Chairman of the Concerned Fulani Leaders, Senator Walid Jibrin, who is also Chairman, Board of Trustees, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), speaks on the killings, kidnappings and other criminal activities linked with the Fulani herders, the Ruga controversy and how to restore peace and stability in Nigeria.
There are claims that some politicians who lost the last elections are the sponsors of the growing attacks on innocent citizens and criminal activities such as banditry and kidnapping. Should the claimants be taken seriously?
It is very unfortunate that anything going bad in Nigeria is associated with politicians, either those who lost elections or those not in the ruling party. I do not agree with that. There are politicians, past and present, who are men and women of honour and integrity; men and women who can move Nigeria forward if they are brought into the system. I do not like a situation where people only blame one side. We need to find out the root cause of Boko Haram and other forms of insecurity in the country and how they are being tackled now. The army and other security agencies are doing their best but insecurity has not abated. We need to assist the security operatives to effectively address insecurity. There was a time members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria donated their products to policemen. Such assistance should be emulated by other associations and people to encourage security operatives working for the peace and comfort of Nigerians. On the herder-farmer issue, I am a Fulani leader; we also have other Fulani leaders who can offer suggestions on how to address the challenges. I am calling on all the Fulani in Nigeria to embrace peace.
Before now, herders and farmers cohabited peaceably. What is the cause of the friction between the groups now?
Before tackling a problem, you look at the root cause(s) of that problem. You have to know that not all Fulani people are herdsmen. If it is so, where do these herdsmen come from? The occupation of Fulani is not only cattle rearing. Those rearing cattle as an occupation have been engaged in the nomadic system for a very long time. But you have to ask: Is there no other way to do the business? Is the government doing anything to assist these herdsmen? They have no home and hospital. They had no school, until recently when we had the nomadic schools. But this has not stopped them from changing their mode of operation. Their cow milk is sold by their women, roaming the streets. Do we want our women to be going from house to house? We should help our women to adopt a better mode of doing business. We should stop fighting each other. I know there are useful associations among the Fulani people coming to talk to the people. But there are equally bad associations that are causing problems, we will not condone those ones. The elite Fulani people should meet with the traditional rulers to address the problem. There should be a better way of doing it (cattle rearing) without friction.
You recently called for a peace conference to resolve the herders-farmers’ conflict and the resentment between the Fulani and other tribes in Nigeria. As Chairman of the Concerned Fulani Leaders, what is the progress report?
A former federal Permanent Secretary, Ahmed Jodan, and I initiated a meeting of concerned Fulani group. We reviewed the situation that led to the war between the Fulani and the communities in Taraba State, which resulted in the killing of many Fulani people and other people in Taraba. He mandated me to go to Taraba with some Fulani leaders. We met the governor. He called a meeting of all the communities and stakeholders; we all discussed and tried to find solutions to the problem. We understood that there was a need for peace.
What do you hope to achieve with the peace meeting?
I want people to have confidence in Fulani because they are amiable. Herdsmen are advised to obey rules and regulations and should not go against the laws of their host communities and the country. There are about three types of Miyetti Allah. You have the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association which has the Sultan of Sokoto as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, with the Emir of Kano, Emir of Gwandu and Emir of Zaria as members of the BoT with people like us as patrons. There are other Miyetti Allah associations. All of us should come together and work under one Fulani association. We must come together, forget our differences and do the best thing for our people and Nigeria.
Do you share the view of those blaming the Buhari-led administration for allowing the herders-farmers’ conflict to fester by failing to arrest and prosecute those allegedly involved in previous clashes and other heinous crimes?
Have perpetrators of Boko Haram and herdsmen crisis been arrested? If they have arrested some suspects, have they taken them to court? What has the judiciary done about them? If they were taken to court, what is delaying justice from being done? The matter is not for one man. I am calling for the prosecution of all criminal cases, not only the herders-farmers’ clashes.
Why did you kick against the Fulani’s proposal to establish vigilante in the South-East, if the intention is genuinely to enhance security?
