Fulani in Yoruba Forests

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By Lasisi Olagunju

Even if you feed on tortoise’s head, you should weep reading this young man’s tribute to his dad who was recently murdered by Fulani herdsmen on his farm: “I remember one of our last conversations, I told you I had lost every hope in Nigeria and how I don’t see it becoming better in another 50-100 years. I told you I don’t see Nigeria as home anymore, and I said ‘home is where I am safe!’ You disagreed; you said ‘home is where you’re from; Nigeria is your home!’…Well dad, you were wrong! I wish death was like prison where we get visitation at least once a month, so I can tell you just how wrong you were. Nigeria is not home. Nigeria couldn’t keep you safe. Nigeria cut your life short. Nigeria ruined your dreams and didn’t let you reap the fruit of your labour! Nigeria wouldn’t find your killers; Nigeria is NOT home!”

The young man spoke to his painful loss. He also spoke for millions of his generation from the south of Nigeria. They’ve all moved on and away from irredeemable Nigeria. If you think they are wrong, read what the north thinks and the insult it hurls daily through its Daily Trust and through its other structures. Read them and see how dead hope has become in the country and why Nigeria cannot be home anymore. Read this: “You think we will accept Nigeria where we don’t have access to land to feed our animals and you think there will be peace?” That is from the National Secretary of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan. He said that on Saturday and also demanded that the government restructure Nigeria and “let Fulani go their way…let every part go, so we can say this is where we are.” They are looking for a colony or a country of forest-dwelling herdsmen in the 21st century.

A Facebook user operating under the page name, Ibarapa Newsnow, posted on Saturday: “Last year, two of my uncles were kidnapped by Fulanis and my family paid N12.2million in total for their release…We went through a lot to secure their release. The government has failed us.”
Almost immediately, one Mohammed Ibrahim Lamido posted a response: “I’m a Fulani; early this month, two of my family members were kidnapped. We paid N6.5m before their release. Your people need to know that we are also victims of the kidnappers.” The two posts sum up the state of the nation. People now compare and weigh calamities; they ask who else’s situation is worse. And there is a president who gets paid as chief security officer of the country.

There is a problem with Tortoise when all sad, bad tales start and end with him. The Fulani is the number one enemy of everybody- and of himself today. He is afflicting everywhere like smallpox. We call him murderous herdsman in the south; he fights the Tiv and Idoma of Benue, the Adara of Southern Kaduna, the Jukun of Taraba, the Okun, Igalla and Ebira of Kogi, the Baruba/Baatonu of Kwara, the Berom of Plateau. Fulani is the notorious bandit attacking the Nupe and Gbagyi of Niger State and the serial killer of Hausas of Katsina and Zamfara States. His victims are everywhere. They have been pummeled and pushed – and shifted; they are now leaning against the wall of resentment. A fight-back against the murderous aggressor called the Fulani is natural.

There is this group called the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). It is never known for empathy for anything and for anyone outside the far north. Since the flood of Fulani banditry swept into the south, the Forum has not seen the need to make positive interventions for victims of the north’s bad boys. On Saturday, it threatened a repeat of what it called ‘1966’ event unless some southern people were arrested. That is the way of all who think themselves conquerors. But the very bad situation we are in, who caused it? The Yoruba say oro ko dun l’enu iya ole. What has the mother of a thief got to say to excuse the felony of her thieving child? The ACF is the mother of felons and it is talking, farting so loudly without shame. A sober group representing a guilty region should have put its hands on its head and ashes on its body in penitence. It should be seeking deliverance for the evil it has bred instead of issuing threats. But the north has a shameless sense of entitlement, that is what is propelling the ACF to breathe down its victims’ neck.

President Muhammadu Buhari should not be deceived by what his fawning minions tell him. Things are pretty, pretty bad; worse than anyone could ever have imagined. The political elite in the south west are in trouble. The governors are under tremendous pressure to release the sluice gates. The street has taken over. And I blame the president for the state of things. He is one person whose timely roar against banditry would have tamed the criminals from the north. But he kept quiet, he looked away and even winked as the harm bearers destroyed everywhere from the north west down to the south. Now, Yorubaland has been radicalized. The Yoruba have always been the hinge holding this creaky Nigerian structure. That link is weakened now, attenuated by rampaging criminals linked to the president’s ethnic stock. It does not matter who he is or where he works, there is no Yoruba man today who is comfortable with the Fulani. From governor to minister to senator to adviser – to everything and everyone- today’s death has become everyone’s death, the fast is everyone’s. The present grimness should frighten any leader who does not want to be counted as one of Nigeria’s undertakers.

