As the seven-day ultimatum Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, issued herdsmen occupying Ondo state forests expires tomorrow January 24, the National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Bello Abdullahi Bodejo has declared that nobody has the power to remove Fulani herdsmen from the state’s forests.
In an interview with The Sun, Bodejo claimed the Fulani’s own all the land in Nigeria. He said the Fulanis have settled in the Ondo Forest reserves for over 250 years and will not obey anybody to leave the place.
Following allegations of kidnapping and robbery carried out by Fulani herdsmen, Ondo State government has given them seven-day ultimatum to leave the forests in the state, what is your reaction?
The Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu doesn’t have any right to give such ultimatum to our people. People, including Fulani voted for him to be the governor; so he should be the governor of everybody in the state.
Fulani have been in the forests he is talking about even before he was born; they have been there for over 250 years. No matter how dangerous a forest maybe, Fulani would go and settle there. After staying there for a long time and their cow dung turns the place fertile, people would begin to come there to farm and to settle and from then, they begin to make claims that our cattle were destroying their farms.
We are suing the governor and seeking an injunction restraining him and others from carrying out his threat. But even at that, nobody, no power can send the herdsmen out of Ondo State.
When are you going to court as the ultimatum will soon expire?
We are making consultations with our legal team. But before then, the governor and his people should stop embarrassing our people in the forests and all their businesses.
No, any herdsman will obey the governor; the herdsmen will not step an inch out of Ondo forests; they are going nowhere. We won’t obey the governor; it is only the constitution of Nigeria that we obey. We have been in that area before he was born, how can he just grow up and ask us to leave; no Fulani will leave that place. What are his reasons for the quit notice?
He alleged that it is the herdsmen that are kidnapping and robbing people and they operate from the forests
We are not in support of any form of criminality- armed robbery, kidnapping, gun-running etc. These crimes are the reasons we have the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Army, DSS, even Civil Defence to nab perpetrators and there are courts everywhere to try them and if found guilty, appropriate punishment meted out to them. The governor is the chief security officer of the state, there is no reason he should single out one ethnic group for the crimes committed in the state. He is supposed to accommodate more Fulani in the state and not to drive them out. Driving them out is not the solution.
I have just concluded a meeting with my fellow Fulani and we have found out that some people will adorn Fulani attire to carry out various crimes. How can Fulani man living in the forest kidnap and ask people to pay ransom ranging from N5 million to N10 million. What would he be doing with that kind of money inside forest; if you pay herdsmen N20 million, N10 million, N5 million in the forest, where would he carry the money to and what will he be doing with such money? Check the leaders of those criminals; let the governors identify who the criminals are. They are not Fulani. He just wants to use that as an excuse to drive our people away from his state. It is just giving a dog a bad name to hang it; the herdsmen are not the kidnappers, let him carry out proper investigations. Let him know this, no person in this country can push us out of the forests.
If it becomes so hot and your people decide to go, where would you be headed?
The first thing is that nothing will make us take such a decision. If you apply force and out of a hundred Fulani, you kill 95 of them. The remaining five will go back there and continue with their grazing. They have been there for up to 250 years. They have been there before the state was even created.
All the lands in this country belong to the Fulani, but we don’t have any business to do with land if it doesn’t have areas for grazing; if the land doesn’t have cow food, we won’t have any business with it. We don’t sell land, we don’t farm. What we consider are the areas that have cow food. If the place is good for grazing, we don’t need anybody’s permission to go there.
Nigerians should know that our association, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore is not backing anybody who is a kidnapper, armed robber, and we are calling for law enforcement agents to go after all these criminals and deal decisively with them.
The criminality all over the country is the more reason we want to fully implement our vigilante system; we want to enter all the forests in this country to check these bandits in the forests that are causing these problems and denting the good image of Fulani ethnic group. We can’t wait any longer; we are sending our vigilantes into the forests to fish out these criminals – those intimidating the herdsmen and stealing their cows and secondly, these bandits causing problems in this country. It is only the Fulani that can enter any forest and chase out these bandits.
Why can’t your people live with the people in the community instead of going to live inside forests?
