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Buhari is the Single Greatest Danger to the Fulani

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. Twitter: @farooqkperogi On the surface, it sounds counterintuitive, even ridiculously counterfactual, to ...

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

On the surface, it sounds counterintuitive, even ridiculously counterfactual, to suggest that an unreflective Fulani supremacist like Muhammadu Buhari is the single greatest threat to members of his ethnic group. But it’s true. Here is why.

Although I had always been aware of this fact, it was actually a Fulani person who caused me to develop a heightened consciousness of it. In a lengthy phone conversation last weekend, a cosmopolitan Nigerian of Fulani ethnicity shared with me his deep worries about the deepening animus toward the Fulani all over Nigeria.

In his 1983 pamphlet titled The Trouble with Nigeria, Chinua Achebe talked of “the national resentment of the Igbo.” If Achebe were alive, he would probably agree that the Fulani have displaced the Igbo from this position. In most parts of Nigeria today, the Fulani are feared, resented, reviled, and avoided like never before.

To be sure, inter-ethnic relations have always been intensely conflictual right from Nigeria’s founding, and fear of “Fulani domination” is an enduring anxiety in both the South and in the Christian North. But the sort of mass resentment of the Fulani that has enveloped the country in the last few years since Buhari has been “president” has no precedent.

My Fulani interlocutor attributed this to Buhari’s unprecedentedly explicit favoritism toward the Fulani even when, as he said, “the favoritism does nothing to advance the living conditions of the average Fulani person.” Bloody farmer/herder clashes aren’t new, but they took a different dimension when Buhari appointed himself as the chief defender of and spokesperson for Fulani herders where studied neutrality from him would have been helpful.

He initially said the Fulani don’t have guns, only carry sticks, and therefore couldn’t be responsible for the bloodstained violence attributed to them. When the facts later incontrovertibly contradicted his claim, he changed tack and said the Fulani who murdered farmers with guns weren’t Nigerian Fulani. He said they were foreign Fulani.

“These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya,” he said. “When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram.”

Nevertheless, in the aftermath of a particularly horrendous mass slaughter in Benue, which provoked mass outrage in the country, Buhari told Benue elders who came to plead for his intervention, “I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your countrymen.” The murderers can’t simultaneously be foreign Fulanis “trained and armed by Gaddadafi of Libya” and be the “countrymen” of their victims in Benue.

Everyone in the Buhari regime took a cue from the “president”: whatever you may do and say, never blame the Fulani for anything. That was why presidential spokesman Femi Adesina, in defense of “cattle colonies,” once told Nigerians to choose between their land and their lives. The defense minister also routinely blamed incessant bloodletting in the land on the enactment of “anti-grazing laws” in some states of the federation. Never mind that violent upheavals between farmers and herders predated “anti-grazing” laws and that they episodically erupt even in states that have no such laws, including in far northern states.

A day after herders massacred more than 200 people in Plateau State in June 2018, the presidency issued the following statement: "According to information available to the Presidency, about 100 cattle had been rustled by a community in Plateau State, and some herdsmen were killed in the process." No official investigation had been conducted when the statement was issued. The statement therefore came across as a knee-jerk defense of the herders by the presidency, which only inflamed passions.

Now, there is no difference between the president’s media team and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association. The president’s media team now customarily issues press statements to defend herders and even justify or explain away mass murders committed by herders.

As I said earlier, there is no parallel for this sort of naked ethnic partisanship in Nigeria’s entire history. When the O’odua People’s Congress (OPC) became a mass murdering machine of northerners in Yorubaland, Obasanjo never defended them even once, even though OPC was fiercely pro-Obasanjo at the time. He gave orders to shoot on sight any OPC thug who disturbed the peace. Even at that, we in the North weren’t impressed. We wanted him to do more.

Only former president Goodluck Jonathan is on record as having defended the terrorism of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). In the aftermath of a terrorist attack in 2010, which MEND owned up to, Jonathan said, “We know those behind the attack and the persons sponsoring them. They are terrorists, not MEND. The name of MEND that operates in Niger Delta was only used. I grew up in the Niger Delta so nobody can claim to know Niger Delta than [sic] myself, because I am from Niger Delta.”

