At the risk of being charged for excessive hyperbolism, “AK-47,” “cows” and the word, “Fulani,” are the most notorious clichés on parade in Nigeria today. And, come to think of it, they are woven together in narratives of the affliction that threaten to tear Nigeria asunder. As if by coincidence, the three also bear very similar traits that unite them. While the Fulani herdsman is one of the most ubiquitous tribes in Africa, encircling the region like a contagious pestilence and sowing tears and sorrows in their trails, the cow is a common denominator on every dining table on the continent.
The AK-47, also referred to as Kalashnikov Model 1947, is a Soviet assault rifle rated to be the most pervasive and widely used shoulder weapon in the globe. The word “AK,” the gun’s initials, is a representation of the name Avtomat Kalashnikova, a Russian byword for “automatic Kalashnikov,” and a memorialisation of Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, the man who designed the gun. Kalashnikov designed the assault rifle in 1947. The rifle looks very inviting while lying undisturbed, with its brown wooden butt and nose like a hippopotamus.
The Fulani herdsman too has an ambiguous persona, with a tender, inviting, ripe pumpkin-like skin and friendly mien. Shunned of histrionics and profiling, however, make no mistake about their seeming friendliness: the AK-47, Fulani herdsman and the cow are a deadly trio. While the cow is deadly and destructive with its hooves, orange spurts from the mouth of a Kalashnikov assault rifle can assault a life and bring it quickly to the presence of its creator. The Fulani herdsman, especially the variant in the last decade, can also unconscionably ruin a whole village, especially if his cow gets killed.
Since the Soviet military officially adopted it into its weaponry in 1949, the AK-47 has manifested its simplicity to operate, ruggedness in the midst of use and reliability to manipulate, even under pressure. However, like the cow and the Fulani herdsman, even the Soviet military couldn’t stand the AK-47’s lack of scientific accuracy
These three indices are the most constant bywords in Nigeria’s troublous narratives today. Unless Nigeria successfully interrogates the place of the three, it may be difficult for her to make any headway. Apart from these, one other unifying characteristic of the AK-47, the Fulani herdsman and the cow is that none of them considers any land, any man or any object sacred: Once the cow, Kalashnikov and Fulani are on their devious assignment, they can penetrate the most inviolate territory. Again, wherever the troika decides to unleash their anger, logic is always absent.
Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, demonstrated this last week and even more. At the closing ceremony of the 2021 Press Week of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Bauchi State Council’s Correspondents’ Chapel, Mohammed literally went back to that same self-serving argument that Fulani, cows and AK-47 have a right to any part of Nigeria, no matter the villainy they demonstrate to their hosts. You can glean from his long sermon a feeling of Fulani conquest and superintendence over the rest of Nigeria, a belief that other tribes are captives of his ethnic group. His prong for exhibiting all these was what he perceived as some of his governor colleagues’ inability to accommodate Fulani herdsmen who the former have ample evidence to confirm are unleashing violence on their constituents. Remove the siren, the expensive babanriga and the environment where Mohammed made the statement, you would think a Miyetti Allah representative was spewing their regular territorial bunkum.
Yes, regular. Some Miyetti Allah cattle officials have spoken in the same vein before now. They all took their inspiration from Sokoto Caliphate founder, Fulani warlord and religious reformer, Usman Dan Fodio, who was quoted to have said that he would not stop expanding the Caliphate’s territory until he dipped the Koran into the sea. Initially sounding like a tale from the moonlight, but when you hear otherwise highly placed individuals like Mohammed espousing such territorial irritancy with amazing candour, then you begin to wonder. All forests belong to Nigeria and Fulani herdsmen can ply their trade everywhere. Fine. The Nigerian Constitution guarantees all Nigerians the right to live in any part of Nigeria, so far it is their place of choice. Great.
“We have so many Tiv people working and farming in Alkaleri, farming in Tafawa Balewa, farming in Bogoro Local Government areas of Bauchi, has anyone asked them to go? We have not, because it is their constitutional right to be there. We have Yoruba people in Bauchi for over 150 years, even before the birth of Nigeria. Nobody has told them to go, some of them have risen to become permanent secretaries in Bauchi, Gombe, and Borno. Nobody owns any forests; the forests are owned by Nigeria,” he said.
The above was the long-winding defence of the Fulani by Governor Mohammed, which can be broken into the conversation in this piece, to wit the troika of AK-47, cow and Fulani. One wonders what Mohammed’s Fulani’s kin have done to warrant this chest-thumping that other tribes haven’t done in amazing proportion. Go to Afenai Market or even the Ogbete Market in Enugu and you will wonder whether you were in Ilela in Sokoto State, with the heavy presence of Hausa and Fulani therein. They have been there for almost a century. In fact, as far back as 1952, Mallam Umaru Altine became the First Mayor of Enugu Municipal Council and administered it till 1958. Altine, a cattle dealer who hailed from the Sokoto province, had sojourned to the Coal City and got married to an Igbo named Esther. He later became youth president of the Enugu branch of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC).