When you have a problem that is not resolved, do you add another? The South-East and other parts of the South are complaining about the activities of the Fulani and you are saying that the solution is to create Fulani vigilantes. Let us establish our vigilante groups in the North. When they see that the vigilante is working in Sokoto, Niger, Adamawa and Nasarawa, among others, you can then call the government’s attention to it and urge them to try it in Enugu and others.
Despite being suspended, the public outcry against the Federal Government’s plan to establish Ruga settlement has continued. Don’t you think the outcry is justified given the fact that the Land Use Act puts the control of state land in the hands of the governors?
I congratulate the Federal Government for stopping the Ruga project. Before you start a project, you must hold a meeting with all stakeholders to hear their views and ask some pertinent questions. You look at the land reform law for each state and after that, you will see if you have the power to do what you want to do. You will then know, for instance, in Enugu or Edo, whether you have the power to confiscate their land. Even though the government said it (Ruga) was not compulsory, about 12 states in the North have agreed to have it. With 12 states in the North agreeing with the project, why are you going to stop them? If those in the South are objected to it, you cannot force them to do it? I have told my people that I will not support that kind of arrangement and they have already halted that arrangement for now. To those who gave Igbo people ultimatum, will giving ultimatum solve any problem? Will sending the Igbo out of the North solve any problem? No. Let us bring the people of the South to sit with the people of the North. Where are the governors in the South and North? They should come together and hold a meeting with the enlightened Fulani leaders so that we can work out how we can peaceably live together.
But do you see Ruga as a good solution to the herders/farmers’ clashes?
Ruga is a Fulani settlement, where they live and sleep with their cows around them. Adopting the name Ruga for this project has put fears in the minds of people who do not understand it. So, the name Ruga should be changed. I do not see why most people will go against a system that will restrain Fulani herdsmen. Headers roam about without any opportunity for formal education just like the Almajiris are doing in Nigeria. Anywhere you go, you find the Almajari begging. Do they do that in Saudi Arabia where Prophet Muhammed brought Islam? Are there Almajiris in Mecca? Why should we be happy having Almajiris here? So, we should find a modern way of herders doing their business and prevent them from roaming about. They should be educated. They should attend schools, go to hospitals and rear their cattle in a modern and more profitable way without any friction between them and other people.
Do you support the plan by the FG to eventually ban the Almajiris?
I am in total support of banning the Almajiri system. It is unholy and unacceptable. Do we want our children to behave like these Almajiris going about begging? Some of them are smoking hemp. You see them on the streets and what they do a normal person will never do that. When you go to Ka’abah in Saudi Arabia, it is written there that ‘Begging is not allowed on the premises of this Ka’abah’. Begging is not allowed in the whole of Mecca.
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term in office?
This government has accused the Peoples Democratic Party of doing nothing in 16 years. How can anybody say we didn’t do anything while in office? We provided the needed infrastructure for the people; conceptualised and initiated many projects, some of which were at different levels of completion before we left the office. We were more sensitive to the feelings and needs of Nigerians. In terms of economy, what were the exchange rate during our government and the exchange rate now? I am from the private sector. I am wearing two caps: I am a politician and an industrialist. If I leave politics or the chairmanship of the PDP BoT, I will go back to my root, which is manufacturing; specifically, the textile industry. Some years ago, the textile industry was proud of having about 30,000 workers. The textile workers were capable of taking care of about two million people. We used to have about 175 textile industries in Nigeria. But today, we are not up to 25 industries in the country. It used to be the second-largest employer of labour in Nigeria. But now, we are not doing well. The PDP government implemented many reforms and policies to boost industrialisation. We must not allow our industries to die. We need more encouragement from the government. We need good policies that will make us produce more.
What should be the focus of the Federal Government in the next four years?
The focus should be the improvement of the economy. You have the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, a very coordinated association, with captains of industries as members. The Federal Government should work assiduously with MAN to initiate and implement strategies that will address the nation’s economic and industrialisation challenges. We need to revive the textile and cement industries. Insecurity is another area. I would not blame anybody for the causes of insecurity in Nigeria today. It is a serious global issue. We need to discuss more and find solutions to the challenges. – Culled from Punch.