Of Herdsmen from Hell: An Interesting Conversation With An Old Friend, By Femi Fani-Kayode
“I acknowledge the fact that it happens in the core North too but if the leaders and people of the core North can live with it, the rest of us cannot… They have a duty to fight it and to put a stop to it more than anyone else because these beasts, militants and religious extremists that call themselves Fulani herdsmen are their kinsmen.”
The following discusion took place on my Facebook friend’s page on May 2nd, 2016. Since it is already in the public realm I have taken the liberty of sharing it in my column as well.
Though we have not seen much of each other for a while, I have known Alhaji Muktari Shinkafi for the better part of the last 35 years and we are more like brothers than friends.
We spent a lot of time together in our youth and in those heady and blissful days of the early and mid-1980s when I was still at Cambridge University, and when I spent most of my leisure time playing polo at the Lagos Polo Club or at the Guards Polo Club in the U.K., eating caviar and drinking champagne. We had great fun in those days and Nigeria was a much better and happier place than it is now.
At that time Lagos was something of a melting pot and everybody that was anybody in the country had a home there. These were the days before Abuja was built and Lagos was still our nation’s capital.
Most people were very comfortable then because the naira was still strong at approximately two naira to one dollar. It was often the case that people would travel to London, the South of France or the Bahamas for long weekends with their loved ones and be back in Lagos for Monday morning. Then, of course, there was the late night chicken suya in Obalende which was always a delight. I wonder if that still exists.
More importantly, it really didn’t matter which part of the country you came from or what your religious faith was because nobody cared in those days.
The only thing that mattered was whether you had a good education, a good pedigree and whether you had class. Whether you were a Northerner, a Southerner, a Christian or a Muslim didn’t matter at all. Lagos was home to all and we loved it.
It was in that pleasant setting that Muktari and I became close together with a large number of other Polo Club buffs.
His older brother, a legend in intelligence circles and in the world of spying, the former head of Nigeria’s dreaded spy agency, the then NSO, a much loved and reverred elder statesman and the former presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention, Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, the Marafan Sokoto, brought me into politics in 1989 and he was my leader and political mentor for many years.
Simply put Marafan was like a second father to me. He was an arch-conservative and a man of immense discipline and courage, and all of us at the Lagos Polo Club were in absolute awe of him. Whenever he walked in with his head held up high, there would be pin drop silence as we all stood up.
We were his boys and we were all very proud of that fact. I learnt everything from him, from the art of politics to the murky and grey world of espionage.
In addition to that, I had the distinct honour and privilage of being appointed as his Special Assistant in 1992 when he ran for the presidency before General Ibrahim Babangida banned him, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (who was the presidential flagbearer for the rival Social Democratic Party) and all the other “oldbreed” politicians from contesting.
I have nothing but the deepest respect and affection for the Shinkafi family and that remains so till today. I was therefore delighted when Muktari made his contributions on my Facebook wall.
The conversation was prompted by the fact that I posted some graphic pictures of the victims of the Fulani herdsmen in Agatu and Enugu. Those pictures can still be seen on my Facebook friend’s page.
Muktari did not feel that it was appropiate to post the pictures and the following conversation took place between him and I on the thread.
I believe that it was an interesting discussion which brought out two distinct and separate perspectives (if you like call them the Northern and Southern ones) to the whole issue of the Fulani herdsmen.
I believe that both sides have something to learn from one another on this issue which is why I have chosen to share it with my readers. Enjoy!
Muktari Shinkafi wrote:
“Since we already have the Senate and House of Representatives in place, it will be easier to bring the issue next week of dividing Nigeria immediately after the budget issue.
The division of the country should be proposed based on six geo-polical zones based on the following basis and natural/human resources to sustain each zone.
1. South-South – oil, sea port;
2. South-West – service industry, sea port, agriculture;
3. South-East – oil, commerce;
4. Middle Belt – agriculture, solid minerals;
5. North-East – oil, agriculture;
6. North-West – oil, strategic solid minerals, agriculture.
We in the North don’t deserve this negative propaganda and name-calling.
Let us separate peacefully for the sake of our children since even after the separation, we will be surely bonded together by commerce and personal relationships.
We have millions down there that we are friends through business, marriages etc. I dont think posting these pictures is necessary as no one is sure of their source, they may be accident victims but some people are posting them to propagate messages of hate among us.”
“Before I would post such pictures on my wall I have to be certain of their authenticity and in this case I am.
There are other pictures which are far worse and which I cannot post here. My brother, your people kill ours and we are not supposed to even complain about it or let the world know what is happening?
Enough of this madness. If the Fulani leaders cannot reign in their herdsmen and terrorists themselves then we will do it for them.
This barbarity has been going on in the Middle Belt and core North for years unchallenged and now you guys want to extend it to the South.
We will not take it, we will not allow it and we will not sit by idly as your kinsmen slaughter, rape and abduct our men, women and children and occupy our land.
It has been going on for far too long and now we are prepared to resist it. I agree with you that maybe it is time that we begin to consider the division of this country and the best way to start is simply to let the core North go its separate way first and leave the rest of us alone.
We in the South cannot be expected to continue to live peacefully with what the Global Terror Index has described as the first (Boko Haram) and the fourth (Fulani militants/herdsmen) most deadly terror organisations in the world… They both come from the North and the so-called Northern leaders would do well to look within, accept the fact that they have a major problem with their youth and try to fix it.
Either that or a clean North/South break. We in the South cannot be expected to continue to live peacefully with what the Global Terror Index has described as the first (Boko Haram) and the fourth (Fulani militants/herdsmen) most deadly terror organisations in the world.
They both come from the North and the so-called Northern leaders would do well to look within, accept the fact that they have a major problem with their youth and try to fix it.
