- Vows resist plot to stop Buhari’s 2nd term
Since the New Year, 2018 was ushered in; no issue has dominated public discourse as the killings following the clashes between farmers and the Fulani herdsmen in various parts of the country. But one man whose name is considered to be at the centre of the conflict is the National President, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Socio-cultural Association, Bello Abdullahi Bodejo (Lamido Fulbe). In this interview courtesy of Saturday Sun’s, Bodejo speaks with Willy Eya on various issues and concluded that the anti-open grazing law enacted by some states caused the crises and insists that it should be reversed.
As the chairman of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, what comes to your mind with regards to the killings in different parts of the country? In view of the fact that your tribe, the Fulani is associated with these killings, how do you feel?
There is a long history of clashes between the Fulani and the farmers in this country. Almost about 50 years ago, the Fulani and the farmers have been having clashes but the clashes were usually settled between the local chiefs and Fulani leaders but now since the last eight years, everything has changed. What is happening in Nigeria today is not a normal clash between the Fulani and the farmers. The whole thing has been politicized and politicians are getting involved in the problem. In 2014 during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, there were clashes in Benue, Plateau and Taraba states but the media did not sensationalise it like what is happening now. In the present case, people are using all kinds of propaganda. Any time the nation wants to go into a general election to entrench a new government, people would start all kinds of propaganda. When one or two people are killed now, they would carry propaganda like a whole village has been wiped off. Now, there is no farming in the bush but anything that happens, they say it is the Fulani and farmers. Before, both the farmers and the Fulani, if they had a problem in the bush, they could easily settle themselves but now politicians are involved and they are preaching so much hatred between the Fulani and the farmers. The problem is that the Fulani do not have access to the media because many of them are in the bush rearing their cattle. If for instance, you want to call a Fulani in Benue to know what is happening to them there, it may not be possible because you do not have the number of anybody there in the bush. But the media especially the social media, they always write one side of the story. There is no balance in the stories that are being pushed out and because the Fulani are not in control of the media, anything or crime can be imposed on them and the people would erroneously believe it. The normal thing the media should do is if they hear the side of the farmers, they should also go and find the position of the Fulani. What is happening now is that some politicians who are finding it difficult to come back to power are causing the problem. Ask yourself how many farmers can buy the AK47 rifles that they say the Fulani herdsmen carry about. Instead of finding a way to end the crisis, the politicians are using propaganda to escalate it. Every time, they say it is Fulani but if you go to other countries where the Fulani are herding their cattle, have you heard any killings that were caused by the Fulani? They killed people in Taraba and they said it was the handiwork of the Fulani but the people who did it are not the Fulani. If there are such killings, the security authorities like the police should be contacted and they should be able to tell the truth. Like I said, they are stigmatizing us using the media because the Fulani do not have access to the media.
You alleged that the politicians are buying AK47 for the perpetrators of the violence in those affected places. Are you saying they are buying it for the Fulani or who?
In the last two or three weeks, the police have arrested some people with AK47 rifles but those people are not Fulani. They are mentioning some politicians who are not Fulani for buying AK47 for them and I believe them because the poor cattle herders cannot buy AK 47.
Is there any iota of truth that sometimes helicopters land in some strategic locations to drop arms for the Fulani as a way to help them in the clashes with the farmers?
I cannot even answer that question because I am not a police officer and I do not know anything about helicopters dropping arms for anybody. I have never seen any helicopter and no member of the Miyetti Allah would say he has seen any helicopter dropping anything anywhere.
As somebody who is in a position to know, from your projections, when do you think there would be peace in Benue, Taraba and all the other crises-prone places?
The problem is that some have poisoned the minds of the people against the Fulani but what I am saying is that the authorities including the governors, security agencies and the traditional rulers should go and find the real perpetrators of these crimes. They should also identify the real Fulani and the farmers and find a way to settle it because we are all Nigerians. Let the Fulani and the farmers come together with the traditional rulers, the security agencies, the governors and all the stakeholders should come together, sit down and settle this thing once and for all. The Federal Government should set up a very high committee to wade into the matter. If they destroy the cattle of the Fulani, let government compensate them and if the properties of the farmers are destroyed, let the government also pay them. Let them compensate everybody. The security agencies should also arrest those who were involved in the killings for prosecution.
Already, the committee set up by the Federal Government and headed by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo has recommended the deployment of soldiers to the affected areas; are you comfortable with that?