What I am saying is that the Nigerian state and its principal operators are complicit. Their undisguised accommodation of evil, appeasement and cuddling of the enemy is galling. What kind of response was that from our president to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s forest-cleansing order? Our president wants his people to continue inhabiting forest reserves. What kind of presidency wants its people to be forest dwellers in the 21st century? There is a way in which our life choices define us. The people we defend or befriend show the world who we really are. A big man once lamented that everyone in his employment was an idiot. Then he was asked: “who hired all the idiots?” It could only take an idiot to assemble an all-idiot company. Thomas Erikson’s 2014 bestseller, ‘Surrounded by Idiots,’ is an account of that encounter. It is the same with a leadership that shelters bandits. When a leader makes excuses for bandits, murderers and kidnappers, and makes in-your-face pushback on their behalf, he is defining himself for history’s acknowledgment.

Not everyone here is stupid. We see the distinction in the engagements people make on these issues. The National President of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Muhammadu Kirowa, said something profound last month. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of North Western states executive of MACBAN in Dutse, Jigawa State, he said Fulani leaders were responsible for the insecurity in their domain. He accused them of allowing Fulani youths to go out of control. Kirowa challenged Fulani leaders and other Fulani societies to either unite and provide their children with good home training and education or they would continue to stain the name of the tribe. He said: “Before any other person gets kidnapped, about 20 or more Fulani people must have suffered the same fate with payment of ransoms… We have to tell ourselves the truth that we have failed in our responsibility of giving our children the right training and good upbringing that ought to have shaped them into a better people. We cannot continue to wallow in denial when it is a fact that majority of criminals arrested across the country are from within us, our kith and kin who have gone into this circle because of our sheer negligence.”

What does the ACF think about that position of the leader of its Miyetti Allah? Did Buhari’s presidency read that before it took on governors protecting their people against his people? There is a reason why forest reserves are called ‘reserves.’ They are not for human habitation. Any human being who chooses to co-exist in forest reserves with wild animals is a beast. He cannot be part of the human race for a presidency to protect and defend with our common wealth. There is also the news report of soldiers escorting herdsmen to flog villagers in a part of Ogun State. The report has not been denied by those who deny everything, including truths they don’t like.

The calmness with which Fulani bandits operate in Yoruba forests you find only with people who have government behind them. We call their menace agbara ojo which sees nothing wrong in washing away good homes. We also say sensible home owners must have counter-measures against stormwaters. Only those who know the havoc which flood does to homes will appreciate the current push-back against murderous Fulani herdsmen in Yorubaland.

The options are getting narrowed for all of us. We need peace but there won’t be peace until troublemakers stop hatching disorder. There can’t be peace when kidnapping and banditry are some people’s exports to other lands. The horizon is pitch dark. The bandits are far gone in criminality. I am not even sure they would accept CBN or NNPC jobs in place of the ransoms they harvest daily from the rich and the poor. Kidnapping is the new northern Nigeria resource pyramid. Bandits of the north and their activities have stained the corporate ethnic identity of the Fulani. Threats of use of state power against Fulani victims can only make the stench stronger. Four suspects from Sokoto were arrested in Ekiti on Friday. They were just coming to start their own kidnap cell and they came with ropes to tie their would-be victims. Their elite should look beyond President Buhari and his awesome powers and do something, at least to save their collective face.

How about Fulani leaders convoking an all-Fulani conference for a thorough self-examination and possible ethnic rebirth? They need it urgently. Or maybe, we should just heed their call and let them go their way and we also rebuild our lives in peace. The way things are going, a billion presidents of Nigeria won’t be able to help Fulani herdsmen in the hands of their victims. The fight-back is what you are seeing in Ondo and Oyo States….and in all other places.

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