Fulani: A people much maligned, a people much loved – Frank Ofili36 views
The Fulani, a nomadic ethnic group with livestock-rearing (mostly cattle) as its economic mainstay, is today one group of Nigerians currently evoking both negative and positive emotions in the country. I do not envy them at all.
On the one hand, they are being condemned from all corners for the deadly activities of killer herdsmen across the length and breadth of the country – never mind that not all Fulanis are herdsmen, nor are all herdsmen necessarily Fulanis.
The main reason they are so condemned is because one of their own is currently the President of the country, and the general perception, wrongly or rightly, is one of unofficial condonation of these attacks as reflected in the attitude of near-indifference of government.
For sure, governments, both at federal and state levels, have been generally lethargic in response each time these attacks happen. All we have been seeing is more of buck-passing than a decisive action to bring the culprits to book. In the recent Benue incident where 73 people were massacred, a top police boss pointedly told a bewildered nation that arresting and prosecuting the culprits and their sponsors was not his main concern but to bring calm and persuade the affected fleeing villagers to return.
Critics say this seeming lukewarm attitude of security agents to the attacks is the main reason the Killer herdsmen are so emboldened.
The second reason the Fulani evoke such negative emotions from the rest of Nigerians hinges on the accusation, without justification of course, of having born-to-rule mentality and a sense of unmerited entitlement. Without doubt some Fulani folks themselves like Professor Mohammed Labdo seem to justify this accusation with their insensitive utterances. In a recent interview published in the Punch newspaper of 3rd February, Labdo arrogantly claimed that the entire Benue region is the Fulanis right to rule by conquest. Before that interview, he had given reasons in a Facebook post why the Fulani is destined to rule Nigeria for long. Both utterances have attracted condemnation from most Nigerians, but the fiery professor doesn’t seem to care.
But the Fulanis are not without admirers. History teaches us that when the British colonialists arrived our shores, they found the Fulani a highly organized people, politically, with well-established traditional administrative system. This was to inform the colonialists indirect rule system imposed on the country.
Ostentatiously frugal, tactically brilliant, bold as a lion, conning as a fox, the Fulani are reputed to be great warriors. Fearless, highly cohesive and loyal to their cause, they make an excellent army – attributes that perhaps mark them out as clannish and domineering even in the midst of hostile neighbours. Athletic, handsome and almost patrician, the Fulani are in a sense aristocratic,
Politically, the Fulani have had their fair share in the scheme of things in Nigeria from Independence to date. In fact, judging by current political developments in the country they will remain right in the center of things for a while.
Two major political parties – APC and PDP – are currently shopping for their presidential flag bearers from their fold. Checkout the roll call of Fulanis who are being courted and wooed to come lead Nigeria again in 2019 – incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, Former Kano State governor Ibrahim Shekarau, former House of Reps Speaker and incumbent governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and retired Army colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar. Even Obasanjo’s third force, Coalition for Nigeria Movement, has a smattering of prominent Fulanis in its fold.
It is a tragic irony that it is mostly the same people who condemn Fulani for herdsmen attacks and having born-to-rule mentality, that are also wooing them to lead the country in 2019. The opposition PDP, which its southern elements have been most vociferous in accusing Buhari of harbouring an Islamic agenda on Nigeris, has decidedly zoned its presidential ticket to the north. I hear the underlying strategy is that it will in the end pick a Fulani as flag bearer in the hope of puncturing the almost cult-following of Buhari in the north.
There is of course nothing too strange or absurd to throw up in politics. Shame is an alien species. You condemn an entire ethnic group for the alleged crimes of a few, and because a man you want to unseat is one of them, and then, in the same breadth, you make 360 degrees about turn to court the same people to come lead you again. Strange! Politics is a bitch indeed.