We accept any position of the Federal Government. You know that in Nigeria, there are many associations of the Fulani but our association is the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Socio-Cultural Association. We need peace and anything that the Federal Government can do to bring about peace, we support it and we also support anything that any state government can do to bring about peace. Even the Benue State government, anything we can do to support them, we would try our best. But let me tell you the truth, the people doing these things are not Fulani because I know that the Fulani do not kill people. So, if the Federal Government wants to take any move to stop this crisis, we would support it 100 per cent.
There is a perception by a reasonable percentage of Nigerians that all these killings in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Enugu and some other affected places are done by the Fulani; are you not worried that the development maybe setting up Nigerians against the Fulani tribe?
That is what I said that they are using the media to stigmatise the Fulani but I can tell you that the Fulani people do not engage in those kinds of things. The problem is that the Fulani do not have access to the media. Many of them even stay where there is no telecommunication network. So, any lies they tell about the Fulani, it is easy to believe because you have not heard their side of the story. This week, some people in Nasarawa killed people and over 70 cows and they said it was done by people from Benue. As it has happened now, nobody would go and ask what happened. Who is inside the bush to know what is happening to the Fulani in the bush? Let the journalists and the media tell Nigerians the truth and let the public get the clear picture of what is happening.
The Minister of Defence said the crises in Benue and Taraba are being caused by the implementation of the anti-open grazing law and encroachment on the already established grazing routes. Do you agree and what do you think should be done?
The anti-grazing law has caused a lot of crises and if you have been following all the stories trailing it, since the anti-open grazing law started in Benue State, we have not been happy with it. We had to rush to court because you cannot just sleep, wake up and implement the law like that if actually we are in one Nigeria. This is a country and if you say that somebody has signed a law in only one state, it is not right because it is a new development in Nigeria. The Fulani who are the traditional herders do not know the law you are talking about and you need to take time to explain it to them. The herders are not educated and you cannot just wake up, sign a law that affects them and impose it on them without giving enough time to explain the import of the law to them. How can you do that without creating the necessary awareness about the law? The people you created the law for, you do not know them as many of them are usually in the thick bush. Some of the Fulani since they were born do not even enter car or go to the highway. All they do is to herd their cattle. If they are the kind of people who come to the city and interact with people, they would know about the law, but these are people who stay inside the bush. All the crises that we are seeing now, it is the anti-open grazing law that is causing them. You heard what the Minister of Defence said; he is in a high security position and he cannot just wake up and say something that he is not sure of. He made it clear that it is the law that is causing the crises. He has made the research and he has a very good security report. He must have networked with other security agencies before coming out to say that the law is causing the problem. The situation is very difficult to explain. Had it been since this thing started they have been able to arrest some Fulani in the act, they can say yes the Fulani are the people doing the killing. If that happens, we would not have anything to say because of the material evidence but it is wrong to accuse the Fulani when you have never caught them in the act. I listened to the Police Public Relations Officer and he said some people bought AK 47 for those that were arrested and those arrested are not even Fulani. So, why should everybody be blaming the Fulani for the killings?
The allegation is that President Buhari is Fulani and virtually the whole nation’s security architecture is in the hands of the Fulani, hence they are getting protection from the authorities. The perception out there is that no matter the offence a Fulani man commits under this administration, he may go scot-free. Do you agree?
Let me tell you the truth. In 2014 when President Jonathan was still in power, there were crises in Plateau, Benue and Taraba states that almost destroyed the country. That time they were calling the name of Jonathan but now that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has taken power from the PDP, and changed the government, the problem has shifted to Buhari. Some people who lost the elections do not know how they can sit down without getting anything from the government. These are the kinds of people causing the problem and hoping that they would go back to power. During the Jonathan’s time, you remember the Ombatse cult problem in Nasarawa State. That crisis alone was even threatening the country as many security agents were killed but there was no much propaganda. Now, even if a husband and wife quarrel, they would say it is a problem caused by the Fulani. I know why they are saying all these; it is because President Buhari is a Fulani man. Buhari is fighting corruption and all these people who looted our money are not happy and they are fighting back in many ways. Many of them are being chased about by the EFCC and they are not happy and they want to cause problems because election is approaching. President Muhammadu Buhari is a very straight leader and is not protecting anybody. And let me tell you, if Buhari did not win the 2015 presidential election, I do not know where Nigeria would have been by now and I do not know what would have been the fate of the Fulani in Nigeria today. Maybe if Buhari did not win, the Fulani by now would be migrating to Cameroun, Niger, Chad and other places. This is because during the Jonathan’s time, nobody had the interest of the Fulani at heart. They were always killing the Fulani and nobody was talking about it. But thank God that since Buhari came to power, he has been fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, cattle rustlers, Niger Delta militants and the problems are coming down. Why this is happening now is because we are approaching 2019 general elections. Somebody would wake up, pick a newspaper, which carries only one side of a story and go with it.
