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I Bleed Everytime I See the Headline, 'Fulani Herdsmen' – THISDAY Newspapers

Kunle Aderinokun and Chris Paul hold a discussion with the Sarkin Fulani of Lagos, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Mohammad Abubakar Bambado, leader of the Fulanis in the South-west, who outlines his audacious intervention to diffuse tension orchestrated by Fulani herders and farmers clash across the country, while insisting that bad behavior should never be rewarded
What is the relationship between the Fulanis in the South-west and their host communities?
From inception of their co-existence, the Fulanis have lived with their host communities peacefully, without any problem in the South–west. They accommodated us and they are still accommodating us without any problem. And we believe we are part of them, we are part of the South-west. My family has been in Lagos for more than 100 years. My children are the fourth generation, now, in Lagos. My great grandfather came to Lagos during the colonial era. Lagos is my home. When I’m going to Kano, I say I am going to Kano. When I am coming back to Lagos, I say I’m coming back home. When my mother is coming to Lagos, she says I’m coming back home. I returned recently from Kano where I went to spend some time with my mother. She told me ‘I’m coming back home (to Lagos) to come and do her fasting.’ When you see my mother, she communicates fluently in Yoruba. So, for goodness sake, are we then going to say the Yorubas have been bad? No! We have a perfect relationship with Yoruba people, our host community. And it has been wonderful. We met this wonderful relationship with our grandfather. If the Yorubas were not accommodating, I don’t think we would have been here. We are inter married. I have a half-brother whose mother is Yoruba. There are three of them, a boy and two girls. So, the relationship has been wonderful. This thing came upon us from nowhere. But we will get to the root.
What is your opinion about the general state of insecurity in the country, today?
To be sincere, it is getting out of hand. My view is that the government has to change strategy. It should no longer be the same approach they having been applying all these time. They should change their strategy; it is very key. Because, the crisis is eating all of us gradually; and people are worried. Because without peace, without security, we are nowhere. It may be happening today in Zamfara or some far North, one day you may wake up and it is right there in front of your door; if nothing is done. So, it is very important the government changes its strategy. I’m not saying they are not doing their best. We can’t just dismiss the efforts they have put in thus far and say whoever that is in charge is not doing anything because they have sacrificed their lives. But more needs to be done. Let them identify where the problem is. I believe by the time they return to the drawing board, they will be able to properly evaluate progress made, challenges encountered and between the two, identify the loopholes and come up with sustainable solutions.
As a Fulani man, yourself and leader of the Fulani community, what efforts are you making to ensure peace in this current situation? But before you respond to that your highness, the insecurity in the country is ascribed, largely, to herdsmen from a particular tribe in the country. They don’t say Yoruba or Igbo but Fulani herdsmen. Each time you hear this, how do you feel, as leader of the Fulani community?
Everytime, I see on the news or read in the papers… anywhere I see that caption, ‘Fulani Herdsmen’ I bleed. It makes me weak. At times, I feel people need to have an understanding of what is really happening. Let me put it this way, we do not control the media. Because that is one of our biggest problems in this nation because when you are not heard and you are not given a fair hearing, there is always a problem. When news is one-sided, there is always a problem. And I don’t blame people because when you keep hearing the same thing all the time, you will be tempted to believe there is some truth in it; even when the information is inherently and patently false. It is because you don’t hear from the other side. I don’t believe in covering up, I believe in saying it the way it is. Let people know the truth about what is happening. So, by the time people get to hear your side, they will weigh it and come up with a better informed judgment or conclusion as the case may be. The truth is, I’m not saying we don’t have bad eggs among the Fulanis. We have. But that does not mean you should use their brush to paint the entire Fulani race with their bad character. It is wrong! That is ethnic profiling. Because, the Fulani man by nature and culture is a good man. We have bad eggs among Yorubas, Igbos and all societies. Just as you have good people- and they are in the majority- among every tribe in Nigeria. It is therefore, imperative on all of us to flush out all the bad eggs amongst us that are giving us a bad name and sleepless nights. How do we do that? I will give you an example. When the issue of Amotekun came up, I was interviewed and asked what I feel about it. I said I don’t have a problem with that. It is a welcome development. But it should be all-inclusive. We are all South-westerners. Whether you are Igbo, Fulani, Yoruba, as long as we are based, reside and live here, pay your taxes and live decently conducting yourself and business legitimately, for the development of the region, we are all South-westerners. So, let us come together to defend and protect our region- the South-west. Then, I gave the suggestion that let anybody who wants to volunteer, whether you are Fulani or Igbo, Yoruba, let us enroll everybody; to come and be part of this Amotekun. It shouldn’t just comprise one particular race. That is my own opinion about it. Security is for all. Let us come together and fight this evil. That is, if there is no hidden agenda. As long as it is with good intention that we want to fight those criminals, let everybody be a part of it. We all have youths too. They are wasting away. As a matter of fact, by