The tense situation in Benue and Taraba states following the enactment of ‘cattle laws’ there and the ensuing violence that claimed over a hundred lives in both states, has reached a crisis point that everybody- government, businesses, academic and laymen- is joining hands to seek an end to the lingering herdsmen/farmers’ clashes there and in many other states before it becomes too wild to handle. In the event, some issues are coming up that call for factual clearance to throw light on the dark areas in the conflict. Some of such issues are those by Professor Mohammed Labdo of the Humanities Department of Maitama University, Kano.
In an interview with The Punch edition of February 3, he asserted that Tiv people of Benue state originated from the Fulanis, making the latter the real owners of the land in the state. He named Katsina Alla, a Benue enclave, as an evidence of his assertion and challenged anyone to contradict him. Thisage, took up his challenge and after searching, was able to find a scholar of repute with a suitable academic background to give a correct historical interpretation. He is Professor Zacharys Anger Gundu, an archeologist with the department of archeology, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
In this interview with Amos Esele, he provides answers to some of the thorny issues in the ongoing crisis; the herdsmen route said to have been gazetted by the colonial masters; the viability of cattle colony, which the Federal Ministry of Agriculture is proposing as remedy for the crisis and Professor Labdo’s challenge; the Fulani origin of the Tiv. Excerpts:
The recent ‘cattle laws’ enacted by Benue and Taraba states to address the security challenges posed by the frequent violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers have been faulted by sympathizers of the herdsmen that, among others, they will prevent the herdsmen from plying their trade across long established historical routes. As an archeologist, what is your take on this?
The Benue and Taraba ‘Cattle laws’ are attempts to regulate livestock breeding and management in the country, they are attempts to ensure that livestock breeding and management is aligned with global good practices. They also aim at containing impunity and violence which has increasingly characterized indiscriminate open grazing of livestock in the country. Open grazing is also associated with public health challenges whereby diseases are able to move freely from animals to human beings. The laws encourage those interested in livestock production to ranch their animals and herdsmen must see these laws as attempts to boost and rejuvenate an otherwise obsolete production process which has since been overtaken by events. Yes, in the past, when population was sparse and there were large tracks of ‘uncommitted lands’ across the country, people could move with livestock across the country in the name of open grazing.
At Independence in 1960, Nigeria had 0.51 hectares of arable land per citizen. This figure is shrinking with rising population and it is estimated that by 2050, it will shrink to 0.08 hectares per citizen. Open grazing at this moment is very disruptive and we can clearly see this in every part of the country and we must encourage regulatory actions that will contain the excesses of herdsmen and ensure we get the best out of livestock production.
These Stock routes are said to have been gazetted by the colonial masters. Can you say how and why such routes were mapped and gazetted?
At the moment, there are 417 grazing reserves that have been ‘mapped’ across the country, all from the North. It had been envisaged that movement of livestock between these reserves and within the country and even without would be by foot so these reserves were linked by stock routes. Seasonal migrations of livestock/herdsmen within the West African sub region was also acknowledged, so ‘international’ stock routes were also provided for. In the Pre Colonial period when the Fulani had established the Sokoto Caliphate, these stock routes and grazing reserves were accepted within the boundaries of the Caliphate as given.
During the colonial period, the Fulani who were privileged over and above other groups in Northern Nigeria merely rolled over privileges appropriated in the pre colonial period including grazing reserves and stock routes in their favour. At Independence, the Fulani control of Northern Nigeria made them to roll over the issue of grazing reserves and stock routes again using the Grazing Reserves Law of 1965. During the Military years, several attempts were made to rekindle the idea of grazing reserves but these failed. At the moment, only 113 of these reserves are gazetted. The remaining 304 are not gazetted and technically cannot be said to be in existence. Those talking about them are merely peddling mischief. Not many states will agree to ‘reserves’ mapped on their land in the first Republic to be resuscitated now and turned over to the ‘Fulani of the whole world’.
The federal Government is proposing the setting up of cattle colonies in states as a measure to address the problem, but many states have rejected the plan. How would you advise the authorities to handle the explosive situation?
