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The Politics is Bandits

By George Onmonya Daniel
Guns with captured bandits
Guns with captured bandits
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When talking to President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in the White House at the end of April 2018, President Buhari tried to defend the Fulani herdsmen by stating to the US President that Fulani herdsmen carry sticks to clear their routes in the bushes and not AK 47. Before then his government had been nonchalant towards the massacres by Fulani militias across the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, with an overwhelmingly Northern Muslims support, the narrative was that the Fulani herdsmen were fighting for their rights.

The argument in the Muslim North that overwhelmingly support the Fulani herdsmen even before President Muhammadu Buhari became President was that the Fulani herdsmen were the victims and not the farmers. There was the argument that the Fulani herdsmen used to have grazing routes which has now become farms and because the grazing routes have been encroached they have no choice than to lead their herds into farms. Another allegation by supporters of the herdsmen was that the herds of the Fulani herdsmen were being rustled by the farming communities and when you touch the cows of the Fulani man whatever they do is justified.

Hundreds of Fulani bandits have been captured

Immediately President Buhari took over power, the Fulani herdsmen killings in Zamfara became a priority. Ironically Zamfara is deep in the heart of Hausa land, but some Fulani gangs have been camped there and operating there, stealing and killing at will, with both the state and the federal government looking the other way even before President Buhari took over. Overwhelmed by Boko Haram and trying to win a second term, realizing the north will be instrumental in his winning, President Goodluck Jonathan mostly ignored the Fulani herdsmen problem sensing the support they have among both Hausa talakawas and the Fulani elites. Goodluck focused instead on the problem that has become an international problem and that had made the international communities (the US especially) come down hard criticizing his regime. By the time Buhari took over the killings in Zamfara and Southern Kaduna had skyrocketed.

Holding to the Northern narrative that the victims were the Fulanis, Governor Nasir El-Rufai who took power in Kaduna State under the new All Progressive Congress (APC), quickly storm television stations in an attempt to address the situation in his State and in doing so he blamed Southern Kaduna people as the aggressors and the Fulanis were just taking revenge over what was done to them in Southern Kaduna.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s explanation on Channels Television in 2015 and 2016 was that during the crisis in 2011 when Buhari’s CPC lost election and his supporters launched an attack on Christians and non-indigenous people living among them all over the north in which thousands were brutally killed, the Fulani herdsmen coming from Southern Nigeria were camped around Southern Kaduna and in retaliation over the killings by Buhari’s supporters became victims of the crisis in Southern Kaduna as many of them were attacked and killed by the indigenous and predominantly Christian Southern Kaduna people. In other to stop the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna in 2015 when he became governor of Kaduna State, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai stated that he went to look out for the Fulanis responsible for the killings and compensated them with hundreds of million of naira. He didn’t disclose exactly how much was given to these Fulani groups, who they are, if they are Nigerians or foreigners.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State

In Zamfara State, both federal government and state government were trying to negotiate with the leaders of the Fulani militia in the state, specifically the most popularly referred to as Buharin Daji.

When the killings by Fulani militias in Zamfara were kept silent and the people and government were unwilling to talk about it, when in Kaduna State, the governor and his regime was able to drown the voices of the Southern Kaduna people, when the killings hit Benue, with Fulani herdsmen sacking rural areas and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore making statements that sounded like they were claiming responsibilities for the killings, which they claimed was over Fulani herdsmen being denied rights to graze in cattle routes that had existed hundreds of years, Benue people took to the streets and loudly protested, bringing the whole nation’s attention to their plight. It was the killings in Agatu in Idoma land that triggered the campaign on social media. But Fulani herdsmen killings, armed robbery and kidnappings were also happening in the South that period and it made the Southern part of Nigeria easily identified with the plights of the Agatu people.

Soon they would besiege Tiv land and continue the killing spree that the Governor of Benue State who was a member of President Buhari’s APC would man up and speak out, quickly drafting a constitution and getting approval by his lawmakers that would stop open grazing in Benue State. Governor Ortom of Benue State would become infamous in Muslim-North. The hostility from the presidency and his own party over the law banning open grazing in Benue State would later force the governor to leave the party for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Governor Ortom left the APC for the PDP when Abuja refused to listen by o his plight when Fulani headsmen were on rampage in Benue

The most outrageous and miscalculation of the Buhari administration that showed open support for the Fulani herdsmen and complete nonchalance to the others who were being massacred was the grand plan to settle Fulani herdsmen all across Nigeria in what the government referred to as Cattle Colony, RUGA, or National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP). As these plans were all going on, the killings of indigenous farmers and chasing them from their lands into refugee camps in their country and Fulanis occupying their lands was ongoing with the federal government looking the other way.

The Middle Belt, the East and South, would quickly warn the Buhari administration that the plan to change demography by settling Fulani population in indigenous people ancestral land would not be accepted. When the Middle Belt, South and East suggested ranching, the federal government insisted on settling roaming herdsmen in different states. It was vehemently rejected.

Speaking at the launch of United Nations Solutions 17 SDG Programme in Lagos on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, Soyinka said Ruga could lead to an explosion if not handled properly.

All the other state actors in Nigeria apart from states in the North where Muslims are governor rejected the whole federal government plot. As all these was going on, Fulani militias intensified killings across Nigeria. When the hit was too much for President Buhari as his government was pressured to send the military to comb these militias out of Benue and environ, they quickly relocated to Zamfara, Kaduna and the North East states of Katsina, Sokoto and spilled over to Niger State, after a deadly war with the security operatives in which some of our security operatives were killed in the process.

General TY Danjuma (retired) would later tell his people and all Nigerians that they should not expect the federal government to do anything about the Fulani militia wanton and incessant killings in Taraba, Adamawa, and across Nigeria, and asked people to defend themselves and not depend on the Nigerian Army who he said were collaborators.

