“Clearly, they were Fulani, given their physiognomy. Aside this, they also mentioned this themselves while hinting at tribes they dearly dislike. When I tried connecting on the instance of the language they spoke, it got them angry and they tried establishing if I could speak Hausa or not. For the leaders of the group, I am certain they are Fulani, albeit from Niger Republic. A few incidents pointed clearly to this, aside their boast of similar kidnapping exploits in Mali and other locations in the West African coast… There were seven of them. I could readily account for five of them on the basis of what they did. There were however two others that I knew were present but seldom got involved with us. One of them was their cook, four of them had guns with them and of these four, two of them were responsible for giving directions. There were times we walked for hours during the daytime and sometimes at night. They had people who sent call credit to them. Someone else was responsible for supplying cigarettes, another for occasional food supplies and there was someone changing their currency into dollars. That is the much I could tell from their conversations…. Ekiti has a perfect cover for kidnapping given the thick rain forest vegetation in the state… The impression one gets is that the government is not concerned. It was a pretty hopeless situation. All official channels explored were futile. Till today, no one from the state or any of the security apparatus has debriefed me to get information that can ensure the perpetrators are caught. The forest is a resource and it needs to be branded as one. What the kidnappers have done is to harness the resources since the government won’t do that. The streams, wild fruits, terrains, etc have been thoroughly mapped by these reprobates for use. It is the same thing that happened to Sambisa forest. If those forests were in active use and deployed for sub-national use involving research, forest conservation, etc, the kidnappers won’t find it a convenient spot to use”.
The above is the voice of Sola Fagorusi, a young chap I met through his writings on technology on the pages of Punch newspapers and whom I later related with and engaged briefly for a training job. He gave the interview of his 21 days ordeal in the hands of kidnappers who hijacked him in Ekiti State. He mentioned how his car was stopped with bullets and how he and his passenger, returning from a wedding, are extremely lucky to have been alive. He also said he and three other victims were beaten mercilessly twice daily until they were released – ransom having been paid.
Almost every Nigerian knows someone who has been kidnapped and so this issue qualifies for our own pandemic. More people may have died under this trauma and tragedy than have died since COVID-19 moonlighted in Nigeria. Therefore, something more than a state of emergency is needed on this reprehensible criminal practice which is almost becoming like part of the culture all over Nigeria.
I’ve always been a bit centrist, calling for caution before weighing down on any side. I have always called attention to the fact that criminals may want to blame all their activities on Fulani cattle herders, and that remains a fact. Another fact is that we are not dealing with cattle herders here at all. In ALL of the accounts I have heard, kidnappers care nothing about cows. You cannot herd cows and traumatise ‘kidnappees’ at the same time. So, I believe enough time has elapsed, and enough experience has been garnered by us, to begin to boil down the problem properly for what it is. We can now conclude that yes, many of these kidnappings are by people of Fulani stock. They are the ones who understand the terrain in the bushes (in fact they are called Kings of the Bushes). They are the ones bold enough to face up to the vagaries of the jungles. Other kidnappers exist in our urban areas, but like the famous Evans, they don’t trek for kilometres and hours in the jungle. Those ones often keep their quarry in town. It seems like we could also conclude that many of these kidnappers are from outside Nigeria. They could be collaborating with their kin here. I use the word ‘many’ here deliberately.
So it is a pity that some of our Fulani friends feel bad when we call this for what it is. We should read Sola’s traumatised first-hand account again. He says they boasted of similar exploits as far as Mali. They are highly organized. They change their money into dollars. They understand our forests like the back of their hands. This is a shame to all of us and to our security agencies. How can foreigners understand our country’s terrain better than us? How can boys from Northern Nigeria even understand the terrain better than people in the South? How can a group of boys, map our country better than us? It could only be because we are distracted and do not know the value of what we have. And we are not learning. As I write, nobody from the security services has contacted Sola, who came out of the 21 days ordeal with a sprained arm – as a result of being jacked for long periods of time. His car’s brain box received one of the bullets aimed at them. These kidnappers are deadly and merciless. But instead of an honest approach towards reclaiming our country, we are busy fighting a tribal war, while our government officials and security apparatchik have abandoned road travel because they cannot protect even themselves. What a pity.
We have now seen vividly that there seems to be a new insurgency, with ‘Fulani bandits’ as identified by Daily Trust’s Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, carrying military grade weapons against the state. Their grievances are unknown and I am unsure if Nigeria has done bad by them or seized their lands or resources. It also seems like town Fulani or the elite are also victim of this insurgency – in fact the first line victims before we start talking of Nigerians down South. What has Nigeria done to offend Fulani worldwide from Senegal through Sudan to Ethiopia and down to Congo Brazzaville? Why concentrate on Nigeria? Can we also see why southern Nigeria, with only 25 per cent of the landmass of Nigeria is complaining? Something must give. Buhari should remain taciturn. But this time somebody must yield. Enough!