Benue State Belongs To Fulani By Right of Conquest – Prof. Umar Labdo
In an interview with Punch Prof. Labdo of the Faculty of Humanities, Maitama Sule University (formerly Northwest University), Kano, recently said that Benue State belonged to Fulani by right of conquest.
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.
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.
It is factual that Fulani originally came to this area from somewhere in modern Mali, which is called Futa Toro or Futa Jallon. It is an incontrovertible fact. But then, when did they come here? It was between 800 and 1,000 years (ago). Now, people who migrated more than 800 years ago, they are no longer migrants. If you study the history of all people in the world, you will know that they migrated from somewhere else. Take America for example, Europeans migrated to America about 500 years ago. Now, is it proper to call white Americans settlers? They are simply not settlers but own the country. Also, Europeans migrated to Australia. Now, they own the country. Europeans migrated to South Africa and it took many years of struggle for the black majority to gain independence from them. Now, Adam, that is, the first man, did not live in Tiv land. So, Tiv people came to Tiv land, Fulani came to Tiv land, they came to Nigeria, they came to all areas that they live in today. The bottom line is that you cannot label them as settlers. If you call them settlers, then all the people and the rest of the world would be called settlers; that is the point that is being established!
The right of conquest is recognised worldwide. And many of the people, who live presently in different countries, they are there and are living there by the right of conquest. And this right of conquest is recognised, even by our Supreme Court. One of my followers on Facebook, who is a lawyer, said he could mention 10 cases in which our Supreme Court recognised conquest as one of the basis of getting titles for land. So, don’t talk about that. Who are the original owners? Original! When did they come? 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 prof. asserted that Fulanis’ should be allowed to do their business of cattle rearing, just as other settlers carry out other businesses,
What we are saying is that just like we have others in our own area, who are doing legitimate businesses, without being harassed, we Fulani also have the right to be allowed to do our business, which is rearing of cows. We have to do that. Now, in every village and town in Kano, for example, which is my home state, you will find Igbo and other tribes doing business. You find Igbo in every village, however small it is. They open chemists and sell drugs. Now, nobody is either harassing or calling them settlers. Let me tell you, in Kano city here, our forefathers, between 40 and 80 years ago, even carved out places for settlers. For example, we have Sabon Gari, which was mapped out by the Emir of Kano for non-Muslim settlers, while Fagge is for Muslim settlers. That is why you have the Abachas there. Sani Abacha (a former military head of state) is not from Kano, he is not Fulani or Hausa, he is Kanuri. His parents settled in Fagge because it is the area reserved for Muslim settlers. So, now if we make room for others to live in our own land and they pursue their legitimate businesses and they make money and live peacefully, why not us? And why are people calling us settlers? What is the meaning of a settler? Everybody is a settler. No one was dropped from the sky in a place. So, if you want to call us settlers, call yourself settlers first before you call us settlers.
When asked why can’t the Fulani also buy land in other places instead of trying to force themselves on people?
Yes, it is the nature of their business. By the nature of their business, Fulani are roamers; that is why they are called nomads. They roam from place to place. Now, we Fulani are coming to realise that, that way of life is no longer feasible in this modern time. But what we are however saying is that you cannot just enact a law and overnight ask people to comply with that law. Fulani have been roaming around for over 1,000 years, then you will change that with a stroke of the pen. It is not proper. You have to plan. You have to introduce the plan phase by phase. You should have short term and long term plans. Then, if you talk of purchasing land, Fulani cannot purchase land for all their cows. If you compel them to purchase land, how many square metres will they need to purchase? Now, the various state governments assist farmers by constructing dams for them in order to irrigate their land and so on. They even sell fertilisers at subsidised prices. Is that not assistance? So, if the federal and state governments help farmers and others, why not the Fulani? This is the question.
Does the idea to have colonies in states have anything to do with President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani man, being the President?
It is not Buhari who is establishing cattle colonies because he is Fulani. Any President of Nigeria has the obligation to help Fulani to settle down but not to use force. What is being done in Benue State is attempting to expel Fulani. Now, the Fulani in question are unsettled Fulani, not Fulani like me; I am a professor. But most of the unsettled Fulani are illiterates. There is a militia, which was organised by the Benue State Government. They call them ‘cattle-something’. They are not even operating within the boundaries of Benue State alone. They are even crossing into Taraba State. It has been reported that some of them have been arrested. They are now in the custody of the Department of State Services.
