#Fulani: The ‘Jews’ of Nigeria!


First is my apology, our contiguous cousins—our blood-blended kin—the nomads and the sedentary! The title above is not deliberately employed to ascribe to you, our ‘knighted war commanders’ with any particular religion nor does it attempt to construe any particular belief or propagate any Jewish ideology; or even chalk-up against you any sort of the destructive manners worldly-assumed to be Jewish. However ‘call a spade a spade’—be it the ‘nomad’—a ‘non-Muslim’? Or his co-malefactor, a desperate ne’er-do-well—the discounted Hausa ‘informer’! In this piece, the dissimilarity between a collective term ‘Fulani’ and the inane ascription of the ‘criminality’ is noted after all. So why must this title? Diversity!

It speaks of diversity gentlemen, real and imagined. One can see Fulbe everywhere, though indeed less diverse by language communication but by far the most intense culture in terms of cross-cultural blood ties and ecumenisation across the globe! Like the Jews whose number counts below census margin and their language not so diverse but then again becomes the heart that pumps the blood of America’s schematised political history orchestrated by their top political actors, intellectuals and wealthy entrepreneurs, so are the Fulani in Nigeria. Gee whiz! They’re today more in common to the verisimilitude of Irving Kristol’s portrayal of a Jewish community, which in his view, ‘shows frequent symptoms of hypochondria and neurasthenia.’ It is as simple as our twin cousins here at home—the ‘Domesticus’-and-‘F. Naturalis’—a community very vulnerable to its own repressed anxieties and self-doubt.’!

The Jews of America

Much of the world today views the Jewish community as a focused bloc of influential, determined believers, firmly entrenched in the American power structure. Contrarily, the average American Jew views his/her community as a scattered congregation of six million-odd individuals of similar origins and diverse beliefs, ‘fortunate’ children and grandchildren of immigrant tailors and peddlers. The only difference is that the Nigerian ‘uncle-toms’ are, in the reverse case, children and grandchildren of ‘fortunate’ cattle herders’!

Forget the Nazi Holocaust. Fifty years after its greatest catastrophe, the Jewish community had dusted itself off and won a place at the table of international decision-making. It had achieved a historic reversal of fortune at the close of the twentieth century, ranking at a first, worse not below a second, in the official hierarchy of America’s administrative, industrial and security sectors. They built strong networks of cultural, spiritual, voluntary and social organisations. Lamented William Kephard (1949) that the Jews in the U.S., though growing in number but had unimaginably set their strong foots atop of the American Hollywood, Law and Medicine with silent encroachment in Banking sector and Stock Exchange Market.This is just a minor epitome of how the Fulani, just like the Jews, had their stealthy footsteps not only enmeshed in the blood-life of Nigerian politics and administration but also pumps the arteries of its culture and orientation.

When diplomats and journalists speak of Jewish power in the late twentieth century, they are usually speaking of the American Jewish community. It was an emerging power that truly proclaimed its own right; acknowledged and respected around the world hence the magic epithet, ‘The American Jewery’. The magic behind this coinage is similar to the mood created in the manner the term ‘Fulani aristocracy’ is used, yet gradually belying the perfunctorily ascribed ‘old-syllables’ like ‘feudal aristocracy’, ‘Northern oligarchy’ or even the misleading duality: the ‘Hausa/Fulani’. At home, observed Goldberg (1996), the Jewish community is sought out as an ally or confronted as a worthy rival by political parties, labor unions, churches, and interest groups as well as civil right movements and the Christian Coalitions. Anti-Defamation Offices established by the American Jewish Committee in New York and other cities within the United States have become obligatory stops for presidents and prime ministers visiting the United Nations, or passing through en route to Washington. More than a dozen foreign embassies in Washington have diplomats assigned to a semi-official ‘Jewish desk’ just to take charge of maintaining friendly ties with the Jewish community.

The 20th century American Jewish new born spirit has been that ‘Jews are not a minority anymore. ‘We are accepted’—‘we have the access’ has been, for every then and now, the living spirit of their self-determination. This ‘access’ of course, has been their profitable lobby that’s translated into a $3 billion foreign-aid package sent each year to Israel. It is, according to experts, a fully one-fifth of America’s foreign aid that has gone to a nation with barely 5 million souls—one tenth of the 1 percent of the world’s population.

