The Fulani Question: A Tale of the “Left Behinds”

If anyone ventured here to read the rantings of a “tribalist”, I am happy to disappoint such a person. It behoves me first, to state clearly that I do not believe in the superiority of one tribe over another, nor do I ascribe to the fallacy that a tribe can be so inherently evil that no good person can be found in it. Nevertheless, for some time now, the Fulanis have made the news headlines their virtual home, effectively becoming inglorious pains in the longsuffering asses of other Nigerians.

A part of the title above is eponymous with a centuries-long debate concerning the Jews. “The Jewish Question” has spanned several debates and treatises involving Bruno Bauer, Karl Marx, the Nazis, and a host of intellectuals and ignoramuses. Whereas the eponym concerned the political emancipation of the Jews, a minority in the countries in which they lived, this article goes in the opposite direction. The Fulanis are neither a minority, nor in need of political emancipation. Rather, what this “industrious” group needs is the will to move into the present. Despite the power and influence wielded by the Fulani, by their actions, they obviously are lost in time, frozen in centuries past when invaders appropriated land by mass killings of such land’s owners.

From Agatu to Ondo, Plateau to Enugu, Kaduna to Delta, a group has made it a point of duty to leave footprints of blood. The “Fulani Herdsmen” have been so effective at destruction that they have been named the world’s fourth deadliest terrorist organization, responsible for several lives ended gruesomely. Unlike ISIL, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab, this infamous group has achieved pole position without a “formal” leader nor organizational structure. The nearest semblance of an organisation is the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, the umbrella body that represents the interests of the nomadic cattle rearers.

The Fulani Herdsmen are 21st century nomads whose lives primarily revolve around cows. They move their cows from North to South in search of grass. While the herdsmen roam about with cows, the Fulani Elites, of which most Northern Emirs are the most notable, hold the reins of power in Nigeria as part of the Hausa-Fulani hegemony. The elites ensure that the herdsmen are untouchable by the Nigerian state, allowing them to move about without restrictions across bushes and farmlands. In their magnanimity, the herdsmen have made it extremely easy to apply for their murderous wrath—simply complain when their cows destroy your crops. Unchecked complaints and resorting to self-help to chase away the herdsmen is the trigger for the increased violence being witnessed. In addition, several armed robbery incidents in the northern region are allegedly perpetuated by caring Fulanis. Let’s now focus on my claim that the Fulanis are trapped in the past. It’s time to corroborate the claim.

Why do I say the Fulanis are trapped in the past? First, I’ll point to their nomadic culture. In the 21st century, cows grow fat in ranches, never littering the roads with dung, not constituting public nuisance on roads designed with humans in mind. Humans drown in processed cow milk, and eat beef until their breaths smell of beef. Yet, they do not see, nor encounter the cows whose products they happily devour. However, for the time-trapped Fulani herdsmen, “as it was in the beginning, so it is now, so it ever shall be, world without end”. Their grandfather’s great-grandfather took cows from place to place. Therefore, they must junket with their cows in tow. If this isn’t symptomatic of a mind-set lost in the past, I doubt that a better example can be found.

Another reason for my claim is summarized in one word—education. Although Nigeria’s literacy rate pales in comparison to developed countries, the rest of Nigeria “has hope” when they look at the Fulanis—herdsmen that is. The Fulani elites, represented by persons such as the former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, are well educated. However, the nomadic herdsmen neither see the importance, nor have the time for formal education. Their illiteracy is worsened by the fact that they come from a part of Nigeria where some see western education as an evil to be avoided. To this end, the nomadic school initiative of the Nigerian government has not seen much success. By avoiding formal education, the Fulanis remain in a pre-colonial era, which sounds a lot like the past.

Third on my corroboration list is the resort to violence and disdain for non-Fulani lives. There was a time when one race felt superior to another, and so attacked the latter to emasculate them. In that era, some people were seen as sub-humans, fit only for slavery. The world has moved to an era where equality is preached. However, the Fulanis still live in the past. This is a group reputed to believe in a “born to rule” delusion. From their violent actions, it is clear that cows are more valuable than human lives. This group is ready to slaughter a community of oxygen-breathing humans over a missing cow. Since they see non-Fulanis as being beneath them, their proclivity for violence is understandable. Their huge egos are bruised whenever a bloody farmer complains that a glorious cow ate unworthy crops. In fact, the farmer ought to be happy that in his unworthy state, his crops were found fitting for noble cows. The Fulanis still maintain an archaic concept of “honour” that tells them that faults cannot be forgiven. Any offense must be responded to with violence.

Finally, let me tender their disdain for civilized laws as a reason for my claim. The laws say no unauthorized possession of weapons, no murder, no looting, no raping, no desecration of human rights. To this infamous group, they are beyond the purview of laws—except laws declared by them, such as “all lands belong to us”. This disregard for laws is further shown by their belief that because their kinsman is the president, all laws are subservient to them. This explains the increased frequency of Fulani attacks since Buhari became president. Their behaviour is a vestige of a past when members of aristocratic families were not subject to laws for which common people got punished. Our dear Fulanis still think they live in those times.

Let me be clear on one thing! There is nothing nostalgic about the behaviour of the Fulanis. They do not “wish” they could return to the past. They believe this is the past! In their minds, 2016 seems like a time preceding the 1800s. If this was a law court, I would humbly bow and say, “My Lord, I rest my case”.

Image Credit: vanguardngr.com

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