By Hakeem Baba-Ahmad
“A tree is known by its fruits” Zulu Proverb.
AN electronic medium last week reported Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode as saying that he has Fulani blood in his veins. His full name, following an ancestral line which descended from a Muslim grandfather, Shiekh Nurudeen Sa’id from Ilesha, is Abdullateef Femi Fani-Kayode.
His ancestors were Fulani and Yoruba Muslims, even though his family is now devoutly Christian. About one eighth of Boda Lati’s blood is Fulani which, will place him in the same category with millions of other Nigerians, majority of whom live in the North and West of Nigeria. In fact, some would say he is qualified for that dubious appellation of Yorulani, the type of categorisation such as Hausa-Fulani which many say offends history, sociology, anthropology and even politics.
In Boda Lati’s case, he appears to have made the revelation in reaction to what he says are unfair criticisms that he is an ethnic chauvinist because he criticises some elements of northern/Muslim circles and politics. His comments and critique, he insists, are informed by his valuation of facts, circumstances and a detached assessment of what is best for the nation he loves with much passion.
How can Boda Lati take a permanent anti-Fulani (or anti Hausa/Fulani Muslim) posture with such pronounced Fulani element in his history and genes, a small evidence of which is that all his children have Muslim names as well?
Many people will be less impressed by Boda Lati’s defence on geneology alone when his gadfly disposition frequently targets sensitive parts of much of his ancestry on a number of occasions. But this is his right and his style. Some people who enjoy stereotyping others may even insist that his tendency to go where his heart dictates may be informed by the nomadic underpinnings of some of his ancestry.
His perception of speaking only the truth may be traced by some people to the same blood which made a simple preacher, Shehu Usman Danfodiyo, to rise up and successfully challenge impunity and corruption among the high and mighty Hausa aristocracy. Perhaps, those comments he makes frequently which seek to protect cherished values and the people and the nation he loves so much may have something to do with the blood which also ran deep in the veins of the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardaunan Sokoto, the prince-politician who saw nothing wrong in building a strong and fortified North so that it is not constantly bullied in Nigeria.
Boda Lati’s recommendation of an all-out assault on Jamaatu Ahlil Sunnah Lid Daawati Wal Jihad ( JASLIWAJ ) as the only solution to it’s threat could be accounted for by the blood which gives courage to make such bold recommendations.
This same blood is shared by the Sultan of Sokoto who publicly made the case that the President grants amnesty and engages the insurgency in dialogue towards resolution. Many of the members of the Northern Elders Forum who met a few weeks ago to support the Dialogue and Reconciliation initiative share the same blood with Boda Lati, which may be why they had the courage to stick their necks out well.
Boda Lati would feel at home in Adamawa, Sokoto, Katsina, Zaria and one hundred other places where many like him also have some drops of Fulani blood. But he will be advised to stay clear of many other areas where being Fulani is a virtual death sentence, and even cattle are enemies. He won’t get jobs in some parts of the North if he lets out that he has Fulani blood. People who gave his kith and kin places to rest and feed cattle, or shared neighbourhoods for decades or centuries are likely to pounce on him on sight.
His Fulani blood may also push him to assume a permanent combat posture, a sharpened instinct to strike first, or nurse a desire for revenge for decades. His blood will make him sympathetic to brothers and sisters who prefer lives of nomadic existence they inherited from ancestors, while lamenting the huge price they pay for it in a world fast closing up on their lifestyle.
Boda Lati will find many kith and kin among insurgents who have taken up arms against the Nigerian state because they believe that western values, including its institutions and systems will only progressively corrupt everything around them. But his blood will not save him from their bullets or bombs if he is at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Fulani blood in him may resent being profiled in much of the North by security forces as a potential terrorist, or being held responsible for ruining the nation by cyberspace warriors.
Boda Lati is a member of the most flexible ethnic group in Nigeria. Even without speaking the language or knowing anything about the culture, his one-eight blood will qualify him as a full-blooded Fulani. He can join Miyetti Allah (I thank God) Association, or any of the number of associations which seek to protect and project Fulani lifestyle, security and interests.
His considerable arsenal of personal courage and experience will be useful to his brethren when they are chased out of communities; or when they contemplate vengeance; or when they debate whether to send their children to school or send them out with the cattle.
Boda Lati Femi Fani-Kayode says he can trace his lineage and bloodlines to Ife, Ijesha, Egba, Isale Eko and Fulani, and he is proud of each and everyone of them. He has Muslims and Christians in his family, which excites and ennobles him. He is in very good company here. He is one of quite possibly hundreds of millions of Nigerians who have multiple bloodlines and history of religious conversions. People like Boda Lati give lie to the myth that this nation can be carved out neatly along pure-bred ethnic and religious lines. Our centuries of intimate co-existence long before colonial rule had already created that breed of people who answer to many different calls at the same time.
The damage which our current politics does to the nation is to deny the existence of these citizens, and reduce them to only one of the multiple sources of heritage which they can claim. The pigeon-holing character of elite politics denies the nation the opportunity of using these bridge-builders like Abdullatif Femi Fani-Kayode to reinforce the historic roots of our unity laid in bedrooms, at trading posts and markets, in battlefields and palaces, and in towns and villages among simple folk who recognise the superiority of the person over all his or her characterisation.
Many Fulani will be happy to hear of the existence of Boda Lati after all this time. Some who are literate and have read some of what he had said earlier are likely to ask how much of that Fulani blood really matters to him. But they should worry no more.
Now that he wears his Fulani ancestry with such pride, they could consider bringing him closer to them. Perhaps, the title of “Ardon Yamma” (Leader of the West) could be bestowed on him, provided the thousands of Emirs,Alfas, Obas and Imams in Yorubaland who had long held up their full Fulani ancestry will not object.