“Man is urban by nature and in need of the masses” ~ Caliph Muhammadu Bello
In one of his articles written in 1998, titled “Afenifere: The Syllabus of Error”, the former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, fired a disgusting salvo against the Fulani aristocracy reminding the nation of the later’s age-old clamour for ethno-political supremacy. While illustrating the party style politics of the late Umaru Shinkafi, the former Emir bravely insinuated that.
“That Shinkafi, like other Fulani politicians, believed that the problems of this country have a lot to do with the shift in power away from the Fulani to individuals like Babangida and Abacha — products of “lower cultures,” Sanusi wrote.
The Fulani of the North, he added, proud of the history of the Caliphate, remain proud of the roles played by their [progenitor kinsmen] — the leaders of the political and military establishment in Nigeria i.e. Ahmadu Bello, Murtala Mohammed, Aminu Kano, Shehu Yar’Adua, Shehu Shagari, Jubril Aminu, Ahmed Joda etc, who owed much to their leadership credibility from their 19th century ancestral Sokoto Caliphate intelligentsia. Among the etceteras, are the current president of the nation; also Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari and a serving Bauchi State Commissioner of Education, Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde.
The Emir observed that, like Umaru Shinkafi who probably believed in the need for a power-shift back to Fulani, so was to politicians like Mahmud Waziri, Bamanga Tukur, Jubril Aminu, and even M.D. Yusufu. Through democratic process, they would accept a southern president. But to the Fulani, as the Emir painstakingly noted, “there is nothing like ceding the presidency or power. If you want it, you work for it…If you lack the stomach to dig in and fight for it, too bad for you.”!
Most of these Fulani elite are sad that other Nigerians do not know the difference in ethnic background between say, Murtala Mohammed and Ibrahim Babangida. They do not understand how a man like Abacha, born to a cigarette-seller in Fagge quarters of Kano, and how, by this social status and background, could he be taken as the quintessential representative of the Caliphate!
However, while these “Fulani Domesticus” are relentlessly holding on so much to the claim of power and leadership, their kinsmen, the “F. Naturalis” living in forests are becoming more dangerous to urban security. Like the former Emir, whose bravado could not prevent him from exposing the dangers of the elite Fulani power hubris, Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde — to whom my article may appear as a constructive response also fired another salvo. Unlike the Emir’s, Dr. Tilde in his article titled “Fulani: The Unfinished Work of Dfanfodio” — and probably the latest in his recent articles, untethered intriguing comments as to what the nation and its Fulani elite ought to do for the nomads, and why the failure to do so subjected the entire nation under the stampeding cavalry of their dastardly acts of terror.
To Dr. Tilde, it may means that the country is surviving a payback time from what she owes much to the life of the nomadic Fulani — the “F. Naturalist”. To him, the question of denying the nomads of their democratic benefits: of freedom, right and equity, and of their dwelling in forests to access pasture for their cattle, as well as the failure of the government to secure grazing lands and ranches for them, all have promoted failure in perpetual continuity. More to their travailing circumstances are the questions of their entitlements to medical and veterinary healthcare provisions, of improving their dwindling nomadic education system which have all suffered a serious neglect from variously previous and present administrations. This failure according to Tilde, “laid the foundations of the extreme savage behaviour of the F. naturalis in the ongoing banditry of the Northwest that no Hausa or F. domesticus can ever contemplate.”
Amidst this negligible consideration, more of what worsened the security situation is the failure by the Fulani elite (‘The Domesticus’) to integrate and engage with their ‘F. Naturalis’ kinsmen to bring into fruition the age-old reformist agenda of the Shehu of urbanizing the nomadic Fulani. But even more intriguing is the Tilde’s seeming assertion that the ‘Jama’a’ of Usman Dan Fodio (i.e. the Jihad leaders) had lacked the fortune of taking civilization into the forest zones. That the task of urbanizing the ‘F. Naturalis’ by the Jihadists under the Shehu has therefore remained till today, an “unfinished work” ‘we’ must complete.
However, Tilde’s assertion was hardly the case. Dan Fodio and his Jama’a were actively capable of taking civilization not only to Fulani nomads but more so to nomadic Tuaregs under Muhammadu Al-Jaylani — whose struggle had an immense repercussion on the history of Adar. What is more convincing is that the ‘F. Naturalis’ i.e. the nomadic Fulani living in forests did not answer the call of the Shehu and had betrayed the principles of urban integration.
Caliph Muhammadu Bello was reported to have responded to various Jihad leaders who sought his advice on how to go about urbanizing their nomad brothers. In one of his responses to Muhammadu al-Jaylani, a letter titled “Jawab shafi wa khidab minna kafi ila akhina fil-Lah Muhammad al-Jaylani” (“Satisfactory Reply and Adequate Discourse from Us to Our Brother Muhammadu al-Jaylani”), the Caliph confirmed to Jihad leaders the Prophetic traditions which depict nomadic life as a “destroyer of religion and of all aspects of human development and progress.” On the contrary also, he confirmed to them that “settled life promotes association, integration, civilization and harmony.” Human beings according to Caliph Muhammadu Bello, can attain perfection only through urbanization.
