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The mission of Fulani herdsmen




The dangerous activities of the Fulani herdsmen in different parts of the country have curiously become the third national security concerns in the country still smarting from the debilitating effects of insurgents in the Niger Delta and Boko Haram in the North East. This is worrisome. And the deadly business of the herdsmen has raised some questions about the real motive behind the strategic invasion. With aggrieved communities, especially in southern Nigeria now literally resisting the destructive invasion of their communities by the herders, tension has been mounting in many places. Ekiti State, for one, has just raised the alert level because of the threat by the herdsmen after enacting a law to control ranching in the state.

The protest, the other day, by residents of Agu Obodo in Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State against the arrival of over 200 Fulani herdsmen in the community underscores the heightened tension in most communities.

The panicky residents who were reportedly overwhelmed by the sudden arrival of five trucks fully loaded with the herders, their families and cows, urged the “strangers” to leave their community promptly on the ground that they could no longer go to their farms. This is a dangerous development.

Similarly, thousands of women from Ossissa in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State recently barricaded the community’s axis of the Ughelli-Asaba Expressway, protesting the invasion and destruction of their crops; incessant brutal attacks on their men and rape of women in their farms by the rampaging herdsmen.

There have been similar protests in many places in almost all the three geo-political zones in the South and the Middle Belt zone against the menace of Fulani herdsmen. Even in far away London, Nigerians reportedly protested the destructive activities of these dangerous cowmen. These incidents are only a tip of the iceberg.

But the most curious element in all these is that the authorities in Abuja have remained untouched by the activities of the Fulani invaders who now seem to be enjoying some measure of ‘immunity’. This is vexatious too.

There is a curious historical context to the current development. The Fulani came as invaders from North Africa and the Middle East. Although, the first recorded Fulani presence in Nigeria was in 1461, it was not until 1804 that the Fulani launched a pernicious jihad in Hausa land led by Usman dan Fodio.

The conquering danFodio completely overran Hausa land, established the Sokoto Caliphate and installed pockets of power with his children. The cattle grazing that was subsequently introduced to establish cattle rearing was reportedly used to annex lands where the Islamic religion was planted.

Thus, Islam was propagated by the Fulani using cattle grazing as a ploy. So it has been with us since the beginning, though they the Islamic jihadists were stopped somewhere in the present Osun State. It appears that the jihadists are back using grazing reserves they ant everywhere as a decoy. The quest for grazing reserves by the herdsmen seems to be enjoying official endorsement in Abuja. This is worrisome.

At the moment, the launch pad is usually in the rural areas where unsuspecting natives are systematically overrun and their plots of land dispossessed.

Against this backdrop, several communities in southern Nigeria are apprehensive about the ruthless incursion of the herdsmen. This is what history has taught them. It is incomprehensible how anyone expects the entire country to have grazing reserves carved out for Fulani herdsmen.

What else is the motive behind this adventure if it is not to grab land and have strategic power, which is tantamount to ‘re-colonization’ of Nigeria by a section of its people?

The classical Fulani invaders came with the Koran and Islamized a large part of northern and western Nigeria. Today, Fulani herdsmen are farming with AK47 assault guns, killing and maiming innocent people while their cattle destroy farm crops. What are cattle herders supposed to be doing with AK47?

It is again incredible that the federal government headed by a Fulani is not responding adequately to the danger already in our midst. One cannot explain why not a single herdsman has been arrested or prosecuted despite the widespread destruction of lives and property in many communities.

The formation of Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) seems to be a deliberate attempt to have a formal platform to fight the cause of the herdsmen. The MACBAN, by its stance, has chosen a path that may breed irredentism from other ethnic groups. Recently, the group vehemently opposed a plan to register herdsmen in the South-West on the ground that it would “set a dangerous precedence to the peace in the country”. It was not clear how keeping a data base of herders could pose any danger.

Again, ever since the Ekiti State Government enacted a law to regulate cattle grazing in the state, MACBAN has challenged Governor Ayodele Fayose in no small way. The other day, the group said Fayose was playing with fire for enforcing the state’s anti-grazing law. This has pitched the group against the Afenifeere, the pan Yoruba socio-cultural organization.

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. And so, no ethnic or religious group should, in any way, attempt to lord it over others, let alone taking over the land belonging to another group. Needless to say that people will resist such an attempt so ruthlessly. This is why the federal government should not keep quite over such a burning issue of urgent national importance.

At this juncture it is pertinent to ask the Fulani what they want. It is not that anyone is fighting the Fulani but this question has become necessary as a step towards dealing with the problem.

