The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the apex association of herdsmen in the country, has said it supports the notion of restructuring so that the Fulani can leave the country.
Saleh Alhassan, National Secretary of Miyetti Allah, said this in an interview on Saturday in reaction to the hostility faced by Fulani herdsmen across the country, particularly after Friday’s clash between supporters of Sunday Adeyemo, a Yoruba activist popularly known as Sunday Igboho, and Fulani people in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State.
There have been calls for the restructuring of the country, with many southern groups insisting that it was the only way the country could move forward, while northern groups have largely been divided on the issue.
But according to Alhassan, indigenes of Fulani extraction are being marginalised and are not enjoying the Nigerian federation, stating that it will be good if they were on their own where they would be protected.
While admitting that there were some criminal elements among the Fulani herdsmen, he, however, insisted that it is wrong for citizens from other parts of the country to stereotype all Fulani as criminals.
“We don’t support crime. So, I’m not saying there are no Fulani that are criminals, there are, like other tribes, but don’t destroy their profession. It’s not good for the country. If everything busts, it’s to the advantage of the herders because we are not even enjoying the federation,” Alhassan told the Punch.
“We are even bidding for restructuring of the country; let every part go, so we can say this is where we are. As it is now, there is no form of marginalisation we are not seeing in this country. Everywhere we are being marginalised. You think we will accept Nigeria where we don’t have access to land to feed our animals and you think there will be peace?”
Alhassan also said Nigerians who are labelling herdsmen and all Fulani as the “black sheep” of the nation as a way of getting at President Muhammadu Buhari are making a mistake.
The Miyetti Allah Secretary stated that President Buhari does not have any relationship with the herders despite being the national patron of the group, adding that the president has created more enemies for the group in his over five-year tenure.
When asked if he thinks restructuring would solve the herders/farmers crisis, he said: “Quite fundamentally. If we leave today now and if there is no oil revenue, won’t they pay attention to animal rearing? If we restructure the country and the South-West region says they won’t accept cattle unless they are brought to the market or supermarket, it’s okay by us.
“The mistake people make is that they think when they put pressure on herders they are getting at President (Muhammadu) Buhari. Buhari has no relationship with the herders. That is the truth. When people say he is our grand patron, was Jonathan from the South-South not our grandpatron?
“If the President is a Fulani, it doesn’t in any way affect the life of a herder. In fact, they are worse off under Buhari. What are they benefitting? They don’t access any government facility or social amenity, yet they are responsible for the bulk of animal protein we produce in this country. I think it’s deliberate for people to think otherwise.
“Buhari has not done anything for us other than creating enemies for us. Herders are being chased around. Let us look at the larger picture and not allow enemies penetrate us. If Buhari loves the herders, he would have created the grazing reserves for them.”
Alhassan further said that the refusal of the Federal Government to address the issue of land management, which he said is at the root of the crisis, had been fuelling the ethnic crisis.
“Government needs to be careful, and the real issue at stake is basically that of land resource management. These herders don’t have land and they do their business on land resource and we have a lot of land in this country. What we are saying is that the government should create an alternative for them.
“We need to modernise cattle grazing and the government needs to have an input because land belongs to the government. You can’t do ranching without land. Modernising it is a key solution to this and the government has a key role to play.
“We must accommodate the herders in Nigeria, whichever arrangement, because that is the sustainable way to peace. Create a sustainable land use policy where you accommodate people that have a need for the land. Create grazing land for these people and create laws that would govern them. If we don’t solve this problem, we will be complicating it.”