Kaduna — Ahmed Yandeh is the Sarkin Fulanin Sabon Garin Byepass and the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Mobgal Fulbe Development Association of Nigeria (MFDAN). In this interview with Daily Trust, he spoke on various issues.
You are the leader of a Fulani association. How would you react to the currently-raging 'Fulani herder' saga?
The Mobgal Fulbe Development Association of Nigeria has been in existence for close to 30 years. It is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). You see, the Fulani man like every tribe, is known with a trade and ours is cattle rearing. If you look at Nigeria's population as at 1950, it was 33 million, but today we are 192 million and you see this will give rise to land manipulation, land extortion either legally or illegally to make ends meet because of population explosion.
The whole 'herdsman' tag as it is used today, is a creation, and not a positive one. It is a myth perpetrated to give a dog a bad name, in order to hang it, so to speak. For goodness sake, a herder is anybody who rears animals, so by implication, if you own goats or whatever in your house, you are a herder. Any member of any tribe that rears animals, can also be called a herder.
What, in your opinion, is responsible for the current incarnation of the problem?
This crises between the farmer and the herder has been in existence since the pre-colonial period, but because there was an organized system then, that gave the Fulani man the opportunity to have the presence of government to take care of his animals through the general vaccination against pests and so on, it worked. The funny thing is that it's not as if the herder-farmer issue wasn't happening then. There was an organised way of bringing these people together to understand each other, and a kind of evaluation for those damaged crops were made and the Fulani was made to pay, and they lived peacefully.
Today, there is no forgiveness from both sides. That should be preached to everyone. But instead, look at the illegality that is going on in Benue on the issue of anti-grazing law that was created, which is against the constitution of Nigeria. I am not a lawyer, but I know that the constitution gives me freedom of speech, freedom to live anywhere and to seek a legitimate means of livelihood. These Fulani people that are moving with their cows in the middle belt, and whatever, is that illegal?
What can be done to address the problem today?
For peace to reign, and justice to prevail, the Fulani man must be seen as citizen of Nigeria. The anti-grazing law should quickly be removed. Grazing reserves should also be defined, especially those that are yet to be gazetted. We have over 500 grazing reserves in this country, but only few are gazetted. This will see to it that Fulani people will live there, peacefully with their animals because Nigeria is not yet ripe for the anti-grazing law. Even America, it took them more than 70 years to actualize the point where they are today, because land tenure is a very sensitive issue. Grazing reserves should be implemented.
I believe the Fulani are being painted black, especially because President Buhari is a Fulani man; they are trying to do everything to undermine his government. But the solution is a return to the drawing board, to look at what existed before, with a view to correcting the present situation. Also, cattle routes should be restructured and retrieved, so that the Fulani man will know the direction to go about his business peacefully.
I have heard that some state governors have called MACBAN - though am not a member of the association - that they should be declared a terrorist group. MACBAN, I am quite sure, is the oldest Fulani association in Nigeria and they have been registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), unlike other socio-cultural associations. So if MACBAN is declared a terrorist group, what of the others?