Gyang Bere, Jos
Alhaji Saleh Bayari is the National Chairman of Gan Allah Fulani Development of Nigeria (GAFDAN) and ex-factional Secretary General of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder’s Association of Nigeria (MACABAN). He spoke on why RUGA can’t work, just as he said the reckless statements made by the Miyetti Allah are responsible for the security challenges and travail of the Fulani herdsman in the country.
Why did you break away from the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder’s Association?
We did not break away but we decided that with the modern society we are, we will not be relying on an analogue association that was registered way back in 1986 and has lost its military registration and was not registered by the Cooperate Affairs Commission until 2017, we felt that from the reckless statements they were making which caused us a lot of bad blood, there was need to form a new association that has members and Board of Trustees from the six geo-political zones. The Miyetti Allah has the entire Board of Trustees members from the North West zone and only one was from the North East. There was nobody from the South South, South West and South East zones, yet they said it was an association of Nigerians, we find out that it was a problem and decided to form a new association that will have representation across the six geopolitical zones and we have Diaspora membership. You don’t need to go to any foreign country and register again; all you need is to get our constitution in that country.
A lot of people see the new group as a breakaway but it is a new association. If there is any breakaway, then I am the only one who left there with almost about 40 to 45 percentage membership with officials of the association nationwide to GAFDAN because we are not a controversial association. We have very brilliant people with national and international spread, we abide strictly by our constitution and any association that doesn’t adhere strictly by its constitution can easily create crisis in the country, this is what we are avoiding.
What is the position of GAFDAN on the statement made by MACABAN that it was going to set up vigilance group in the South East?
Well, as far as I am concerned, I am not in a position to say what they have done is right or wrong because I am not informed about what prompted them to want to establish the group. As far as I am concerned, we have more crisis of herders/farmers’ crises in the North than in the South East. South East is the most peaceful zone for herders as I speak to you today; it has been very accommodating to the herdsmen. The recent crisis between herders and farmers in that zone just occurred in three states and it is once in a while, that is Anambra, Imo and Enugu. Since the 2013 crisis in Enugu, we have not had any problem but I am surprised that the burning zones which are the North West, North Central and South West, and possibly the South South states such as Edo, Delta, they are not thinking of establishing vigilance group there. If you want to establish vigilance group, I don’t think you need to go and make any pronouncement, it is a community thing, and you can do it within every Fulani hamlet or Fulani family. The South East people have their own vigilance group and they have not been making noise about it. If you decide to form your own within your own self to protect yourselves, the people who are your neighbours there will admire what you are doing, they may even tell you that they want to join or that you should join their own or you can form a joint group by bringing members from both sides. But to make political pronouncement when you know already that you have been speaking in a controversial manner, will certainly inflame passion.
People already are afraid of what you represent, they allege that you are a jihadist tribe, they allege that you are invaders, land grabbers and yet, you will go there and want to assert some authority, of course they will be suspicious of your activities, they will misinterpret, so I don’t think it is wise to make such a move.
What’s your take on RUGA?
The problem we have in this country is that, before we make policy statement, we don’t do our home work very well; we don’t monitor and gauge the feelings of the nation. To us, since the advent of democracy in 1999, it appears democracy means lawlessness, chaos and so on. If democracy means lawlessness, violence and chaos no country would have been practicing it, it would have been one form of dictatorship. We started having serious problem during and after the 2014 National Conference, where the hottest topic at the time was herders and farmers conflicts, this was under former president, Goodluck Jonathan. About 90 slots was given to ethnic associations, unfortunately we made every effort to have a representative from the herdsmen whose issue was discussed there, we applied for six members, one from each of the geopolitical zones. At the end of the day, despite our letters of reminders to the office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Pius Anyim Pius, they started and rounded off the National Conference without the herdsmen being represented and that was when our heads were shaved in our absence. Yet, some people expect us to go and beat drums for those who shaved us in our absence, to say that the barbing was one of the best that we have ever had in our lives. But things are not done that way.
