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Why are the Fulani people so unpopular in Nigeria?

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[FILES] A Hausa-Fulani boy stands while his cattle is grazing near some farms in the outskirts of Sokoto, Sokoto State, Nigeria, on April 22, 2019. – Massive expansion of farming in Nigeria has cut access to grazing land for nomadic herders and fuelled persistent violence. (Photo by Luis TATO / AFP)

Three-quarters of the Fulani live in a makeshift settlement. They move from place to place. The Fulani should be well-loved in Nigeria but they are derided by many Nigerians and you have to wonder why this is the case.

The Hausa are suspicious of the Fulani, they accuse them of not teaching people their language, they also say that they are mean spirited people who never forgive wrong, and even when they say they have forgiven and forgotten, they return to take a pound of flesh. But the Fulani also accuse the Hausa of expressing regret only when they have cheated you, that the Hausa speaks tongue-in-cheek, never as sincere as Fulani people are. Have you ever seen a Fulani university graduate searching for work the same way graduates from other places do, but they get jobs anyway in special agencies? Many times appointments to different places are offered for them to choose, right in their parents’ home environment.

The Fulani that I knew growing up were peace-loving people, minding their business, rearing cattle. We visited some in their villages during marriage ceremonies/ naming ceremonies when we were invited and were feted with food and meat. They also loved the sport called ‘shiro.’ They were kind people. I recall helping some of them negotiate the costs of items in the market sold by wise men from the east especially those wise men whose knowledge of the Hausa Language is short. I loved their women but in earlier days I couldn’t go any further than loving from a distance because they called us ‘Kado’ the same way the Hausa called us,’ Arne’ we didn’t deserve the privilege of being consorts to their ladies. Many years later, some of the sophisticated ones loved me no-end not minding the stereotype, almost akin to cases of whites and blacks in relationships after the civil rights act was passed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

Hardly ever can you see the Fulani engage in the fight to kill people in the name of a peace-loving God? They never have time for such and do not revel in the illogic as other people near them do. Those others whose stock in trade is to kill people they have known all of their lives, little-minded religious bigots who do not know the meaning of humanism. Why should the Fulani run to fight religious wars, when they have a business to take care of: farming, animal shepherding and trading? Those who are nimble-footed to kill do not have jobs to do and killing becomes a job. Have you ever seen the Fulani with bowls in hand begging for money and food? Never, so proud, have they taken care of all their needs? They struggle to do so daily, hard work for them is better than eating the bread of shame begging for money and food.

But why are they so unpopular in Nigeria and distrusted by the majority? Their population is roughly ten million, conservative estimates put it at thirteen million but census figures are tossed around to defraud people in Nigeria, this figure is less than the population of combined tribes such as Gbagi, Gwandara, gede and other minority tribes around the FCT. But Nigerians do not have misgivings about these other tribes as they do with the Fulani, and it is a dangerous trajectory for me. People see the young Fulani in scrublands and flinch. The problem of the Fulani is not caused by the cattle herder, the woman selling milk and farmer but by the one-quarter educated Fulani who lives in the city, in walled apartments and who is more brilliant but not more intelligent than his fellow citizen, the Hausa.

This Fulani enjoys the status quo and will do anything to maintain it, not minding the damage done to the image of their tribe. The image of the Fulani is quickly becoming the same brand as that of the police, the latter doesn’t care about rebranding exercises and so is the Fulani.

This so-called highborn Fulani enjoys mental debasement of his people, the three quarter unschooled Fulani have been told that they are more superior than all Nigerians and can walk roughshod with cattle on anyone’s farmland, not minding the damage to crops and can carry weapons around for self-protection in total disregard to the laws of the land, reducing the potency of security services to protect us all. In contradiction, the educated Fulani in the city who claims carrying knives is a culture of the Fulani does not carry knives and sticks about. He says he is urbane but isn’t willing to teach his people the degrees of advancement.

The problem of the Fulani in Nigeria is caused by the aristocratic Fulani, who has successfully debased his people, eroded their self-confidence so bad that people see them as sub-human. This Fulani claims to be educated, brilliant but is not intelligent, for if he were he wouldn’t make his people wander about with cattle, animals have rights and they need rest and quarters and to drink water when they have the need to, this Fulani reduces a multi-million naira cattle business to a menial job, he should look to Botswana and see how beef is exported daily to Europe and these is achieved without wandering herdsmen clashing with farmers.

This Fulani enjoys government job, holding on to choice positions, in air-conditioned offices, while his kinsmen are in the sun, he appropriates choice lands to himself and cronies or buys same at give-away prices and lives in highbrow areas while his kinsmen live in hinterlands with threats of snake bites daily, this Fulani is responsible for the importation of soldiers of fortune for fratricidal wars, they come into the country to cause havoc, flee and put the common Fulani in bad light before Nigerians. The commoners cannot talk; because in Nigeria only the voices of the rich are heard, there are no platforms for the poor to express themselves.

This titled Fulani is dangerous and needs to be tamed but who can do so. Three Fulani presidents in Nigeria haven’t been able to do so. What is befuddling is that one of the presidents was once in the army and yet he lacked the strategy to rebrand the group to be accepted nationally. The one-quarter Fulani are Nigeria’s problems and it is no thanks to them that the Fulani are grossly unpopular in Nigeria.

Abah wrote from Abuja


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