These herdsmen are not the ones I knew
“Herdsmen attack leaves 10 dead, 3,500 homeless in Cross River” was the caption in The Guardian of April 2, 2017. No day passes by without the reporting of horrendous acts carried out by these Dark Lords in Fulani skins.
I had hoped that the emergence of the generalissimo – a real one, as president, would have nipped the activities of these Darth Vaders in the bud. But it hasn’t and they have gone loony. Nigeria is gradually becoming a run-down shack. Have the Fulani always consorted with the Wicked Witch of the West? Not the ones I knew while growing up. They reared animals, which they shepherd through our locale.
Animals under their care obeyed them without fail even if they whistled in the dark. How they managed to control herds with sounds beats my imagination. Friends, who have attended parties hosted by the Fulani, say they were so benevolent in killing many cows that guests ate their fill, felt full and rejected a third helping.
On market days, in some localities, you saw the Fulani youngsters dressed in their finest apparel and walked in groups; they loved to walk in groups. You scarcely saw a conservative Fulani without his stick and a knife holstered on his trousers. Manliness, for the Fulani, was measured by the carrying of sticks and a knife, to protect themselves from harm. I never saw them carrying guns. Though I saw the premarital ceremonies where intending bridegrooms were flogged (shiro, sharo) preparatory to selection of a bride, payment of a bride price and the marriage proper, I abhorred the act.
We hailed the Fulani by calling them the name we loved to call them,”modibbo.” But “modibbo” ordinarily is used to address a learned Fulani aristocrat, regardless, the Fulani is called a”modibbo” jestingly, the same way a non-Hausa calls an Hausa, “aboki” jeeringly, even though “aboki” literally means “friend” in Hausa language. Stories probably apocryphal, had it that the Fulani herdsmen value their animals more than anything, and that the rustling of animals owned by them, led to acts of aggression but we never heard of fatalities. Some mischievous people went on to say that they had seen some herdsmen cry at the lost of animals.
In earlier days, we saw people run to the Fulani when bitten by dangerous snakes instead of going to the hospital. They never disappointed them, some had the antidote for the poison.
These days, when I read about the atrocities attributed to the Fulani: kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder of people in their farms, I dare to ask; are these fellows
Nigerian Fulani or imported Fulani from sister African countries? The Fulani I saw as a growing child were so unassertive, minding their own business. What is happening to the Nigerian state? It seems to be crumbling rapidly. You know! I had an encounter with a private security guard years ago when the war in Nasarawa Egon, Nasarawa State was on. He was an indigene of Nasarawa and precisely from Egon-Nasarawa. I had gone to the facility where he was stationed in quest of something and while waiting for my contact person, I struck up a good-humoured conversation with the guard. “How come your locality in Nasarawa is on fire, and that lives were lost in unimaginable ways, even those of policemen?”
“The war was sponsored by trouble-shooters; they brought in Fulani mercenaries from Mali and other places to attack us,” he said. “But how would you know that the mercenaries were not Nigerians?”I asked him. “Oh”!
My kin folks told me. Both sides suffered casualties, most of the mercenaries were apprehended by our people and they confessed that they were recruited from their native countries of Mali and others to prosecute the fratricidal war.
How came it, that mercenaries passed through our borders without anyone knowing? Could they have been cashiered through a box car? Enter Nguuma (not real name), my very good friend, he is a Tiv from Benue State. “How come I read about the sacking of your people always by the Fulani in your state?
“Oh! Boy, these Fulani are not the Nigerian Fulani we see around. They are fiercely looking non-nationals sponsored by politicians to create havoc here. We are helpless I must confess,” he said.
When did the Fulani trade sticks and knives for guns? The Federal Government needs to spearhead the campaign to expel non-nationals creating problems for the polity and to solve the Fulani problem quickly. It is also the collective responsibility of states administrators and the police to help the Federal Government in nipping this malaise in the bud. The Fulani ought to be oriented by the Fulani aristocrats to imbibe traditions not only for the modern urban lifestyle, but to have strong respect for the citizens of Nigeria, the Nigerian state and her systems of justice.
The Fulani, owing to their nomadic lifestyles, can be recruited by the government to patrol our borders and pass on information about activities of marauders, of illegal immigrants crossing our porous borders without permission and those of terrorists. The body in charge of the affairs of all Fulani in Nigeria only makes statements when there is negative discrimination against the Fulani. It should also condemn acts by impostors and acts by the Fulani that are not friendly to the body politic.
• Abah writes from Port Harcourt
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