The Ruga Project: Transience Of Power, Fulani Cattle Herders And The Rest Of Us

The Oasis Reporters

July 1, 2019

For many reasons, these should be seen as very difficult times for Nigeria, some natural and many others man made. The entire world is in ebullition, there is the standoff between America’s Donald Trump and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, further compounded by the oil tanker attacks in the strait of Hormuz, the shooting down of an American intelligence gathering drone and the unending accusation by the Americans of Iran as a State sponsor of terrorism.

There are issues relating to reduction of green gasses which scientists largely believe to be the main cause of global warming with its attendant consequences.

There is North Korea and its nuclear missile programme and the political crises which does not appear to be in a hurry to end. Coming to the African Continent, the fallout from the Arab Spring is still very much with us as evidenced by the recent coup in Sudan. There is the Ebola Crisis in the Congo Basin also compounded by the continuing conflict mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In all of these, none is impacting on Nigeria like the consequences of the collapse of the Libyan government which has sent small arms southwards of the Sahara desert their ultimate destination the West African belt. Whilst there has been separatist conflicts in the Sahelian north particularly in Niger and Mali, the rest of West Africa was relatively peaceful.

The situation has since changed particularly so that criminal outlaws and jihadist elements have exploited the porous borders to smuggle arms into the region. The Fulani who have had a history of migrating from one area to another regulated by the search for pasture found the arms affordable for protecting their herds from rustlers. Criminal elements amongst the Fulani have found another use for the arms as armed banditry and kidnapping have become the most lucrative business in mostly Nigeria. This menace is beginning to occur in some other West African countries.

Nigeria has been going through a destabilization agenda which took root during the 16 years of the PDP. Many aspects of armed criminality were during these years treated not with the seriousness they deserved. The worse in this regard has been the Farmers/Herdsmen conflicts which has diluted so seriously the peace in the land. History has taught us that the Fulani are original to the foothills of the Futa Jalon high grounds of Guinea where they are known and called Fula. They have enjoyed the hospitality of many of the ethnic groups through whose lands they pass in search of pasture for their animals. It was normal to have occasional disagreements with the farmers when some of the cattle stray into and damage some farmlands but most of these were usually amicably settled.

For some years now since the Fulani have acquired arms, they have become very belligerent and combative to the extent that problems which as earlier stated would have been amicably settled are now being resolved by use of firearms. Farmers who had no prior need for such arms as are in the hands of the Fulani have become victims on their own ancestral lands and that is the point of departure in what has become a cloud of Fulani militarism hanging ominously over this country.

The President of the Republic once in far away United Kingdom admitted to the fact that the component of Fulani terrorizing Nigerians are foreign to this country. Why the President considered it worthwhile to accept this fact in a foreign country is still unknown. Nigerians expected that upon his return from the United Kingdom, he will as Commander In Chief do the obvious by ordering the Armed Forces of the Federation to quickly restore the sovereignty of this country. It is primarily for this and other reasons that Nigerians voted him president after all.

Conversely, the President rather than doing the obvious has been acting and speaking in a language that only his Fulani kinsmen may understand. The Fulani have since been basking in the sunshine of their new found relevance in contemporary Nigeria to take their strategic plan of supplanting other ethnic groups from their ancestral lands as far south as the littoral states if this country. They have been flaunting their new found power with Miyetti Allah as their public relations organ.
Miyetti Allah has become so brazen that they have been threatening to form vigilantes on other people’s land. For all I know and care, they are making a terrible mistake as time will prove if they remain strident in this endeavour they will be too foolish to expect that there will be no consequences because there will be a price to pay.

For a reminder just in case some are forgetting this is the 21st Century in which territory cannot be acquired through conquest. Wherever such acquisition of territory is achieved through conquest such will only be for a while before diplomacy restores the acquired territory to the actual owners.
In the Fulani current thinking, territory can indeed be acquired through conquest. They are wrong and if they think that the current political equation which continue to continue to subsist they are again wrong. One of the reasons that has been put forward in trying to explain why the Fulani are doing what they are doing is the effect of global warming blamed on emission of green-house gasses into the atmosphere which in turn is responsible for the phenomenon known as El Nino. The result has been desertification which has resulted in the shrinking of arable land.

If this is true, why should governments particularly of Nigeria not encourage the traditionally nomadic Fulani to live a settled lifestyle by acquiring land on which to graze their cattle?
Before now in the north, grazing areas were created during the first republic but existed largely on paper and on lands forcefully taken away from their owners without adequate compensation paid. The next bus stop in this evil scheme was the argument in favour of Cattle Colonies. This too suffered setbacks because land was a core issue and requirement. Since this is the season of the Fulani politically, and some people claiming to be Fulani like the Kaduna State governor, impunity has acquired a more corrosive definition. This is why one of such designated grazing areas in Southern Kaduna called Laduga is accorded the status of a Fulani haven and is being built into an urban area against earlier thinking.

No lesson has been learnt from what is and has been happening in much of Zamfara and Katsina States for if the adventure was thought to affect only Christian areas much like the Boko Haram misadventure, we are all victims as it has turned out to be.

The new thinking is for the establishment of Rugas, ruga being the Hausa word for such temporary Fulani settlements along their migratory routes. Many questions are arising from this warped decision to include why the interest of the Fulani many of whom the President himself agreed are foreigners is being elevated well and above those of other ethnic groups who have been living on their ancestral lands for ages, and therefore bona fide Nigerians. Whether grazing areas, cattle colonies or ruga, the preponderance of views from Nigerians has been very stiff opposition to any scheme that will take away other people’s lands to benefit the Fulani. What essentially many Nigerians are opposed to is the annexation of other peoples lands without paying adequate compensation. Many people have advanced the view that the genuine Nigerian Fulani themselves can negotiate and buy land privately if the land owners are willing to sell.

If however government goes ahead and establishes the Ruga’s, they will inadvertently be putting those to occupy them on a line of conflict with the original land owners. Those who are behind this dubious thinking must be reminded not to commit the error of looking at the current power equation alone as power is nobody’s mistress. If what is contemplated is simply to please those currently in power a time will come when that power will shift somewhere else. When that time does come to pass, any wrong wrought on others will be corrected.
Why then will common sense not come to bear on this issue? It appears that those in power have all but forgotten that power is transient. History has never been silent because it teaches but not many listen or even are able to understand enough to take heed.

Written by Col. Dauda Gora (rtd).

He writes from Kaduna, North West Nigeria.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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