All these while, there was horde of support from the Northern politicians, opinion leaders, religions leaders, online on social media North and the northern masses. But the madness would soon hit the North bad when kidnapping in Yoruba land took a different dimension and the people of the South West decided to tackle it by introducing Amotekun, a form of state police to tackle the Fulani militias menace in Yoruba land. Politicians, opinion leaders and elders from the North stood against Amotekun but the South West went ahead with it.

After Amotekun, it looks like the Fulani militias headed back to Zamfara where they went berserk. The killings of villages and kidnappings quadrupled. They would lay siege on villages, kidnap villagers for ransom and ransack the villages. They went as far as kidnapping along Abuja and Kaduna Road on broad day light, forcing most travelers to now use train. Even the train was not safe. They besiege Rigasa area of Kaduna and started kidnapping those who ply train from Abuja to Kaduna. The Kidnapping and killing has today become a daily affairs.

WHO ARE THESE FULANI BANDITS AND WHY ARE THEY ON RAMPAGE IN NIGERIA?

The body language of the President Buhari administration and the politics of Arewa (Northern Nigerian Muslims) opened up the North to all sort of Fulanis from all over the neighboring countries into Nigeria. As long as you are Fulani or look like Fulani, Arewa welcomes you with open arms. It makes it easy for all sorts of criminals to quickly melt into Arewa people of Northern Nigeria.

When asked on Channels Television on who the RUGA (resettlement of Fulani in Nigeria) was actually meant for, is for indigenous Fulani who are from Nigeria? BAUCHI State Governor, Mallam Bala Mohammed, told the anchors that all Fulanis from everywhere are welcomed into Nigeria because they are related to the Fulanis in Nigeria. That’s how it’s has been in Nigeria. The borders in the North are all opened to everyone coming in and as long as they are Muslims the people look the other way. These characters from Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon, as far as Mali and Sudan, have more rights in Muslims areas of Northern Nigeria and are accepted and protected more than people from the Middle Belt and the whole south. Today it has made it easy for Northern Nigeria to become a safe haven for all sorts of criminals and terror gangs.

But who are really these Fulani gangs? They are the cattle rustlers, they are the kidnappers, they are the militias the Fulani communities use to attack other communities they have issues with. They comprise both Nigerian Fulanis and foreigners. The special protection Nigeria gives them by looking the other way when they commit atrocities encourages the impunity.

The Fulani bandits themselves or the Fulani herdsmen have not come out to tell anyone why they are on rampage. It is the government and their elites that have been fighting on their behalf in the media. It took the government years to admit that they are gang of criminals. Excuses have continued to be made on their behalf. Nobody have really asked the real Fulanis what they want. Despite all that the government have been planning for them, they keep killings, kidnapping and rapping women they kidnap that it has become so bad that the government that have been defending them are now embarrassed by them.

Before now the excuse they make for them has been that they are fighting because their cows were being rustled, but today it is clear that that most of the cattle theft are done by the same Fulani actors. A lot of them have been arrested, some of who are foreigners, but a large majority of them are Nigerians. There is no evidence that the farming communities are largely involved in cattle rustling. Most of the criminals arrested are Fulani herdsmen.

Some of them who were arrested by Police man, Abba Kyari and his men, confessed to have killed several people they kidnapped. One said he killed more than ten people. A twenty years old Fulani bandits in an interview with the police confessed that he most time drinks the blood of the people he killed to protect himself from being haunted by their spirit. Over one Hundreds of these Fulani people have been arrested by the police, but we still don’t know if they have ever been to charged to court for prosecution or not. If there is a trial it is kept secret by the government.

There is no day today that you don’t hear Fulani herdsmen or bandits attack on the people in the North. Recently they collaborated with Boko Haram to kidnap over 300 secondary school students in Katsina when the President was in the state, and were asking that students to stop going to schools where they teach Western education. With this undeniable event and fact that links them to Boko Haram, the Katsina government and the federal are denying that they have any linked to Boko Haram.

WHAT IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW?
The Buhari’s administration is in the dark on what to do with the Bandits situation. They have become the biggest embarrassment to his government. They have continued kidnapping and on their killing spree despite all efforts by the Buhari administration to help me and plant them all over Nigeria. They have made it difficult for any community except inside Arewa to accept the government’s controversial initiatives with their own hands.

NEWISSUES in late 2019, interviewed Dr. Andrew Kwasari, the man in charge of the Lives Stock Transformation Plan, and Dr. Kwasari told the magazine that the pastoralist problem is an existential problem, but the plan they have etch out has not fully been explained to the people of Nigeria. It is all on paper and it is politicians who are being briefed on the issue rather than the people, all these when Fulani bandits are on rampage. The bandits situation has made it difficult for the Live Stock Transformation Agenda to take off. All the plans of the federal government of President Buhari, is crumbling. Today the federal government is trying to separate the bandits from the Fulani herdsmen, but both seems intertwined. The Nigeria people in the Middle Belt see them as almost the same. When all herdsmen are not bandits, most of the bandits are herdsmen or former herdsmen who have now left herding and taken criminal activities as a trade.

There are intelligence reports that some of the bandits are linked with terrorists groups like Ansaru, Al-AlQaeda and Islamic State of West Africa. The recent kidnap of over 300 students in Katsina clearly shows that they are not just ordinary. This is not a job by some illiterate Fulani bandits but some sophisticated groups are behind them.

As long as Northern Nigeria continues to welcome all sorts of characters into the country without checks and make them more Nigerian than real Nigerians because they speak the same language and are the same religion, the problem of banditry and terrorism like Boko Haram will never end.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of George Onmonya Daniel and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."