With the negative perception of the Fulani tribe in Nigeria today because of the killings in some parts of the country, don’t you think it would affect Buhari’s chances in the 2019 presidential election?
Nobody should try to remove Buhari in 2019. All the Fulani in Nigeria today, our eyes are open. All of us are behind Buhari; we have seen that they want to destroy the Fulani because of Buhari. We would not allow anybody to intimidate the Federal Government or to take Buhari’s mandate; we would be ready to follow him and fight it. We are ready to do anything to ensure that Buhari comes back to complete the good work he is doing. The people criticizing him are just few and nothing would affect his chances of coming back.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was one of those that supported Buhari in 2015 recently wrote a letter to him not to seek re-election in 2019. With such a letter coming from a strong personality like Obasanjo, don’t you think that Buhari may not be re-elected in 2019?
President Obasanjo is respected in the country because he ruled Nigeria under the present democracy for eight years. As for the letter he wrote, he knows what he is doing. You know that Obasanjo is now a real politician. But to tell Buhari not to run in 2019, he does not have the power because he has only one vote like any other person. What I can assure you is that 87 per cent of Nigerians are with Buhari in the race for 2019. Nobody would allow him to poison people’s mind. Those people in the Bush do not know whether Obasanjo asked Buhari not to run for re-election in 2019. I want to also commend some governors who are supporting the government. I thank the 16 governors who have already agreed to give space for the cattle colonies. Obasanjo tore his PDP card in 2015 but he cannot do that to the APC.
The former Senate president, Iyorcha Ayu recently said in an interview that five Northern emirs are behind the Fulani herdsmen and that they usually support their activities, how true is that assertion?
The emirs under Uthman Dan Fodio that you are talking about are more than five. Go and research about it. The first people who ruled this country are the Fulani. If you are an emir and a Fulani man, you cannot throw away your people. The emirs support us but none of them would support any crisis. Like the Fulani, all other tribes have their own groups too. Do you believe that any emir would ask anybody to go and fight because they want power or what? There is no benefit in that. No emir would support the Miyetti Allah to go and fight; they are patrons of the association.
You said the Benue anti-open grazing law is the cause of the crises between herdsmen and farmers but as the law has already been passed, what do you think is the solution to the problem?
You know we are already in court with the Benue State government because the anti-grazing law is not acceptable to us. We do not like the law because it does not give room for the Fulani to rear their cows. What they are trying to do is to chase the Fulani out of Benue State. This is one Nigeria and the human rights charter allows us to go anywhere and do our business. If they want to create this law because of the Fulani, let them also stop the Igbo who are buying provisions and other items to sell in Benue. I call on the governor of Benue State to cancel the law. It is better for them, for us and everybody in the country. We have been close to the Tiv people but this law wants to destroy the relationship between the Fulani and the Tiv people.
On the issue of cattle colony, many states are hesitant to support it because of the perceived expansionist ambition of the Fulani people. The impression is that if you give the Fulani land, over time he would expand it beyond the boundaries you have given him and will even be ready to fight you if you want to ask questions. Some support this argument with the story of the migration of the early Fulani settlers in the North led by Uthman Dan Fodio. What is your take on that?
All these people who are kicking against the cattle colonies are the enemies of the Fulani people and they are also enemies of progress of the nation. Before now, we already knew about the existence of cattle colonies but they are just playing politics with it because President Buhari is in power. They are saying President Buhari wants to collect people’s land and give it to the Fulani. But they forget that the Minister of Agriculture who is trying to introduce cattle colonies is not a Fulani man. He is even from Benue and it was him who brought the idea. In other countries where you have the Fulani, there are no problems and it is because of the way they are managing the issue of cattle rearing. In some countries, herders take their cows about and even if they stray unto the highway, the vehicles would stop and they would pass and there is no problem with that. We should know that 99.9 per cent of cattle consumed in Nigeria come from the Fulani. Anybody kicking against the cattle colony is not ready for peace. Some countries in Africa are already practicing it. Most of these people shouting against it stay in the cities for about 10 years without travelling home to see their parents and they would be shouting that there should not be cattle colonies. These are the kind of people that are causing problems in the country. They just wake up and start talking without knowing the history of the country. Our association is happy about the cattle colony and we thank God that about 16 states have already supported it. By the grace God, the crises would come down. And the idea of cattle colony is from Audu Ogbeh and not Buhari.