This is no time for political correctness about this sensitive issue. Now, most people in the country believe that what we a dealing with is a subtle implementation of the Abuja Declaration of 1989 on the Islamization of Nigeria. The alleged plot includes the advent of the current Boko Haram insurgency and other forms of political manipulations by the Muslim leadership to weaken the base of Christianity in the country. This suspicion should be raised before it is too late.

That is why we have always believed that a restructured Nigeria would handle this problem better. The states and not just the federal government can handle this menace better. Ekiti state has demonstrated this through its legislation on grazing reserve. Unfortunately, it is not possible to foster unity in diversity.

It is unimaginable how cows are valued more than human beings that are being killed all over the place. A lot of human and material resources have been wasted. By bearing arms and killing people, the herdsmen are demonstrating that they have a hidden agenda.

Sadly enough, we are in a country where gun ownership is not controlled. Anyone can own a gun. There is easy access to arms and ammunitions, which now poses serious security threat.

It is imperative to understand the Fulani agenda in Nigeria. There is need for a national colloquium on this matter so that ask what other ethnic nationalitiestoo want. The level of discontent across sections of Nigeria is unnerving. Nigeria is being held down as a result of mass discontent. A perception that the Fulani have some exclusive right to graze anywhere is worrisome. And the Fulani leaders should note that.Each ethnic group is unique and has something to offer for national good.

In this article:
Fulani herdsmen
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  • Basil Ogbanufe

    1. “At this juncture it is pertinent to ask the Fulani what they want. It is not that anyone is fighting the Fulani but this question has become necessary as a step towards dealing with the problem.”

    2. “It is unimaginable how cows are valued more than human beings that are being killed all over the place. A lot of human and material resources have been wasted. By bearing arms and killing people, the herdsmen are demonstrating that they have a hidden agenda.”

    3. Which way Nigeria?

    • EyeServis

      Nigerians, especially those in the south and middle-belt who happen not to want islam, why are you allowing these people in your midst? They dont believe in live-and-let-live yet all you do is moan?

      How come it is only Fayose that has taken the bull by the horn and legislated? What are other states’ governors doing about it? Especially those south-east state governors whose states are predominantly christians, is it not within their respective mandates to protect their constituents? And why do the people keep voting for them if they wont even bother to legislate for the people’s interest?

  • EyeServis

    Guardian Editorial board, i can understand that you may not want to be seen inciting one ethnic group against another. But lets call a spade a spade – pikin wey say im mama no go sleep, im sef go sleep?

    Despite your obvious professional constraints and inherent duty of fairness to all, you should at least be seen to be warning these herdsmen from violence and attempts to islamise parts of Nigeria that do not two monkeys about the religion. It is clearly against the will of the people, please always say so in clear terms. Period!!

  • Toyin Adepoju

    Superb, but please correct the grammatical mistakes

  • walter enang


    This article was penned by Field Ruwe. He is a US-based Zambian media practitioner and author. He was, at the time of writing this, a PhD candidate, with a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism, and an M.A. in History. Whilst we blame the cucumber girl for her indiscretion, let us also take a critical look at ourselves and the roles we have, or may have not provided our people, particularly the youths, in our mass poverty-stricken land. This opinion may have been set in Zambia, but it applies to all of black Africa, including Nigeria and helps buttress my argument about our so-called leadership of ego-trippers, all of us, the so-called intelligentsia.

    Enjoy and digest:

    They call the Third World the lazy man’s purview; the sluggishly slothful and languorous prefecture. In this realm people are sleepy, dreamy, torpid, lethargic, and therefore indigent—totally penniless, needy, destitute, poverty-stricken, disfavored, and impoverished. In this demesne, as they call it, there are hardly any discoveries, inventions, and innovations. Africa is the trailblazer. Some still call it “the dark continent” for the light that flickers under the tunnel is not that of hope, but an approaching train. And because countless keep waiting in the way of the train, millions die and many more remain decapitated by the day.

    “It’s amazing how you all sit there and watch yourselves die,” the man next to me said. “Get up and do something about it.”

    Brawny, fully bald-headed, with intense, steely eyes, he was as cold as they come. When I first discovered I was going to spend my New Year’s Eve next to him on a non-stop JetBlue flight from Los Angeles to Boston I was angst-ridden. I associate marble-shaven Caucasians with iconoclastic skin-heads, most of who are racist.

    “My name is Walter,” he extended his hand as soon as I settled in my seat.

    I told him mine with a precautious smile.

    “Where are you from?” he asked.


    “Zambia!” he exclaimed, “Kaunda’s country.”

    “Yes,” I said, “Now Sata’s.”

    “But of course,” he responded. “You just elected King Cobra as your president.”

    My face lit up at the mention of Sata’s moniker. Walter smiled, and in those cold eyes I saw an amenable fellow, one of those American highbrows who shuttle between Africa and the U.S.

