The Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Alhaji Baba-Othman Ngalzama, spoke with CALEB ONWE on the Kaduna killings and sundry issues. Excerpts…
The cattle herders are your members, and have been fingered in the on going bloody conflict in Southern Kaduna. Isn’t it true that those attacking communities and killing people are Fulani herdsmen?
The crisis in Southern Kaduna has a long history. It started as far back as 2011. Even before then, there have been insecurity taking place, just as it happens everywhere because the two occupations, farming and animal rearing, were created to co-exist.
So, conflicts are bound to happen just like teeth and tongue. Most of the herders are also farmers and most of the farmers have animals, so this is something we can’t run away from, but it is unfortunate that the crisis in Southern Kaduna has continued from 2011 till date.
From the farmer-herder conflicts that we used to know, it has now assumed a tribal dimension, and to some extent religion. This is because the Fulanis belong to one tribe, and Fulanis are all Muslims. The conflict has always been given the interpretation of tribal and religious conflict, because the community that is having problem with the pastoralists is a Christian dominated community.
So, because of lack of punishment of culprits from both sides, the insecurity has continued. Today culprits have become heroes in their communities they will get involved the conflict, or commit a crime and are allowed to go free. Some are even known but no arrest is made. And because culprits are not brought to law, that is what is exacerbating the conflict in Southern Kaduna. There have been a lot of community efforts towards the resolution of these conflicts right form 2011.
Government established so many committees to start discussions, find out about the root causes, proffer solutions, but were the solutions implemented? They were not implemented and because of the media’s negative profiling of the pastoralists, instead of associating it to criminals, they jump to conclusions and say it is the herdsmen that perpetrated this and that. Is just like you asking me about my members, and assuming all Fulanis are my members. Not all Fulanis are our members, not all of them are our members. We have a lot of pastoralists association in this country.
We have the one that has a similar name with our own, like the Miyatte Allah Kauther Koure, that is group that is having problems with the Benue State government. That was the group that had earlier on condemned the formation of Amotekun.
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), which I am the Secretary, is the one that was created and duly registered since February 12, 1986. This is the one that has His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto as the Chairman Board of Trustees. We also have the Emir of Kano, the Emir of Zauzau, and others as members of the board. We have respected, honoured northern first class traditional rulers as members of Board of Trustees. We always guide our statements, we always think much before we act, we are always very careful to avoid making statements that will affect the image, and respect of those traditional rulers we represent. The media is not separating Fulanis who are legitimately doing the business from the criminals.
Some of the media houses are too mischievous, they deliberately report in order to smear the name of the Fulanis simply because the President is a Fulani, and it is for political reasons. It has become a battleground for politicians. If they want to attack the President, they attack us because they think the President is our member, it is not every Fulani that is our member. So people think every Fulani man is our member and this is wrong, we speak on behalf of those who have accepted to take our membership and be members of our association, so when we speak we always speak on behalf of those people, we don’t speak for every pastoralists.
So crisis in Southern Kaduna has a long history but we will appreciate the efforts of the governor, he is doing his best to overcome the crisis. I just read yesterday that somebody claiming to be a Fulani man with the name Bulama made one nasty statement, I also saw that the Christian Association of Nigeria and Christian leaders in Southern Kaduna have already petitioned the Inspector General of Police demanding the arrest of that particular person who has made that statement on behalf of the Fulanis.
I doubt very much if that person is a Fulani because just like you will never find the name Adebayo in Igbo, you will never find the name Bulama in Fulani. Bulama only exist only in Kanuri but you can never find Bulama among the Fulanis. So that person must be a mischiefmaker. If he exists at all, he is just looking for the recognition. It is somebody who wants to further fuel crisis that can come out to make such nasty statement in order to frustrate the peace initiative that is going on in Southern Kaduna.
What role is your association playing in the resolution of the conflict in Southern Kaduna?
Have you taken any steps and what are the steps? We have been taken so many steps, all those committees that were established by the government in the past, our members were represented in almost all the committees. Miyatti Allah is represented; there was a time we even went to Kafanchan for security discussion with all the chiefs and heads of security agencies in Southern Kaduna. We have been having so many peace discussions; we have been having dialogues with the leaders Southern Kaduna.
We’ve had series of discussions with the leaders, we have been interacting, dialoguing with them on several occasions but you see because of this mischief makers, because of loss of communication within the two groups, a lot of efforts made had been frustrated. So long as there is no communication between these two groups, mischief-makers will find an avenue to go and perpetrate their mischief to further fuel the crisis and that is what is happening. You don’t rule out the activities of criminals, you know criminals sometimes instigate this crisis in order to perpetrate their criminal intentions.
I can give you an example in Benue where at the earlier stage of the crisis we later discovered that criminals are always perpetrating the conflict in order to loot, to steal so you cannot rule out the involvement and participation of criminals behind the scene. Sometimes such criminals can go and provoke, kill a Fulani man making it look as if it is the n a t i v e t h a t k i l l him so that the conflict will continue.
