In recent times, Fulani herdsmen have been reported to ravage communities, raping, maiming and killing ‘innocent’ villagers across the country.
Different interest groups have advanced diverse reasons, for which these attacks are orchestrated unabated.
Not a few Southerners are of the opinion that these spate of attacks form a phase in the deliberate ploy to islamise Nigeria by the Northern oligarchy.
If this theory be true, only Christians ought to be the subject of attack of these maruders, while those that profess Islam be spared.
But this is seldom the case, as these aggressors do not enquire of faith before launching their attacks!
Indeed, most communities down south are inhabited by Christians, yet not exclusively so.
What then is the motive behind the wanton killings by these herdsmen, a malaise in the realm of genocide?
The grassland in the nothern region withers, no thanks to climate change, thus the migration southwards. But then, is there more to these spate of attacks?
The Chinua Achebe Centre for Leadership and Development recently conducted a detailed research into the motives of these attacks, with findings that turned out to be most startling!
Permit me to reproduce herein, core revelations thereof as posited by the Centre:
1. The Fulani herdsmen terrorists are Fulanis but mostly non-Nigerians: This may come as a surprise to most of us. About ten percent of the terrorists are Nigerians and they live within the Hausa Fulani communities in Ama-Hausa and Garki’s in the South East and South-south regions.
2. The Fulani Herdsmen terrorists do not own cattle: This is another revelation that may come as a surprise to many. Fulani herdsmen killers’ major job description is just to kill. They do not own any cattle. Most of them are employed by the cattle owners as “security men” whose job is strictly to protect the cattle. They do not however follow the cattle around, but move in separate vehicles along a defined route within the states where cattle are being reared.
3. The Ama-Hausas and Garkis harbor 80% of the Fulani herdsmen killers. This is a very important revelation. The Garkis are mostly Hausas and other minorities from the north, but within them, the Fulani herdsmen killers reside. The northerners were able to show the researchers these Fulani herdsmen “security personnels” and they were dressed differently from the normal Northern Nigerians within these settlements. They were young and less religious, while most of them use drugs, and consume alcohol. A majority of these herdsmen terrorists are migrants from Chad, Niger, and other Fulani enclaves outside the Nigerian state. A small percentage of these Fulani youths are Nigerians born in the states where they reside. They are the ones vested with the responsibility of leading these Fulanis on their regular rampage; serving as compasses to the blood-hungry terrorists.
4. The Fulani herdsmen that accompany cattle from the North to the South per season do not own cattle. This is another surprise coming out from the investigation. The cattle are owned by more prominent Fulani leaders in the country. Most Nigerian Fulanis are no longer migratory herdsmen, but are either Emirs, Sultans, heads of parastatals, oil barons, Imams, Christian Pastors, Governors, Federal Reps, and Senators. However, they still maintain their cultural ownership of cattle. These wealthy Nigerians increase their wealth astronomically through cattle rearing by using their not well off brothers from outside Nigeria to rear these cattle.
Instead of investing in ranches and buying of grasses from the South, they chose the cheaper alternative of having their kinsmen, imported from outside the country, take these cattle from the north to south seasonally; using the entire Nigerian space as their “grass kingdom”. These cattle, in turn, destroy farms in their path, rendering farmers economically bankrupt to further enrich the wealthy Fulani “remote herders”.
There are about 5 million Fulani people in Nigeria making them one of the smallest ethnic group in the country.
Out of the 5 million Fulani people, only about 3 million of them are Nigerians. The remaining 2 million come from outside the country and are first generation immigrants.
About 60 percent of the Fulanis in Nigeria are governors, Pastors, Imams, Emirs, Sultan, House of Rep members, Importers, Exporters, Ministers, Oil well owners, lecturers, Vice Chancellors, Ministers, and Senators etc. In a nutshell, the Fulani control all sectors of the northern economy. These rich Fulanis own all the cattle being reared in Nigeria.
The remaining 40 percent of Fulanis come from outside the country. These are the poor and peasant Fulanis. These immigrant Fulani’s are mostly in charge of the cattle owned by the Bourgeois Fulani. Because the Fulani’s have the highest income per capita in the Nigerian state (Fulani’s who are Nigerians), they constantly need to import their poor brothers and sisters from outside the country to increase their population (the Fulanis always either marry into rich families or they would marry only Fulani to maintain their pure race) and to help with menial jobs.
