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Nigeria

A contest between two kindreds

By Eric Teniola

IN  the next few days, we shall make a choice between President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON on who should be our President on May 29.

Atiku and Buhari

To their credit the two of them have distinguished themselves in the public service, one in the military and the other in the customs service. And they are both Fulanis.

It was the same choice we were offered in 1999 when two Yorubas, General Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Samuel Oluyemi Falae were presented to Nigerians. President Buhari is from the ancient city of Daura while Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is from Jada in the old Sardauna province. Just as the Fulanis migrated to Daura, which is a spiritual Hausa city before they took over the ancient city that was how they migrated to Jada.

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In 1806, a Fulani, Moddibo Adamu having received a flag from Shehu Usman Dan Fodio, returned home, to what we now refer to as Adamawa and rallied round him the Fulani settlers in the area. He easily overcame the weak tribes of the area. The result of the jihad here was the establishment of the Fulani emirates of Yola and Mubi. And this weakened the Jukun Empire of what we now refer to as Taraba.

Both Jada and Daura are border posts. Daura is a border post to Niger Republic while Jada is a border post to Cameroun. After Jada you get to Kobi and in less than an hour you are in Cameroun. After Daura you get to Mai Aduwa and in less than an hour you are in Niger Republic. This is the first time two Fulanis are vying neck to neck for the Presidency in Nigeria, in spite of the 2007 contest between Alhaji Umaru Yar’dua and General Muhammadu Buhari. It may be the turn of another tribe in 2023.

A historical background of some leaders in West Africa today reveals that some of them are Fulanis. According to Wikipedia, the first President of Cameroun, President Ahmadou Ahidjo who ruled between 1960-1982 was Fulani man. As of today, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, the President of Gambia, Adama Barrow and the current Vice President of Sierra Leone, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh are all Fulanis.

May I also add that Boubacar Diallo Telli- the first Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity, Mamadou Dia, first Prime Minister of Senegal, Amadou Toumani Toure, former President of Mali, Thomas Sankara, former President of Burkina Fasso, Issa Hayatou, former President of Confederation Of African Football, CAF, Bello Bouba Maigari, 2nd Prime Minister of Cameroun, Sir Banja Tejan-Sie, former Vice President of Sierra Leone, Isatou Njie-Saidy, former Vice President of Gambia, Fatoumata Tambajang, former Vice-President of Gambia, Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, former Interim President of Guinea Bissau, Baciro Dja, former Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, Amadou Boubacar Cisse, former Prime Minister of Niger Republic, Hama Amadou, former Prime Minister of Niger Republic and Adiato Djalo Nandigna, former Acting Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, are all Fulanis.

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Wikipedia also inform us that  major concentrations of Fulani people exist in the Fouta Djallon highlands of central Guinea and south into the northern most reaches of Sierra Leone; the Futa Tooro savannah grasslands of Senegal and southern Mauritania; the Macina inland Niger river delta system around Central Mali; and especially in the regions around Mopti and the Nioro Du Sahel in the Kayes region; the Borgu settlements of Benin, Togo and West-Central Nigeria; the northern parts of Burkina Faso in the Sahel region’s provinces of Seno, Wadalan, and Soum; and the areas occupied by the Sokoto Caliphate, which includes what is now Southern Niger and Northern Nigeria (such as Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Bauchi, Diffa, Yobe, Gombe, and further east, into the Benue River valley systems of North Eastern Nigeria and Northern Cameroon).

We are told there are over 15 million Fulanis alone in Nigeria. The Fulanis in other countries both in West Africa and Central Africa include Guinea-5,070,160, Senegal-4,052,830,Mali-2,870,000, Cameroon-2,344,000, Niger-2,046,330, Burkina Faso-1,920,050, Mauritania-916,113, Ghana-800,523, Benin-750,000, Guinea-Bissau-517,560, Gambia-491,399, Ivory Coast-479,000, Chad-352,580, Central African Republic-287,187, Sierra Leone-258,860, Sudan-211,000, Togo-111,000.

It is safe to say that Nigeria has the highest Fulanis in the world. It is not by accident that the three elected Presidents that have come from the North are Fulanis, namely Alhaji Usman Shehu Aliyu Shagari, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua and General Muhammadu Buhari.

The logical question which follows from the above account is what factors were responsible for the success of the Fulani conquest of Northern Nigeria? One reason for the success of the Fulani was lack of unity among the Hausa kings who were fond of quarrelling and warring  against each other. Gobir was at war with Katsina in the 1750s, while Zamfara and Kano fought for supremacy in the 1760s. The feeling of animosity and jealousy which these wars engendered between states made it difficult for them to co-operate and combine effectively to resist the Fulani menace. It was this lack of unity rather than the military weakness of the Hausa states that was responsible for the Fulani victory.

A secondary factor which contributed to Fulani victory was that Usman Dan Fodio and his Fulani followers adopted the strategy of isolating the various Hausa states and conquering them one after the other. Dan Fodio did this by appointing flag-bearers whom he instructed to carry out the jihad in their respective areas. As a result most of the Hausa states were engaged in the jihad at the same time, and this made combined action against the Fulani jihadists difficult.

Thirdly, by commanding each flag-bearer to make himself an Emir in his territory in the event of a successful jihad, Usman Dan Fodio provided a strong incentive for the successful prosecution of the war. There is no doubt that the quest for power became a powerful motive force among the leaders of the jihad. A fourth factor which is often missed is the point that the nomadic Fulani who formed the bulk of the Fulani armies were better militarily organised than most of the Hausa communities or states.

This was because in the course of their migration, they were often exposed to frequent attacks by local Hausa kings and the Tuareg.

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Naturally, they organised their encampments on defensive basis with strong and well-equipped militia to defend men and cattle in times of attack. Again their light cavalry was superior to the heavy Hausa cavalry both for attack and defence. It was this military experience which the cattle Fulani called into play when they responded to Usman Dan Fodio’s call for a holy war.

Closely connected with Fulani military superiority is the organising ability of the leaders of the jihad- Usman Dan Fodio, his son, Muhammad Bello and his brother Abdullahi. The credit for the strategy of isolating the Hausa states and thus preventing their combined action goes to Usman Dan Fodio himself. But the credit for the actual prosecution of the war on the battlefield goes to Muhammad Bello and Abdullahi.

Fifthly, social factors also played an important role in the Fulani victory over the Hausa states. In the first place, it has been pointed out above that following Yunfa, king of Gobir’s warning to the Hausa rulers about the growing Fulani danger, those rulers launched a general persecution of the Fulani in their respective states. This resulted in a general Fulani rising which plunged the whole of Hausaland into a state of war. The Fulani were thus fighting for self-preservation and avenging a racial grievance. In the second place, the Hausa kings could not count on the support of their peasant subjects whom they had alienated by their oppressive taxation and arbitrary government. The peasant population or “talakawa” naturally rallied to the support of Usman Dan Fodio, who had  condemned these cruel practices, for they looked on him as their deliverer.

ERIC TENIOLA, A FORMER DIRECTOR AT THE PRESIDENCY WROTE FROM LAGOS.

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