They can equally kill one of the native of Southern Kaduna, sometimes dressed in Fulani attire, kill him so they think is a Fulani man, the next morning they begin to attack the Fulani, all these things are going on there, we have been working with leaders of the native. We also work with government, work with security agencies in trying to find lasting solution in southern Kaduna. Our members are not only facing this crisis in Southern Kaduna, crisis is affecting the pastoralists everywhere in the country. There is no place we have not visited in the South West and there is no place we have not visited in the South-East, South-South. When Chief Olu Falae was kidnapped there was a lot of media attack on the Fulanis. The media approached us for comments, but we refused, do you know why we refused? Because we don’t know who actually kidnapped him, it may be a Fulani man, so if we go and protest and say it is not a Fulani man and later, it turns out to be a Fulani man, what can we say. That was why we didn’t respond.
The attacks by bandits in places like Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara are sometimes linked with cattle rustling. Is that really what is happening in those states?
Not all the Fulanis are our members. I must say that when it comes to the issues of banditry, kidnapping, the Fulanis are both victims and culprits. Crime doesn’t discriminate between tribe and religion. There is nobody you cannot find in that group, it is a common interest, there is no ethnic group you will not find in banditry, rustling or kidnapping, but a majority of those in cattle rustling and banditry are Fulanis. Fulanis have become most victims in areas of banditry and kidnapping, this is a fact. This cannot be denied because, they have been arrested; a lot of them have been arrested only for us to discover that if 10 are arrested, five to six are Fulanis, and the rest are a combination of other tribes. If you arrest three, maybe you will discover that two are Fulanis, this is a fact we cannot deny. So we know about this but we don’t represent criminals. We don’t represent them; we only represent the peace loving ones who are moving around doing their legitimate businesses.
During the lockdown, there were media reports that Fulani herdsmen were moving in large numbers to Southern Nigeria. Were they your members?
I don’t even believe that large numbers of Fulanis were moving to the South during the lockdown. Where will they move to, for what? How can you relate the movement with the lockdown? If it is because of the lockdown they were moving to that place, why are they moving because of the lockdown, is it because the lockdown is affecting where they were and it is not where they want to go and live where there is no lockdown or are they running away from the corona virus that is everywhere in the country. So some media reportage were mere lies, they are un- confirmed. I don’t believe this has taken place, why they move in their large numbers to go and do what, are they going there to attack corona or what, these are mere lies don’t believe it, I don’t believe this has happened.
What are your views on the formation of Amotekun security outfit in the South-West?
I will like to make it abundantly clear that security should be the concern of everybody. We as the representative of the pastoralists, we are very much concerned with the deteriorating security situation of the country. So the formation of Amotekun as long as it is done in conformity with the laid down rules and regulations of the security agencies that are charged with the responsibility of ensuring security lawfully, we will have no problem with the formation of Amotekun because it is very clear that there is a serious security challenge in the country. Even our members whom we always speak on their behalf has suffered, or are suffering from these vices of criminality today we have lost over 2million Cows as a result of Cattle rustling in Nigeria. If I asked you the simple question that who are the sole owners of Cattle in the country, our members are the sole owners of the Cattle in the country. So security is our concern as well. If Amotekun is established with good intensions, we will have no problem, we are Nigerians, the security is affecting everybody and our members who are residents in the South-West have become part and parcel of the South-West, some were born and brought up there, some even don’t know any other place apart from the South-West and the only language they can speak today is the Yoruba. They don’t even understand Hausa. If you go to meet them in the South-West they don’t even know Hausa, what they understand is the fluent Yoruba and the Fulfude tribe then maybe the Pidgin English. The formation of Amotekun, as long as it is done in a way that it will protect lives and properties of those who are living there, as long as it is in conformity with the principles of community policing, we have no objection as peaceful citizens, we have no objection as law abiding citizens of the country. After all, the members we represent, we represent the legitimate ones who are moving, doing their legitimate business, we don’t represent criminals, our members also suffer from the hand of criminals.
What is your reaction to the assertion by some Nigerians that the Fulani tribe have an agenda to take over the country?
To take over the country from who? Buhari is the President of the country and he is a Fulani man. If they want to take over the country from whom are they going to take over the country from? Buhari or who? And if they take over, what are they going to do with the country, how are they going to take over Nigeria? How is it even possible for a Fulani man to take over Nigeria, how is it even possible as a sensible person just relax and think how is it possible for a Fulani man to go and take over the South-West, or the South-South. We have over 30 million Fulanis in this country and these numbers are not situated in one place, they are all spread in all the corners across this country, there is no forest you go to in this country that you cannot find Fulanis. These people are the sources of suppliers of protein in this country. Mention one protein, is it chicken, goat or cow, they are the production segment of the society, next to the Igbos, because they don’t depend on government. They are on their own, they sink their cement well and drink water or they drink water from the pond, they don’t care about the pump water neither do they care about the electricity, they are just there roaming.