The Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association has always been identified as a Fulani group in Nigeria but Madaki Iorfa, a member of the group in Benue State and a Tiv has clarified that misconception
In an interview with Our Source on some of the misinformation, Iorfa explained that Miyetti Allah is mostly a social-cultural organization.
He also gave his opinion on the recent pronouncement by the Southern Governors Forum on banning open grazing.
Q: People do have this assumption that all Myetti Allah members are Fulanis
Myetti Allah is a social-cultural group of herders, not Fulanis, because, I am not a Fulani, but I am a member. So it is a social-cultural group, which means, those who are not Fulani can be members. Although people wrongly believe that the group is a Fulani thing.
Q: You are from a state that has seen attacks linked to farmers/herders clashes or armed herders attacks, how difficult is it to be a Myetti Allah member?
It is difficult, it is like trying to preach the gospel to people who are not believers of that gospel, you understand. People receive that news with shock, me being a Myetti Allah member. Of course, it looks as though you are a black sheep. The attacks that we are seeing are not that recent, it has always been like that since the days of our forefathers, we have been having skirmishes with the Fulanis, however, it has taken a new dimension.
Herders are nomads, they transverse, from the north to the south looking for vegetation. By dry season, they tend to move to where there is vegetation. Actually, in the past, we used to have a cattle path (route) where herders transverse from this area down. But as the population increases, and society evolves, it is imperative to note that certain grazing route has been overtaken by habitants, due to population. Herder who used those routes with his father in say 20-30 years ago, cannot pass there now because it has been taken over.
I am from Goma local government in Benue State, farmers and herders have been having issues. However, it is worthy to note that certain things are not looked at on a wide, because when you mix things with politics, it will have a new dimension. There is politics in this thing. We Tivs, we have always had skirmishes even within ourselves, just like any other group or any other tribe. So everything is seen through the lens of politics. The whole thing turns to perception, that’s because I have cattle, so I care more for cattle than my people, and that’s not true. I have been internally displaced myself at one point. Even as I speak to you, we have issues like that, but politics has a way of playing in between.
Our governor particularly has not been too fair with the issue of these killings. We have killings in Shankara, that is Katsina Allah, Logo, Ukun, that is where the former governor and present senator Gabriel Suswan is from. We have these areas where the governor has made a pronouncement that they cannot even use these bikes called Gbaja, they cannot even use these cars called ‘dogyansh’ (a small Toyota product). Killings have been going on in those places, and no one is mentioning it.
It is the Tivs killing Tivs. Not a herders’ issue. When they see the way of fighting dirty politics, they name it farmers/herders clashes. We have to know that insurgency is taking over, not just in Nigeria, but everywhere. The crisis is everywhere. We should not just be looking at things as Farmers/herders clashes, politically, we should look at it that we have a crisis and how can we salvage this thing, not just shouting Fulani, Fulani, for me that is my take.
Q: What exactly is Myetti Allah
Myetti Allah involves people that have cattle and that's if you so wish to be a member, it is not compulsory. In fact, there are Fulanis with cattle that are not members of Myetti Allah, it is a social-cultural group. And our constitution (1999 Constitution) gives everyone the right of freedom of association. So you have freedom. I can decide not to be a Christian today, so be it.
Q: What is the percentage of non-Fulanis in Myetti Allah in Benue State?
We have a handful of people that are not Fulani. Out of 10, we have, let say two who are not Fulanis. We are a minority, so, it is very hard for people like us to take leadership. It is a game of numbers, you need the number to be voted for.
Q: So despite the group not being an exclusive Fulani group, there is marginalization?
Of course, even in the household, there is politics. If you belong to the right political class, you will win. How you play your politics matters.
Q: On the pronouncement by the southern governor, what is the economic impact of the anti-open grazing pronouncement on cattle rearers like yourself?
Let me talk about the gain aspect first, it is going to be gain for those that want to continue to do cattle business in the south because some of the cattle you see roaming around are from outside the country. They enter from Adamawa then move down south up to Lagos. A cattle in Adamawa that cost N50,000 is sold in Lagos for N120,000 or more, so with cattle not roaming around, during celebrations, be it Chrismas, Sallah, naming ceremony, the “owambes”, it is the Lagosians that like cattle more and you have abattoirs everywhere in this country, so it going to be beneficial for those that can sustain the market. Look, it is one thing to make a law and it is another thing to fold your sleeves to make it work. Making law is one thing…
Q: What makes a law work?
When you make a law, and you don’t look at the sustainability of that law, it becomes a white paper law. Prohibition of open grazing is a welcome development, a global best practice, Nobody is against that, but how do we get these ranches? Have they provided these ranches before enacting the law? Or enact the law before giving out grazing areas?
There should be a reserve that you can rent, ranch your cattle, and make it your market. Have they designated places like that with boreholes or riverine areas? Because all of us are Nigerians and we have freedom of movement and freedom of association
For the prohibition of certain things, you have to make a way out. What is the way out? What is the bailout for its prohibition? Or is a chronic law targeted at certain people from certain areas? While the inhabitants of that area keep roaming their goats, their chickens, or even pigs as the case may be and you are prohibiting just cattle. It feels like it is targeted at some people. That for me is the negative aspect of that pronouncement.
When you make a law, you need to ask yourself, is it going to work? Is it going to work for the betterment of the people? If a law is not going to work for the betterment of the people, then it is a draconic law. We are not against prohibition. I am speaking as an individual, I welcome it, not as a group. If they say they want to prohibit open grazing, provide ranches.
Q: But people do argue, cattle is a private business, farmers don’t ask for land to farm
Farming cattle is different from farming of yam. In my state, for instance, you don’t need to go into the bush to cultivate yam, you can farm in town. If you have 100 by 100 plots of land, you can farm, cattle is different.
Q: Can’t Miyetti Allah crowdfund ranches or get investors to set up ranches? I do hear that people do buy cows and give them to herders as an investment. Can’t Myetti Allah organize these investors?
It is done even in Gboko, if you go to Hausa quarters, for as low as N500 per month, they will take care of your cattle for you, when it falls sick, you will buy the drugs.
Q: So those cattle we see on the streets, not all of them belong to Fulani?
It is not, that is what I am telling you. Even you too can venture into it. It is a fruitful business, and I can bet you, if you venture into it, you will make millions. In Benue State, we have the doga ranch, it is now a ghost of its former self, nothing is working at that ranch, and you come up with prohibition of open grazing as a way of calming down farmers/herders clashes, provide ranches, we will come and rent. It will be business for the government, we will rent and pay monthly.
The government has not provided ranches in Benue State since that law came into effect. For the southern governors, it is a welcome development, in fact, I saw my governor, Governor Samuel Ortom congratulating them, they should provide ranches, all of us eat cattle, no one is beefing the beef and say we are not eating.
We need to downplay our biases, I am a Christian, I am not a Fulani, and I have cattle, we need to look at things differently. Do not believe in those “Islam is trying to dominate and all.
When you see a Mohammed conniving with a John to steal money, they don’t tell us Islam wants to take over Nigeria but when they want to divide us, they bring in religion, and it is me, you and other peasants that suffer, while the bigger boys are in Aso Rock, in Abuja.
Nigerians need to look at these issues with a different eye.