The Honest Emir of Muri
By Lasisi Olagunju
Deep, dark secrets are snakes; they shed old skins to torment their keepers. So it is true that some Nigerians received non-Nigerian Fulani outlaws into our forests? The Emir of Muri in Taraba State, Alhaji Abbas Tafida, spilled the beans last week. He threatened bandits identified by him as foreign Fulani Bororo with death if they didn’t leave his forests in 30 days. They were his guests, he said. Now, he is angry because his guests have betrayed his confidence by killing his people and abducting some for ransom. He is particularly annoyed that they rape and “commit adultery” with women and girls of his emirate. The bandits, their children, their brothers and their sisters – all – would be killed if they didn’t leave in 30 days, he thundered. I heard gasps all around me, even in the Villa, when the emir’s video, gripping with lightning and thunder, went viral.
The emirate of Muri is not a virgin when howls of controversy are the issue. It is hewn out of the hard rock of war and threats. Historians describe it as a Fulani jihad state founded in 1817. It was a French protectorate from 1892 to 1893; it became a province of the British protectorate in 1901. On August 12, 1986, Muri became very prominent in contemporary Nigerian history when its powerful emir was deposed. That emir, Alhaji Umaru Abba Tukur became too strong for Colonel Yohanna Madaki, the soldier in charge of his then state, Gongola. He was sensationally sacked, placed under house arrest in Yola for 32 days and then banished to a town called Mubi where he was detained for 161 days. He was released on February 16, 1987, a very angry, sad man. Ex-emir Tukur did not go gently into the night. He became a storm terrific enough to sweep his nemesis, the military governor, out of Gongola to Benue State. Then, his case went from the High Court to the Supreme Court, then back to the High Court and all the way to the Supreme Court again. It was his death that stilled the tempests. That is the Fulani stuff. Whether president or emir or herdsman or whatever, he is stern; he is the law to which all heads must bow.
When you hear a Fulani emir issuing an open threat against a band of Fulani in Buhari’s 2021 Nigeria, please pay attention to details. The current emir of Muri who succeeded the deposed Tukur has also shown the sterner stuff his caste is made of. Last week, he chose the moment immediately after Eid-el-Kabir prayers to issue a death threat against his Fulani kinsmen from wherever who live in his forest. He said, shaking: “Our brothers, the nomadic herdsmen (Bororo) from neighbouring countries, you came to us to allow you stay in our forest. We allowed you because you are our brothers. When you came we welcomed you. We regarded you as fellow Muslims. But the question you must answer is are you Muslims? This is a question we are waiting for you to answer. We deserve to know if you are Muslims. If you are one of us (Muslims) and you decide to stay in the forest, only to kidnap us one by one for ransom, you should stop it because your attitude is not acceptable to Allah. But if you are not Muslims, I want to tell you, like we fought the infidels before, we are ready to fight you with all our strength. So I have given you (Bororo) 30 days to leave my emirate. If we see any one of you after the expiration of my ultimatum, we will kill him. I am calling on my subjects to know that and be ready to fight or else I will draw the line. We kill him without asking him what he came to do or ask his name or where he comes from. If we are going to be all killed let it be. If we will all die, let it be. We will not allow bastards come and kidnap our wives, take them to the forest and rape them or commit adultery with them. In one of the villages, we have the report of a District Head who is conniving with these criminals. He was arrested and granted bail by the police and the people are watching him. I think such a leader is not supposed to be living among us. Are you crazy to allow such a person to continue to live among you? Listen to me, henceforth any person who is found to be conniving with these criminals, we will go and kill his mother, and other siblings. For the police, we respect you to do your duty. If you arrest any kidnapper and set him free we are not going to accept that. Our armed youths will be directed to go after the kidnappers. There is no way we can not be free in our homes; and worse, we can not sleep with our two eyes closed. I am calling on Ardos (leaders of Fulani) to stop these barbaric acts in my emirate because you all know who are carrying out these criminals activities. I want to reiterate that any kidnapper that is set free by the security will not be spared. All those responsible for maintaining peace in my domain should come together to end the menace or we know what to do. Peace be upon you.”