You made your statement about Fulani conquest after the killing of about 70 people in Benue by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Many people have described your statement as the height of insensitivity. How would you react to that?
First of all, I said there was no proof that it was Fulani people who committed the atrocity. I am sure you must have read the DSS’ statement that it was Islamic State and you know IS originated from the Middle East, even though they claim that they have a West African branch. Now, I do not subscribe to that submission. They are trying just to hoodwink people and not to work hard. Now, where are the members of the militia that were arrested? Where are they? Why have they (DSS officials) not brought them out to interrogate them in public so that we can establish and know who sponsored them?
What of Plateau and Taraba states?
Plateau and Taraba states are part of those Emirates that are close to them. Now, those who rule are those that are more civilised and educated. Now, Fulani happened to be more educated than all other tribes in Nigeria before the Europeans came. We are the ones who brought literacy here as we have manuscripts, hundreds of them, which were written between 300 and 500 years ago today, when no other tribe knew how to write. And that is why the lot fell on our people to lead in this country and we are still leading the people. We are destined to continue leading people; but I know, if people read this, they will say he is a supremacist or something like that, no! It is not like that. This is a burden and we pay for it. Sardauna was killed because he was a ruler. If he had not been a ruler, why would he have been killed? Murtala Mohammed (a former military head of state) was also killed. Why? It was because he was a ruler. So, it is a burden. It is not something we are proud of; it is a burden but we have to shoulder the burden because we are the ones who are qualified for it. Now, if others come, who are more qualified than us, naturally, they would take it. Currently, we are competing with others. We are aware that we are disadvantaged. The reason is that western education came through missionaries. That was why our forefathers refused to embrace western education initially because accepting it meant accepting Christianity. Now that there are many other tribes that are becoming more educated, we are competing with them. Jonathan, for example, led this country for five years! Then, we mobilised our people and others, like in the South West – the Yoruba people – and we took power from him and now, if others are interested, let them also use their initiative to mobilise people and take it from us. Then we continue like that. But, you told some people, leave my state and now, some leaders in Kogi State are saying that there is no land for cattle colonies in the state. Why? Is it not Nigeria or are Fulani not Nigerians? Who eats the cow and its legs and tails? It is the Yoruba and the Igbo. Fulani don’t eat beef; we eat goat meat and mutton. We drink milk and eat goat meat. Who eats the cow? It is others, not us. Then, people are saying, we have no land for cattle colonies. Okay! Let them not have land for colonies. Other states would have. Already, six states have expressed interest and said that they would make land available. Now, after two or three decades, people would invite Fulani to their states because they are not liabilities but assets. They are moving, with millions of naira and they are not stealing from anybody. You can accuse them of destroying your crops, but you can never say that they stole your crops. They don’t steal!
How would you respond to calls by some Nigerians for your arrest by the DSS or other security agencies for making statements that could incite violence?
Well, if I have done anything wrong, it is the job of the DSS or the police to arrest me. My post has been there for over 14 days now. So, it is over three weeks and I have not been arrested. Those, who know the reason why they arrest people, know that I did not commit any offence. By the way, most of the people who responded to my Facebook post, insulted me. No one wanted to discuss or debate or ask questions. They just said: you are stupid, we killed Dan Fodio, you are a settler and so on. All this will not help us.
You said that Fulani have remained unbeatable throughout their history, but some historians have also described that as twisting history as according to them, Fulani jihadists were defeated in Osogbo by Yoruba warriors in 1840. How would you respond to that?
Now, you are talking about one battle, but if you compare it to all the battles Fulani people were engaged in, their defeats are not even up to one per cent. We are talking about Fulani as a people and you are talking about one incident. I can agree for the sake of argument that they were defeated in one battle but to be defeated in one battle does not mean being beaten; that is what I mean. It is one out of a thousand. So, it is an exception. If you want, you can count that, but for me, I will not (count that).