As Sarkin Fulani calls against reprisals, trusts in ability of FG, Defence Chief, others to investigate, ensure justice
The Fulani race in Nigeria considers itself to be the most persecuted tribe in the country. This, its members have continued to prove, no thanks to what they call the unjustifiable, indefensible military airstrikes that sent over 48 of their youths on the Nasarawa/Benue boundary community of Rukubi to their early graves in Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa State in the early hours of Wednesday January 25, 2023. Among Fulani leaders nationwide and internationally, who are profoundly aggrieved by this development, is the Sarkin Fulani of Lagos, His Royal Highness Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Bambado II, who during a media interview with The DEFENDER in his palace, on Thursday January 26, 2023 asked to know, “Who sent those military people to go and kill the Fulanis in that (Rukubi) community? We need to know, we want to know and must know.” Excerpts:
Your Royal Highness, let me start this interview this way. Sarkin Fulani of Nasarawa State that is the Ardo and many other Sarkis of Fulani across Nigeria have complained about what they described as the wicked killing by military airstrikes of over scores of Fulani herders on Nasarawa/Benue boundary community of Rukubi in Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa State. You were part of those that have complained; and since the military is not talking and nobody appears to be taking responsibility, can we hear you out? What really happened?
Well, this news of attack came to us as a shock and very unfortunate. Presently, the whole Fulani community or Fulani race in Nigeria are disturbed by this kind of approach for what happened in Benue State.
On what he knew about the incident
Yesterday (Wednesday January 25) I got a call from Ardo that is the Sarki Fulani of Nasarawa State, who told me what really happened. He told me that Rukubi, a town and settlement of Fulanis in Doma Local Government, Nasarawa State, was where the sad event occurred. He said sometimes ago Fulani’s cows from the boundary community in Nasarawa State were seized by the Benue State Government. You can imagine how the movement of cows could naturally be and since the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, claims there is a law and if they catch your cow, there is a fine you pay.
So, over 1,000 cows were seized by the Government of Benue State and for which they asked the owners to come and pay the fine. They went, negotiated and were asked to pay about N29,500,000 or thereabout, I am not really sure of the figure. After they asked them to pay, those community people came together. They tasked themselves and paid that amount of money. And they (Benue State Government) now asked them (the cows’ owners) to come and take their cows, which was the reason the youths went there to collect the cows.
It was in the process of collecting the cows, they were not even allowed to complete the collection process, when they saw a military aircraft which started shelling them with bombs. They started bombing the people killing them. Over 48 people were bombed to death. As I am talking to you now, about seven people are in the hospital.
So, nobody should come and start claiming that these are bandits or that they are criminals and all that. It is not true. They are normal Fulani law abiding citizens. I am telling you exactly what the Sarkin Fulani of Nasarawa State said and they are the ones on ground. It happened to them and I think they are the best people to tell us what really happened and for them, they said it was a military operation that took place and that all of a sudden they just saw military aircraft and they started to shell and kill the Fulani people on ground.
“What that means is that, it was a case of only Fulani people on the ground to collect their cows from Governor Ortom’s Livestock Guards and that of the military people in the sky dropping bombs on them. Who now did that? That is what we are asking. Who now gave instruction for that place to be attacked?”
What that means is that, it was a case of only Fulani people on the ground to collect their cows from Governor Ortom’s Livestock Guards and that of the military people in the sky dropping bombs on them. Who now did that? That is what we are asking. Who now gave instruction for that place to be attacked?
Even though the military’s unofficial sources admitted that they carried out military operation during which they killed bandits, question that Nigerians who trust our capacity to help them investigate are asking us is that “the people that were killed by the admitted military air strikes, how are they bandits”?
(Cuts in) How are they bandits? That is what everybody is asking. It is confirmed these people are not bandits. Everybody knows that they were not bandits and then, what really happened? There must be something wrong somewhere. I feel there should be a very, very serious investigation because if this thing is left like this without being investigated, it is really going to be a very, very worrisome situation.
So, for me, I am calling on the Federal Government to weigh in as soon as possible to investigate this incidence. We, the leaders of Fulanis, will do our own investigation and take appropriate action through the appropriate channel within the ambit permissible in law in order to ensure that justice is done.
It is very unfortunate that a community would lose over 48 youths, after being made to pay huge ransom of N29,500,000 and, these killers still went ahead killing all the same cows release of which they paid for.
Reprisals not better option
In the meantime, I will love to call on our members especially the Fulani youths not to see reprisals as part of the options in addressing this problem, despite knowing that, yes, the losses are huge. Fulani people are peaceful, even the United States of America’s Department of State testified to this, according to one of the newspaper reports published and it was also published in your own newspaper, The DEFENDER.
According to the reports, those international bodies found out that are misrepresentations being sent to them by some elements here in Nigeria as “Fulani terrorism”. They know that it is not true because they have the knowledge capacity and sincerity of purpose to clearly separate herders/farmers clashes from terrorism or banditry. They know that whereas herders/farmers clashes are economic and are being found solution to, terrorism or banditry are criminal and cannot be acceptable to anyone.