It was during that conference that a decision was taken that we were not going to be allowed to continue with our traditional and customary open grazing, they said that open grazing was responsible for farmer/herder’s crisis. To some extent it could be so because if you allow people that are mobile destroy crops, before the farmer comes, they would have moved away, but if you allow them permanently there, they will not allow the trouble because they know if destructions are done by other migrant herdsmen they will be held responsible and so they will help in supervising the crops to make sure that the destruction did not occur. Government was talking about grazing reserve which the herdsmen resisted because of their culture; culture of movement from one place to another. That is their way of exercise, it is their way of enjoying life, it is their way of getting information, that is how they get their wives and with this exercise, they don’t have typhoid, malaria and high blood pressure. You can see also how their animals are, they are not exotic breed, if you keep them in one please without exercise, they will die, and therefore, our people refused the grazing reserve.
So what is the way out?
When we found out that it was becoming inevitable because of the farmer/ herder’s clashes, we started enlightening them to settle down and we told them that it was one of the things that nomadic education was supposed to serve and they started accepting what was not possible. Suddenly, all farmers in the country said there will be no grazing reserve for anybody, that grazing is a private business but I don’t blame the farmers because they were not enlightened, it is not all farmers that farm for commercial purposes, except for those who have big farms. For instance, Mr President has his farm, Murtala Nyako has, Abdullahi Adamu has, these are commercial farmers, you see their Yoghurt and Farm Fresh everywhere but for a local Fulani, his own is a traditional thing, if you see him with 25 cows and you give him N1 million for each he will not sell because it is not meant to be sold. For instance if you want to buy Obasanjo or Murtala Nyako farm today, if it worth N30 million and you give him N50 million, he will sell it because he will use that money to acquire a bigger farm but for a Fulani, you will see one cow with a name for the past two hundred years, if the cow died the child will bear the name, that is how the name has continued to be from one generation to the other, Fulani don’t keep cows for commercial purposes but Nigerians don’t see it that way.
They say Fulani should go and get grazing reserve, no open grazing, no grazing reserve, and then we came back to ranching. The former minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, went and imported some grasses from Brazil that look like rice, it was five bags or 10 bags and came to demonstrate to us and it was supposed to be planted on ranches but the Federal Government did not acquire even one ranch. It was the grazing reserve in Gwagwalada that Audu Ogbe used to demonstrate the grass to the herders, the reaching also became a problem. There were anti-grazing laws in Ekiti, Edo but the worst one was in Benue, there was no pilot scheme for the herders to follow and the Fulani in Benue State as far as they were concerned, do not own indigenous lands for them to say they will use their grandparents land to do the ranching. I am sure if one hectare of land in Benue State is worth N5 million and a Fulani man offers N500 million to buy it to do the ranch, they will not sell it because of the bad blood. We have a country called Nigeria but we don’t have Nigerians and today there is no ranching.
Today they brought another alternative with a very bad name and they know that anybody who hears that name including ourselves will not want it. Nobody should tell me to go and stay in the colony now, they said they want to do cattle colony and they know that we were colonised, most people especially Lagos people, don’t want to hear the name colony because it was from Lagos colony that all of us were colonised, the cattle colony died on arrival. Now the issue of RUGA came up and even some of us the Fulani leaders, we were not told anything about it. The Federal Government and the ministry of Agriculture did not find it important to call the Fulani leaders to explain to them that this is the alternative we have for you because we have some relationship with the Farmers Association of Nigeria which I was one time the National Publicity Secretary under Murtala Nyako in 1990. We were not consulted so that we can enlighten our colleagues in the Farmers Association, all we learnt is that some people went and erected some bill boards in about three local government areas in Benue State that they were going to establish RUGA settlement, meaning what. Was the government trying to do RUGA settlement for the cows or for the people and the cows and where will the Fulani be grazing these cows? You cannot bring100 Fulani together with their hundreds of cows and lump them together and say you have done settlement for them, where will they be grazing these cows in thousands?