Some mischievous individuals think that the olive branch overtures of the Fulani political elite on the herdsmen and farmers’ clashes is a red herring, an offering to halt the ire of the South-West against the renegade herdsmen who some suggest are the advance party for a future Fulani attack. This shouldn’t be true.
But what do you make of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore promising to retaliate attacks on herders, whereas Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Idris Abubakar and Sule Mohammed, Seriki Fulani of Igbo Ora and Eruwa, respectively, are apologising on behalf of the herders who violate other Nigerians?
Some also say the overture is just a ruse to access land for RUGA, grazing reserves and territory in the South for political and economic purposes. One doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Google says a red herring is “a clue or piece of information which is, or intended to be, misleading or distracting” from a hidden objective, the stuff that war strategies are made off.
This is the way William Shakespeare, the bard of Stratford-on-Avon, puts it in the mouth of King Duncan, a character in “Macbeth,” his eponymous tragedy, “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction on the face.”
Upon checking “Taqiyya,” as suggested by a friend, the revelation, from Historian Stefan Wimmer, is that Taqiyya is a defence mechanism to save one’s life when it is in great danger. Jonathan O’Donnell says it allows a Muslim to conceal his faith if he is under threat of violence. But it’s now been appropriated into political lore to mean deceit and duplicity.
Other Nigerians who are scared of the onslaught of herders allude to the story of the Fulani who used Islamic proselytising to supplant Hausa kings, and also came as helpers, to replace Yoruba Are-Ọna-Kakanfo Afonja in Ilorin.
Some others add that the goodwill visit of Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, medical doctor, retired army captain and respected cleric, into the enclaves of bandits in the forests of Zamfara State was to show that the North has men ready, and armed to the teeth, in case the South wants war.
When asked why such an innocent gesture should be interpreted as an attempt at a show of force, somebody referred to the statement credited to the Bauchi State Governor Bala Muhammed, a man who appears to be spoiling for war.
Muhammed alleged, “The (South)West doesn’t want to accommodate other tribes,” to lawful demands that herdsmen should not encroach unto other people’s farms, destroy their crops, maim, rape, kidnap or kill them.
Muhammed threw what some consider as his own mud against a tribe that he did not mention: “If cybercrime is being practised mostly by one tribe, you don’t criminalise the whole tribe because of this.”
But a certain Prof Umar Labdo, identified as National Secretary of Fulani Development Association, was more forthcoming by mentioning names of tribes and the crimes that he associates with them.
“There are criminals in all tribes. Yahoo boys are mainly Yoruba, drug pushers are mainly Igbo. Now, if for the sake of argument, banditry or kidnapping is found mainly among the Fulani, that doesn’t mean that all Fulani are criminals.”
No sensible person can fault or disagree with his submission that, “Stereotyping all Fulani is very wrong.” The only problem is that he and Muhammed appear to be deliberately skewing the narrative away from the point at issue.
Both of them should join Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar of Sokoto, and Prof Usman Yusuf, Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme, who admitted that there are bad boys among the herdsmen, and promised to do something about it.
Yusuf said that the Fulani elite are embarrassed that Fulani herdsmen are killing other Nigerians. That is a man with a heart and conscience. Many more like him need to speak out, just as Southern leaders should utter more conciliatory rhetoric.
The Fulani elite like Muhammed, who once insinuated that expatriate Fulani must have access to the resources of Nigeria because his mother is Fulani from The Cameroons, and Labdo, should not be pulling down the house that Sultan Abubakar and Yusuf are trying to build.
Labdo deserves some commendation, though. While suggesting that fishing out the bad boys is the job of the police, he revealed, “We tried to counsel our people (presumably Fulani) or advise them. We interact, enlighten them and make them realise that times have changed and they should come out of the bush and engage in ranching.”
The Northern Governors’ Forum has also called for an end to open grazing and violation of other people’s farmlands. They “resolved to aggressively sensitise herdsmen to the need to adopt new methods of herding or ranching or other acceptable methods (of cattle rearing).”
The Nigerian Governors’ Forum also reached a consensus that there is a need to transition cattle rearing into “modern system of animal husbanding that will replace open, night and underage grazing in the country.”
They canvas the National Livestock Transformation Plan, which Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had said would be voluntary and would not be imposed on any state government or people.
The NLTP is a ranching model to produce fodder to support livestock; formation of livestock farmers into clusters of viable ranching herds; creation of cooperatives for the purpose of gaining access to financing, water, support services and other infrastructure; and development of other on-site services like abattoirs.
The idea is to discourage open grazing, encourage ranching and its advantages, package and sell dressed beef as much as possible. After this, any herdsman walking from the North to Southern Nigeria is merely taking a rather long stroll.
But if Bala Muhammed indeed said that herdsmen “have no option than to carry AK47 (rifles) because the society and government are not protecting them,” others may misread this to mean that they too could resort to self-defence, even though he seems to want to reverse himself now.
Maybe somebody should remind the governor that Section 60(a) of Nigerian Penal Code, applicable in Northern Nigeria, says, “Every person has a right to defend his own body, and the body of any other person, against any offence affecting the human body.”
Section 59 declares, “Nothing is all offence which is done in the lawful exercise of private defence,” as Section 32(3) of the Criminal Code, applicable in Southern Nigeria, provides that a person is not criminally liable when he takes reasonable and necessary action to resist actual and unlawful violence threatened to him or another person in his presence.
Armed invasion of a person’s privacy and causing bodily harm or death is enough grounds for self-defence. But this could be extremely dangerous for everyone, as the country may degenerate into the situation in Somalia and Libya where territories are held and ruled by warlords.
If the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), would like to persuade other Nigerians that the overtures of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Sultan Abubakar, Prof Yusuf and other well-meaning Fulani leaders are no red herrings, he needs to speak up. But not through aides or proxy spokespersons.
Being Fulani and President behoves some moral and political responsibilities on him. When the Oodua People’s Congress of the South-West was getting out of hand, General, sorry, President Olusegun Obasanjo reined them in hard.
– Twitter @lekansote1
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