We don’t need cities or towns. If you dash us FCT Abuja or the city of Lagos, we won’t have anything to do with it. We want a place where we continue to practice our age-long culture of cattle rearing. We inherited it from our forefathers and it will continue till the end of the world. People are using propaganda to spoil Fulani name, and desperate politicians are in the forefront. Any governor that is drumming up on the Fulani herdsmen issue, watch well, he has an issue or problem whether political or otherwise in his state. It is possible that Akeredolu is fighting a political battle, it may be 2023 election and that is why he is playing up this Fulani herdsmen issue. It is the same with Benue State governor, Ortom, when he was not performing; he started to play up Fulani herdsmen and farmers issue to draw support from his people. For almost six years, he hasn’t done any work in his state; he is talking about herdsmen and his people.
Fulani can settle in any bush or forest they want the moment they have cows. We agreed that our children will pursue education and other activities other people are doing in town, but even me, I’m not comfortable staying in the city, up till now my house is inside the village.
Why is it that you would not take permission from the owners of the forests before you settle there?
Which forest, who has the forest? Any person who thinks he owns any forest should be taken to a psychiatric hospital. Nobody owns any forest; forests are for Nigerians. Fulani herdsmen have the right to move into any forest and settle there for their business. Why do farmers go and cultivate thousands of hectare of land and fence it, who gave them that land? Nobody is born with land in this country; people were just moving from one place to another for settlement. Fulani are settling in every community, but we are not claiming land, we are only interested in how our cows will have food to eat.
Fulani can’t value 100 people’s lives like he can value his one cow because since he was born, he doesn’t have any business except that cow. The cow is like his own brothers and sisters. If anything happens to his cow, do you think he can leave you? You have two or three-storey buildings and you park your cars, do you fold your hands and watch somebody come to that house carry your cars, your clothes, your wife, destroy the buildings? You must fight. The Fulani man values his cow just as you value your brother and sister and you go all out to protect them.
They love their cows beyond description, you can’t separate them from their cows to go and stay inside town or city. The cows have names. The way you give your children names when they were born is the same way they name their cows. Even a person who has one thousand cows, those cows have individual names and he knows them by name; the cows have fathers, grandfathers and grandchildren. What you have in human beings – the ways names are given to people, the same way Fulani give names to their cows. We are cow lovers, that is why sometimes if you kill their cows somewhere they go there to look for justice because they see like somebody has killed their brothers; they must go to see who did that and they won’t leave that person.
You said that only the Fulani will drive out the bandits in the forests, why is it that they have not done so in the forests of Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Niger?
Those bandits are not Fulani, but they are damaging the name of Fulani and that is why this our vigilantes will go into all the forests in this country to chase out all the bandits. Whatever atrocity that the bandits commit is hanged on Fulani neck. These bandits are equally killing herdsmen in their numbers in various forests, but many people don’t understand this, and the moment they see herdsmen in the bush, they will tag them bandits or see them as kidnappers. This is disturbing us as it is eroding on our credibility; more so, useless people, desperate politicians and social media warriors have latched on this to poison everybody’s mind against Fulani ethnic group.
Why not your vigilante clear Sambisa Forest, which is so vast so that your people will settle and halt these conflicts in many states?
Borno State governor Zulum said he will give Fulani people Sambisa forest, we are waiting for him and when the approval is given I will be the first person to go and live there. We are also waiting for the federal government to put infrastructures there, and then we move in.
Herdsmen in this country are suffering too much; as they move their cattle from one place to the other, some people who want to steal their cows will organise and even kill them, especially these people they are giving uniform in the name of vigilantes. These people are causing confusion, you just pack some people, give them uniforms to go and drive out Fulani people in the forests.
Yes, the Amotekun; I’m calling on the federal government to ban it. Since the federal government has left Amotekun, that is the reason we want to implement our own vigilante, whose operation will be all over the country, not only one state; we will operate everywhere you find Fulani people in this country, we can go there, enter the forests and chase the bandits away. We can help the Nigeria Army, the Nigeria Police Force, the federal government and relevant security agencies to end this banditry in the country. The Ondo State governor has a secret agenda for asking our people to leave his state, not the reasons he stated.