In an October 16, 2010 column titled “A MENDacious President,” I called out Jonathan’s “unreasoning ethno-regional chauvinism” and pointed out that no past president had ever defended the transgressions committed by his people so brazenly like he did. So did many other columnists. What we thought was Jonathan’s unexampled defense of the terrorism of his kinfolk has now paled in comparison with Buhari’s.

As my friend pointed out, when a father of many children, through his words and deeds, habitually shows undisguised preference to one child, he unwittingly exposes that child to envy, hatred, and even gang-up among his siblings. It’s a natural human instinct.

The “Ruga” initiative, which had been unwisely called “cattle colonies,” provoked raw emotions because it was perceived as yet another intentional act of parental indulgence to a favored, pampered child to the exclusion of others.

Nevertheless, it helps to remember that the Fulani are just as human as anyone else, and there are several of them who are uncomfortable with the current state of affairs. But the current climate of unreasoning mass panic makes it seem like Fulanis are an undifferentiated collective of murderous villains. That’s both dangerous and inaccurate. Buhari shares the largest blame in this.

Misplaced Focus on Senator Abbo's Age
The average life expectancy for Nigerian men, according to the World Health Organization, is 54.7 years, yet many Nigerians call a 41-year-old senator a "youth" and attribute his thuggish idiocy to his age. Some even go so far as to say that his behavior represents a diminution of the arguments for the "Not Too Young To Run" initiative.

For starters, a 41-year-old person is NO "youth" by any definition of the term anywhere in the world. The UN defines youth as people between the ages of 15 and 24. In Nigeria, “youth” officially refers to people between the ages of 18 and 35. Second, Senator Abbo didn't need the "Not Too Young to Run” law be to be a senator. The original minimum age requirement to be a senator was 35. He is 41. That means he would have been qualified to run for the senate—and even for the presidency since the minimum age to be president was 40—even if the bill hadn't been passed into law.

Third, most past Nigerian military dictators ruled Nigeria in their 30s. Why are we making it seem like it's an undeserved favor to allow young people to rule? Abbo is a violent bully; his age is immaterial to this fact.


  1. Certainly age has nothing to do with Sen. Abbo's action,simply his persona traits. Unfortunately, we don't do background and psychological checks on our politicians before taken over offices, unlike in other countries. Hope we will get there.

  2. You used Buhari as a straw man to demolish. The trick has failed. He has repeatedly said bandits - whether indigenous or "foreign" Fulani - should be treated as criminals. Your diatribe gives no evidence of Buhari's active collusion with the "bush" Fulani to commit atrocities against fellow Nigerians, just suppositions. It's natural to sympathize with one's kinsmen, but this shouldn't be interpreted as endorsing their criminal acts. As president Buhari wants peace and security for his country, and would not hesitate to prosecute his own relations who engaged in criminal acts.

  3. I don't think Buhari is an ethnic champion, he simply exhibits an attitude that is actually common in Nigeria - a tendency to minimise the actions of criminals and treat them with kid gloves. It is a Nigerian thing, not a Buhari thing. We Nigerians always give cover for wrongdoers. Your subordinate staff won't report their colleague who is undermining the system, most Nigerians won't see as bad the fact that a local rich man made his wealth by stealing from the treasury. Borno elders once described boko haram jihadists as their sons and called for dialogue with them. Buhari himself had cautioned against military action on boko haram which he called an attack against the north - but boko haram has mostly Kanuri not Fulani fighters. There is a general Nigerian trait of treating criminals with kid gloves especially by those who are not on the receiving end of their activities. I don't think it has a lot to do with being an ethnic supremacist.

  4. I am so worried that we all are fast loosing our humanity as a people.
    The simple truth is that the body language of Mr President does not endear unity but rather heightens mutual suspicion amongst different ethnic groups. Nigerians are more divided now than ever before.
    We need to take a critical look at our perception of who we are as Nigerians.

    I love your objective analysis pls keep it up and remain blessed.
    We are better and stronger together

  5. We are gradually shifting the narrative to what a lot of us saw in Buhari before he became a "Democrat".

    Unless we examine deeply the motives behind this weird inclination, we may lose the point entirely to those who support this ethno religious acts.


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