JOHNSON BABAJIDE speaks with the leader of the Fulani in Benue and secretary of Myetiala Fulani Cattle Rearers Association of Nigeria, Garus Gololo, on the Tiv/Fulani crisis in Benue State. Excerpts:
Can you tell us the genesis of the Tiv/Fulani crisis in Benue State?
You know that the people had been living together for long until the chairman of Makurdi Local Government called a meeting and told us that the Fulani should relocate from Makurdi within two weeks. When we asked him, he said that the crisis in Guma Local Government had made the Fulani to leave the troubled area and relocated to Makurdi. Since that ugly development, the Fulani have become prey to the Tiv, particularly, in Makurdi, Guma and Gwer West local government areas. So, if they see any Fulani they would pursue them and ask them to leave.
When did this start?
This started in 2011, but it became tense a few weeks ago.
Let’s talk about the crisis in Agatu Local Government Area, what went wrong there?
Well, the problem in Agatu has been resolved. This was as a result of concerted efforts of the GOC 72 Mechanised Division and representatives of Myetiala Cattle Rearers Association (MCRA) and that of people of Agatu. We all agreed to cease fire and since then the crisis there has stopped.
What about Guma, why does fighting persist there?
In Guma, there is a peculiar problem with the people there, because the people in that local government breed militants whom they gave military uniform to attack the Fulani living there. They killed and stole their cows. At the last count, 2,800 cows were killed and stolen, while 320 Fulani were killed in that area; that was the cause of crisis there. When all these things were going on, the governors of Benue and Nasarawa set up a committee headed by Ter Makurdi, but unfortunately, no positive result was achieved by the committee until the crisis got out of control. As I am talking to you now, we don’t have any Fulani in the Tiv-speaking area. All of them have fled to Taraba State and Cameroon.
The northern part of the state, like Logo, Kwande and Katsina Ala were also affected, what led to crises there?
The problem with those areas is that the people around those areas killed one elderly Fulani man. After that, those youths, who were responsible for the killing, ran away and the people did nothing until the crisis had to degenerate to that level.
Are you saying that the Fulani are so armed with superior firearms as displayed when the convoy of the state governor was attacked recently?
People are only heaping blame on the Fulani for everything. Unfortunately, most of the attacks were not carried out by Fulani cattle rearers. After all the state governor had said this that the people only camouflaged as Fulani herdsmen. Most of these crises were caused by the Tiv themselves. Some of them are doing this to sabotage governor’s efforts, that is why some people read political meaning to these crises. They are not happy with the governor’s efforts at stopping the crisis.
Could this be responsible for the attack on the ancestral home of Tiv, Tse Torkula where your people now use as a camp?
It is not Fulani that perpetrated that evil. As I am talking to you now, you cannot see any Fulani man in Guma. I told you that these people have militia that went to Keyana and killed people there. For instance, recently, along Naka road, an Imam was killed thinking he was a Fulani man. They have been killing our people, that is why they have all fled to Taraba and Cameroon.
Do you have the statistics of your members who live in Benue?
Of course, we registered them and we always use the list to monitor their movement. As I said earlier, all the Fulani in Tiv-speaking area have all fled. Before now, we had 960 Fulani in Makurdi, 1,003 in Guma, 408 in Gwer West, 1,200 in Katsina Ala, 420 in Logo, 200 in Kwande, 200 in Buruku and 360 in Zaki Biam; all have left, you can only find some of them now in Idoma-speaking area of the state.
How can the crisis stop?
All of us want peace. No one will say he wants violence, thank God the newly elected president of the association in Nigeria promised during his inauguration that he would strive to ensure that peace reign in all the troubled areas like Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau and other affected areas. So, I will urge the state governor to call on the new leadership of the association to dialogue with it to ensure that peace return to this state.
Also my advice to the governor is to appoint neutral persons to the committee set up so that they can discharge their duties with no fear or favour. On our side, we are ready for peace.