Governor El-Rufa’i And The Narrative Of “Herders/Farmers Clashes”

Governor El-Rufa’i has posted on his Facebook page, recent developments in his state which includes his efforts in inviting SHOPRITE to establish its presence in Kaduna town and a foreign company, “ARLA”, to establish a ranch and a dairy products processing company in zone one of the State.Among other things, he spoke along the lines of the familiar narrative of “HERDERS/FARMERS CLASHES”. I was more worried about the Herders/FARMERS clashes, because to me, it is a false narrative, perhaps designed by government or certain interests, to achieve certain publicly unknown objectives.

I therefore responded as follows :

Well, Mr Governor, looking at all you have said , I say well done. I know that the whole State is your constituency. But there are certain postures that are in the public realm which may give cause for concern . Nobody can change you from having mind-sets, regarding the diverse people of the state which you govern.
Permit me to make a comment on a familiar narrative that is wrong and not true to fact. This narrative could have been developed and promoted by those who use it, for whatever purpose . By the way, it might shock you that I have Fulani DNA in me, when I look back.But that is not an issue here.
The issue of “farmers/herders” clashes seem to have been elevated, unfortunately to a high-up pedestal which , in realty, is not true to fact, or should not be, when describing current happenings in the State. But this is not to admit that there are no such clashes in the past.Inspite of their presence in the State, they were not widespread as it is or is being portrayed. However, where ever they existed, they had always been resolved amicably, either by the traditional rulers on both sides, or the courts, for serious cases. These “clashes”, (again, not on a wide-scale ), were often limited to individuals and not involving whole communities. This pattern is found everywhere there are herders, Fulani, or no Fulani.
We , in the state, particularly in the Southern part of the state, have lived with Fulanis from time immemorial, and the relationship had always been co-operative , peaceful,and cordial.The relationship had also always been mutually beneficial : while the herders are allowed to enter the farms after harvest of crops, they are also invited to camp inside the farmlands during the dry season for cow dung which the farmers use as manure. Again, the Fulanis are allowed to pitch their camps in the forests to avoid their cattle trespassing into farm lands during the cropping season. Socially, the interaction has been good.That explains their settlement patterns in the forests where there are no farms. This is in regard to those herders that are permanently sedentary.
From our interactions with the herders, which has been for centuries , we do know that there are several groups of these pastoralists. For instance, there are those who have adopted permanent residence where they are, on the one hand , and on the other, we have the foreign pastoralists, who come and go seasonally . This later group of pastoralists can be identified by the pattern of their movements, as they usually move from north to south of the country, during the dry season, and later, as the rainy season approaches, begin to move from the southern to the northern parts of the country. We distinguish them as the “Bororo “, or “Bororoje “, who are purely nomadic, with no permanent or fixed settlement, as distinct from those we call “town fulani” or “Kachechere “. The former used to be seen as fierce and wild in behaviour and were proned to clashes . It is understandable, since they are not Nigerians and feel they can not be traced to account for their behaviour.
Coming back home to Kaduna State, we had no general violence, in Southern Kaduna, against all the categories of the pastoralists on the large scale which we experienced during the 2011 Presidential elections. After the elections, where in Buhari lost to Jonathan,word had gone round and reached the southern part of the State ,that there were killings of Christians in Kaduna and Zaria. So, the southern part, in a simultaneous reaction, began to go after the Hausas, or anybody from the northern part that resembled Hausa. I was caught up in the thick of it in my village, not so much because I was Hausa, but because I was considered a sympathiser of the Hausas since I was a Deputy Governorship candidate in the CPC to a Hausa Governorship candidate in the 2011 elections. The CPC was not a popular party in the Southern Senatorial zone. It would be remembered that the zone was trying to vote in its own as Governor of the State, for the first time, under a democratic dispensation. The people saw it as a rare opportunity. In fact the hate was so much, I had to disguise and escape, from Kafanchan to Kaduna. That marked the begining of the conflict between the Hausas and the indegenous people of Southern Kaduna, that was instigated by politics and election. The herders were not the target.They were an incidental fall-out. It means that by association, they were brought in into the conflict and we began to hear the use of the narrative ” the indegenous people versus the Hausa-Fulani”. The single Hausa word had transformed into a compound word- “Hausa-Fulani” .
The 2011 elections marked the begining of widespread hostilities between the herders and the indegenous people in Southern Kaduna.However, skirmishes had in time past been recorded between the Hausas and the indegenous communities.
After the elections peace was restored to all parts of the State. But we began to have “return-matches” from suspected herders, who El-Rufa’i had, in some of his public statements, described as unforgetful and unforgiving people. While the conflict was political and restricted to the Hausas and the Herders who were Nigerians, El-Rufa’i had to follow the foreign pastoralists to their countries of origin, to beg them not to retaliate, after paying or settling, them, according to El-Rufa’i himself.
Again, in 2013, 2014 and onward, the problem did not abate, as foreign pastoralists or insurgents continued to attack whole villages in Southern Kaduna, in cooperation with intelligence, suspected to have been supplied , as to what village , or who to attack. For the indegenous Pastoralists , we can understand, because they bore grudges which arose from the 2011 elections and it’s aftermath. Thus, a new impetus was added, and gradually ,it was cattle rustling.
There was cooperation between the indegenous herders and the foreign herders against the indegenous people. Thus began the large-scale insurgencies carried out by the foreign pastoralists, or insurgents as a principal party. From thence onward, the narrative changed. It was now seen as herders/farmers clashes. What an untruthful statement to make ! It will interest readers to note that there is still cordiality and peace between the indegenous herders/ Fulanis and the indegenous tribes in Southern Kaduna. Although, there is also now, peace with the indegenous Hausas, who have been urged by the indegenous tribes to return( those who left), the surprising thing is that the narrative has changed to Herders/Farmers clashes , as if whole villages and towns in Southern Kaduna are all farmers, so much as to ignore other trades. Nobody is talking about Hausa/ indegenous tribes clashes again. Gradually, the distinction is being made , between indegenous herders and their counterparts,foreign Fulani herders.
We suspect that all these narratives are to achieve certain set objectives. It is unfortunate if they are held, or propagated by, people whose constituency is supposed to be the whole state and not a section of it.
Another point to be made is that although, establishment of ranches and supermarkets would reduce unemployment in the State, the people have to be alive to be employed. A lot of policy-issues are linked together and they have to be dealt with in a holistic manner and not piecemeal. The primary objective of government it is often said, is to provide and promote security of life and property and the welfare of the people. Government is not a private and a limited liability company in which the profit motive is the primary driving force.At the end , political leaders will be held accountable to the people and to God.

Joshua D Ephraim writes from Abuja

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