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Fulani Herdsmen Menace: Miyetti Allah, The Solution Or The Problem?

By Barr. Ekene Bob-Ekechukwu


The Fulani Herdsmen menace assumed a national dimension in the recent past and since then has threatened the peace and stability of the country. Thousands of Nigerians have lost their lives to this menace without anyone held responsible for it. Daily the problem is growing and developing different limbs and arms for which it appears the Federal Government (FG) is helpless, having no solution to it.

Instead FG has relied on the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), a loose partisan advocacy group centred on promoting the welfare of Fulani pastoralists in Nigeria, to resolve the crisis.

However, every discerning Nigerian can see from their volatile utterances and uncompromising posture that MACBAN are aggravating the crisis instead of resolving it. This brings one to ask very pertinent questions as to why MACBAN is exasperating the Fulani Herdsmen/farmers crisis and to what end? Is MACBAN a solution or the problem in this issue?

The relationship between the pure Fulani herdsmen also known as “Toron kawas” or “Sullabawas” and peasant farmers dates back to the 17th Century before the coming of Uthman Dan Fodio from Fouta Djallon. These pure Fulanis (Herders) are quite different from the Hausa-Fulani stock who were adulterated by the Islamic Jihadists led by Uthman Dan Fodio in the 17th Century.

These Herders of pure Fulani stock, never liked to mix with the Hausas or any other tribe in the north. They are not even vast in Islamic knowledge and as a result can’t be accused of fanaticism or of nursing any jihadist tendency. However, they are so engrossed with their occupation of cattle rearing in line with their culture. This vocation takes them round the country in search of greener pastures for their cattle.

Due to climate change most of the Herders in the Sub-Saharan region were driven downwards to the forest regions in the hinterlands of Nigeria. Farmers in these hinterlands own farmlands where these Herders would naturally graze their cattle. In the process of grazing in these areas the chiefs of the Herdsmen also called “hardos” represented them in negotiations and amicable resolution of conflicts with the farmers.

These hardos have over the centuries built a cordial relationship with the farmers. This accounted for the relative peace that existed between the Herdsmen and the peasant farmers for several hundreds of years until MACBAN was formed in the 70s and things began to fall apart gradually.

MACBAN became prominent as a result of the illiteracy of the hardos who refused to embrace western education to enable them build capacity to relate with modernization and government. MACBAN taking advantage of the educational inadequacies of the Herdsmen, hijacked the roles of the hardos in relating with both farmers and government.

It must be stated here that the normal conflicts between Herders and farmers became pronounced with the advent of MACBAN. The reasons are not far-fetched. First of all, the leadership of MACBAN is comprised of the Hausa- Fulani stock whom the pure Fulanis, who are the original Herdsmen, don’t like to mix with.

Consequently, there already exists a strong but latent communication gap and mutual suspicion between the MACBAN leaders and the Herdsmen. The MACBAN leaders in actual fact do not know the ordinary Herder in the forest, therefore it will be fool-hardy for anyone to believe that the MACBAN can effectively control the Herdsmen in this circumstance.

In addition, the hardos assume that due to their illiteracy, they were side-lined by MACBAN in representing their people as they have done for centuries. So they feel that MACBAN hijacked there leadership roles, therefore, it became very difficult for them to work together.

Secondly, the Herdsmen feel that MACBAN is exploiting their illiteracy by diverting benefits due to them from government and other sources.

It was reported by a Herder who spoke on the condition of anonymity that MACBAN leaders sponsor thugs whom they arm and dress like Herdsmen and use them to cause mayhem in other to get FG to invite them for negotiations and possibly pay them huge sums of money to resolve the situation.

He stated that such funds never get to them as it ends up in the pocket of MACBAN leaders. And when these benefits fail to reach them, it ends up aggravating the conflict. He also stated that when they protest, the MACBAN leaders will unleash same thugs against them to kill them and seize their cattle.

He went ahead to stress that as long as FG is working with MACBAN, the crisis will never end as the ordinary Herder doesn’t subscribe to MACBAN leadership.

Thirdly, the representation of the Herders by MACBAN is faulty because the MACBAN leaders themselves do not have any cattle of their own. So how can they effectively represent the Herders in a business they are not part of?

Furthermore, it is apparent that MACBAN leadership as presently constituted may have been hijacked by politicians who could be using them to achieve their selfish political objectives.

In conclusion, I must state here that in order to have a lasting solution to the present farmers and Herdsmen crisis, FG has to ban the MACBAN because they are responsible for the present violent crisis being perpetrated by their thugs, not the real Herdsmen .

Then a Farmers/Herders Crisis Resolution Committee should be established in each of the 36 States of the Federation including Abuja to deal directly with the Hausa leaders, the farmers and hardos of the local Herdsmen in each State.

The hardos are the ones that have direct contact with the butchers and ordinary Herders in the forest. This will effectively neutralize any political undertone in the process and go a long way in solving this nagging national crisis.

By Barr. Ekene Bob-Ekechukwu; bobekene@gmail.com

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