engaging them in this outfit, you are even creating jobs and opportunities because you pay them. Instead of them roaming the streets and causing problems in the community, you get them more productively engaged. Check out the JTFs in the North, you just don’t find only Kanuris; all tribes are well represented in that security outfit in the North. If you want to volunteer and you want to be a part of it, they tell you to come and join. It is n not just because it is happening in Borno, therefore the outfit will comprise of only Kanuris. It is not about Kanuri. If you are Shuwa Arab and you want to be part of it, come and join. There is the adage that says, if you want to win a war, use an Insider. Use the people who know the terrain. Use a Fulani man, because he knows the terrain, and he will fish those criminals out for you. So, you can see what I mean by changing tactics in the way you approach this issue…basically, there are so many things that are wrong. First, I tell people we need to tolerate each other. Tolerance is the word. Because all of us… we all have our shortcomings; we are all human beings and no one is perfect. We tolerate our wives and they tolerate us too… don’t they? This is because we live in the same house. So, we should look at these matters beyond what we are thinking because people just put ideas into your head and come up with so many things that don’t do us any good as a people and as a nation. From my investigation, I discovered that most of the people behind these problems are people in the diaspora. Let me use my case as an example. What happened to me recently that went viral about my person and position. The viral material that was trending about me was saying that a Fulani man wanted to take over South-west, bla bla bla. When I investigated, I found out that the rumour came from the Diaspora. Somebody will sit in his one room in a foreign country and start creating and imagining things. We have to be careful! These people don’t live in this country. By the time the wahala starts, where are they? So, we are one and we are destined to be together as a people and as a country. I didn’t choose to be a Fulani man and you didn’t choose to be a Yoruba man. We are all destined to come from our respective native backgrounds; and God destined for us to be together. If you go to Arab countries: Egypt, Syria, Libya, they all speak one language. Go to China, one language. Come to Nigeria, over 100 languages. Come on! Where do we start from, that we are agitating to go our own way? How? From where to where? For me, I don’t think that it is possible. Not even about whether it can happen or not; it is not possible. Because, if you move just two three kilometers, you will discover that there is a village that probably do not speak your own language. So, by the time we go down that road, Nigeria will be shrinking, shrinking, shrinking…because each will want to form their own country. Does that make sense? So, let us wake up from our sleep.
What specific efforts are you making?
Like I said, the efforts we have been making is that we have been engaging our people. Ever since all these problems started, we have been discussing with our people and I arrange some orientation for them. The idea is to start with my own people; first. Let them understand the essence of coming together to live as one family. So, we usually call for meetings and especially since this started we meet every month… holding meetings to calm people down not to engage in reprisal attacks or do things that will worsen the already bad situation in the region. I received a call somewhere from Sarki (Oyo State), that they were burning markets and destroying Fulani settlements. I met with the Oba of that community and he told me, Sarki, calm down; I will be in charge and assured me he is on top of the situation. He invited the Fulani community and told them he has called the Commissioner of Police and all the security agencies. He called all the youths and warned them. If there are bad eggs among the people, let us come together and get rid of them. And it worked. We need to engage each other, talking to each other more; not keeping quiet… Keeping silent is the biggest killer; because people will feel we are all happy about what is happening. I am calling on all the leaders, let’s be talking to our children. It starts from home. You should know where your child is going and when he is coming home. Not when he goes out and you say you don’t know. Always check on your child’s movement and activities. That is what I tell my people. And I told them…I’m talking about the Fulani chiefs in the South-west… anybody that is caught in any of this nonsense going on, I, personally will deal with that person. If you have a hand or you support the criminals, I will personally see to it you are mercilessly dealt with. Most of the problems in the South-west are about the herders and the farmers. That is where the issues are. The Northern parts of the country, it is banditry and others. Sometime ago, when the Ondo State governor made a pronouncement amid the tension in the South-west… because there was so much tension even in the Northern parts of the country with some ‘saying why would the governor ask the Fulani to leave his state…’ But that was not what he said. I had to come out and clear the air because what he said, I supported it. No night grazing. That night grazing is the one that causes the most problem; they encroach into peoples’ farms. When you don’t see, why won’t you go into people’s farms… highway grazing… why would you go on the highway, carrying cows? Why? Is that their route? No. he said no underage grazing. Why would you allow a small boy who does not know his left from right, rear cow? Why? The final one was, forest reserves. He said the forest reserves is where they do the kidnappings and collect ransom. Is there anything wrong when you say they should leave that place? I said he is on track. Before then, he didn’t just wake up to make those pronouncements, he had agreed with the Fulani leaders, the Miyetti Allah, they came out with a resolution. And that was the reason he came out to say this is his own stance.