The proposal for ‘cattle colonies’ across the country is high nonsense. It is an attempt to create distinct territories and sovereignties within the country for the ‘Fulani of the whole world’. Cattle colonies are not the way to go. The way forward is ranching. Livestock production and management is a private business which must be encouraged to strive profitably and everyone interested in it must be encouraged to ranch.
The situation in Benue appears to be attracting more attention following reactions to the murder in cold blood of 73 persons by suspected herdsmen. Few days ago Professor Umar Mohammed Labdo of the Humanities Faculty in Maitama Sule University, Kano, suggested in an interview with The Punch that the Tiv in Benue are fighting their own roots, because, to quote him, “the origin of the Tiv people is that their father was a Fulani.” Is this historically correct?
Professor Umar Muhammad Labdo is a predatory scholar. His poorly edited website indicates that he is a ‘Nigerian Islamic scholar’ with specialization in ‘Islamic political thought’. His attempt to rewrite the history of the Tiv underscores a lack of humility and a penchant for attention seeking even at the risk of damaging an academic reputation. In truth, Nigeria as a country has ignored its history to the point that ‘anyone and everyone’ could easily think they can write the other’s history even without studying it.
In relation to the current crisis, Professor Labdo has made two historical assertions on the Tiv which are incorrect. Ordinarily, he should have been ignored because he is showing off his poor training and lack of humility. Yet, there is a reason not to ignore him. Much of the leadership in the North ‘strives and feeds’ on information provided by the tiny tribe of professors represented by Labdo who are not only ill trained but also have over bloated egos as to what they can do as scholars. The more we expose the Labdos of the North, the more we can help the Nigerian system get rid of predatory scholarship.
Labdo had asserted earlier that the Fulani had ‘rights’ of conquest over Tiv land even without providing a shred of evidence to back up his assertion. We know that the Emir of Dutse ( a Bauchi vassal) c. 1843-1874 organized unsuccessful raids against the Tiv while the Emir of Muri (Buba) c. 1868-1873 assisted the Aku Uka (Agudu Manu) c. 1872-1902 in some military campaigns against the Tiv but non of these led to conquest or loss of Tiv territory. Professor Labdo must provide the evidence for the Fulani conquest of Tiv land to be taken seriously.
His second assertion on the origin of the Tiv is also a fabrication known only to him. Anthropologically, the origin of the Tiv has been studied in the context of Tiv oral traditions, historical linguistics and archaeology. Any scholar interested in the fine details of Tiv origin can read the numerous literature on Tiv traditions, Bantu linguistics and the archaeological discoveries in the Benue valley especially at the site of Indyer Mbakuv at Ushongo.
Anyone familiar with the history of place names in the Middle Benue Valley would understand how the name Katsina Ala came about. Katsina Ala was established as an administrative station by Captain Charles F. Gordon in 1906/1907. This is after he consulted widely with ranking elders and chiefs of Shitire, Ikyurav tiev and Mbagen . One of these, Sai Deakpe had asked Gordon to invite Hausa traders to the station because Tiv farm produce and textile alone, could not in his opinion sustain commerce at the proposed station.
Gordon did not only heed Deakpe’s advise, he enticed Mamman Ala, the leader of the Abakwariga by naming the new station after his ancestral homeland (Katsina ) and his surname(Ala) and asking him to be its head. Since, Mamman Ala and his Abakwariga community were then under the protection of Chia Chile, he refused to take up the opportunity which went to two former Kanuri slave traders (Audu and Bawa) based in Wukari. This is the context within which some scholars have wrongly argued that Katsina Ala was founded by the Fulani. That non of the ranking Tiv chiefs especially Aba Kume, Agahyande Alom and Chia Chile who had supported the establishment of the new station were ‘good’ enough to head it or have it named after them explains the European worldview then in favour of Hausa Fulani elements in the colonial enterprise. Even before the British established Katsina Ala as an administrative post, the area was an important Nok site. This underscores the area’s ancient status as an important cultural area linked up to other parts of Middle Nigeria going back to the Early Iron Age.
