July 23rd, 2012
By Toluwani Eniola
A light skin, wavy hair, thinner noses and lips, they move about in groups. It is very easy to identify them.
Away from the North, in the East and West, they are regarded as the flotsam and jetsam of the society as they migrate from one place to the other in search of pastures.
Generally referred to as Fulani, their destiny seem solely tied to rearing cattle but they have also succeeded in other aspects of life.
In fact, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote is a product of this race. Foremost nationalist, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, First Nigerian prime minister is a Fulani, among others.
But for this race struggling for acceptance in multi-ethnic Nigeria, these are not the best of times.
With the spate of rejection and extermination meted on them, there is growing concern on their security, even as the country lacks strategies to integrate them.
As observed in a recent report by NewsRescue, Nigeria needs to revisit its citizenship laws to give this race a sense of belonging in whatever part of the nation they find themselves.
This report identifies the feasible solution to their crisis, the controversy over their existence and the obstacles to be tackled.
Historically, the Fulani people of Africa with a population estimate of about 7 million live in varying, often sizable, concentrations throughout the grassland areas of West Africa from Senegal and Guinea to Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad.
Their Fulfulde language is closely related to the languages of Senegal, suggesting the possibility that their ancestors migrated from the Middle East through North Africa to Senegal.
By the 10th century, they had adopted a new language in Senegal and begun to spread eastward, reaching present-day Nigeria by about the 14th century.
HOW NIGERIA MUST SOLVE THE FULANI PROBLEM.
Resolving the Nigeria Fulani crises demands serious attention to several issues. Firstly the Nigerian phenomenal problem of citizenship. The meaning of being Nigerian, which we have discussed in an earlier article. Secondly the securing and provision of protected grazing is of the essence. and thirdly nomadic education of some sort must be set up.
THE BILL ON GRAZING RESERVES : FIGHT IN THE SENATE AS NORTHERN LAWMAKERS SUPPORT, SOUTH OPPOSED IT
In a report published in the Punch today, legislators in the upper chamber of the National Assembly are divided along ethnic lines on the propriety of a bill seeking to create grazing reserves and routes for Fulani nomads throughout the country.
Among other provisions, the bill seeks to establish a National Grazing Reserves Commission, which will have the power to acquire land that will serve as grazing reserves and routes for herdsmen in any part of the country.
South-West, South-South, South-East and Middle Belt senators are opposed to their colleagues from the far North on the issue.
While socio-political groups in the South-West, South-South, South-East and Middle Belt oppose the bill, the far North support it, saying it will reduce constant clashes between nomadic Fulani and host farmers.
The Senate, during its July 3, 2012 sitting, was sharply divided when the bill was discussed.
AREWA CONSULTATIVE FORUM: THE BILL IS LONG OVERDUE
But the North’s socio-political group, the Arewa Consultative Forum, said the bill was long overdue.
The group noted that the creation of the grazing reserves would greatly reduce the incessant clashes between farmers and the Fulani.
The National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, according to a report in SATURDAY PUNCH in Kaduna said that the country needed a national policy for the development of livestock, which provides meat for consumption and means of livelihood for Nigerians.
He called for reconciliation between Berom and the Fulani in Plateau State.
Sani advised leaders of the two ethnic nationalities to reconcile and forgive each other.
“After all, the two communities had lived peacefully in the past. How they did it in the past should be repeated for common good,” he added.
A former Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said the bill was in order.
One of the supporters of the bill, Deputy Leader of the Senate, Abdul Ningi, argued that the bill had no conflict with the constitution and the Land Use Act.
He said that the Federal Government had the power to acquire land for the grazing project, just as it could acquire land to build roads across states.
WHY THEY OPPOSED IT?
In same report in the Punch, senators who opposed the bill, said it negated the Land Use Act and the principle of federalism. They argued that the matter should be left to state assemblies to decide.
But on Thursday, the Federation of Middle Belt People opposed the bill, saying the grazing reserves and routes would create more problems for the country.
The coordinator of the group, Mr. Manasseh Watyil, in an interview with SATURDAY PUNCH, asked, “Where is the Fulani abode? Creating a grazing reserve for the Fulani is like creating trouble. They cannot be pinned down to one place.”
The President of Izumunna Cultural Association, an Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Prof. Zebulon Okoye, described the grazing reserve bill as unreasonable.
He said the frequent attacks on host communities by Fulani nomads had justified the need for the Senate to reject the bill.
He, however, said it could only reduce the clashes between the Fulani and farmers.
