The Fulani herdsmen-farmers clash is a struggle between tradition and modernity- Author

The Fulani herdsmen-farmers clash is a struggle between tradition and modernity- Author

A reading of the Dr. Munzali Dantata’s book, “Tammunnde- Hope On The Horizon’’ took place on Friday, 24th March 2017 in Abuja. Shortly after the reading, he was cornered by LUBEM GENA during which he spoke on the thrust of the novel, motivating factor and objectives as well as expectations from the readers.

Excerpts:

 

Tell me a little about the book you are presenting here.

The book is a fiction novel about a nomadic Fulani family moving across Nigeria in these times of trouble. I exploited some devices to first present the real Fulani culture and everything. And secondly, to present the problem between the pastoralists and farmers. That is what I set out to achieve with the book. And I hope I have achieved presenting the Fulani in that way. I was inspired by the Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ which anybody who read it could understand the Igbo people. So, I think anybody reading my book will also understand the Fulani people. That is the first objective. The second objective is to present a problem between the farmers and pastoralists in a very easy and story-telling narrative. In the end, I hope the reader will be adequately educated about the problem and form an opinion.

That is quite interesting because the problem in a recurring one. But what actually informed the decision to write this book at this particular point in time?

Honestly, the turning point is when things ran out of control. You will agree with me that this is a very  topical issue. Things went out of control and I was seen a lot of bias, both for and against. I was seen it in the print media and television talk shows. Everybody was assuming. And we moved away from the main issue which was about land. The problem was made to look like a problem which has much to do with religion and ethnicity. Well, it is about land and natural resources which are depleting. So, really, the real culprit is climate change, technology and human behavior. This is because, the land is shrinking and the competition for it is becoming more fierce. My work is like an intervention which have brought a different perspective. I am not blaming any side. In this issue, both sides may even be wrong. On the other side, it is the climate change and technology which may even been wrong. So, both the Fulani and the farmers could even be right here. I hope my work will become a catalyst for new thinking.

As a Fulani man yourself, what do you think has fundamentally gone wrong which has consequently led to all these?

Well, what has gone wrong is that the Fulani man has been ignored for a long time. I am talking about the nomadic Fulani’s who are pastoralists and are in the bush. Of course there are town Fulani’s who are doctors, professors, merchants and politicians who have mansions and all that. But as for the nomadic Fulani’s who are also Fulani and are the main topic, their plight has never been addressed. They are just allowed to move around without any plan for them. Now, it is just like what the British say in English, ‘the chickens have come home to roost’. So, these bad policies of government and also the attitude of the people is what have climaxed into these clashes. I like to say, even before the clashes between the farmers and pastoralists, there have been clashes between the settlers and indigenes. All these are fallout of the rapidly improving technology and modernity with increasing population. Serious planning has to be done because whether we like it or not, the landscape of this country has changed so plans have also have to change adequately to accommodate the changes.

Talking about abandoning the nomadic Fulani’s to their fate. Who will you place the culpability on? Is it the government, the rest of the people or the Fulanis themselves?

In one word, I will say it is the elite. And the elite has people in government, business, elders, the academia and of course all the enlightened because every society is ruled by its elite. It is the elite that will revive because this is a struggle between tradition and modernity. The Fulani’s is representing that tradition (the past) that is resisting to step into the modern life. So they are the victims of the circumstance and that have gone a long way in giving rise to the problem we are having now.

To me these crises have taken a worrisome dimension. There are certain instances where you hear the Fulanis come out to confess that they attacked a particular community because their cattle were rustled from such. Did you also explore the possibility that the Fulani’s have taken the laws into their hands in this matter?

Certainly, in most circumstances I do not agree with them. Even though the trespass itself is condemnable. Passing through the farms without the permission of the farmer is trespass; pure and simple. They have their faults too, you know. But it has escalated because it has been mismanaged. Then criminals came in and started committing acts like cattle rustling, shooting people at random and kidnapping. The invasion of the farms, of course nobody should deny, it is done by the Fulani’s with their cattle. But occasional damage to farmlands can be traced to so many years where there were ways of settling such matters between the Fulani’s and the farmers. At what point did this friendship break down? Certainly, it has escalated because miscreants came in and seized the opportunity. Just like with other problems, It has also been politicized. That is the way I look at it.

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There are instances where the Fulanis postulate that those coming to attack the locals are not from amongst them and are not Fulani’s indigenous to Nigeria. So, in this context, how will you situate instances of this nature into the problem?

That is wrong. And that is where the security agencies have to step in. This is because if arrests are being made, then convictions are obtained, that will reduce occurrences of future attacks especially where some people come from far away or even a foreign land. They come with impunity and commit the crime and walk away. It looks like that is really a shortfall from the security agencies. What is wrong is wrong. If Fulanis from across the border will come from another country or maybe from another state, once the security agencies are informed that a mayhem is going on in X, Y or Z village, they should either rush and intercept them there or along the way when they are fleeing the place. Because if you have a situation whereby they are just treated like spirits or ghosts, (they just come in and go out and nobody knows who they are), it doesn’t help the matter. Until that is deviated from, it will be the same with clashes during the indigene-settler clashes whereby you may have a whole village or community damaged and there was never any arrest made or anybody been convicted.

What is your message to the readers? As they are reading the book, what should they be thinking? And what should they do after reading the book?

When they read the book, they should think that there is a problem. First of all the book is entertaining, educative and thought provoking. I hope that every reader at the end will be thinking of the way forward around this problem. Now they have seen in a very entertaining way using a novel form but it has sent out a lot of historical facts which they can use to understand the situation better.