    “I spent three years in Zambia in the 1980s,” he continued. “I wined and dined with Luke Mwananshiku, Willa Mungomba, Dr. Siteke Mwale, and many other highly intelligent Zambians.” He lowered his voice. “I was part of the IMF group that came to rip you guys off.” He smirked. “Your government put me in a million dollar mansion overlooking a shanty called Kalingalinga. From my patio I saw it all—the rich and the poor, the ailing, the dead, and the healthy.”

    “Are you still with the IMF?” I asked.

    “I have since moved to yet another group with similar intentions. In the next few months my colleagues and I will be in Lusaka to hypnotize the Cobra. I work for the broker that has acquired a chunk of your debt. Your government owes not the World Bank, but us millions of dollars. We’ll be in Lusaka to offer your president a couple of millions and fly back with a check twenty times greater.”

    “No, you won’t,” I said. “King Cobra is incorruptible. He is …”

    He was laughing. “Says who? Give me an African president, just one, who has not fallen for the carrot and stick.”

    Quett Masire’s name popped up.

    “Oh, him, well, we never got to him because he turned down the IMF and the World Bank. It was perhaps the smartest thing for him to do.”

    At midnight we were airborne. The captain wished us a happy 2012 and urged us to watch the fireworks across Los Angeles.

    “Isn’t that beautiful,” Walter said looking down.

    From my middle seat, I took a glance and nodded admirably.

    “That’s white man’s country,” he said. “We came here on Mayflower and turned Indian land into a paradise and now the most powerful nation on earth. We discovered the bulb, and built this aircraft to fly us to pleasure resorts like Lake Zambia.”

    I grinned. “There is no Lake Zambia.”

    He curled his lips into a smug smile. “That’s what we call your country. You guys are as stagnant as the water in the lake. We come in with our large boats and fish your minerals and your wildlife and leave morsels—crumbs. That’s your staple food, crumbs. That corn-meal you eat, that’s crumbs, the small Tilapia fish you call Kapenta is crumbs. We the Bwanas (whites) take the cat fish. I am the Bwana and you are the Muntu. I get what I want and you get what you deserve, crumbs. That’s what lazy people get—Zambians, Africans, the entire Third World.”

    The smile vanished from my face.

    “I see you are getting pissed off,” Walter said and lowered his voice. “You are thinking this Bwana is a racist. That’s how most Zambians respond when I tell them the truth. They go ballistic. Okay. Let’s for a moment put our skin pigmentations, this black and white crap, aside. Tell me, my friend, what is the difference between you and me?”

    “There’s no difference.”

    “Absolutely none,” he exclaimed. “Scientists in the Human Genome Project have proved that. It took them thirteen years to determine the complete sequence of the three billion DNA subunits. After they were all done it was clear that 99.9% nucleotide bases were exactly the same in you and me. We are the same people. All white, Asian, Latino, and black people on this aircraft are the same.”

    I gladly nodded.

    “And yet I feel superior,” he smiled fatalistically. “Every white person on this plane feels superior to a black person. The white guy who picks up garbage, the homeless white trash on drugs, feels superior to you no matter his status or education. I can pick up a nincompoop from the New York streets, clean him up, and take him to Lusaka and you all be crowding around him chanting muzungu, muzungu and yet he’s a riffraff. Tell me why my angry friend.”

    For a moment I was wordless.

    “Please don’t blame it on slavery like the African Americans do or colonialism, or some psychological impact or some kind of stigmatization. And don’t give me the brainwash poppycock. Give me a better answer.”

    I was thinking.

    He continued. “Excuse what I am about to say. Please do not take offense.”

    I felt a slap of blood rush to my head and prepared for the worst.

    “You my friend flying with me and all your kind are lazy,” he said. “When you rest your head on the pillow you don’t dream big. You and other so-called African intellectuals are damn lazy, each one of you. It is you, and not those poor starving people, who is the reason Africa is in such a deplorable state.”

    “That’s not a nice thing to say,” I protested.

    He was implacable. “Oh yes it is and I will say it again, you are lazy. Poor and uneducated Africans are the most hardworking people on earth. I saw them in the Lusaka markets and on the street selling merchandise. I saw them in villages toiling away. I saw women on Kafue Road crushing stones for sell and I wept. I said to myself where are the Zambian intellectuals? Are the Zambian engineers so imperceptive they cannot invent a simple stone crusher, or a simple water filter to purify well water for those poor villagers? Are you telling me that after thirty-seven years of independence your university school of engineering has not produced a scientist or an engineer who can make simple small machines for mass use? What is the school there for?”

    I held my breath.