Well, can you take up the challenge Labdo threw at anyone to fault the facts he gave to buttress his claim.? To quote him at length, he said; “The origin of the Tiv people is that their father was a Fulani. His name was Mohammed Alla. He migrated from Katsina to that area and got married to a Jukun woman and he fathered the Tiv. That is their origin.
We submit that the first father of the Tiv was Mohammed Alla, who migrated from Katsina, that is why today, you have Katsina Alla! Let them explain, what is the meaning of Katsina Alla? So, this Fulani man, when he got to that area and fathered Tiv, there were other Fulani people there. That was why he came to join his own brothers. So, if you are talking about any original owners of the Tiv land, it is actually the Fulani. And the Fulani are the fathers of the Tiv and the Jukun are their mothers. The origin of Benue State is Bauchi and Adamawa Emirates; it’s historically Fulbe area (another name for Fulani). What I mean is that it is a Fulani domain and not for Tiv. Originally, Tiv people were from Fulani tribe and Jukun; that is Tiv background.
It is senseless to argue that the origin of Benue State is Bauchi and Adamawa Emirates. It is equally senseless to argue that Tiv people are offspring of a Fulani and Jukun marriage. This is standing history on its head. It is Professor Labdo who owes us explanation here. His reputation as a Professor and scholar is at stake and must be called to provide evidence for his skewed narrative.
6. Curiously, the Fulani influence or presence in Benue seem to become a subject of debate at crisis point in the state. Recall, the cry over plan by business mogul, Aliko Dangote to acquire Benue Cement recently. History shows that the late elder statesman and political giant of the Tiv nation, Chief Joseph Tarka and his United Middle Belt Congress, had a running political battle with one of the nation’s founding fathers, the late Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello and his Northern Peoples Congress, NPC. What is the true picture of things as it concerns these two nationalities?
The Tiv are currently living on their ancestral lands in the Benue valley in both Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States. They share a joking relationship with the Fulani and all who know the Fulani would appreciate the fact that anytime, they are held by the balls by any group, they turn the whole matter into some joke until they are able to extract their pond of flesh. The Fulani seem to be coming for their pound of flesh today. Originally from Guinea, they have lost out there politically and are regrouping to make Nigeria their second home. The Sokoto Caliphate and post independent Fulani leadership of Nigeria has continued to embolden them and their quest for grazing reserves and colonies within the country is their attempt to find political space for the ‘Fulani of the whole world’ in Nigeria.
You keep referring to Fulani of the whole world. What does that mean?
The Fulani ‘homeland’ is Futa Jallon in the African Republic of Guinea. Their second ‘homeland’ is in Futa Toro in Senegal. Over the years, they have converted to Islam which their clerics have manipulated -through war and conquest to found several empires and kingdoms including Tukolor, Massina, the Sokoto caliphate and Fombina. Today, the Fulani number about 20 million people worldwide and are spread across countries of West Africa and Central Africa. They are the world’s largest single pastoral ethnic community. 1/3 of the 20 million are pastoralists. Though they had enjoyed political power in the past, they are today without political power especially in Guinea and Senegal. In Guinea where they are the largest ethnic majority, the Mandinka, the Susu, Kissi and Kpelle have teamed up to ensure they do not control any political power because of their perceived racism. The Fulani outing in Nigeria during the Sokoto Jihad and Fulani leadership of the country during Independence from the Sardauna of Sokoto to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Umaru Shehu Musa Yar’adua and Muhammadu Buhari has emboldened the Fulani from all parts of West and Central Africa to see Nigeria as a ‘preferred’ homeland where their livestock can graze at will. The Fulani respect no borders and have a violent sense of entitlement for ALL their people wherever they may come from. This is the context within which we have been using the phrase, the ‘Fulani of the whole world’.
Do you foresee an end to this scenario? And how?
Open grazing is not sustainable. Pastoralism is an obsolete lifestyle which must be regulated. The way to go is ranching and the country must stop over indulging the Fulani and getting them to ranch as the best way to keep their livestock.