About two weeks ago, The PUNCH published the interview of the National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore herdsmen group, Mr. Saleh Alhassan. One sentence Alhassan made was instructive. He said: “Buhari has not done anything for us other than creating enemies for us.”
On the surface, the President of Nigeria, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is seen as the Nigerian leader that has favoured the Fulani the most. But below the surface, Buhari has worked against the interest and future of the Fulani more than any president has done. He has created more enemies for them and created a bad name for them than any leader has ever done. Any Fulani who sees beyond the surface or present should be worried about the problem Buhari has created for the Fulani.
Before 2015, most Nigerians did not know who was a Fulani or not in the northern part of Nigeria. As far as many Nigerians, especially in the South, were concerned, every person in the North was a Hausa. There is no difference between the name a Hausa or Kanuri bears and that of a Fulani. Their common language is the same: Hausa. The religion of the majority of them is Islam. Their attire at public functions is the same.
Most Nigerians did not know or bother to know that Alhaji Shehu Shagari, president of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983, was a Fulani. What was clear to many people was that he was from the North, precisely Sokoto State. The same thing applied to Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua who was president of Nigeria from 2007 to 2010. Interestingly, many Nigerians did not know that when Buhari ruled Nigeria from 1984 to 1985 as a military man, that he was a Fulani. It was when he returned as a civilian leader in 2015 that he was retroactively linked to the Fulani ethnic group.
Since Buhari became president in 2015, the Fulani have been singled out of the dozens of ethnic groups in the North and have been unfortunately tarred with the same brush. The reason for this is that since Buhari became president, he has created the impression to Nigerians that the Fulani are above the law. If Buhari had favoured the Fulani via appointments and projects alone, most Nigerians would not have bothered. However, he has taken an undue interest in the affairs of cattle herders and given them protection even when they are alleged to be committing crimes. Even in cases where herdsmen of Fulani extraction openly admitted to being behind the attacks on some communities, which resulted in deaths, nothing was done to such people.
This has led many prominent Nigerians to engage in lamentation over the attacks from herdsmen. Former chief of army staff and minister of defence, General Theophilus Danjuma, even added in 2018 that the herdsmen were aided by security men to attack communities.
Since 2018, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has been calling for the arrest of the National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Abdullahi Bodejo, over his utterances, without any result. Two weeks ago, Nathaniel Ikyur, principal special assistant on media to Benue State Governor, spoke on the same issue when he noted as follows:
“Looking back, we have had former Nigerian Presidents of Fulani extraction like the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Umaru Yar’Adua. Yet, we didn’t see this impunity. We didn’t come in contact with a murderous gang of cattle rearers who invaded communities, killed people in their sleep and destroyed farmlands as we are currently experiencing under President Buhari. We didn’t see where a Fulani organisation dared a community, issued and carried out their threats, with no one questioning them. Could Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore be emboldened because of the body language of Mr. President?”
Ikyur ended his press statement by reminding Nigerians as follows:
“It has become glaring that when we don’t sanction those who violate the sanctity of lives, but are allowed to walk freely, we are only encouraging anarchy. Miyetti Allah has been too brazen in this. They speak out as if they are authorities unto themselves. It is high time the likes of Badejo and his co-conspirators are (sic) made to pay for the crimes they aid and abet. Or do we have two sets of citizenship in Nigeria? Except we’re being told that some individuals are greater than the law.”
Because of Nigerians’ strong attachment to their ethnic groups to the detriment of the country, there is usually a feeling of arrogance from the ethnic group of whoever becomes Nigeria’s president. It happened in 1999 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became president. Even though the high majority of the people from the South-West did not vote for him, when there was a rumour that he had died before he was due to be sworn in as president, riots broke out in some cities of the South-West, which proved that the people would not accept any harm befalling their son.
In addition, when Obasanjo eventually became president, the Odua Peoples’ Congress, led by Dr Frederick Faseun, which later gave rise to a faction led by Chief Gani Adams, became violent. They caused several ethnic clashes in which many lives were lost. They even attacked police stations and killed policemen. Luckily, Obasanjo acted like a statesman (rather than a Yoruba nationalist) by ordering a clampdown on the OPC and the arrest of its leaders. The arrogance of the OPC as well as its recourse to impunity was curbed.
At the same time, Obasanjo clamped down on the Niger Delta militants who were sabotaging crude oil production. He also clamped down on the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra led by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike. Because Obasanjo treated all the groups equally, he was seen as doing what a leader should do.
When Goodluck Jonathan became president in 2010, he also did not humour the Niger Delta militant group known as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, led by Henry Okah, which refused to drop its arms and accept the amnesty offered them. Okah was subsequently arrested in South Africa, detained and tried and jailed.
In the case of Buhari, he would swiftly descend hard on the flag-waving self-determination agitators, Indigenous People of Biafra; and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (Shiites), which is different from his own version of Islam, etc. But he never shows any anger over whatever Fulani cattle breeders do or say. Even when these groups publicly claim responsibility for the killing of some people as a reprisal for whatever was done to them or their cows in the past, Buhari just keeps quiet, or even tells the affected community to learn to tolerate their neighbours.
The effect of the accumulated action of Buhari is that it has created a negative image for the Fulani. The Fulani herders that used to be seen as peaceful and of no threat have got the image of a people to be feared and never trusted around. The impact is that every Fulani is unfairly stereotyped.
Buhari may think he is doing his Fulani kith and kin a huge favour, but he has inadvertently created a big problem for them. A far-sighted leader could have given his people some advantage in a subtle way, which would not raise eyebrows. But the brazen way the President has done his in the last six years has become an albatross for his Fulani people in the long run.
– Twitter @BrandAzuka
This article was first published by The Punch