Banke Elemide situates the views of Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed over the ‘foreign’ Fulani man debate
Recently, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, came under fire recently, when he suggested that Fulani of foreign extraction should be allowed to benefit from the National Livestock Programme.
But a critical look of at the transnational nature of the Fulani man and the need to solve the security situation shows that perhaps, Mohammed might be making some sense.
A couple of weeks back, Mohammed, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, stirred the hornet’s nest, when he declared that the Fulani man or woman from other parts of Africa should have access to the National
The former minister, ironically not known to be someone who courts controversy, had declared:
“I think there is a lot of mistrust and misconception as regards the Fulani man. The Fulani man is a global or African person. He moves from The Gambia to Senegal and his nationality is Fulani. The Fulani have no boundaries being a continental nationality. The Fulani in Nigeria relations outside Nigeria, himself having relations in countries like Cameroon.”
He went on to explain that most times, crises were being perpetrated by those outside Nigeria as, according to him, the culture of getting revenge is embedded in the traditional Fulani man. The governor was speaking on Channel Television’s Sunrise programme.
Unfortunately, both on the social and the traditional media, the governor has had to take a backlash, especially, from the southern part of Nigeria, who believed, albeit wrongly, that the governor was asking that the itinerant Fulani nomad should benefit from the National Livestock Programme of the federal government.
Perhaps, going by the menace of the herdsmen over the last few years, who many suspect, either rightly or wrongly to be Fulani, many might be tempted to admit that perhaps, the governor was trying to stretch the luck of the Fulani too far. And beyond this, the governor’s case is not helped by the rumoured expansionist tendencies of the average Fulani man.
It was, therefore, understandable that the governor has had to face a lot of criticism since he made the remarks on that programme.
Perhaps, it might do the polity a whole lot of good if the remarks by Mohammed were seen beyond the usual ethnic and religious emotions that have taken over the public space since the coming into power of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
While the President, through his actions and remarks, has not helped matters, it must be noted that if the problem of the herdsmen would be solved, then certain things have to be looked into.
The first issue is that of cattle rustling. This menace was allowed to fester for a long time until it became a monster. For long, armed men used to steal cows and other cattle and the government could not do anything about it until the Fulani herdsman decided to resort to self-help.
And that was when they started carrying arms and was the beginning of the menace the nation has had to deal with today. As expected, bad eggs had penetrated the group and have become a source of security concern to the other parts of the country.
The Bauchi State Commissioner for Information, Dr. Ladan Salihu, admitted to this but was quick to add that it would be grossly unfair to assume every criminal herdsman is Fulani.
“The violence being wreaked on many communities all over the country by a new strand of herdsmen is unacceptable; yet, it is patently wrong and equally unacceptable to tar every Fulani person with the brush of a criminal.
“The prevailing national narrative, fuelled by the actions of a new strand of Fulani herdsmen, who go about wreaking violence on communities, is that all Fulani herdsmen are evil. We must admit that the activities of these gun-wielding herdsmen defy the canons of civilised conduct, threaten national security and therefore, stand unacceptable.”
Salihu, a former director-general of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), said long before this (criminal) band of herdsmen invaded the Nigerian space, Fulani herdsmen and Hausa traders have resided in various parts of Nigeria just as other ethnic nationalities, particularly the Igbo and the Yoruba, have resided in the north – with all the groups plying their legitimate trades.
“That is the origin of Sabon Gari in Kano, for instance, and several Sabo or Hausa Quarters in nearly all major cities in the south. Inter-marriages and other sorts of relationships have been established over time, creating bonds that, in many cases, are inseparable. Governor Bala Mohammed is of the position that we should not, in one fell swoop, dismiss these immutable bonds, because of the challenging phase the country is passing through.”
It must also be noted that the northern parts of the country have even suffered more from the menace of violent herdsmen as communities in the north have suffered untold hardship and unremitting violence in the hands of the herdsmen.
The Price of Climate Change…
Since Nigeria is a nation that does not make hay, when the sun is shining, it is a no-brainer that the effects of climate change would have effect on the security wellbeing of the country. For decades, the nation has paid little or no regard to the climate change that was forcing an average herdsman to relocate gradually from his traditional home in the northernmost part of the country towards the south in search of grazing land.
Naturally, there would always be conflicts with original owners of the land. And this was what led to the crisis between herdsmen and farmers in the Middle Belt region as the herders wanted land for their cattle to graze and in doing that, they caused untold hardship to farmers, whose means of livelihood were being destroyed. And gradually, this has extended to the southern part of the country.
Will NLP Solve the Problem?
The point being made by Governor Mohammed should be seen beyond the emotions that have trailed the excesses and criminal activities of some herdsmen. If there would be National Livestock Programme, then it would amount to stoking embers of more crises if some herdsmen were denied on the basis of not being Nigerians even if they were Fulani.
Beyond this, the ECOWAS Protocol does not allow countries to discriminate based on nationality as long as that individual comes from any of the ECOWAS countries.
Oladele Morakinyo, an online marketing expert, said discriminating against a Fulani herdsman in the National Livestock Programme on the basis of not being a Nigerian is tantamount to a foreign country putting up a programme for a group of traders and some of them are prevented from benefitting, because they are foreigners.
“We must note that these traders, in this case, foreign Fulani herdsmen, are contributing to the economic well-being of the country. They are expected to pay tax to government coffers. Are we saying their taxes will be rejected, because they are not Nigerians? I doubt.”
All that the government need to do, as some economists pointed out to THISDAY, is to take a census of these non-Nigerian Fulani men and women, who want to benefit from the livestock programme and ensure that those who are engaging in criminal activities are identified and dealt with according to laws of the land.
Beyond this is the nature of the nation’s borders. Since there is practically free movement of goods and humans across the border, these Fulani herdsmen will always make their way into the country.
This is why rather than crucify Mohammed it might serve the country some good if his suggestions would be considered, even with some modifications.
–-Elemide wrote from Abuja