They themselves described the Fulani people of Nigeria as very peaceful people. That is what foreign, advanced investigated reports say about Fulani of Nigeria. Do not forget that it was not said by us but by others. Truth is that is what we are; peaceful people. And I am using this opportunity of media interview to reiterate that they are correct about who we are. The Fulani are peaceful and supportive people in progress and development and we are not just about cows; you find Fulani across all strata of professions and we are at peace with everyone.
To this end, I would say our people should remain calm and no should ever consider a fight-back by any self action. They should allow authorities allowed by law to take action in ensuring justice on their behalf.
We have been trying to know finding out what the way out is to this incessant rancour obviously shown against the Fulani race by the Governor of Benue State is all about; nothing is found. But what is the way out, I mean since Fulani still live and operate their business in Benue State, is there jno provision for ranching in the law and how come all we hear is ‘don’t graze’ and not ‘stay in this ranch’? Did he not sit down with you to arrive at that?
You see the issue with the Governor of Benue State (Samuel Ortom)? It is very, very clear that he does not want anything to do with Fulani race.
But Fulanis are Nigerians and he signed to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Or what do I not know?
Of course! And there is nothing he can do about that. Yes, he signed to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and we are citizens of Nigeria. We are part and parcel of Nigeria and there is nothing the Governor of Benue State (Ortom) can do about that. He has no right to change the law. He has no right to tell Nigerians where to live and where not to live in the course of doing their businesses. It is wrong. We would not accept that.
He has been coming out saying all sorts of things, using threatening words against the Fulani race. This is not acceptable and we cannot continue like this. The law must take its course because we cannot continue to watch the Governor of Benue State threatening the Fulani community. We cannot take that! Look at how many people we have lost and we are talking about Nasarawa State here. What has Nasarawa State got to do with Benue State that you now went into Nasarawa State to go and kill people? That means something is fishy and that something that is fishy must be fished out.
Herders killed after paying Benue government fine
They paid money to the government of Benue State and were still killed. No, no, no! Somebody has to take responsibility. I believe the military, the intelligence and other appropriate agencies will weigh in, investigate and very soon, we would know the truth of the matter.
Who sent those military people to go and kill the Fulanis in that (Rukubi) community? We need to know, we want to know and we must know.
At this juncture, how would you address the Governor of Benue State on this matter considering his open utterances over the times?
Well, my word to the Governor of Benue State (Samuel Ortom) is, for me, to say that there is life after government. In not less than three months, he will cease to be governor and will come back as normal citizen. He should look beyond that. Fulanis are part and parcel of Nigeria.
But why is the issue of herders more problematic in Benue State than others?
Yeah! It is more problematic in Benue State becauseit is political. He (Ortom) has politicised it and has made it look as if the Fulanis are the worst people on earth.
Yes, but when you ask him to come and defend his claims he fails because he cannot. He keeps on using those ones to lie against the Fulani and what has he done in Benue State other than using the resources in the place to deceive the good people of Benue State and siphoning their money claiming that he is fighting the Fulanis on their behalf?
“That is not true. All these things are artificial. If you sit down with the natives or the locals that is the Benue people, you will find out that they had been living peacefully with Fulani people until when Ortom came on board and wanted you to look at it as if it is the end of the world! It is not true.”
But is it not true?
That is not true. All these things are artificial. If you sit down with the natives or the locals that is the Benue people, you will find out that they had been living peacefully with Fulani people until when Ortom came on board and wanted you to look at it as if it is the end of the world! It is not true.
What then is the solution?
Well, the court is there. He will answer for all his actions and misdeeds against the Fulani race. We would sue Ortom because, we would go to the court and justice will be done. But we would not sit down or fold our arms and watch you killing our people in the name of politics. It is clear. Ortom has come out and has said so many unpleasant things about the Fulanis. As long as you are Fulani, he does not have anything to do with you.
Have you by any chance thought he hates the Fulanis because he perceives them as supporter of banditry?
Does he think that we support banditry? Nobody supports criminality. We are against it. Even if it is our people, we would not support it and we would use any means within the ambit of the law to fight them. So, he should not make it look as if any Fulani person is a bad person. That is how he makes it look but he is wrong.
Maybe it is for this reason it appears like anti-Fulani campaigns in other parts of Nigeria started from Benue?
You see that is politics and you do not play politics with people’s lives because of your selfish interest. Whoever wants to go into election and feels that if he does not blackmail others at the expense of people’s lives, let me use that word, he cannot win election, it is wrong and evil.
And I am calling on politicians to stop it. We are all humans. We all have bad eggs across the tribes, ethnicity and religion. So, when there is an issue, deal with that issue on the basis of the person not on the basis of his tribe or religion.
Owo Church, Edo train station attacks
Now look at the Owo Church attack issue. At the end of the day the table turned and nothing happened and nobody is saying anything since they knew those attackers were not Fulani herdsmen and the ‘herdsmen’ is not a criminal word but word used to describe a normal, serious and lawful business people doing their own business. Herdsmen are simply people herding animals mostly cows. How is herding cows connected with criminality? These are clarifications against the misrepresentations being propagated against the Fulani race that the Nigerian media should get right and now allow anyone to use them to promote.