The Caliph further cited the Prophetic traditions regarding his position that:
“It was transmitted by Abu Da’ud on the authority of Anas, that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was reported to have said “people will settle in towns.” This wise commandment was followed by the companions who founded cities to extend their frontiers against enemies. Caliph Umar b. al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him provides a good example here as he was reported to have founded the then garrison towns of al-Basra, al-Kufah, al-Fustat and Damascus.
In another tradition, Caliph Muhammad Bello further confirmed the authenticity of the Prophet’s saying, as narrated by Ahmad b. Hanbal and Abubakr b. Abu Shaybah that “he who is of the desert is rough and uncouth.” This was also confirmed by another narration by Muhammadu b. Yahya b. Umar, transmitted on the authority of Jabir b. Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said “Allah cursed him who is a desert dweller after emigration, three times, save during a feud, for verily the desert-life is better than dwelling amidst a feud”.
On the interpretation of the above Prophetic traditions, Caliph Bello had this to say:
“If you understand what is firmly established, you learn that to dwell in towns is better than to live in villages and to dwell in the later is better than to dwell in the desert.” The Caliph added “the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, lived as a city-dweller. So did those who emigrated with him. I have not heard that he ordered the nomads of the desert to stick to towns and villages and forsake the desert.”
It was on this basis that the Caliph sought to advice the Jihad leaders to build fortresses which were the outstanding urban features of the cities and towns under the Sokoto Caliphate. In his words:
“Cities and towns when founded should have schools, mosques, markets and industries. Artisans, workers, judges, army, administrators and Imams should be deployed to the new towns to carry out essential services. Jumu’ah and five daily congregational prayers should also be established. Occupations and specialized socio-economic groups settled in a camp or town would bring economic development in the area. Urban development evolves socio-political development which calls forth wide ranging human contacts, which in turn engendered economic growth.”
The Caliph also encouraged a just and definable taxation policy, fiscal responsibility and transparency. He disapproved misappropriation and imposition of taxes. He also warned that the nomads and the rest of the desert living population should not be neglected because they are the support of urban dwellers. They should be settled in towns, he recommended. Here, like Ibn Khaldun, the Caliph reiterated the human need of a leader to be the symbol of their unity and act as a restraining influence and mediator in order to keep them from fighting one another. He also recommended both the children of the nomads and their adults alike to be bounded by moral instruction, and to be schooled and disciplined.
On the question of herding, long trekking and rustling, the Caliph warned that the nomads should be discouraged from breeding and collection of large herds of cattle. Instead, they should be ordered to increase their camels and breed horses and sheep. He lamented that his Fulani people were infatuated by the love of cattle, and he therefore cited several Prophetic traditions that discourage clinging to the tail of cattle and praise horses and sheep. As he reported:
“The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “That which is about to being the best wealth of a Muslim is a sheep which he follows along peak mountain deals and in watery glen fleeing with his faith from dissensions.”
From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that Dan Fodio had taken civilization to forest zones. Because about thirty years after Caliph Muhammadu Bello, the Amir al-Mu’minin Ahmad ‘Atiq (r 1859-1866) instructed his deputies to carry and administer the instruments of urban administration in Gusau and its metropolitan areas of Kaura, Maru and Bungudu, as well as to aid in refortifying the areas under its administrative jurisdictions.
What is more telling at present is that successive governments have failed to keep up with the task of gradually transforming the life of the nomads. An indepth interview with Dr. Saddique Abubakar of the Center for Democratic Development Research and Training (CEDDERT), Hanwa Zaria, reechoed the worsening security situation in Zamfara state which for about four years by now has been the epicenter of insecurity in the Northwest. He lamented the unseriousness of the state government in containing the security situation of the state, as well as how the inactions of some of its previous governors such as Ahmed Sani Yerima, who allegedly derived the Fulani nomads out of the state fanned the embers of the continuing conflicts and tensions between farmers and pastoralists in the region. Worse that the ethnic coloration given to this conflict has continued to ensue a “tit-for-tat” reprisals attacks and killings.
The changing circumstances of the new era, the character and changing dimensions of nomadic life and the challenge it poses for urban security nowadays, were all critical to Muhammad Bello’s powerful admonition that “what is better for a man, is his submission or rather being contented with his time.” The security challenge posed by the Fulani nomads today has not been contented with time, more so when every attempt to curtail its dangers and promote peace is ethnicised, regionalized and (or) even religionized as “Islamization agenda”.
Though bursting as the ‘heroes civilizanteur’ to Islamic civilization in Hausaland, most of these nomads are ignorant of the precepts of religion and the refinement of law. This pronouncement though may be seen as a Hausa man’s bellicosity to Fulani ‘pilako’, their forest species, according to Tilde, do not respect order. To them everything is about strength — looting, killings, rape, whatever, can be employed to take revenge or to acquire. Under the watchful eyes of their Fulani Domesticus”, the attitudes of the Fulani nomads however, are intolerable.
Mr Misbahu can be reached at [email protected]