The emir spoke well like a leader who cared for his people. He deserves an applause. But he knows so much and has volunteered so much. First, he described the bandits as his “brothers from neighbouring countries”; We should thank him for saying this. Then he confessed that the illegal aliens came, sought permission to stay in the forests and were allowed because they were his ‘brothers’ who were regarded as ‘fellow Muslims.’ The very generous emir asked the abductors and murderers of his people, and rapists of women and girls of his domain if they truly were Muslims. If they were, he said they “should stop” doing that which they were doing to his people – staying in the forest, “only to kidnap (his people) one by one for ransom.” The emir paused and, just like that, offered them amnesty. Sins would be forgiven if they were proved to be his ‘brothers’ sharing same faith with his people. I can’t understand that part. Are we talking crime or clan here; or region and religion? Then he pitched his pains and in a shrill voice he announced that if the terrorists were not Muslims which he thought they were, he would do to them what his past did to “the infidels” of the past. “We are ready to fight you with all our strength,” he promised and added a subsequent threat which was direct and daring. “So I have given you (Fulani Bororo) 30 days to leave my emirate. If we see any one of you after the expiration of my ultimatum, we will kill him.” There are three words the emir used that show how sure-footed he is. He mentioned ‘forest,’ gave ‘ultimatum’ and threatened to ‘kill.’ Only a Fulani would choose those words to threaten Fulani terrorists of today and not go on exile.
He is not the first to use those words for the Fulani; but he is the first to speak the words without consequences. You remember that in January this year, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State met with leaders of Hausa/Fulani and Ebira communities in the state on the very bad state of the state’s security. He told his audience that the unfortunate incidents were “traceable to the activities of some bad elements masquerading as herdsmen.” He said “these felons have turned our forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.” He reminded his guests that as the Chief Law and Security Officer of the state, it was his constitutional obligation to do everything lawful to protect the lives and property of all residents of the state. He, thereafter, ordered that all forest reserves in the state were “to be vacated by herdsmen within the next seven days.” That was on Monday 18th January, 2021. Those in Abuja who swore to protect all of us from evil and harm and who had the powers to back the governor chose the tribal route. They dared the governor to chase away their ‘brothers.’ They asked the bandits to stay put in the forest reserves of Ondo. They said it was their right to live in the bush and commit crimes.
Look, if you are accused of stealing a goat, should you be found entertaining your neighbours with goat meat? The Fulani have become the subject and the predicate in all (in)security sentences in Nigeria. Every kidnapper is first suspected to be Fulani until the contrary is proved. Now we have an emirate bleeding because it complicitly accepted foreign Fulani into our country, possibly against what the law says. It is good to be good to guests at one’s door. In the past, the footfalls of guests and visitors were medicine; they healed and soothed the afflicted. Was that why the emir and his Muri people embedded terrorist alien Fulani in their forests? Now, they should know that some visitors are afflictions and no one admits all guests and lives in peace thereafter. The message in your leaving your front door open is that you welcome all guests. The emirate of Muri tested the depth of the bandits’ ocean with both feet. It is too late now for Emir Tafida and his poor people to shoo off the consuming surge.
Tafida’s revelations indict the government. They indict the security forces who went to sleep as aliens violated the integrity of our territory. The Nigeria Immigration Service boldly states on its website that its core mandates include the control of persons entering or leaving Nigeria; issuance of travel documents to bona fide Nigerians in and outside Nigeria; issuance of residence permits to foreigners in Nigeria; border surveillance and patrol and enforcement of laws and regulations with which it had been directly charged. So, which of these powers has been used to ward off evil from entering Nigeria and occupying our forests and cities? Even after the expose from the emir, why has the government not ordered the Immigration to swoop on the forests of Muri to smoke out the smuggled bandits the same way our Customs breaks into southern stalls and warehouses for imported rice?
The emir can weep and be angry. I don’t think that would change anything. Tiger is ‘beautiful death with a spotted robe.’ But he suffered loss and mourning because he opened his front door to ugly evil Tortoise who wore the garment of friendship. The Fulani terrorists in the forest are stronger than the emir’s city threats. They won’t leave in 30 days or even in 30 months. They will kill more, rape more women and kidnap more orphans for ransom. And those who would kill them off would need more than what our security forces parade. They are the king’s goats; they can eat any yam without fear. They have immunity against sanctions. But it is good that the complainant this time is not a bereaved father in Oke Ogun, Oyo State or a governor from the south, or a middle belt king whose females have just been raped in his very presence. This is one of Nigeria’s owners mourning its dank darkness; its dusk. The terrorist chicken is back home to roost.
Dr. Lasisi Olagunju is an editor and Columnist with the Nigerian Tribune