Go to Kishi in Oyo State and you will momentarily think you had crossed the southern border into the north. About half of the blood of the people in the latter place is said to contain Fulanis’ due to intermarriage. Some of them get elected councilors and even angle to head local councils. More fundamentally, if southerners living in those places were as violent as the Fulani living in the south, they ostensibly could never have risen that high in their places of domicile in the north. So what is the need for Governor Mohammed’s self aggrandisement?
To proceed from the elementary reasoning level that Governor Mohammed inhabited and get to the level of articulating why people who had lived together for almost a century, now seek to live apart, is where the intellectual competence of anyone canvassing Fulani spatial hegemony seems to meet its waterloo. What went wrong is, first, Fulani settlers in those lands became hostile to the lands, raping, stealing, killing and kidnapping their hosts. So, the land, which the Yoruba venerate as a spiritual object – the ileogereafikuyeri – rebelled against them.
Again, with the advent of Muhammadu Buhari and his ultra-underscore of Fulani ascendancy, foreign Fulani herders, many of whom obviously had fraternal relationship with notorious terrorist groups in the world, are infiltrating the Nigerian borders and Buhari is too ethnic-blind to stop them. For as long as Nigerian Fulani justify the infiltration of Nigeria’s borders by foreign herdsmen, in the name of Fulani nationalism, they and their kin in Nigeria who we had been living with in peace for about a century now, without any bother, would continue to have criminal blankets spread over them, without any demarcation.
Many submissions on Fulani pastoralists’ residency in southern forests, especially the reserves, have been made. They perfectly responded to Mohammed-type puerile constitutional backing and latitude to Fulani inhabiting the forests. Thus, responding to him would be worthless. One of such is: how can a right-thinking person, in a 21st century Nigeria, justify human habitation of the forest? Those who reserved the forest did so for its habitation by flora and fauna, not human beings. Even if Fulani forefathers had been making forests their habitation, there is the need for a u-turn by their current progeny.
Governor Mohammed’s justification of the ownership of AK-47 by Fulani pastoralists is another self-serving slant of an extremely self-centered Fulani irredentist. If he glibly mouths constitutional explanation for Fulani’s ubiquitous rove across Nigeria, he should also address the constitutionality of these pastoralists owning AK-47. Where and from whom did herders get licensed to possess guns? If anyone who roves the bush could own an AK-47 because of dangers of the forest, farmers and chicken farmers should also be licensed to do same as they are equally exposed to dangers of foxes and reptiles. Mohammed should explain the transmutation of Fulani herders of yore, who only went about with knives to confront their attackers, into wild terrorists who wield deadly AK-47 as weapon.
Why is it that when it comes to AK-47, cow and Fulani, Fulani elite think like people who recently leased out their faculty? It was the same poisoned thinking that oozed out of renowned Islamic scholar, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi a few weeks ago. After meeting AK-47-wielding bandits inside the forests of Shinkafi and Gummi council of Zamfara State, Gumi asked for federal amnesty for these criminals. “You all have a legitimate concern and grievances and I believe that since the Niger Delta armed militants were integrated by the Federal Government and are even in the business of pipelines protection, the Federal Government should immediately look into how something like that will be done to the Fulani to provide them with reasonable means of livelihood, including jobs, working capitals, entrepreneurship training, building clinic and schooling,” he said.
If that isn’t the height of criminal complicity and opaque thinking, I cannot find a substitute. Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on a TVC programme last week, even confirmed that Gumi had the consent of the Federal Government to go inside the forests to talk to those bandits. He further said that the doggerel-spitting Sheikh was acting as a bridge between government and the bandits. How come Gumi didn’t go to Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun to talk to Fulani terrorising the Yoruba in those enclaves if indeed peace was what he desired?
President Umaru Yar’Adua, who gave amnesty to Niger Delta militants during his tenure, didn’t do that because he loved the Niger Delta. He did it because militants at that time had constituted an economic sabotage to Nigeria. Without that armistice ensured by Yar’Adua, Nigeria would probably vanish from the economic world. On the reverse, these terror-baking pastoralists are social leeches whose nuisances are basically their irritancy. Unlike the militants whose umbilical cords are tied to the oil from their land, the oil which has served as water trough which wets northern arid lands, the bandits are criminals, plain and simple. So why does any reasonable government need to court, rather than execute, them for their spate of murders?
The audacity of Fulani herders and their violence are on the ascendancy because the Buhari government looks the other way while their impunity lasts. They don’t have a monopoly of killing and violence but the feeling that they have government’s backing makes their victims look like cowards. It is that audacity that explains Fulani and their cows – probably with an AK-47 abetting them – infiltrating Wole Soyinka’s own forest of a thousand daemons territory in Abeokuta last week.
The truth that Bala Mohammed and the Fulani elite may not want to listen to is that, southerners who have lived for almost a century with their well-behaved Fulani neighbours, could not have turned against them, all of a sudden, if they had not chosen to be social leeches, burdens and threats to their existence. In case it is bitter for them to swallow, let me embitter their spleen once again: Nigerians will continue to resist this mentality that excuses, legitimises and justifies the tyranny of the cow, AK-47 and Fulani terrorists.
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