Friday, 24 January 2014

The Nomadic Fulani and the Rest of Us (3)



The Nomadic Fulani and the Rest of Us (3)
Last week I tried to take a sociological peep into the reality of the pastoralist, drawing from experiences from far away climes and epochs and a pattern is clear. For anyone interested in testing this analogy, a further study into closer pastoralist tribes in central Africa, East and Southern Africa should be more revealing.
This week, the attempt is to see if the Fulani are also victims, of sorts, of their circumstances. Some eight or so years ago, I was at a certain seminar and during one of the breaks we got chatting with some fellow participants, amongst whom was this Fulani gentleman from Sokoto – a jolly good fellow. We talked about the many clashes, including the many acts of sheer roguery, involving the Fulani. My friend from Sokoto told of a certain young Fulani man caught in one of such acts of banditry and, when asked why he was involved, he replied, “to an dafa mu da magani, kuma yanzu babu shanu, ga kuma jini na tausa… yo to me za mu yi?” Roughly translated, the young man said what do you expect of us when we have been so fortified with charms to protect ourselves and our cattle in the bush and now the cattle are no longer there and we are still energetic? Now if this is true, then it is very telling. Remember also that, for a very long period of time from the 1990s, northern Nigeria was plagued with vicious armed robbery on our highways: the Kaduna-Lagos road along the Birnin Gwari-Tegena axis, the North-Eastern highways amongst others. People who have survived such attacks would always tell you that the perpetrators were Fulani or Chadians – still Fulani. One begins to wonder if these bandits are a collect of the many charm-fortified young men who have lost their cattle and have got lots of energy to expend. While this might seem a bit generalist, it is worth interrogating: where did the cattle go to?
Traces of this pattern began manifesting in the late eighties into the early nineties. Not much attention was paid it. Around the Birnin Gwari area, time came when the settled locals began to find ways to protect themselves from Fulani onslaughts which had begun to threaten their existence in no small measure. They came up with community vigilante groups as a response and because these groups were not trained, their interventions were wanton and innocent other Fulani were affected which has led to reprisals and counter reprisals, thus exacerbating the situation. It is noteworthy that the Birnin Gwari axis is on a cattle belt that extends northward to Zamfara and beyond, which is also facing the same intractability. Infact apart from outlawing grazing at night presently, the governor of Zamfara State has been making a strident case to be allowed to arm local vigilante; thus, state police of sorts.
Of course there are natural explanations to what might have happened to the Fulani cattle – and mind you when talking about them, one must accept the reality that one cannot restrict one’s considerations only to Nigeria’s Fulani but those of the entire West African sub-region as they are frontier-blind. The Sahara desert is said to be advancing southward at the rate of 900 meters annually. It has been made even worse by the aggravating realities of climate change. Therefore even before we saw the desert within our frontier, many pastoralists were already losing their cattle to the trend, hence left without livelihood. These pastoralists have had to move southward with all their survival skills but without their cattle and any skill in crop farming to help them make a possible switch. Of course there will also be those who must have lost their cattle to some disease plague or the other; or due to their very own irresponsibility. They will naturally constitute a threat to the communities they come in contact with.
Some quarters have found these realities of the Fulani very profitable in many strange ways that many may not ordinarily imagine. There is the need for some persons in these quarters to remain politically relevant and they would stop at nothing. Some of these persons are infact kinsmen of the Fulani, in other words, they are Fulani: the more the situation festers, the more their relevance, hence they surreptitiously pitch their unsuspecting kinsmen against others only for personal gains to the detriment of society at large. Even in government, this anomie serves the personal or group interests a great many whose duty it is to forestall the trend and, therefore, they would look the other way while it festers.
If ordinary citizens pay heed to the dynamics of this problem by interrogating more closely, they would realize that instead of always going on rampage, they can do a lot to be part of, and also compelling duty bearers to do their bit in, getting rid of this problem.

 

Published on BLUEPRINT Newspaper, Thursday Jan 23, 2014

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