‘There’s nothing like Hausa/Fulani, you only have Fulani in Nigeria’
Sometimes last year, on some social media platforms, I asked a question: Where are the Hausas? In the wake of on-going herdsmen/famers debacle, I became more curious and did a mental survey of the problem based on reported cases.
My findings: In the Northwest, herdsmen/farmers war appears restricted, at least not in the fatricidal sense, only to southern Kaduna and the minority areas of Zamfara and Kebbi states. In the Northeast, not much of it is heard in the core Kanuri states of Borno and Yobe.
Is the problem therefore truly of contest between the farmers and herders in simple economic sense, or ethnic conflicts for territorial expansion? Curiously again, I remember the discussion I had with a colleague of mine, a Fulani PhD holder in Law, sometimes last year, who dismissed the notion of any tribe called Hausa/Fulani. He told me, matter-of-factly, that Hausas no longer existed, in its anthropological origin, as a tribe, but completely assimilated by the Fulani.
According to him, the remnant recalcitrant native Hausas of no significance in every sphere of life are scattered in Kano, Katsina and some core Northwestern states. He considered the Hausa/Fulani concept and classification, as annoying to the average Fulani.
The population of Hausa, according to Google, is about 25 Million in Nigeria, while that of Fulani is put at seven million. Yet all you see in Nigeria leadership is Fulani. From Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, Shagari, Abubakar Rimi, Yar’Aduas, Atiku, Buhari, El-Rufai etc not to mention the powerful and most determinant traditional institution. Surprisingly and contrary to my held belief, Aminu Kano’s profile revealed that he was born to the family of Mallam Yusuf of the scholarly Gyanawa Fulani clan who was a mufti at the Alkali court in Kano.
At the 2014 Confab, where I was a delegate, the dominant voices and faces from the North were the Fulani who completely dominated the Northwest delegates and often hold out as the initiators and custodians of the northern agenda, oblivious of component tribal groups. They found ready allies among the Kanuri of the Northeast, but who were never shy to assert their Kanuriness.
The Middle Belt, true to that identity, towed the middle course in virtually all issues, depending on their calculated strategic interests. They sided with the North against the South to protect the Land Use Act, but allied with the South for cattle ranching against grazing route or zone with even the ranches restricted to states or territories, where cattle husbandry is cultural occupation.
Some notable Middle Belt voices, the Tiv, Idoma, Igala, Okun Yoruba, stood out in defence of their national identities, except the Ilorin Yoruba, where one of their leading sons, with clear Yoruba Oriki as his name and unmistakable Oyo accent, told me unashamedly, that he was Yoruba/Fulani. No one showed up being Hausa.
In reaction to my poser on this subject last year, Dan Nwunanyawun, himself a Confab delegate, wrote of a former National Chairman of the PDP who told him, in hushed tones, that he was Hausa, but in whispers as if he never wished that anyone should know. In the academia, politics, military and other top security institutions, even in Islam not to mention the monarchy as the most influential institution in their land, the Hausa merely exist while the Fulani called the shots in the name of Hausa/Fulani.
In defence of her strategic interest, the Fulani is as unpretentious as unapologetic, no matter his status, either as cattle boy or the patron Myetti Allah, intellectuals or even the Buhari Minister of Defence. He panders not to Nigerian nationalism, where leading lights of other groups, especially the Yoruba, will never want to make statement that might seem to suggest the defence of their own ethnic nationality, even if that is the truth. For instance, when recently, Professors Atahiru Jega and Gambari, in spite of their position in Nigeria and internationally wrote, bemoaning blockade of grazing routes and justifying Fulani cattle colonies all over Nigeria, the Fulani intellectual hawks are, no doubt now, on the prowl.
With clear black Negroid physique, Hausa is distinguished from the Semitic Arabic appearance of the Fulani. In commercial activities, the Hausas are the occupants of Sabo around us, who, as farmers, supply your tomatoes, carrots and trade in our kola nuts etc. The Fulani learnt and speak the Hausa language, which they make the northern lingua franca, to dominate the Hausa itself and other northern tribes. The Fulani Fulfulde language, he still preserves for core Fulani strategic thinking, which he ultimately sells as the position of the North, for which the rest of Nigerians hold the Hausa vicariously responsible, in the uninformed belief that they are the same tribe.
Remarkably, in the task of the new national rebirth, I learnt some northern leaders are now determined to reinvent their Hausa identity and seeking political power at the apex, which they hope to latch on to ameliorate the burden of assimilation imposed, beginning in 1804 by Usman Dan Fodio.
In an old video on the 1960 elections, the Premier of the North and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, reminded the people of Kano, in a rally, that their forefathers were the soldiers of the Sultan of Sokoto and they were thus his own soldiers as the Sardauna of Sokoto. The crowd yelled in agreement.
It seems to me, that the consciousness of such an ancient and a most populous indigenous African ethnic nationality as the Hausa, in recreating his nationality identity and handling his own destiny, may be the panacea for Nigerian peace and progress.
• Barrister Ebiseni, former three-term Environment Commissioner in Ondo and delegate at the 2014 National Conference, wrote from Akure.