By JET Babatola
I just read the clarification you made in respect of your previous article to defend the interest and rights of the Fulbe people as nomads crossing the country with their cattle on annual migration.
Indeed, I respect your tenacity and brilliance despite the fact that I am not comfortable with your arguments and excuses on the circumstances and the source of attacks on Benue people.
I believe that when the recent attacks is xrayed from the perspective of the Fulani revolts and reprisal attacks on any community in the history of Nigeria where they encounter opposition and any form of resistance in their attempts to engage in nomadic enterprise, it is very difficult to state that the Fulbe (Fulani) herdsmen are not involved in the dastardly act. Even if it is an act done by any other set of devils, the efficacy of the action based on threats and disruption of the nomadic migration across Benue and other states and the very statement of self justification about reactions and counter reactions leaves much sour to taste in the mouth odors.
Either from historical perspective on the right to land by conquest or deposition to the ownership and occupation by consequence of historical acts, a land can only be claimed as an ancestry rights if there is a permanent presence with evidence of effective occupation and title. It is not by mere geographical contiguity, the extent of territorial influence by jurisdiction or political influence in traditional society very close to the early colonial age, that we’ll appropriate Fulani conquest of any part of Nigeria to absolute and permanent right of conquest over land occupied by other people. Fulani colonization or subjugation cannot translate to right to exercise authority over land space. Even if it was true, where does the limits of the exercise end with the advent of British colonial rule and the emergence of the Federal Republic? These are legal and constitutional issues unanswered.
Indeed, Fulani claims to rights of possession from the current viewpoint is a very poor, myopic and unacceptable argument to give the idea of unchallenged access to the entire Nigeria territory. I believe that such historical articulation has no basis of interest and proximity since the age of colonial rule and Nigeria political independence with emergence of a new political framework.
Another very important thing in modern age is the right of people to their property and the right of a customer. A customer is a king by all standards. If the Fulbe don’t eat cows, it becomes even imperative for them to court the friendship of the other Nigerians who are their customers rather than to make life difficult for them. What you don’t eat should not even become a thing of life and death. Let us be very circumspect about the fact.
The ways of the Fulani are known to every Nigerian community that encounter them. They do not forgive the slightest encounter. The same was the case of herdsmen attacks in Kaduna, Plateau, Ondo, Oyo and Ekiti State to mention a few. The Fulani are people bound to punish their aggressors and opposers. They have a trademark that is very peculiar and difficult to change. That’s why your defence and the mechanism of engaging in public discuss may be difficult to sell to average Nigerians despite your impressive and very sympathetic but largely unacceptable point of argument in history, politics and geography of our local and national engagement about Fulani nomadic rights, even in the height of the constitutionality by freedom of movement as citizens.
We cannot close our eyes and ears to truth when the means of livelihood of other people are threatened at the expense of the means of livelihood of some migrant settlers, nomadic settlers or periodic visitors. How do we extract justice or compensation for lost farms and sweat of the people whom the nomads often deprived of their means of livelihood if they to act properly? It is only fair to either set up community relationship committee to handle Fulani encroachment in each state in order address such issues while ranches are gradually established or rather ban the nomadic travels with its excesses once and for all. Drastic situations require straightforward and drastic steps too.
I believe that the way out will be to consider the investment of government and private sector in ranches to assist the Fulani people as nomads to be resettled in some places or communities where they have literally established a life long existence particularly in Northern parts of Nigeria rather than to force themselves on other Nigerians. I hope we are not witnessing ethnic cleansing already by the very act of the murderous acts committed in the name of the rights of passage and nomadic migration.
We believe that Nigeria is a country for all its ethnic communities whether Hausa-Fulani, Yorba, Igbo, Tiv , Kanuri, Ibibio , Ijaw, Nupe, Gwari etc. However it is where each ethnic group domicile with effective occupation that can be classified as there traditional homes. Fulani people and other Nigerians should always understand that fact and work towards it rather than create a state of insecurity and genocide for us. The President and National Assembly with the Council of State can assert the political will to commencement a discussion and find solutions to the problem once and for all.
Jadesola. E. T. Babatola
writes from Ado-Ekiti.