A contest between two kindreds

In less than five days, Nigerians shall make a choice, mainly, between and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on who should be their President on May 29. To their credit, the two of them have distinguished themselves in the public service, one in the military and the other in the customs service. And they are both Fulani. It was the same choice we were offered in 1999 when two Yoruba, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Oluyemi Falae were presented to Nigerians. President Buhari is from the ancient city of Daura while Atiku is from Jada in the old Sardauna Province. Just as the Fulani migrated to Daura, which is a spiritual Hausa city before they took over the ancient city, that was how they migrated to Jada. In 1806, a Fulani, Moddibo Adamu, having received a flag from Shehu Usman Dan Fodio, returned home, to what we now refer to as Adamawa and rallied round himself the Fulani settlers in the area. He easily overcame the weak tribes of the area. The result of the jihad here was the establishment of the Fulani emirates of Yola and Mubi. And this weakened the Jukun Empire of what we now refer to as Taraba.

Both Jada and Daura are border posts. Daura is a border post to Niger Republic while Jada is a border post to Cameroon. After Jada, you get to Kobi and in less than an hour, you are in Cameroon. After Daura, you get to Mai Aduwa and in less than an hour, you are in Niger Republic.

Strikingly, this is the first time two Fulani are vying neck to neck for the Presidency in Nigeria, in spite of the 2007 contest between Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Buhari. It may be the turn of another tribe in 2023.

If you look at the background history of some leaders in West Africa today, some of them are Fulani. According to Wikipedia, the first President of Cameroon, President Ahmadou Ahidjo, who ruled between 1960 and 1982, was a Fulani man. As of today, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall; the President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow; and the current Vice President of Sierra Leone, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, are all Fulani.

May I also add that Boubacar Diallo Telli, the first Secretary General of Organisation of African Unity; Mamadou Dia, first Prime Minister of Senegal; Amadou Toumani Toure, former President of Mali; Thomas Sankara, former President of Burkina Fasso; Issa Hayatou, former President of Confederation Of African Football; Bello Bouba Maigari, second Prime Minister of Cameroon; Sir Banja Tejan-Sie, former Vice President of Sierra Leone; Isatou Njie-Saidy, former Vice President of The Gambia; Fatoumata Tambajang, former Vice-President of The Gambia; Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, former Interim President of Guinea Bissau; Baciro Dja, former Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau; Amadou Boubacar Cisse, former Prime Minister of Niger Republic; Hama Amadou, former Prime Minister of Niger Republic and Adiato Djalo Nandigna, a former acting Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, are all Fulani.

Wikipedia also informs us that  major concentrations of the Fulani people exist in the Fouta Djallon highlands of central Guinea and south into the northernmost reaches of Sierra Leone; the Futa Tooro savannah grasslands of Senegal and southern Mauritania; the Macina inland Niger river delta system around Central Mali; and especially in the regions around Mopti and the Nioro Du Sahel in the Kayes region; the Borgu settlements of Benin, Togo and West-Central Nigeria; the northern parts of Burkina Faso in the Sahel region’s provinces of Seno, Wadalan, and Soum; and the areas occupied by the Sokoto Caliphate, which include what is now Southern Niger and Northern Nigeria (such as Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Bauchi, Diffa, Yobe, Gombe, and further east, into the Benue River valley systems of North Eastern Nigeria and Northern Cameroon).

We are being told that there over 15 million Fulani alone in Nigeria. The Fulani in other countries both in West Africa and Central Africa include Guinea, 5,070,160; Senegal, 4,052,830; Mali, 2,870,000; Cameroon, 2,344,000; Niger, 2,046,330; Burkina Faso, 1,920,050; Mauritania, 916,113; Ghana, 800,523; Benin, 750,000; Guinea-Bissau, 517,560; The Gambia, 491,399; Ivory Coast, 479,000; Chad, 352,580; Central African Republic, 287,187; Sierra Leone, 258,860; Sudan, 211,000; and Togo, 111,000.

It is safe to say that Nigeria has the highest population of the Fulani in the world. It is not by accident that the three elected Presidents that have come from the North are Fulani, namely Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and now, Buhari.

The logical question which follows from the above account is what factors were responsible for the success of the Fulani conquest of Northern Nigeria? One reason for the success of the Fulani was lack of unity among the Hausa kings who were in the habit of quarrelling and warring one against the other. Gobir was at war with Katsina in the 1750s, while Zamfara and Kano fought for supremacy in the 1760s. The feeling of animosity and jealousy which these wars engendered between states made it difficult for them to co-operate and combine effectively to resist the Fulani menace. It was this lack of unity rather than the military weakness of the Hausa states that was responsible for the Fulani victory.

A secondary factor which contributed to the Fulani victory was that Usman Dan Fodio and his Fulani followers adopted the strategy of isolating the various Hausa states and conquering them one after the other. Dan Fodio did this by appointing torchbearers whom he instructed to carry out the jihad in their respective areas. As a result, most of the Hausa states were engaged in the jihad at the same time, and this made combined action against the Fulani jihadists difficult.

Third, by commanding each torchbearer to make himself Emir in his territory in the event of a successful jihad, Dan Fodio provided a strong incentive for the successful prosecution of the war. There is no doubt that the quest for power became a powerful motive force among the leaders of the jihad. A fourth factor which is often missed is the point that the nomadic Fulani who formed the bulk of the Fulani armies were better militarily organised than most of the Hausa communities or states. This was because in the course of their migration, they were often exposed to frequent attacks by local Hausa kings and the Tuareg. Naturally, they organised their encampments on a defensive basis with strong and well-equipped militia to defend men and cattle in times of attack. Again, their light cavalry was superior to the heavy Hausa cavalry both for attack and defence. It was this military experience which the cattle Fulani called into play when they responded to Dan Fodio’s call for a holy war. Closely connected with the Fulani military superiority is the organising ability of the leaders of the jihad- Usman Da Fodio, his son, Muhammad Bello and his brother Abdullahi. The credit for the strategy of isolating the Hausa states and thus preventing their combined action goes to Dan Fodio himself. But the credit for the actual prosecution of the war on the battlefield goes to Muhammad Bello and Abdullahi.

Fifth, social factors also played an important role in the Fulani victory over the Hausa states. In the first place, it has been pointed out above that following Yunfa, king of Gobir’s warning to the Hausa rulers about the growing Fulani danger, those rulers launched a general persecution of the Fulani in their respective states. This resulted in a general Fulani rising which plunged the whole of Hausaland into a state of war. The Fulani were thus fighting for self-preservation and avenging a racial grievance. In the second place, the Hausa kings could not count on the support of their peasant subjects whom they had alienated by their oppressive taxation and arbitrary government. The peasant population or “talakawa” naturally rallied to the support of Dan Fodio, who had been condemning these cruel practices, for they looked on him as their deliverer.