In the case of the Owo Church attack, Fulani people were already arrested even before investigation. So many things happened and nobody is raising issue. Even the train station that was attacked in Edo, the media came out, and before you know it, their first claim was that they were herdsmen that attacked the train station. That was the report in the media until, later, when indigenous people including traditional rulers were being arrested in connection with the attack and Nigerians and the world now began to see that those attackers were not Fulani herdsmen.
But when will these things stop; I mean does it not bother Your Royal Highness that under President Muhammadu Buhari, who himself is a Fulani man, this anti-Fulani campaign is thicker than when the nation was not under him?
You see, for me and I keep on telling people, I cannot wait for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to end because his being a Fulani man, I believe, is the reason people are targeting members of his tribe for all the evils as you see them do. When he is no longer there on the seat of power, I believe and I am serious about this, we would rest and we would not be hearing anti-Fulani campaign and everything again.
Just look at it now, since the politics of 2023 and its campaigns started, did you hear anything about Fulani herdsmen again? Have you been seeing anything in the news as often as before that Fulanis attack this or something? Oh! That is the reason I said it is politics. Some people are using that to engineer a mischievous mentality to paint the picture that Fulani people are bad. Enough is enough!
The point I am trying to make is that all hands must be on deck, whether you are Fulani, whether you are Yoruba, whether you Igbo. All hands have to be on deck to see that ethnic and religious profiling is stopped if we really want to move forward and if we really want to have a better Nigeria. We all have to come together and discuss it. We have to discuss Nigeria. We have to reason together because nobody from outside would come and start discussing about us. We have to find out what, why and where the problem lies. The bad ones among us have to be fished out.
And we need to ask question; all of these problems, who are instigating them? We should not be blind. At least now, we cannot hear anything about Fulani being bad or being the attackers of other Nigerians again. When we used to hear people say so, who were instigating those people to say so. This is important because it is obvious that they were saying those evil things to destroy the Fulani race because of personal interest of some people. Who are these people? We need to as these salient questions. Now they need the Fulanis’ votes and so you do not hear anything. Because they know that now Fulanis really matter. Nobody is saying evil about them or linking them with evil because they need their votes. It is sad.
I remember it used to be like that. You remember during the Obasanjo’s time, it was OPC that everybody was talking about and that they were linking with evil, just to slight and denigrate the man on the seat of power as President of Nigeria. During Jonathan, you heard them talk about Niger Delta Avengers or militants, any small thing they screamed it is the Niger Delta militant. This time around it is President Buhari, because he is a Fulani man, they scream Fulani this, Fulani that but all of that have now stopped.
Let me put it this way that, I pity the next President of Nigeria because, wherever he comes from, it is his people they will start shouting about. So, it is politics…
(Cuts in) Which is where your royal advice is now needed because it is said that Nigerians are the problem of themselves because they easily fall for antics of politicians. Like we have hardship in the area of fuel, food price, electricity and, socially now, impunity and Nigerians are thinking that all of that short-lived political antics should determine how they want to decide their next leader. This, I want to agree, is why Nigeria has remained static. Do you not think so?
Exactly! You see, the truth of the matter is that we Nigerians do not learn lessons from our mistakes. We get carried away with a lot of things and that is the reason why we always fall victims. We do not even know our left from right, we complain on things that do not even hold water. We do not weigh issues.
Now, if you travel outside this country, you would know that the issue of economy is global. The last time I was in United Kingdom. If you see the kind of hardship in UK presently, you will be wondering and asking question, ‘what is happening in the whole world?’ People are going through difficulties even in the UK and I am talking here about the advanced world. Things are hard in their economy. If you meet people that are working now in the UK, you would see lamentations as they complain about how the system is not working the way they expect it to be. So, it is not only Nigeria. In fact, when you look at everything you will have no choice than to say in Nigeria we are even far better off.
But we do not look at things that way. Everything in this country you politicise once your interest is not there and you then begin to make that thing look bad. At the end of the day when you come in, your issue will be worse. That is why I just mentioned that I pity the next President of Nigeria. It is not going to be easy for the next President; it is not going to be easy.
What can he do to arrest the situation?
Well, he has to look at everything and he has to be open. He has to bring on board people that know the job, people that know how to make things work, even with those people it is not going to be easy especially as the whole world is complaining. So, anybody campaigning to run other down because he wants to lead Nigeria, it is not that easy governing the people, governing the country. So, whoever that is coming has to get prepared and has to come with so much wisdom.
Finally, does Your Highness not think that anybody that wants to govern Nigeria requires a little bit of action?
In fact, we need somebody that will call everybody’s bluff. We need somebody that, when he comes in, he will be in control. If things are not working the way they should be and I give you responsibility to make those things work and they are not working, I fire you and get your replacement. That is how it should be done. You will see that if I fire you for not performing, the next person coming in will sit up. Then, the people who are spoilers outside there on the streets, because they see that the New Sheriff in town does not take nonsense, too will also sit up.