Most of these bandits, kidnappers, terrorists and killers are alleged to be Fulani mercenaries imported from neighbouring countries, who were initially brought into the country for political reasons, but who have now gone haywire. What is your view about this claim?
I am not sure about the rumour that they were brought in because of political reasons. That, I don’t know. But I’m aware of the porosity of our borders. That is the truth. To get into this country, it is very easy. Don’t forget, these bandits came all the way from Mali and many of the weapons you see with them, intelligence reports have revealed that they came from Libya. Few weeks back, I was discussing with one of the personnel and he told me that some of the terrorists they killed have statures that show they are not Nigerians. So, to cut the story short, it is about our borders. Our borders are very naked; that is why they can cross over and try to take over the whole place. Whether, they came here for political reasons, I cannot say because I am not aware of that.
With the situation of this invasion of the country by these foreign mercenaries, how do you think we can get out of it?
What we are trying to do now is… we are trying to reach out to other Fulani leaders in West African countries. There is a festival that Fulanis in West Africa host. At times, we go to Gambia, Niger or Ghana. This crisis is not peculiar to Nigeria alone; although, it is hitting hardest in Nigeria, we have it in other ECOWAS countries too. And we told ourselves that we need to come together and discuss how we are going to contribute our own quota to solving this problem. Now, the situation has become so bad that whether it is a Fulani man or criminals that get involved in these crimes or not, they will say it is a Fulani man because majority of the mercenaries are said to be of Fulani extraction. So, we are trying to reach out to give our people orientation across the countries in the West African region, because these criminals didn’t fall from the sky, they are people’s children. And they have their routes. I’m sure by the time, we try one or two things, we will be able to tackle the situation.
At critical points in the herdsmen crisis, Miyetti Allah and FUNAN came out to claim responsibility for crimes committed by these herdsmen and this has heightened the tension in the country. Do Miyetti Allah and these other Northern groups, defending the herdsmen, speak for the Fulani people as they claim?
Miyetti Allah is an association of cattle breeders. Now, when you see an association of cattle breeders, you can find a Fulani man, a Shuwa man, a Yoruba man. It is as good as a fisherman association. Cattle rearing… it is because most of the people who do the rearing are Fulani. But that does not mean they speak for the entire Fulani.
QUOTE
Somebody will sit in his one room in a foreign country and start creating and imagining things. We have to be careful! These people don’t live in this country. By the time the wahala starts, where are they? So, we are one and we are destined to be together as a people and as a country. I didn’t choose to be a Fulani man and you didn’t choose to be a Yoruba man. We are all destined to come from our respective native backgrounds; and God destined for us to be together. If you go to Arab countries: Egypt, Syria, Libya, they all speak one language. Go to China, one language. Come to Nigeria, over 100 languages. Come on! Where do we start from, that we are agitating to go our own way? How? From where to where? For me, I don’t think that it is possible. Not even about whether it can happen or not; it is not possible. Because, if you move just two three kilometers, you will discover that there is a village that probably do not speak your own language. So, by the time we go down that road, Nigeria will be shrinking, shrinking, shrinking…because each will want to form their own country. Does that make sense? So, let us wake up from our sleep
QUOTE 2
My family has been in Lagos for more than 100 years. My children are the fourth generation, now, in Lagos. My great grandfather came to Lagos during the colonial era. Lagos is my home. When I’m going to Kano, I say I am going to Kano. When I am coming back to Lagos, I say I’m coming back home. When my mother is coming to Lagos, she says I’m coming back home. I returned recently from Kano where I went to spend some time with my mother. She told me ‘I’m coming back home (to Lagos) to come and do her fasting.’ When you see my mother, she communicates fluently in Yoruba. So, for goodness sake, are we then going to say the Yorubas have been bad? No! We have a perfect relationship with Yoruba people, our host community. And it has been wonderful. We met this wonderful relationship with our grandfather. If the Yorubas were not accommodating, I don’t think we would have been here. We are inter married. I have a half-brother whose mother is Yoruba. There are three of them, a boy and two girls. So, the relationship has been wonderful. This thing came upon us from nowhere

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