Governors of the 19 Northern Nigeria states on Friday, April 29, unanimously condemned the recent attacks in Agatu and Enugu in the southeast of the country, saying they were saddened by the attacks. The governors however berated those labelling the criminals perpetrating the spate of attacks as Fulani.
Alhaji Kashim Shettima who is the governor of Borno state and the chairman of the Northern Nigeria Governors Forum said it was an insult to label the Fulani as criminals. He said: “We want to unequivocally condemn the recent killings in Enugu and other parts of the country. But we equally condemn the politicization or permit me, the ‘ethnicisation’ of the whole crisis. It goes beyond Fulani. If anything happens, they say Fulani herdsmen; to me it is an insult.”
Shettima did not stop there. “Kidnapping in this country originated in the South-east, were they called Igbo kidnappers? We have a great national challenge and we want to call on all and sundry to come and let us solve our common challenges as a people. Because the blood of paternity that binds us together supersedes whatever differences that might divide us,” he added.
No doubt, there are countless decent, humane and magnanimous Fulani. One of my greatest benefactors is a Fulani gentleman from Adamawa who stands above many when kind men rise to be counted. Besides, way back in the eighties during my one-year national youth service in Kazaure; then in Kano but now in Jigawa state, I did not spend a kobo to buy tomatoes and onions. All I needed to get these commodities was to wear my Corper’s attire to the Friday market next to Government Day Secondary School Kazaure where I did my primary assignment. Each time I wanted to buy, kind-hearted Hausa-Fulani women who cared less where I originated from, would give me more than enough for my needs, free of charge. I’m not sure whether that formula still works today. But seriously, it is most uncharitable to label all Fulani as criminals because of the activities of some of them. Nigerians in the Diaspora, especially those in South Africa, would tell you that the yoke of such stereotyping is not easy to bear.
However, under the present circumstances, it is difficult to figure out how the analogy drawn by Governor Shettima would help to “solve our common challenges” as he so glibly put it. Rather, it engenders more questions than answers. Take the timing for instance. Did the governors just realise that the Fulani were being so described? Last year, when the Global Terrorism Index classified Fulani herdsmen as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world, what did the northern governors do about it? Specifically the report said, “In 2013, the FULANI killed around 80 people in total – but by 2014 the group had killed 1,229.” Maybe I missed the petition they tendered to protest such umbrella categorization.
When kidnappers were ravaging the southeast of Nigeria did the southeast governors wait for the federal government before condemning and taking measures against the perpetrators? Perhaps I am not aware of a meeting of the northern governors where they jointly condemned the atrocities of the herdsmen before now. But I do recall that in the heat of the kidnapping scourge, several southern governors, including those of Rivers, Cross River, Imo, Edo and Delta at various times pushed for and some indeed endorsed the death penalty for kidnappers. Even governors of the 36 states of the federation met at the Kwara state Liaison Office in Abuja where they issued a communiqué calling on the federal government to ‘act decisively on the criminality in order to restore sanity and general security.’ Why has the same not happened in the case of the terrorist activities of the herdsmen?
Surely, we still remember how Governor Peter Obi of the southeast state of Anambra and his successor liquidated physical assets of known criminals, especially kidnappers and their collaborators. Or have we forgotten so soon under the spell of selective amnesia? What corresponding action have the northern governors initiated or implemented against the rampaging herdsmen or is their crime not heinous enough? Questions and more questions.
To stretch the argument a bit further, Sabon-Gari in Kano and other such ‘garis’ across the north are full of Igbo traders who have migrated there to do what they do best – trading; just as the Fulani herdsmen move around in furtherance of their pastoralist vocation. Have the Igbo traders at any point in time embarked on an orgy of raping the wives and daughters of their hosts, and killing innocent men, women and children. If that were to happen, God forbid, would the northerners shy away from calling the Igbos criminals? Would they fold their hands and wait for a seemingly reluctant federal government to take action? What then is the basis for the analogy by Governor Shettima and his comrades?
In October 2000, General Muhammadu Buhari travelled from Katsina state at the head of a delegation to the then governor of Oyo State, Lam Adeshina, to strongly protest the reprisal attack carried out on Fulani herdsmen by the Saki people of the state. Although that visit was not well received, the fact remains that it was motivated by love for their people. I think a condolence visit by a delegation of the Northern governors to their Enugu counterpart would have yielded a more positive result if truly they are desirous of solving “our common challenges as a people” and if indeed “the blood of paternity that binds us together supersedes whatever differences that might divide us.”
But the fact is, I’m not a governor and I do not possess the special skill to think like one.
NP: Constructive comments are welcome please.