“If it is Fulani today, yesterday it was the Igbos.” – Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah.
I have immense respect for Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah but to compare the situation of the Fulani in the south today to the situation of the Igbo in the north in 1966 is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. The Igbo did not slaughter the Fulani in the 1966 northern pogroms but rather it was the Fulani that slaughtered the Igbo.
In 1966 alone no less than 100,000 innocent and defenceless Igbos were butchered by the Fulani and other northerners in the north. Today it is again the Fulani that are slaughtering thousands of Igbo, Yoruba and other southerners all over the south. They are also killing Middle Belters.
The south and the Middle Belt do not have a tradition of killing the innocent and the defenceless but the Fulani do. If they do not want to be stigmatised and regarded as butchers and terrorists they must stop their herdsmen, militias and cells from slaughtering our people.
During the civil war the whole of Nigeria unleashed genocide on the innocent Igbo civilian population of Biafra but that was an isolated event. The Fulani have been doing it to others since 1804 up until today.
Any comparison between the behaviour and experiences of the Igbo and the Fulani in Nigerian history is painful, insensitive, and inappropriate.
The Igbo have suffered too much at the hands of others for them to be compared to the Fulani. It is like comparing the experience of the Jews to the experience of the German Nazis or the experience of the Arabs.
What the former have suffered over the years was far more horrendous than anything that the Germans or the Arabs were ever subjected to.
Worse still both of those races have persecuted and tormented the Jews more than any other. We must not make such comparisons in the name of political correctness or anything else.
Bishop Kukah also suggested that those who expressed grave concerns and raised issues about Fulani herdsmen appearing in our passports were wrong and ought not to have done so.
He argued that since other tribes and cultural institutions from the other five zones of the country were reflected in the Nigerian passport, dedicating one page to the Fulani herdsmen was no big deal.
Hear him: “When I look at my passport, it has the coat of arm and map of Nigeria. Then right in front of the data page where all my information is, I have the Bini. I am not a Bini man, but I am eminently proud of this. I didn’t even know it was here, because I had to go through the passport page by page. When I opened the passport the first thing I saw was Zuma Rock, then I see Tiv dancers. Who gave them permission to put Tiv dancers? Then I got to next page, before I came to this poor Fulani man who is standing with his cows. Suddenly, this is the only thing we have chosen. Why is it exciting? It is exciting because this is the time for us to ‘hate’, literally tag every Fulani as a herdsman. We are on a very dangerous precipice. Those who lead us should better stand up and tell us where we are going”.
With the greatest respect, once again, I humbly disagree with the Bishop. Those of us that are not happy about the passport page are not motivated by hate but by a genuine, legitimate, and understandable concern and fear that those that have subjected our people to all manners of horror, terror, slaughter, and trauma are now being rewarded for their efforts by the Federal Government.
The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Samson Ayokunle captured it well when he said,
“If there was any enemy from any Fulani man, the Fulani man created the enemy for himself, they have been living peacefully for many years in our various communities, till the killing issues started. In those days, our children married them, they married our children, but when they became too violent and started carrying AK-47, killing people, what type of play is that? That’s a dangerous play.We can no longer think we are friends with that type of play; it’s too dangerous. So let them call their people to order and ensure that they remove the enmity they have created around an average Fulani person.”
Can Kukah and those that share his disposition and predilection to be more Fulani than the Fulani and to defend the Fulani even more than they defend themselves not appreciate this simple point? Has the President of CAN not spoken the plain and simple truth?
Is it so difficult to accept the fact that the Nigerian people are fed up with the vicious, primitive, barbaric, predatory and homicidal tendencies and disposition of the Fulani and that we are hurting?
Are we constrained and compelled to love those that butcher our people on a daily basis as if they had done no wrong?
Do we not have a right to speak out in anger and express our horror and grief when we are hurt, when we bury our dead and when we mourn?
It is true that not all Fulanis are herdsmen and that not all herdsmen are terrorists but since when did violence, terror, rape and charmed cows become part of our culture?
We must stop brushing the rubbish under the carpet, burying our heads in the sand and acting as if times and people have not changed.
The peaceful, harmless, good-natured, suya-selling Fulani herdsman of yesterday has gone forever and is a thing of the past. If there are any left they are very few in number and they are hardly representative.
The truth is that the vast majority of todays Fulani herdsmen are NOT a harmless group of pastoralists but a highly motivated, deadly, relentless, vicious, well-organised and well-funded terrorist organisation that have been described by the International Terror Index as “Fulani militias” and “Fulani terrorists” and not “Fulani herdsmen”.
It is only in Nigeria that we call them “herdsmen”, “bandits”, “kidnappers” and “Fulani herdsmen” and we do so because we are essentially dishonest, because we are insensitive to the plight of their victims and because we are cowards.
The truth is that these so-called herdsmen have become the symbols of bloodshed, terror, mass murder, ethnic-cleansing, genocide, carnage, torment, trauma, and evil.
They represent nothing other than cruelty, suffering, land-grabbing, church-burning, home-stealing, raping and pillaging and they are instruments of occupation, domination and conquest.
They have slaughtered more Nigerians over the last 4 years than Boko Haram have done in 10 and they have been designated as the 4th most deadly terrorist organisation in the world by the international community.
To dedicate a page of the Nigerian passport to them and paste their picture on it represents the biggest and most gratuitous insult to the Nigerian people that has ever been served.
It is like dedicating a page of the Israeli passport to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis that slaughtered 6 million Jews.
It is like dedicating a page of the Southern Sudanese passport to the Janjaweed Arab Muslims of Darfur that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of black African Christians in the Sudan.
