The Fulani are one of the largest Nigerian ethnic groups, with spread all over the country. They are, however, unable to come together to speak with one voice. The glaring division between Fulani groups is said to be weakening the quest for the unity of the ethnic group, findings by Daily Trust have shown.
The Fulani, who are mostly pastoralists and nomadic, are found in many parts of the country, searching for pasture for their animals.
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Their movement, along with their cattle, sheep and goats, has often led to clashes between them and farmers, at times with fatalities recorded on both sides. The farmers often accuse herders of deliberately trespassing into their farms and wreaking havoc on their crops.
Meanwhile, the movement of some criminally minded foreign herders into the country has led to a spike in acts of criminality, among them banditry, kidnapping, rape and killing of victims despite ransom payment, a situation that is denting the image of the Fulani herders in the country.
All these make it imperative for the Fulani to come under one umbrella to jointly address the issues affecting them. But why is it difficult for the various Fulani groups to work together under one umbrella?
At present, two key traditional rulers of Fulani descent are backing two different umbrella bodies of the Fulani. The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III serves as the Grand Patron of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), while the Lamido of Adamawa, Dr. Muhammad Barkindo Musdafa is the Grand Patron of another association, Tabital Pulaaku International.
Our correspondents spoke with some of the groups, who gave reasons why the main socio-cultural body of the Fulani, popularly known as the MACBAN split into different entities, which have undermined the progress of the Fulani nation to a great extent for the past two decades in the country.
According to Sa’idu Maikano Adamu, the national president of the Jonde Jam Fulani Youths Association of Nigeria, the division among members of th
e Fulani group came when some people felt there was the need to make money for themselves, and therefore, had to create different groups to be recognised by either the government or influential individuals.
He explained, “The politics of the country, which often recognises groups for political reasons, played a great role in dividing the group because politicians use groups to campaign for elections. So, people would always register an association to become players in the country’s politics, and that has affected the unity of the MACBAN.’’
He said that aside from politics, the workload of the Fulani was too much for the MACBAN to tackle alone; therefore, some members saw the need to create more groups to assist the main body in confronting the challenges affecting the ethnic group in the country.
“The chairman, Board of Trustees of the MACBAN, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar Sa’ad lll, was very soft on the leaders of the group, saying he does not shout at those who have done wrong, which made others feel the need to form vibrant groups to protect their interest,’’ he added.
For the Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN), the obvious reason for the division is lack of trust between leaders and members, who accused the MACBAN leadership of protecting their selfish interest at the detriment of ordinary members of the group; therefore, other members had to move to form groups to ensure that the interest of the Fulani is well protected.
Garba Abdullahi Muhammed, the chairman of the GAFDAN in Plateau State, who accused the MACBAN of mistrust, also said the group had been politicised for self gain by few individuals, thereby tarnishing the integrity of the entire Fulani ethnic group, and that many of the members who felt betrayed left and created new groups.
He said, “The trust and integrity of the group are no longer there in the association. The interest of the Fulani is no longer protected. And those who felt betrayed realised that they could not continue with the MACBAN and should get a new platform that would uplift the lost glory and integrity of the people.’’
On his part, the national president of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Abdullahi Bello Bodejo, said it would be difficult for the various Fulani groups to merge, due to differences in aims and membership scope.
In an interview with Daily Trust, Bodejo noted that the membership composition of his group, which was formed to protect Fulani herders, differed from that of the MACBAN, which supposedly comprised all cattle breeders, irrespective of ethnicity.
He also explained that at a point, some notable members of the MACBAN realised that the association was for all breeders and not the Fulani alone, meaning that an Igbo or Yoruba cattle owner could be a member.
“Something came up in 2011 that led to the formation of Kautal Hore. We wanted to file a case against the federal government at the ECOWAS Court, but we discovered that the MACBAN was not registered.
“The late Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, advised us to add a Fulani word to the name and register it; so we added Kautal Hore and eventually got a Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) certificate and filed the case.
“The then secretary of the MACBAN, the late Saleh Bayari, formed Gan Allah after a disagreement with other officials. The MACBAN was not registered until much later when Kautal Hore had gone far with its activities and sound leadership,’’ he said.
Bodejo said the group had since realised the need to bring smaller Fulani associations into its fold, adding that the desire for unity informed the recent conference in Yola. He said a similar gathering would be convened in Jalingo.
He lamented the mass killing of the Fulani and their animals in Plateau and Benue states during ethno-religious crises, and called on the authorities to compensate the victims.
He denied the existence of a Fulani group called FUNAM, saying it was the creation of some anti-Fulani forces in Benue State to tarnish the image of the ethnic group.
Reacting, the advisor on conflict resolution to the MACBAN, Mafindi Umar Danburan, said the proliferation of various Fulani associations could be of benefit to herders if the leaders were sincere.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Danburan also said the number of herders’ associations now could not cater for the huge population of Fulani people in Nigeria, noting that the problem is that those who broke away from the MACBAN to form smaller groups were driven by greed and selfishness rather than service.
He insisted that the MACBAN remained the only truly recognised and popular group, with structures in every ward, local government and states, and notable traditional leaders as patrons.
“We are recognised and respected, that is why it is possible for us to work with the government and other stakeholders to resolve problems. The Taraba State Government had banned open grazing, but with the effort of the MACBAN and our ability to reach out, today the Fulani are grazing in the state.
“The MACBAN originated from the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto about 36 years ago. It was the first Fulani association. Other groups were formed by aggrieved persons and those who lost elections in the MACBAN,’’ he said.
He said a resolution to speak with one voice under the MACBAN was agreed upon at a meeting in Minna under the leadership of the then Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II and Lamido Adamawa, Dr Muhammadu Barkindo Mustapha. It was attended by several Fulani associations.
He also denied knowledge of FUNAM, saying that to the best of his knowledge, no Fulani group bears such name.
The Benue State chapter of the MACBAN said there were ongoing negotiations between them and other Fulani groups to come under one umbrella to pursue a common goal.
The state secretary of the MACBAN, Ibrahim Galma, told our correspondent by telephone that already, meetings had been held in Abuja over the matter between the MACBAN, Myetti Allah Kautal Hore and other groups with the Sultan.
Galma said the major challenge was how to identify the leadership of the so-called Fulani Nationality Movement, the group that recently claimed the attack on Governor Samuel Ortom.
He also said discussions were on among their national leaders on how to foster harmony among themselves and host communities, adding that various interests were delaying the unity between the bodies.
“The possibility is there that we will come together to speak with one voice. The Sultan is making efforts towards that. And we will all respect his efforts as our leader,’’ Galma added.
For the president of Jonde Jam, Sa’idu Maikano Adamu, if the Sultan of Sokoto would call on all Fulani groups to, with a sincere mind, ensure unity, his group is ready to cooperate. He said he would tell all his members across the country to be loyal to such agreement, adding that speaking with one voice would go a long way in dealing with some of the problems the Fulani are facing in the country.
For the state chairman of the GAFDAN, it was possible that Fulani groups could come together as an entity to speak with one voice because what affects one Fulani member has affected all. He added that efforts to unite individual groups in Plateau had since started.
He said leaders of the MACBAN, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and GAFDAN had already started talking about it, hoping that the quest would be the same in all the states of the federation and at the national level.
By Hussein Yahaya (Abuja), Ado Abubakar Musa (Jos), Kabiru R. Anwar (Yola) & Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi)