"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: “Fulanization” of the North by the South

Saturday, June 5, 2021

“Fulanization” of the North by the South

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Fears of “Fulani domination” have endured since Nigeria’s founding but, more than ever before, there is now an insanely unhealthy obsession with the Fulani in Nigeria’s South. The Fulani are not just routinely reviled with genocidal rhetorical venom, all manner of devious, supernormal political power is ascribed to them.

In the service of the reigning monomania about the Fulani, Northern Muslims, irrespective of their ethnicity, are now labeled “Fulani.” It’s worse if they are also beneficiaries of “juicy” political appointments in the Buhari regime.

Former Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai, for example, was habitually called “Fulani” even though he is Babur from southern Borno, a good portion of whom are Christians. The late Abba Kyari was called “Fulani” even though he was Shuwa (but linguistically and culturally Kanuri) from Borno.

When Muhammad Mamman Nami replaced Babatunde Fowler as the boss of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), many people in the South said Nami was “Fulani.” But Nami is Nupe from Niger State, and Nupe people are linguistically, historically, and geographically closer to Yoruba people than they are to Fulani or Hausa people.

There is a list doing the rounds on social media of supposed “Fulani” people who are holding strategic positions in Buhari’s government, but most of the people on the list are merely northern Muslims who are neither ethnically nor culturally Fulani. Take Nigeria Customs Service boss Hammed Ali, for example, who appears on the list. He is neither Fulani nor even Hausa. He is from the Jarawa ethnic group from Dass in Bauchi State.

Nigerian Television Authority's boss, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, is also on the list of “Fulani” appointees of strategic government agencies, but he is ethnically Jukun from Taraba State who grew up in Plateau State. 

NNPC boss Mele Kyari has also been assigned a “Fulani” ethnicity even though he is a straight-up Kanuri man from Borno. 

The only linguistically and culturally Fulani people on the list are FCT minister Mohammed Musa Bello and UBEC boss Hammed Bobboyi who are both from Adamawa State.

A reporter from the South recently interviewed me for a personality profile, and although one of the issues we discussed during the interview was the robust diversity of northern identities and how people mistake me for Fulani, Hausa, “Hausa-Fulani” or Nupe even though I am actually Baatonu from Kwara State, he still went ahead and described me as “Fulani” in his story. This shows how our preconceptions can sometimes distort our perceptions.

I corrected his unintentional mischaracterization of my ethnicity because he was kind enough to let me have a pre-publication readback of his story. 

In other words, the South is relentlessly rhetorically Fulanizing the North, particularly the Muslim North, just to fertilize and sustain a simplistic narrative of superhuman Fulani domination. One of my Fulani friends from Adamawa by the name of Idirisu Alkali tells me he is often simultaneously amused and flattered by the prodigious capacities that southerners endue on his people. 

The Fulani are now lionized in the South as the lifeblood of the North and the sole designers of all that is ill with Nigeria. But at the core of this sociologically impoverished monomaniacal fixation with the Fulani is a deep-seated but unacknowledged inferiority complex, which is fully realized in the tendency to describe as “Fulani slave” anyone who expresses opinions that depart from the forced and false consensus of the Fulaniphobes in the South. 

Since only “masters” can have “slaves,” people who call others “Fulani slaves” have clearly accepted the Fulani as “masters,” indicating that they have also internalized their own inferiority before the Fulani.

But the truth is that the Fulani are just as human as anyone else. They are not a stagnant, undifferentiated, unthinking human monolith with no dissensions. They have the same fears, anxieties, and pains as anybody else. They have both good and bad people like other groups. There’s no conspirative conclave where Fulani people meet and plot to dominate everyone else. They battle disunity within their ranks like all ethnic groups. In fact, like the Igbo, they agonize over the progressive erosion of their language and culture in much of Northern Nigeria.

Muhammadu Buhari on whose account the Fulani are ceaselessly dehumanized and vituperated is, in fact, not culturally or linguistically Fulani. In other words, although he traces patrilineal descent from the Fulani, he doesn’t understand or speak Fulfulde (as the language of the Fulani is called) and has no experience with Fulani culture.

Buhari’s father, Adamu Bafallaje, who was an ardo (as Fulani community elders are called), died in his real hometown of Dumurkul in the Daura Emirate of Katsina State when Buhari wasn’t old enough to know him, so Buhari was brought up by his maternal relatives in Daura. His maternal relatives are ethnically Kanuri people who are nonetheless culturally and linguistically Hausa.

As Mamman Daura’s daughter, Fatima Daura, wrote on the occasion of her father’s 80th birthday, Mamman Daura is Kanuri. The family’s forebears migrated from Borno to a town in what is now Niger Republic and finally to Daura. Note that Mamman Daura’s father, Dauda Daura, shares the same mother (but different fathers) with Buhari. So Buhari’s mother, Hajia Zulaiha, was Kanuri.

 Not having grown up with his father and knowing next to nothing about the Fulani, Buhari idealized not just his absent Fulani father but the Fulani people. This is a well-known psychological phenomenon that is encapsulated in the folk wisdom that says, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Barack Obama, for instance, idealized his absent Kenyan father—and his Luo people— with an intensity he would never have had if he’d grown up with him.

Buhari’s idealization of his absent Fulani father inspires an exaggerated identification with the Fulani in ways that alienate others and expose innocent Fulani people to unjustified animosity. That’s why I called him the “single greatest threat to the Fulani” in a July 6, 2019 column.

I also pointed out in a January 12, 2019 column titled "Miyetti Allah, Presidential Endorsement and Politics of Fulani Identity"  that “People who are on the edge of an identity tend to be more exaggeratedly aggressive in their assertion of the identity than those who are—or see themselves as being—in the mainstream of the identity.

“For instance, when there was a butcherly communal turmoil that pitted Bororo Fulani cattle herders against Yoruba farmers in the Oke-Ogun area of northern Oyo State in October 2000, Buhari led a group of ‘Fulani’ northerners to Ibadan to meet with the late Governor Lam Adesina where he told Adesina, among other things, ‘your people are killing my people.’ A Fulani person from the northeast is unlikely to say that.”

Nothing in what I’ve said is intended to mitigate the injustice of Buhari’s preferentialist style of governance. I started calling out what I called the “undisguised Arewacentricity” in Buhari’s appointment since 2015 when most people were scared to criticize the regime (read, for instance, my September 5, 2015 column titled “Buhari is Losing the Symbolic War”), but to put the entire moral weight of his wrongheaded choices on the Fulani and proceed to demonize them without let is both reprehensible and unconscionable. 

There’s no denying that northern Muslim elites have benefitted disproportionately in choice appointments in this regime, but “northern Muslim elite” isn’t synonymous with “Fulani.” 

An honest, empathetic role play would probably help. Imagine being from an ethnic group that’s perpetually slandered, maligned, reviled, and vilified as a national pastime because you share ethnic identity with someone—or some people—whose boneheaded policies smolder you like they do your traducers. How would you feel?

Demonizing people based on invariable attributes that are incidental to their humanity, such as their ethnicity or race, is akin to condemning them even before they were born. Malcolm X once called that the worst crime that can ever be committed. Let the toxic, hateful ignorance stop already! 

25 comments:

Gwallaga said...

For those who get withdrawn by big words, just go to the last paragraph of this wonderful piece. That is the message!

Gbalajobi Adejuwon said...

This clarification is much needed, as the narrative is building a negative stereotype against the Fulani people.

Mohammed Bello said...

Prof, the focus on Fulani by some southern commentators is all about strategy. In the past, these commentators used to take on the "Hausa-Fulani" but they later realised that that was a group that is too large to take on. So they shifted to a strategy that separated Hausa and Fulani so that they will have a smaller group to confront. Another aspect of the strategy is to nurture a schism between the Hausa and the Fulani as a way of dividing and counquering the North. The two main authors of this strategy are Nnamdi Kanu and Femi Fani-Kayode. Most commentators in the south were inspired by one or both of these two. Of course, the prevailing farmers/herders crisis and its coverage in the media has also helped to solidify this new strategy of focusing on the Fulani.

Mohammed Bello said...

Prof, even the FCT minister is of mixed blood. His paternal ancestry is actually Hausa (from the village of Dasin in Adamawa state where a group of migrants from Hadejia had settled in the mid-19th century). It's his mother that has a full Fulani ancestry.

Unknown said...

I'd like you to add more light on AGF Ahmed Idris's identity. As his mother's neighbor,I have benn thinking that
she's Fulani for both linguistic and physical indicators.

Daily Hustle said...

Nepotism is an inward ring that slowly if ever, spreads outside its origin.
Haven said that, I say this: Buhari is accused of nepotism by those who saw his 'Northern bias' from his days as a soldier till date. This does not mean that he has never had even a solitary southerner or others from different tribes near him; please dont get me wrong.

This article is clever in its attempt to douse the truth about Buhari's one-sided appointments. Afterall that is why brilliant propagandist are sought out, and Farooq Kperogi is brilliant no doubt.

I am not about to applaud the ignorance of the many who do not know the difference between the Fulani and other Northern nations. I am simply saying that the ignorant hijacked the warnings of a few who saw Buhari and his bigoted Islamist and nepotistic ways from a mile away, and rightly called it. Afterall, he would continually surround himself with those closest to his ethnic and religious 'ring' so long as they are Northerners.
Again, don't get me wrong... There are southerners who have managed to slip in by virtue of the fact that they have assimilated culturally, and speak a Northern language fluently. Again, that falls within the brackets of nepotism.

Finally, let me say this again, brothers: The nepotism we see around Buhari in one of a Northern and 'inner circle' bias, and not necessarily a Fulani one as is been remodelled by ignorance.
Buhari is and has always been nepotistic. Let's not forget that.

Unknown said...

I think we need to be fair to everyone, picking a fight with 'Hausa-Fulani' when your farm gets invaded by cattle is both vague and unjust. People have only come to the realization that these two groups are clearly distunguishable and blames should be rightly apportioned. Why should I draw Hausa into the equation when our farms get invaded by Fulani herders? I dont believe any conspiracy theories around that, and I applaud their effort at making the distinction.

Farooq A. Kperogi said...

And it turns out that both Nnamdi Kanu and FFK are mentally ill. Mentally ill people with millions of gullible followers. But I think it goes beyond them. Cultures tend to have a need to scapegoat certain collective identities to explain their sorry conditions.

Farooq A. Kperogi said...

That's interesting, but I still regard him as Fulani because he is linguistically and culturally Fulani. He knows more about the Fulani people than Buhari does.

Bugatti3232 said...

This article is worth its weight in gold. Thx a lot Prof, many minds need to be disabused of ignorance. May l suggest you re-share it from time to time, maybe once a quarter. It is really needed.

Mohammed Bello said...

@Unknown: If crime by herdsmen is your real reason for fighting the Fulani, you should also for the sake of consistency, fight the Yoruba ethnic group for all the traumatic home invasions conducted by Yoruba armed robbers in the cities of the Southwest over the past decades.

Farooq A. Kperogi said...

Please find out and share with us. You're in a better position than I to know since you're his mother's neighbor. Thanks.

Farooq A. Kperogi said...

@Daily Hustle. Your comment is all over the place and evinces, in my opinion, the frustrations of someone whose cherished bubble has been burst, who has no intelligent comeback to defend his bigotry. You're repeating the points I've made about Buhari’s undeniably lopsided appointments in favor of Northern Muslims to attack the points I made about the ethnic scapegoating of the Fulani. What sort of discursive style is that?

I've exposed Buhari’s nepotism in many columns and social media updates in more ways than anyone has done in Nigeria. It was I who singlehandedly exposed the close relatives of Buhari's who work as his close aides in Aso Rock. So what's your point? You are obviously a conspiracy theorist. Was it also propaganda that caused me to say that there's unofficial Igbophobia in Nigeria and in Buhari’s government even though I'm no Igno? I can't help you if you have no capacity to examine the evidence of arguments on their merits.

Unknown said...

Hair splitting.....Splitting hair....

Imo Press Releases said...

I wish I could nail this to every door post especially in the southeast where the masses are strung on a conspiracy syrup peddled by separatists.

Excellent prose, Prof.

I worry that PMB's publicists and senior members of this administration are not making any effort to highlight these facts.

Falsehood has been allowed to take hold to the extent that, some southern elite who should know better, have climbed aboard the bandwagon churning out inanities on WhatsApp.

There is a famine of civic interaction among the peoples of Nigeria. And this needs to change.

Sulaak said...

Farooq, this is a very poor article painting the entire South monolithic in their thinking too.

Then again why are majority of the state governors in the North Fulani's and majority of the Emirs are Fulani's, if I'm correct the Sultan of Sokoto has always been Fulani and Adamawa and Sokoto are relic of the old Fulani Empire. The South is not waiting for Fulani domination. Nigeria has had three Fulani presidents and one prime minister yet Farooq wants me to believe that Fulani's are not dominating the Northern space.

Sulaak said...

In the last 3 weeks, 30-50 Yoruba's were killed in Oyo State, 30 Igbo's were killed in Benue state , 44 Tiv's were killed in Benue states. All claim that the atrocities were "allegedly" committed by Fulani's herdsmen, the police authorities have not denied the allegation. Yet you wonder why Fulani have a negative stereotype....go ask the victims

Sulaak said...

You can't deny Fulani domination of the North because Fulfude is not the dominant language, Fulani's domination is feudal by nature similar to Tutsi in central Africa. The Tutsi have dominating the cultural and political landscape of Rwanda and Burundi for hundred of years by adopting the Hutu Language and cultural deposition.


"Though they were skilled warriors, they obtained dominance over the resident Hutu through a slow and largely peaceful infiltration. The Tutsi established a feudal relationship with the Hutu, gaining dominance due to their possession of cattle and their more advanced knowledge of warfare."

Unknown said...

If all things are beclouded with hoodwink truth would always stand clean and clear Prof keep it up

Shima K Gyoh said...

Dear Farooq Kperogi,
When I assumed duties in Lagos as the Director-General at the Federal Ministry of Health in 1984, the Minister, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, twice asked me when I came to the office wearing babban riga, “Today is not Friday, why are you dressed for the Mosque?” I was then a Christian from Benue State, and Ransome-Kuti was the very man that nominated me for the job! I was to realise that many Southerners, knew more about far-away England that the next-door north of their country.
You are right, that many strong people in Buhari’s regime are not Fulani, but northern Muslims from other tribes. I would further add that, among his near fanatical supporters, you will find Christians from the South and Middle Belt. Though the Fulani are few, they are the accepted rulers in northern Nigeria. All the Emirs in the vast Hausa kingdoms are not only Fulani, they get their Flag of Authority from the Sultan of Sokoto. The great push to take over the lands of the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria is being conducted by “herders,” but let no one confuse the issue, the Fulani have been known in Nigeria as the exclusive nomadic herdsmen. President Obasanjo’s timely warning on President Buhari’s intent to “Fulanise Nigeria might have played a part in popularising the term.
Nevertheless, you were right that
“Demonizing people based on invariable attributes that are incidental to their humanity, such as their ethnicity or race, is akin to condemning them even before they were born. Malcolm X once called that the worst crime that can ever be committed. Let the toxic, hateful ignorance stop already!”
But you must also appreciate that the British did not bring the rank-and-file soldier from their country to conquer Nigeria. Their fighting forces were recruited locally, and my father remembered that the British army that subdued our tribe were made up of our brothers from the South. Yet we talk of British conquest without even thinking of them.
The majority of Fulani herdsmen we have lived with for years are wonderful, peaceful people. Your excellent piece was somehow stained by failure to mention several public releases by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore. The Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) announced that
“We have invited Fulani from all over Africa to come and take Nigeria which Allah has given us.”
It is how happening with the manifest support of their Grand Patron, President Buhari. It is not a case of “Southerners Fulanising Northerners.” There are many prominent Fulani in privileged positions in Nigeria, but, apart from Governor Ganduje of Kano, their silence on this issue looks like complicity. The peaceful Fulani need to come out and clearly dissociate themselves from the pronouncement of their brethren who claim to be acting on behalf of their ethnic group. They need to condemn the land-grabbing and kidnapping atrocities of the barbarians variously known as “Herdsmen” and “bandits.”
Shima Gyoh

Shima K Gyoh said...

Dear Farooq Kperogi,
When I assumed duties in Lagos as the Director-General at the Federal Ministry of Health in 1984, the Minister, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, twice asked me when I came to the office wearing babban riga, “Today is not Friday, why are you dressed for the Mosque?” I was then a Christian from Benue State, and Ransome-Kuti was the very man that nominated me for the job! I was to realise that many Southerners, knew more about far-away England that the next-door north of their country.
You are right, that many strong people in Buhari’s regime are not Fulani, but northern Muslims from other tribes. I would further add that, among his near fanatical supporters, you will find Christians from the South and Middle Belt. Though the Fulani are few, they are the accepted rulers in northern Nigeria. All the Emirs in the vast Hausa kingdoms are not only Fulani, they get their Flag of Authority from the Sultan of Sokoto. The great push to take over the lands of the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria is being conducted by “herders,” but let no one confuse the issue, the Fulani have been known in Nigeria as the exclusive nomadic herdsmen. President Obasanjo’s timely warning on President Buhari’s intent to “Fulanise Nigeria might have played a part in popularising the term.
Nevertheless, you were right that
“Demonizing people based on invariable attributes that are incidental to their humanity, such as their ethnicity or race, is akin to condemning them even before they were born. Malcolm X once called that the worst crime that can ever be committed. Let the toxic, hateful ignorance stop already!”
But you must also appreciate that the British did not bring the rank-and-file soldier from their country to conquer Nigeria. Their fighting forces were recruited locally, and my father remembered that the British army that subdued our tribe were made up of our brothers from the South. Yet we talk of British conquest without even thinking of them.
The majority of Fulani herdsmen we have lived with for years are wonderful, peaceful people. Your excellent piece was somehow stained by failure to mention several public releases by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore. The Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) announced that
“We have invited Fulani from all over Africa to come and take Nigeria which Allah has given us.”
It is how happening with the manifest support of their Grand Patron, President Buhari. It is not a case of “Southerners Fulanising Northerners.” There are many prominent Fulani in privileged positions in Nigeria, but, apart from Governor Ganduje of Kano, their silence on this issue looks like complicity. The peaceful Fulani need to come out and clearly dissociate themselves from the pronouncement of their brethren who claim to be acting on behalf of their ethnic group. They need to condemn the land-grabbing and kidnapping atrocities of the barbarians variously known as “Herdsmen” and “bandits.”
Shima Gyoh

Sulaak said...

When the Sultan, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, said, “seven to eight of every ten kidnappers are Fulani,” everybody kept mute but when Southerners expressed similar opinions, they were accused of “ethnic profiling.” Even their collaborators in the south were more vocal as they condemned any statement that singled out Fulani for any known crime.

Sulaak said...

Thanks for your honest response, yesterday 40 innocent people were murdered in their homes in Benue, this is the third ongoing carnage by marauding Fulani herdsmen in Benue state. The fear of Fulani domination has been processed by the fear of Fulani carnage. More Nigerians are being killed, kidnapped or exploited by Fulani's as was the case in both Mali and CAR, the people in the above countries took arms and drove the Fulani's out of their villages to protect their loves ones and community. If one ethnic group is a problem across the country, then that ethnic group (Fulani) that must be called out, Nigeria is a diverse country with a multiple of ancient cultures and values that must be respected. They can call me a bigot, tribalist or racist, but don't ask me to sit in my village to wait for the next Fulani onslaught, enough is enough.

Daily Hustle said...

The responsibility for those lives rests squarely on the shoulders of the leader (Muhammadu Buhari)
That's leadership 101.

Worse still is that he would choose to use propaganda or pick irrelevant fights like banning Twitter instead of focusing on clear and present reality.
And the fact that he knows very little about how things work this side of the century means more lives would be lost, and insecurity would worsen.

Unknown said...

What Prof. Farooq pointed out was and still is that people in Nigeria's South either DELIBERATELY for Mischief or FOR DEARTH of Elementary knowledge of HUMAN/REGIONAL GEOGRAPHY ascribe and or connote each and every Crime to the MYSTICAL FULANI when they should know better. You know that it is the southerners who dispossessed the Pastoral Fulani of their cattle and later on turned and recruited the Gullible Youths amongst them for Money-Making kidnapping Crime. Buhari, as Farooq pointed out is neither culturally nor linguistically Fulani and nor linguistically Kanuri too. He has shown Buhari's lapses in his appointments but for me that is Nigerian Politics, from Obasanjo to Jonathan or even before. What of Fashola's 3-Ministry while we still can't get Abuja-Kaduna-Kano highway or Kaduna-Kano Standard Gauge railway which was given on a platter of Gold to the South!