Professor Ishaq Akintola, Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has said blaming Fulani for crimes such as kidnapping and robbery in Nigeria has given others the chance to get away with crime.
He said this in a statement released on Tuesday.
Akintola said some criminals who are not Fulani now pin their crimes on the northern group. He gave the example of Samuel Udoetok Wils and John Orji, who claimed to be Fulani when they were arrested for kidnapping four girls and killing two in Ghana.
“Focusing on the Fulani alone will only worsen the security challenges facing us as a people. It will enable the real criminals who are non-Fulanis to get away with their crime. Some may actually hang their atrocities on the Fulani even though they are the culprits and they know it.
“A good example of non-Fulani criminals who try to pin their crime on Fulanis is the recent case of Samuel Udoetok Wills and John Orji. These are two Nigerians recently sentenced to death in Ghana for kidnapping and killing four girls. During negotiation for ransom, Samuel gave his name as Buba Muhammed. He said he was a Fulani herdsman. So the security agencies began hunting for Fulanis in the area. But after he was arrested, the police discovered that his Nigerian passport had the name Samuel Udoetok Wills and it became clear that he had tried to hide behind the façade of the wrong public perception about Fulani herdsmen,” he said.
“There is an urgent need to de-escalate tension particularly on the demonization of the Fulani people. Criminals exist in all tribes just as great men exist in all of them. The great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo man, was one of the greatest minds Nigeria ever produced. Chinua Achebe authored some of the best literature materials in circulation today. He was an Igbo man. But Evans the kidnapper came up as the black sheep in the Igbo family.
“Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the best president Nigeria never had. He liberated millions of the Yoruba people from the shackles of ignorance. Professor Wole Soyinka is today a household name, not only among the Yoruba but throughout the world. The greatest symbol of democracy in Nigeria, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, was a Yoruba. The greatest human rights giant in Nigeria, late Gani Fawehinmi, was a Yoruba man. So is the greatest human rights activist and living legend, Femi Falana. Yet Babatunde Folorunso and Oyenusi, the most feared and ruthless armed robbers of their time, were of Yoruba stock.
“The Fulani are also of no less noble stuff. They have produced men of timber, calibre and caterpillar in all fields. Prof. Iya Abubakar, a Fulani, had 1st Class in Mathematics from the University of Ibadan. He proceeded to the United Kingdom for his doctorate degree in Mathematics and became the first northerner to get a Ph.D. in that discipline. Professor Jibril Aminu is also a great Fulani academic, politician and public administrator. Alhaji Ahmed Joda is a well-known cardiologist and former Federal Permanent Secretary, a former chairman, National Communication Commission, (NCC) as well as current Pro-Chancellor of Bell University, Ota. The list is endless. Therefore, Usman Hassan, the Fulani kidnapper and a few bad eggs among Fulani herders, should not be used as index figures of the tribe.
“Nigerians should stop castigating any tribe, whether Igbo, Fulani or Yoruba. We are all great people and we should love one another instead of hurling stigma all over the place. Let us spread charity from the North to the South, from the East to the West. Let us eschew malice, bitterness, pettiness, envy and jealousy. The sky is wide enough for every Nigerian who has wings to fly.
“Our current security challenges will melt away like ice cream in the hot sun if we all admit that there are bad eggs among us and demonstrate the will to expose them instead of stigmatizing the Fulani in our midst. There are many examples of distractions caused by false allegations against the Fulani people. These false allegations enable the real criminals to get away.
“The latest example is that of the arrest of Pa Olawuwo, a PDP chieftain who was alleged to have been involved in the killing of Dr. Aborode. Unfortunately this was a murder that had been pinned on the Fulani and on account of which they were attacked and sacked in Igangan. It is to the credit of Northerners that they have exercised uncommon restraint in the face of outrageous provocation.”
Akintola however warned herders to stop destroying farms, saying farmers have every right to enjoy harvest after tilling the ground and nurturing the crops. He urged the Federal Government to give the herders soft loans to enable them set up ranches, adding that open grazing must be brought to an end in Nigeria.