By Bala Ibrahim
According to the encyclopaedia, the Fulani, also called Peul or Fulbe, are primarily Muslim people, scattered throughout many parts of Africa, mostly in West Africa, from Lake Chad in the east to the Atlantic coast. They are concentrated principally in Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, and Niger, but can also be found in several other countries.
There are generally three different types of Fulani, based on settlement patterns, viz: the nomadic-pastoral or Mbororo, the semi-nomadic, and the settled or “town” Fulani. The pastoral Fulani moves around with their cattle throughout the year.
For the purpose of this article, special attention would be paid to the pastoral Fulani, who move around with their cattle from one place to the other, and how much movement makes them fall victims to misjudgments, sometimes. And what happened to them in Ondo, would be brought out as an example of such misjudgments.
On the 5th of June 2022, a mass shooting and bomb attack occurred at a Catholic church in the city of Owo in Ondo State, south western Nigeria.
According to reports, at least 40 people were killed, some even said over 80. While some people were suspecting the Islamic State of West Africa Province, ISWAP, for carrying out the massacre, others, including the Governor of the state, H.E. Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, were quick to put the blame on the Fulani, as he spoke in anger, with comments full of fire and brimstone.
The Fulani were summarily convicted before investigation, and partially sent to prison before trial, by a person of the standing of, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. What a shame!
My grief then, was more for the loss of chief Gani Fawehenmi, SAM, SAN, than for the immediate catastrophe. Because, had Gani Fawehenmi, who was the son of Saheed Fawehinmi of Ondo, the Chief Saheed of which was a successful timber trader and a philanthropist, and one whose timber business was in direct link with the pastoral Fulani, the court would have been visited by an emphatically pugnacious protest.
In his characteristic legal combat technique, Gani would have decisively dealt with Akeredolu for recklessness.
In the light of what happened yesterday, where the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, announced the arrest of two of the masterminds of the attack in Abuja, as well as five suspected terrorists, who attacked the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, on June 5, 2022, and their identities were found not to be Fulani, but natives from the neighbouring Kogi state, which Governor Akeredolu also confirmed, a major question has arisen, viz- What next, now that the ferocity is not from the Fulani?
“Now that the military has announced it, I can tell you that five of them have been arrested. They are still on the trail of the rest.
The home where they lodged in Owo and the person who lodged them before the attack, has also been arrested. We did not spare a moment. I am happy that the Chief of Defence Staff has announced it. We have known for a while but we needed not to come out with it because more works are still ongoing”.- Governor Akeredolu, SAN.
By the above statement that, “We have known for a while but……….”, it means Governor Akeredolu knew all along they were pointing accusing fingers in the wrong direction. By so doing, i.e. unjustifiably accusing the Fulani for such ferocity, while consciously disregarding the risks that may flow from such action, Governor Akeredolu had acted in accordance with the dictionary and legal definitions of recklessness, which says, In criminal law and in the law of tort, recklessness may be defined as the state of mind, where a person deliberately and unjustifiably pursues a course of action, while consciously disregarding any risks flowing from such action.
Had Gani been alive, I would have begged him to give me the brief, so that I proceed to the court and prosecute Governor Akeredolu for recklessness and many more charges that border on ill will and the lack of regard for the consequences of his rashness.
Even though I have no degree in law, nor was I ever called to the Bar, as one that had visited the Bar beach countless times in Lagos, I have the optimism of neatly winning this case in court.
Yes, because Akeredolu admitted with his mouth, that it was not the Fulani, but his neighbours, the Ebiras, that carried out the attacks. “I want to use this medium to urge our brothers (Ebira) to concentrate on their farming trade. We are appealing to them not to copy bad things. It will be unfortunate to know that the Ebiras in our midst are now involved in arson and kidnapping”-Akeredolu.
Although beyond that lamentation, Governor Akeredolu has not said anything reflective of deep regret, or guilt, for wrongly accusing the Fulani, it is my hope that when he goes to bed tonight, as he puts his head on the pillow, his conscience would prick him, by asking him what next, now that the ferocity is not from the Fulani?