By Dan Bala Suleiman
The nomadic Fulani in Nigeria has been subject to a well orchestrated campaign of calumny in all media, murder, forceful eviction, rape, cattle rustling following allegations of series of farmer/herder crises and rampant cases of kidnappings and banditry in rural Nigeria which is ascribed to their folks – the so called ‘killer herdsmen’.
All criminals now make headline news. Just tag them “Fulani” and it’s breaking news. The socio-economic and political undercurrents defining Nigeria’s rising criminality and low level insurgency engulfing all the periphery of our society is well known and documented. Thus the so called time bomb is now exploding and everyone seems to be gaping as if we were not warned! Should we then be taken as serious?
With very little recourse to economic analysis, Miyetti Allah or MACBAN has joined the various states and federal actors, conferencing and calling for meagre compensation and peace while legislators continue to scramble for model legislation to copy with the aim of dousing the tension as in typical Nigeria merry go round. Unfortunately there is no model to copy.
Every agrarian crisis require home grown solutions and like in any insurgency it must be resolved using local tactics. The world will wait and watch us kill ourselves on end until a geo-strategic interest is threatened before any intervention is scrambled.
The farmer/herder crisis will therefore remain local and the only consequence to global stability is our domestic food security but why should the world care. Just keep pumping enough crude oil and import the food needed. To extinguish the fire of the farmer/herder revolt and the consequential kidnapping for ransom there should be little conversation -good governance and buy-ins.
Conversations on new forms of cattle husbandry and for new laws to mitigate the cycle of endless retaliation and instability should all be dependent on a proper understanding of the economic consequences of rustling of the “cow” eco system to a Fulani nomad and the resultant destruction of lives, property and crops to a rural farmer.
Nomadic Fulani life is deeply embedded with ‘Pulaaku’ and thus framing the roadmap to peaceful co-existence and reforms will require a deep analysis of Pulaaku. Every Fulani, urbanised or nomadic, share the Pulaaku creed which simply means-Fulani code of conduct.
It represents key principles of how a Fulani must act and treat others. Pulaaku means that a Fulani must posses a reservoir of stoic sobriety, must be reserved and display strong emotional ties to cattle and must be sustainable.
Thus a Fulani must be gentle in demeanor, tacitrum, without vulgar display of wealth and knowledge; must have strong memory, never forgetful and therefrom fearless. Thus,understanding the Pulaaku creed which is summarised in the display of shamefulness, patience, kindness, valour, bravery, dignity and self respect are the keys to unlocking peaceful co-resolution needed in our rural backyard. And because our rural backyard is larger than the centers of our urbanisation we are, at war.
The violation of the Pulaaku creed is the main feedstock for these decades of endless Fulani restlessness and cycle of violence . It is therefore naive to think without resolving the violations of the creed. Nigeria stands a big chance for Fulani buy-in or that the token monetary compensation on offer will by itself be the magic wand.
The straight answer is No.
It is “token“ because the compensation for rustling look like palliatives. An offer of #100,000 for rustled or culled cow is a scratch on the surface and ignores the economics and psychological attachment to the white cow which is intertwined with Pulaaku.
Its simply a No No! The nomadic Fulani is somewhat hypocritical when he accept palliatives and handshakes or sit on roundtable pretending to discuss optics on legalities that is empty in the face of what “intrinsically“ he believes as irrevocable injustice: to the Fulani, the loss of a cow cannot be assessed at market value. It is his heritage; it is what it is, if you know you know; for any compensation conversation to be meaningful and fair, the starter packs must encompass economic value or simply the opportunity cost of the cattle.
Unlike crop farming, cattle herding and breeding requires a different set of valuation techniques based on economic opportunity cost of the alternatives foregone since a cow is a biological asset. A biological asset valuation is computed based on its life time expectancy with streams of cash flows (via milking,calving and manure)discounted over a ten year projected average and accounting for inflation.Simply summarised it should be based on Net Present Value (NPV.)
Thus for the Fulani, a “white cow” depending on breeding and genetics will calve approximately seven times during its lifetime, producing excess of one liter of milk for 1500 days (equivalent of four years milking ) and producing organic manure to fertilise the land and of all of these have economic value in terms of tangible benefits-cash flows, wealth accumulation,wellness and food security plus other multipliers – that is what a cow mean to the herder, you can give it whatever interpretation,this is enlightened Pulaaku.
Therefore any disruption or threat to this cycle of prosperity gravely affects his self reliance, esteem, independence and and survival – Simply, Pulaaku fuels the rage of the nomad.
Like a bull in China shop the nomad is completely delinked to our law and order, the matrix of civilization and all the perks that go with modernisation such as security, free education, pensionable employment, free health care, citizenship, subsidy and that which makes societal life abundantly humane. Thus for sustainable peaceful co-existence, the masterstroke in addressing the nomadic question is fair compensation.
Using NPV, we estimate the economic opportunity cost of a cow, either rustled or prematurely culled at #7.5million. We took into account inflation using the net present value basis (NPV). #7,500,000 contrast sharply with the miserly #100,000 currently on offer as compensation for a cow is just unfair. It does not even reflect current market value which is around #450,000.
Like the cow, the bull equally has significant semen productivity value and enhanced genetics that when calculated using NPV is only 15% lower than the cow as the latter’s milking regimen tilt its valuation, thus the bull was valued at 6 million naira.
Therefore is it laughable when the Abia State government informs that they will compensate the Fulani herdsmen with 100,000 naira for every cattle illegally culled or rustled and to have such and such buy-in needed for peaceful settlement or for Ondo State and Benue State to simply enact laws and execute new orders after fire brigade roundtable or worse to just evict the nomads, humiliate them while sweeping under the carpet the issue of esteemed compensation and negating the economic consequences of such actions.
The nomadic Fulani is not poor and is neither a peasant; even though he has sparse lifestyles, its all part of Pulaaku.The Ardo or community leader only exert leadership over a small clan of Rugas much smaller than a battalion so how can law and order or settlement and resolutions be effectively dispersed? He hardly takes orders from an Emir, the Sultan or the Ulema. Just view him as a tarzan.
Those elements are largely in the wild just roaming. Therefore when armed with AK-47, they easily resort to various forms of lawlessness and revenge killings, the cost of which has been escalating.
- Suleiman resides in Abuja