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(OPINION) Buhari and Fulani Herdsmen By Idang Alibi

Fulani nomadic herdsmen
Fulani nomadic herdsmen

This nation, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani man, owes elder statesman and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, a huge debt of gratitude for the extremely restrained and statesmanly manner he handed his ordeal in the hands of Fulani herdsmen who recently kidnapped him. If Falae had been a typical Afenifere or O’dua People’s Congress chieftain who had suffered that trauma in the hands of the Fulani, Buhari would not have stayed in New York for seven days for that UNGA meeting which took place during the period of that high profile kidnap saga. He would have had to cut short his stay and rushed back home to contain what was clearly a clear and present security danger.
If it had not been Falae, a wise elder and patriot, but somebody else, he would have since regaining his freedom after a ransom pay, granted series of interviews, sponsored write-ups and held meetings to whip up ethnic sentiments in his favour and against the Fulani nomads. Such a gambit would have struck a chord in the hearts of millions of Nigerians who harbour bitter resentment against Fulani nomads for there is hardly any ethnic group in this country who have not suffered in one way or another in the hands of the animal rearers.
For me who have signed a covenant with my humble self and with my God to use my writing to say only what will build this country up and not destroy her, I see the hand of God in the peaceful resolution of the Falae kidnap. Even if ransom was paid before the old man was released unharmed, it was a good thing that nothing more dreadful had happened to him. For if what we all fear had happened to him, Buhari would have had on his hands a real security threat.
I also believe that God allowed the ugly incident involving such a dramatic persona to take place and during the leadership of a Fulani man to draw Buhari’s and the nation’s attention to a matter that has persisted for so long and which now, clearly requires urgent national attention.
In many of my commentaries, I have often drawn attention to the issue of nomadic herdsmen, noting that something has to be done to ensure that they carry out their ancient means of livelihood in a more sustainable manner and in a way that they can live in peace and harmony with others in the federation. I have often ranked the Fulani herdsmen menace as constituting even a higher security risk to this nation than the Boko Haram terrorists.
There is hardly any ethnic group in this nation who have not had a clash resulting to bloodshed on both sides with the nomads. The time has come for us to do something about these avoidable bloody clashes.
Let no one who has a mind to solving this problem speak about grazing routes and the fact that nomadism is an age-old way of life of the Fulani. Those are worn-out arguments we have heard over the centuries which have not helped in addressing the problem.
The truth of the matter is that we do not even need a national summit or any other such delaying tactic that would further lead to more bloodshed. We have witnessed the shedding of so much blood over this matter that we cannot afford to waste any more time. The solution is ranching. The Fulani must be made to owe loyalty to a ‘soil’. Now they ‘own’ every land and they are not using it responsibly in a manner that they can earn the goodwill of others with whom they must necessarily interact. Power without responsibility is the prerogative of prostitutes. No one else can exercise power like that and there will be peace and harmony.
Over the years, Fulani nomads have built up resentment against themselves among many communities in the country. This resentment can lead to the eruption of spontaneous fury that can lead to real trouble in the country any day. This must be avoided. And there is no Nigerian president who has been better placed to resolve this matter than Buhari who is a Fulani man and leader of the nomads association. He has to summon courage and tell his kinsmen that nomadism in the 21st century Nigeria is simply unsustainable and is fraught with so many dangers.
It should worry our brother nomads that at one point the Tiv people of Benue banned the eating of cow meat and the presence of the herdsmen on their soil. The Tiv reasoned that the cost of cow meat in terms of the destruction of their farms and the killing of their people have simply proved too much for them to bear. If others are provoked to follow the Tiv example of economic warfare to achieve a politico-administrative goal, it will surely make things extremely hard for the Fulani. Such warfare will compel the Fulani nomads to strip themselves of their Nigerian nationality and move elsewhere where their lifestyle will be accepted.
In case the President is not aware of it let me let him know that there is a conspiracy theory being bandied about that the Fulani under his leadership have a grand plan to resist any effort to make them settle in one place. That their plan is to be allowed to roam free and wide so that they can more easily infiltrate other ethnic groups, assimilate and then subdue them for a Fulani empire. It may sound preposterous but many believe that is the plan and that has contributed in no small measure to building up resentment against the Fulani.
Conspiracy theory or no, the Fulani herdsmen challenge offers Buhari a unique opportunity to exercise statesmanship. As I said earlier, if there is any Nigerian president who can solve this problem, it is Buhari because he is Fulani and he is president now that the matter has reached its peak. The Jonathan administration had said it had budgeted N100 bn to begin the first phase of the resettling of the herdsmen. What has become of that plan or the project?
The mantra of this administration is change. One of the changes I want to see is the difference in the way the Fulani nomads earn their livelihood. They must be made to settle in ranches spread across the country and spare us the trauma their presence on people’s farms bring to millions of their non-nomadic compatriots from Sokoto to Port-Harcourt.

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