In Garki and Ama-Hausa settlements all over the country, there exist a few Nigerian Fulanis (some are born in these states) who coordinate the cattle business. These Fulanis either help manage family cattle or are just contracted middlemen in charge of the business on behalf of various millionaire cattle owners. They themselves are also millionaires. Under these middlemen are about a group of 20 to 40 Fulani boys within the ages of 20 and 35. These are the unofficial Fulani herdsmen security team whose job is to protect the Fulani herdsmen cattle.
Lastly, there is a group of Fulani herdsmen who rear the cattle from the north to the south. These are at the bottom of the Fulani Herdsmen ladder. Some of them do not even know how to speak English and are so poor that they are paid just a little amount of money for their job. These herdsmen do not carry guns. They only carry arrows and machetes to help them navigate the bushes on their way down to the South.
6. Fulani Herdsmen Attack.
The research team learnt from the surrounding communities and from some of the Hausa elders about what constitutes a Fulani herdsmen attack. According to information received by the researchers, when there is a disagreement between host communities, or between herdsmen and farmers, the Fulani herdsmen who accompany the cattle will locate the nearest Fulani settlement and if there is none, they will locate the nearest Garki or Ama Hausa. When they arrive, they will narrate their story. The Fulani (Nigerian middlemen) cattle managers will notify their top Fulani Herdsmen which in this case, include governors (like El-Rufai) and other top Fulani Bourgeois who own the cattle. A decision will be made about whether there should be an attack or not on the said village or host community. If an attack is sanctioned, then modalities will be mapped out and a date will be chosen for the attack.
Most times, Fulani herdsmen in the military and police are notified and everyone sends a representative. Neighboring settlements sends out representatives and arms cache are opened and arms are distributed to the participants. The major participants are those Fulanis ranged between age 20 to 40 who reside in the Garkis and Ama Hausas. These are the Fulani warriors whose job is to kill.
During an attack, every Fulani person in the area knows there will be an attack and all will contribute to make sure it goes on successfully. Fulanis in the higher levels of the military will ensure all commands under them stand down, and the top Fulani police officers will do the same. The road is then clear for the Fulani herdsmen to carry their attacks.
Many of those who interacted with the research team suggested solutions that are very interesting. Most of the northern Hausas and the local communities suggested a ban on grazing in the affected states. A total ban would be the only way to solve this problem. Some argued that with the Fulani’s nature of encroaching on other people’s land and territories, any attempt to give them land would aggravate the problem and not solve it.
Most villagers from Abia State suggested that these cattle be penned in the north while government releases money for people in the South to cut grasses, process the grass, and send to the north. This is the practice all over the world. They indicated that any attempt to take their lands and give to the Fulani would definitely result in a civil war.
The solution is very simple; ban grazing, establish ranches for the cattle in the north, pay the southerners to harvest grass and send to the north. With this, everyone would be pleased with the outcome. This solution is expected to generate 1 million jobs in the South and about 500,000 jobs in the North. Also Fulani herdsmen terror will be totally eliminated.
Next time when we talk about a herdsmen attack, we must understand that the attack was not carried out by the herdsmen you see escorting cattle on the roads and bushes. These attacks are well coordinated and sometimes involves the approval of senators and influential men in Abuja. Even our president Mohammed Buhari has a herd of cattle and hence is a Fulani herdsman, corroborating the information we received from respondents on ground. Fulani herdsmen attacks involves all Fulani ethnic members in Nigeria. Most times, these attacks happen only because “respectable men” sanction them.
From the above submision, one can conclude that the several attacks on communities by Fulani herdsmen is not primarily pursuant to a religious agenda, but a carefully concealed blind by a Northern oligarchy to sustain their zoological empire at ‘minimal’ cost, at the expense of human lives.
The Christian/Muslim conspiracy theory is but a kite flown to distract us from whence the heat cometh and turn us sore, one against another, for whensoever the err is amended from atop, the society inhales the breath of peace!
Thomas-Wilson Ikubese is an Akure-based Medical Practitioner