatever means of bringing the business there. We Fulani are not happy over the way some governors and the Ohanaeze in that region are reacting over the Fulani issues.
Once you are a governor, you begin to see everyone no matter the particular area he comes from as one. That area is everybody’s area whether Fulani, Tiv, Ijaw, Yoruba etc, it is part of Nigeria; Nigeria is one.
Let the governors and Ohanaeze stop pushing that position because it is not in the constitution of Nigeria, and it is annoying. They are not trying to unite people; they are trying to divide Nigeria by their acts. We have different associations in that area, and some are shouting to be seen as working for their people; maybe they are working for their people.
Like the Fulani organisation, Miyetti Allah Kautal-Hore, we are always seeing how we can unite this country; we are not doing things to just protect only the Fulani interest, but we are doing things to protect the interest of this nation because Nigeria is one; Nigeria is our own and it is for everybody.
The Southeast governors and the Ohanaeze should go back and check the Nigerian Constitution, in case they have forgotten that Nigeria is one, the constitution will remind them. Nigeria is one and every Nigerian has the right to go anywhere he likes by any means he chooses.
What they are saying is that if you are bringing cattle, bring them by vehicle, not a situation whereby you trek with them through the bush from anywhere to the region.
The bush doesn’t belong to them. If you are a governor or whatever they can call you, the bush has been there. If they claim that they are farming, they are not farming on every part of the bush.
For the Fulani, their business is inside the bush. The governor and the organisation don’t have any reason for that; if they did, let them open up or come up with the reason. They can’t say if they want to bring cows they must bring them in with vehicles.
Before the introduction of vehicles, the Fulani were moving with their cows and supplying their cows to any part of the country. From Taraba State, Fulani have been trekking with their cows to sell in Anambra, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Uyo, etc. This is part of the culture of the Fulani.
How long have trailers been used to supply cows; before they introduced trucks in this country, Fulani was trekking with their cows to cattle markets to sell them. We call it Palke.
Palke people trek with their cows from Maiduguri to Anambra to sell, this means it is a Fulani culture, and you don’t just go and touch people’s culture. But, in the process of trekking with their cows and any of them commits a crime, let the security agency deal with him in accordance with the law.
Borno State governor, Babagana Umara Zulum has asked Fulani people to come and settle in Sambisa forest and his Kano counterpart, Ganduje also asked you to return to Kano that he has enough land for you, what is your take on these offers?
The governors of Borno and Kano states have made the promises, but in all the governors across the country, we have seen a very serious governor, and he is the Zamfara State governor. I like to call him, ‘Talk and Do Governor’, because he came and saw the Fulani issue was all about politics. He came out to say something and he is implementing it, like this RUGA issue and how he is settling this banditry problem and the crises in the state.
If Borno State governor says he has given the Fulani Sambisa forest to go and settle, let him start to implement it, but it should not be a politics thing. Fulani are ready to collect not only Sambisa; every state in this country should give the Fulani someplace to settle, as they are the largest ethnic group in Nigeria. They are so many that three states cannot accommodate them. Let every governor; both in the North and the South carve out an area for the Fulani in their respective states.
Are you saying that every state should carve out an area and give to the Fulani to settle, in line with the RUGA programme?
Yes, that is what I’m talking about.
But that is one of the reasons the country is being overheated; other ethnic groups say it is a plan to Fulanise and Islamise them
If a Yoruba, an Igbo or any other ethnic group were the president and Ruga is to be implemented, nobody will raise an eyebrow. The reason they are saying this is because President Muhammadu Buhari is a Fulani and as I said earlier, people are trying to be playing politics with anything that concerns Fulani.
But if we say give these people a place to stay and let there be peace in the country, why can’t you do that? Why the government is supporting crop farmers with billions of naira, have we shouted; how much have they given to the Fulani cattle rearers to go and do their business, nobody is talking about that one. We are playing the wrong politics in this country.