By Emeka Obasi
Give it to the Fulani, they understand themselves and know how to find a way round other groups. While some ethnic nationalities beat their chest as the best in Medicine, Astronomy, Nuclear Physics and the rest. History means a lot to the Fulani.
They are at home with the game of power, it is unfortunate that only the Kanuri know this side of the Fulani. What we see playing out today is another dimension of the evergreen Fulani rivalry with the Kanuri, from Boko Haram to killer Herdsmen.
Whoever killed the study of History in our schools has succeeded in distancing the younger generation from events surrounding their existence. Many in the Southern part of our country play politics of the stomach, a greedy bunch ready to sell their ancestral home to the highest bidder.
You will never find a Fulani without a sense of the past. The Fulani know where they are coming from, they know what today holds for them and try as much as possible to plot their future while others grope in the dark until it is too late.
The Kanuri have been able to dance around the Fulani and continue to try new things. Although their civilization precedes the Fulani, the Kanuri still play second fiddle. This sounds strange if we realize that in the First Republic, the Kanuri had so much going for them.
Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto and Premier of the Northern Region was the most prominent Northerner before the January 1966 coup. However, most of the powerful men around him were of Kanuri background.
The first indigenous governor of the Northen Region, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jalo Ibrahim, the first Nigerian governor of the Central Bank, Alhaji Mai Bornu and the first Nigerian Sandhurst trained Army officer, Brigadier Zakari Maimalari were Kanuri sons.
During the early years of military rule, the Kanuri were also favoured. The Alhaji Kam Selem,became Inspector General of Police. Lt.Col Mohammed Shuwa, was Commander of the Fifth Battalion, Kano even as a Fulani prince, Lt.Col Hassan Katsina, was appointed military governor.
Unfortunately, while the Kanuri produced a civilian governor before the Fulani and a One–Star general before their rivals, the Fulani have to their credit four Heads of State: Murtala Mohammed, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari and Umaru Ya’radua.
Kanuri traditional marks were boldly printed on Gen. Sani Abacha’s face. And I guess, his wife Maryam, is Shuwa Arab. It was strange that Abacha claimed Kano and some say he could hardly speak Kanuri.
Talking about insecurity in our land today, we all know of Boko Haram. It is no doubt a Kanuri thing. Their late leader, Mohammed Yusuf, and present hero, Abubakar Shekau, chose Maiduguri as their initial religious operational base. There could have been skirmishes around Fulani areas but Boko Haram faced the other non-Kanuri groups around the North-East.
Yes, there were bombings in Kano and Kaduna. There were occurrences around Kebbi and Sokoto. The Fulani were not asleep. The message sank and that part of Nigeria has been left out of attacks.
At the moment, we have killer Herdsmen. Most of them are Fulani even if they are non-Nigerians. This is where History becomes important. These deadly herders may be the Fulani response to Boko Haram. Both groups have a common goal: conquest of other nationalities.
The Herdsmen issue is interesting. Many have forgotten that in the past, Fulani herdsmen fought Fulani in the North. I will give an example. In November 1998, there were clashes between them and farmers in Katsina. Four Local Government Areas were affected.
They included Jibia, Rimi, Charanchi and Batsari Local Government Areas. In Bala village, Karaye district of Charanchi, a farmer, Alhaji Umaru Jarini,45, was beaten to death by herdsmen. Six farmers were injured. And we should note that the killers were not armed with the now popular ‘Guitar Boy,’ AK-47. They had locally made guns.
Perhaps in the attempt to have living space, herdsmen are all over the country, maiming and killing but overlooking Boko Haram controlled areas and ignoring Fulani villages and towns. It is sounds like an unwritten accord.
In the past, we saw Fulani and Kanuri doing power business. Under Mai Dunama Dabbalemi[1221-59], Kanem–Bornu conquered Kano. The Kanuri had embraced Islam in 1090 with the conversion of Mai Ume. Under Idris Alooma, there was tremendous reformation.
So when Shehu Usman Dan Fodio tried to preach a better Islam in Bornu, he was resisted. It was Sheik Muhammad al Amin al Kanemi that stemmed Fulani aggression. It is on record that Ngazargamu, the capital of Kanem Bornu was overrun by a Fulani man, Goni Mukhtar.
Eventually, the Kanuri settled for Yerwa as capital when Shehu Abubakar Gubai moved from Kukawa. That was the birth of Maiduguri in 1907. The Kanuri do not trust the Fulani. They always remember how Yakubu Bauchi, an Hausa man who supported the Fulani during the Jihad, was used and dumped. They do not forget what Janta Alimi did to the Yoruba,Afonja, in Ilorin in 1824.
The Fulani try to think ahead of others. In the old Songhai Empire, Tenguela Diara, Fulani leader, fought Askia Mohammed, the great. In 1512, Askia’s brother,Amar, killed the attacker. Diara’s son, Koli, later moved to conquer Futa Toro just like his ancestors did Futa Jallon.
The Fulani are spread all over Africa. You find them in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Egypt, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Cameroon and Guinea- Bissau. In Guinea they are majority with 40 per cent of the population but have been schemed out of power almost eternally.
You find the Kanuri in Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Libya.
President Muhammadu Buhari is Fulani but has Kanuri blood through his mother. He was the last governor of North Eastern State and first governor of Borno. We are watching this power play. His Amy Chief is Kanuri just like the National Security Adviser.