What baffles me is that most Northern leaders are more concerned about the fact that these atrocities are being exposed before the world and evidence of it is being adduced than the fact that people are being killed.
They are very comfortable with it when the slaughter is being done in silence but when we scream about it they get upset. This strange and alien mindset is unacceptable to us.
If this rubbish goes on, sooner or later, the South will rise up as one together with our brothers in the Middle Belt and there will be a terrible reckoning.
I do not spread hate and I have no hate in me for anyone or any ethnic group. The truth is that, as you know, one eighth of the blood that flows through my veins is Fulani. I cannot hate myself.
You know very well that our leader and older brother, the Marafan Sokoto, brought me into politics in 1989 and I love him as if he were my father.
Yet the North no longer has strong, decisive and fair minded political leaders like Marafan or gentle, kind, wise and accomodating ones like President Shehu Shagari. That is the problem. If Marafan were president today this herdsmen problem would have been history long ago and so would Boko Haram.
He would care as much for the South and the safety of its people as he would have for the North where he comes from. Yet how many Northern leaders think like that today?
As I wrote in my last column there are a few like Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, Nuhu Ribadu, Kashim Ibrahim Imam, Col. Sambo Dasuki, Ibrahim Turaki SAN, Atiku Abubakar and a few others but not many.
What is in me and millions of other Southerners and Middle Belters is not hate for the Fulani or the core North but anger: a very great and powerful anger that is growing by the day.
We trusted and loved you like brothers for the last 56 years but in recent times what have we got in return except for suspicion, persecution, misunderstanding, violence and pain. First it was Boko Haram and now it is cold blooded murder and the claiming of our lands by your herdsmen.
Nobody can take all that with a smile. Nobody can tell us to take it all and keep quiet. You are my brother and you always will be. We go back such a long way and it pains me to write all these.
Yet the truth is that if only the North could change its attitude and leadership we could all be one big happy family again.
Sadly though they will not because there are a few Northern leaders who relish all that is happening today and who believe in the utter crushing, destruction and subjugation of everything and everyone south of the River Niger”.
Muktari Shinkafi replied:
“Honestly we the Northerners have been at the receiving end since the beginning of this insurgency and Fulani herdsmen terrorism. If the division of Nigeria will bring peace, we wholeheartedly welcome the idea and the sooner the National Assembly begins deliberation the better.”
I then responded:
“We both know that the National Assembly will not do it because the Northern legislators and those that they represent are addicted to Southern oil.
We can do it without the National Assembly if we so wish and the way things are going now we are getting close to that final parting day.
All we have to do is to begin to mobilise our people and tell them the benefits of going our separate ways and breaking up the country.
I guess it is long overdue. When that day comes the parting of ways will be peaceful if the North lets us go in peace but if they try to stop us it will not be so peaceful.”
Muktari Shinkafi responded:
“I think the issue here is that you refuse to acknowledge the frustrations of all Nigerians. We are all making these comments and postings because of the total failure of the APC governmemt to address critical challenges facing the nation instead, its over one year now but they are still associating their failure with PDP which to me is a sign that they just won the election without proper plan but based on change propaganda.
Where are Bakassi boys, kidnappers and the Niger Delta militants? Since the government cannot protect our brothers and communities there, let them come out and protect their people against these bandits (herdsmen).
They killed 25 people in my local government 10 days ago, stole grains and their valuables.
We resorted to use the vigilanties and our young men to protect our farmers from the so called herdsmen bandits from neighbouring countries. Its time the government takes this issue seriously and I believe our police, armed forces and civil defence can take them on squarely; grazing reserve will not solve the problems because these criminals are not the same Fulanis we knew years ago.
They used to live peacefully on Hausa farmlands grazing their animals, but today Hausas are their worst enemies.”
I then responded:
“I acknowledge the fact that it happens in the core North too but if the leaders and people of the core North can live with it, the rest of us cannot.
They have a duty to fight it and to put a stop to it more than anyone else because these beasts, militants and religious extremists that call themselves Fulani herdsmen are their kinsmen.
They are their slaves and their serfs. The cows that they are herding all over the country and destroying peoples lives for belong to the Fulani elites and not to the herdsmem or cattle-rearers themselves.
The herdsmen are too poor to own the cows and they do not have the resources to purchase the AK 47’s that they carry around and kill people with.
It is their sponsors, the Fulani elites that provide all that and, together with the government agencies, they also give them protection and free passage. Since President Buhari came to power they have been virtually untouchable and so have their cows!
What you said about APC’s incompetence and inability to run government is true though. The APC, more than anyone else, used religion and ethnicity to win power at the centre.
They are not only the Boko Haram party but also the Fulani herdsmen party. Even though there are a few token and Uncle Tom christians in their midst, they are essentially like the banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
They believe in the total and complete domination of all other tribes by the Fulani and they wish to Islamise our country.
That is their agenda and for the last ten months we have witnessed it all unfold before our very eyes. That together with the obsessive drive to use the various security agencies to discredit and destroy President Goodluck Jonathan’s legacy and to ruthlessly silence and persecute all dissenting voices.
I warned Nigerians during the presidential campaign that this was their agenda but they wouldn’t listen. Now they know better.”
The conversation ended there. My brother Muktari did not respond to my final contribution and we have not spoken since then. Despite all I still cherish him and I hope that we shall remain brothers even after the great divide if it ever comes.
No matter what happens, in the end I will never forget those beautiful and youthful days in Lagos when we were proud of our rainbow nation, when we were all one and when tribe, faith and tongue did not matter.
Femi Fani-Kayode, a lawyer and former Minister of Aviation, is a leading member of Nigeria’s political opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).