    “Do you know where I found your intellectuals? They were in bars quaffing. They were at the Lusaka Golf Club, Lusaka Central Club, Lusaka Playhouse, and Lusaka Flying Club. I saw with my own eyes a bunch of alcoholic graduates. Zambian intellectuals work from eight to five and spend the evening drinking. We don’t. We reserve the evening for brainstorming.”

    He looked me in the eye.

    “And you flying to Boston and all of you Zambians in the Diaspora are just as lazy and apathetic to your country. You don’t care about your country and yet your very own parents, brothers and sisters are in Mtendere, Chawama, and in villages, all of them living in squalor. Many have died or are dying of neglect by you. They are dying of AIDS because you cannot come up with your own cure. You are here calling yourselves graduates, researchers and scientists and are fast at articulating your credentials once asked—oh, I have a PhD in this and that—PhD my foot!”

    I was deflated.

    “Wake up you all!” he exclaimed, attracting the attention of nearby passengers. “You should be busy lifting ideas, formulae, recipes, and diagrams from American manufacturing factories and sending them to your own factories. All those dissertation papers you compile should be your country’s treasure. Why do you think the Asians are a force to reckon with? They stole our ideas and turned them into their own. Look at Japan, China, India, just look at them.”

    He paused. “The Bwana has spoken,” he said and grinned. “As long as you are dependent on my plane, I shall feel superior and you my friend shall remain inferior, how about that? The Chinese, Japanese, Indians, even Latinos are a notch better. You Africans are at the bottom of the totem pole.”

    He tempered his voice. “Get over this white skin syndrome and begin to feel confident. Become innovative and make your own stuff for god’s sake.”

    At 8 a.m. the plane touched down at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Walter reached for my hand.

    “I know I was too strong, but I don’t give it a damn. I have been to Zambia and have seen too much poverty.” He pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled something. “Here, read this. It was written by a friend.”

    He had written only the title: “Lords of Poverty.”

    Thunderstruck, I had a sinking feeling. I watched Walter walk through the airport doors to a waiting car. He had left a huge dust devil twirling in my mind, stirring up sad memories of home. I could see Zambia’s literati—the cognoscente, intelligentsia, academics, highbrows, and scholars in the places he had mentioned guzzling and talking irrelevancies. I remembered some who have since passed—how they got the highest grades in mathematics and the sciences and attained the highest education on the planet. They had been to Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), only to leave us with not a single invention or discovery. I knew some by name and drunk with them at the Lusaka Playhouse and Central Sports.

    Walter is right. It is true that since independence we have failed to nurture creativity and collective orientations. We as a nation lack a workhorse mentality and behave like 13 million civil servants dependent on a government pay cheque. We believe that development is generated 8-to-5 behind a desk wearing a tie with our degrees hanging on the wall. Such a working environment does not offer the opportunity for fellowship, the excitement of competition, and the spectacle of innovative rituals.

    But the intelligentsia is not solely, or even mainly, to blame. The larger failure is due to political circumstances over which they have had little control. The past governments failed to create an environment of possibility that fosters camaraderie, rewards innovative ideas and encourages resilience. KK, Chiluba, Mwanawasa, and Banda embraced orthodox ideas and therefore failed to offer many opportunities for drawing outside the line.

    I believe King Cobra’s reset has been cast in the same faculties as those of his predecessors. If today I told him that we can build our own car, he would throw me out.

    “Naupena? Fuma apa.” (Are you mad? Get out of here)

    Knowing well that King Cobra will not embody innovation at Walter’s level let’s begin to look for a technologically active-positive leader who can succeed him after a term or two. That way we can make our own stone crushers, water filters, water pumps, razor blades, and harvesters. Let’s dream big and make tractors, cars, and planes, or, like Walter said, forever remain inferior.

    A fundamental transformation of our country from what is essentially non-innovative to a strategic superior African country requires a bold risk-taking educated leader with a triumphalist attitude and we have one in YOU. Don’t be highly strung and feel insulted by Walter. Take a moment and think about our country. Our journey from 1964 has been marked by tears. It has been an emotionally overwhelming experience. Each one of us has lost a loved one to poverty, hunger, and disease. The number of graves is catching up with the population. It’s time to change our political culture. It’s time for Zambian intellectuals to cultivate an active-positive progressive movement that will change our lives forever. Don’t be afraid or dispirited, rise to the challenge and salvage the remaining….

    P.S.: Use Nigeria/Nigerian to substitute Zambia/Zambian, in the article and it holds [truncated by WhatsApp]

  • Babalakin

    such a nice article. i just keep asking myself why the lawyers in Nigeria can not simply take the ‘fulani herdsmen’ to court and just stop their activities once and for all, except of course the courts are compromised.