Musa stated, “I support it, but there are a lot of problems. In the past, there was a provision for that and it was respected.
“There were grazing reserves and the routes that cattle could follow, but all that have now been abandoned. There is no grazing reserve for the nomads. They always keep fighting with farmers. It (grazing) would reduce the clashes in a substantial way.”
Musa added, “The clashes between the Fulani and the people of Plateau State have nothing to do with grazing. In Plateau, Kaduna and some other states, there is always the issue of political power rivalry.”
According to him, the only way to stop the clashes is for the government to muster the political will to confront the problem.
REVISITING THE FAILED NOMADIC EDUCATION
One of the objectives of the Millenium Development Goals (mdgs) is to achieve universal primary education.
Clamour to achieve this has attracted failure as the Nomadic education programme established in 1976 by the government to cater to the educational needs of nomads in the nation’s northern region collapsed.
The Nomadic education programme , was established by the Federal Government to checkmate the chronic illiteracy among the mobile population of Nigeria.
The programme, according to its policy framework has three major objectives, namely: to raise the living standard of the rural community; harness the potentials of the Fulani and bridge the literacy gap between them and the rest of the society.
But the programme achieved little results. According to a report in Businessdayonline.com, indicators over the years reveal that less than 10 percent of Fulani men and two percent of their women are formally literate, while those with western-style education fall below the national benchmark.
“Their grouse is that the Commission for Nomadic Education, which is saddled with providing basic education to the children of pastoral nomads, with support from both the states and local governments, appears to be overwhelmed by the Herculean task.”
Over the years, education experts have noted that government’s planning for the programme have all along been faulty with government sticking to a top-to-bottom planning method where the Fulani are merely recipients rather than been involved in planning for their education.
This, they observed has hampered the progress of the scheme because those government saddled with the responsibility of charting the course of this programme have failed to take into cognizance government’s inability to provide specialised services, rather opting to rushed into policy pronouncements for mobile school system without considering the difficulties in getting teachers, monitoring students, and developing suitable curricula.
DEVELOPING THE NOMADIC EDUCATION CURRICULAR
In reaction to this misplaced approach by government, Adegoke Oluwayomi, a management consultant in Lagos hinges the failure of the programme to the non-participation of the Fulani in decision-making.
He is equally sad that government didn’t make it a duty to address the issue of curricula. According to him, the nomadic education curricula is unsuitable to learning” adding that the medium of communication English Language for instruction at the elementary school level make it difficult for the students to follow. In his words, “Learning in the English language is difficult for the Fulani children who have yet to master their own language”.
The consultant therefore suggested that there is a need for government to spend money on research programmes, especially on its curriculum and staff development, adding that incentives should be given to the teachers for living and teaching in those rural areas where they render their services.
“Knowing that the nomadic education programme has a multifaceted schooling arrangement designed for millions in Nigeria, the government, through the new minister for education, as a matter of urgency, should reshape its educational agencies so that they can offer a mobile school system wherein the schools and the teachers move with the Fulani Children,” he added.
THE OPTION:TEACH THEM IN THEIR LANGUAGE
The right Language, the medium of communication, cannot be underestimated when it comes to the nomadic education.
As rightly observed by Mr Immanuel Abayomi , of the University of Ibadan, “the English language employed for nomadic education curricula is unsuitable, if not an impediment, to learning. For example, the use of English for instruction at the elementary school level is inappropriate.
The National Policy on Education (NPE) states that ‘the medium of instruction in the primary school is initially the mother tongue or the language of the immediate community and at a later stage (e.g. Pry iv – v) English’.
“Learning in the English language is difficult for the Fulani children who have yet to master their own language,”he said.
The relative success of the Chinese and other Asian countries where their local languages are the medium of instruction brings to the fore the need to develop the Fulfude,the Fulani language and integrate it into the curricula.
Giovanni Tapang , an associate professor at the National Institute of Physics, University of the Philippines lends credence to this when he asserted that studies conducted by organizations such as UNESCO and the World Bank, as well as by local institutions, show that pupils learn faster, better and with enthusiasm when taught in their vernacular language.
“Some nations have taken a mixed approach. In the Philippines, science and math’s are taught in English, while other subjects are taught in Filipino. The Philippines has more than 120 other languages, and the Department of Education also allows local languages for the teaching of most subjects. This is because children naturally use the language they grow up with to understand the world around them.”
Senate President David Mark referred the grazing reserve bill to the Joint Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters and Agriculture and Rural Development for advice.