It is like dedicating a page of the Congolese passport to King Leopold 11 of Belgium and his people after they butchered 10 million Congolese.
It is like dedicating a page of the Rwandan passport to the Hutu Interahamwe after they wiped out 1 million Rwandan Tutsis.
It is like dedicating a page of the American passport to the rebel Confederate forces of the American civil war and to the Ku Klux Klan who slaughtered millions of black Americans over the years and who insisted on the perpetuation of the institution of slavery.
It is like dedicating a page of the South African passport to the white supremacist Boers and Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of South Africa who founded and established the apartheid state, who butchered millions of black Africans over 400 years and who believed that the black man was no better than an ape.
Such a gesture is heartless and unforgivable and it is unbecoming of even the Buhari regime. It is insensitive. It is callous. It is wicked. It is uncharitable. It is unkind and it is evil.
The worship and veneration of cows and cow-loving is alien to the Nigerian culture and it is regarded as an abomination.
We are a nation of believers that worship God and not one that worship cows. Those amongst us that regard cows as wives and that value the life of a cow more than the life of a human being are not Nigerians but aliens that come from a distant land outside our shores.
To paste such people and their accursed cows on our international passport and compel Nigerians to carry them all over the world with us as part of our national identity, heritage and culture is unaccpetable and too much to ask.
We reject it in its entirety and we insist that the Buhari administration removes that accursed page forthwith and replace it with another symbol that truly represents the noble, enlightened, civilised and laudable nature and heritage of the Nigerian people.
We refuse to accept a symbol that represents a retrograde, barbaric, blood-lusting, vampiric, malignant, malevolent and bestial foreign heritage and culture on our passport.
All the political correctness in the world cannot change this bitter truth and the Bishop Hassan Kukah’s of this world, whose Kataf, Southern Kaduna, northern minorities and Middle Belt people have suffered in the hands of the Fulani more than most, ought to know better and appreciate that.
Permit me to conclude this contribution with the words of the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum and a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Professor Ango Abdullahi.
On 14th July 2019, in an interview with the Tribune Newspaper, he said the following:
“Look, the Fulanis can defend themselves more than anyone else in this country. More than anyone else in this country, the Fulani man can always defend himself. Go and read the diary of Lord Lugard who created this country. Go and read what he said about the Fulanis. In fact, without our efforts to restrain the Fulanis, things would not have been easy for many communities. No community can defend itself against the Fulanis if they want to fight. It is known sociologically and historically; nobody can fight them if they want to fight. They are in the millions in West Africa and they can always mobilise themselves to defend their people anywhere in West Africa”.
I ask Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Dr. Pat Utomi, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka and all the other Fulani defenders and apologists, when they read Abdullahi’s words what comes to their minds, who do they believe is threatening who and who do they think is looking for trouble?
The Fulanis that kill our people, led by Ango Abdullahi, are now threatening war and to kill even more because they can’t get land for their cattle in the south and because no-one in the south wants RUGA.
Is it any wonder that the whole nation is concerned about the way they behave? Is it not time for those that that lay claim to being true nationalists and men of peace like Kukah and others to call Ango Abdullahi and the Fulani to order?
No-one wants war but no-one can be silenced, cowered or intimidated by the threat of it. I pray it never comes because war is evil but if it does we shall not be found wanting, we shall rise to the occasion and we shall not shy away from it.
Most important of all is the fact that we shall acquit ourselves very well in such a conflict and our adversaries would do well not to test our will.
If Abdullahi was a historian or had any knowledge of history he would appreciate the fact that the Yoruba stopped the Fulani in their tracks in their futile attempt to conquer Yorubaland and make incursions into the south at the battle of Osogbo in 1840.
We held the line, defeated them in battle, captured and executed their Yoruba collaborators, drove them back to the north and slaughtered and ate their horses and cows!
Again he forgets that had it not been for the fact that the rest of the south and the Middle Belt resolved to join forces with the Fulani-led core north during our civil war, no force on earth would have been able to stop the Christian Biafrans in their noble quest for freedom, independence and emancipation from the hegemony of a Nigeria which was firmly under the control and power of the Muslim Fulanis.
Kukah, Abdullahi and others must be guided by history. No-one wants to demonise the Fulani and no-one wants war but we shall not be lured, misled, or intimidated into not speaking the truth and NOT calling a spade a spade.
All the people of the south, and indeed the Middle Belt, wants is peace, harmony, freedom, respect and safety. All we desire is an assurance and guarantee that our people will no longer be subjected to mass murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Is that too much to ask?
Kukah’s tears and lamentations for the safety of the Fulani and his defence of them without adequately considering the pain, suffering and and trauma of their many victims gives cause for concern.
The words of Prince Otoks Princewill of the Core Federalists Group reflected the thinking of millions of southern Nigerians very well when he said the following about Kukah’s latest contribution. He said,
“I read what Bishop Kukah said many times. I had in mind more of those he did not consider. The dead, orphaned, maimed, dispossessed, our dear old man to old Men, grandfather of elders like us, who is quiet after losing his daughter, Kukah did not consider them. He considered the reputation of the killers and their kin and the possible payback nature always guarantees perpetrators, popularly called karma. Who speaks for the voiceless? At least let Fulani speak for themselves. They control everything. For once, consider the victims who cannot speak”.
These are profound and insightful words. Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah should meditate on them.
Femi Fani-Kayode is a lawyer, a Nigerian politician, an evangelical christian, an essayist, a poet and he was the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 until June 2006. He was the minister of culture and tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from June 22nd to Nov 7th 2006 and as the minister of Aviation from Nov 7th 2006 to May 29th 2007. He runs a syndicated column on The Trent. He tweets from@realFFK.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.