In diplomatic terms, this so-called ‘financial aid’ is a familiar fact of Washington’s staunch support for Israel in the diplomatic arena. There still have been minor cases of threats against the ‘Americans’ in Washington opposing any Jewish-Israeli policy. Golberg gathered that at a certain time, these included even the senators and representatives found defying the Jewish vestibule. In a similar manifestation, perhaps even more dramatic than foreign aid, was a typical Jewish manufactured Amendment, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment Passed by Congress in 1974 making the U.S.-Soviet trade relations conditional, in that the latter must co-habit the Jewish aspirations. The amendment remained in the books even after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, effectively giving the Jewish community a veto over America’s commercial links with Moscow.

Today, the Jewish power has become present in a wide variety of the U.S. domestic spheres: immigration and refugee policy, civil rights and affirmative action, abortion rights, church-state separation issues, and much more. Local Jewish communities from New York to Los Angeles have become major players on their own turf, helping to make the rules and call the shots on matters from health care to zoning. One doubts not much that by the eclipse of the twentieth century, ‘American Jewry’ has come to be viewed around the globe as a serious player in the great game of politics, able to influence events, define and achieve important goals to reward its friends and punish its enemies.

However, to the typical American Jew, just like the Fulani wishes could have denied what’s aptly described in the 2000 best Korean movie ‘Tell Me What You See’ as “The Guy”, the mere mention of ‘Jewish power’ to him sounds like an anti-Semitic slur. So glaring is the contrast between how Jews are seen and how they see themselves that Jewish social scientists speak almost casually, of the “perception gap” between reality and Jewish sensibilities.

          The ‘Jews’ of Nigeria

Johnston must have been oblivious of the fact that he was creating a ‘Jewish simile’ after all. Defining the Fulani with the attributes of a Jewish community: ‘more passionate and intense; better developed powers of leadership; singleness of purpose; having a superior faith in their own destiny with more fire in their bellies’, let’s say it is accidental, so what? So long the Fulani share these in common—in addition to their thoughts, cognitive styled orientation and manner of operationalidation, chances are that the marked line of difference between them and the Jews would remain sketchy indeed.

Like the Jews, the clashing definitions of the Fulbe have been so obfuscated by the reality of their wide dispersal not only across Nigeria—and the rest of West and Central Africa, South Sudan, Darfur and Eritrea but more so across the regions of the Red Sea with overlapping populations across Asian countries including Japan. If it has not been any surprise that the Jews dispersed widely across the Middle-East and Americas as well as a greater part of Europe, it must have surprised someone of the historical fact that traces of the Fulbe in the Americas have a long history perhaps since 1562. Ibn Farid (2014) must have convinced his readers while introducing his new translation of Caliph Muhammadu Bello’s ‘Usulus-Siyasa’ (The Fundamental Principles of Politics) that, of the 300 slaves captured by John Howkins in 1562 in addition to the 910 he seized from Portuguese ship, 30% of the total number combined together were Africans—a greater number of which were Fulbe spread all over the former slave colonies of the United States: Maryland, Virginia, Middlesex, the two Corolinas as well as various other Black American colonies within the U.S. No wonder the Fulbe of these mixed identities, b. Farid pleaded, had been at the front-line of the American Civil War.

The point here is to convince the reader that the extent of Fulbe diversity has gone beyond any simple imagination that only few cultures in the World do not have Fulbe blood in them. The supposed manifestation of their Jewish tendency and resemblance to Jewish attitudes therefore cannot be exaggerated.

So far so good have all these been intermixed with what the ‘holy’ Fulani here at home, may spit out as a ‘half-graded’ culture of the Hausa people, they still couldn’t have been able to renounce their years-old conspired political superiority. To Fulani, as the former Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II (1998) aptly put it, ‘there is nothing like ceding power … if you want it, you work for it, if you lack the stomach to dig in and fight for it, too bad for you.!’. It’s interesting by contrast to see that their host communities, the Hausa culture, have not been infected by the hubris of power they always claim to have inherited from their Sokoto Caliphate intelligentsia. Indeed the ‘low-cultured’ Hausa man has never ever chosen to become the ‘Nazi’! He has the courage to adapt to the realities of the social milieu, the humour to co-habit and of course, the familiarity to marry and copulate as a family. Products of this great union are our parents and grant-parents so proud to say. Above all, the Sokoto Jihad which has been the factor for this intense hybridisation might not have been succeeded had the Shehu and his ‘Jama’a clamoured, or even propagated the idea of this ‘Fulani thing’, for even the Jihad flag-bearers were warned against its aggrandizing pauperisation.

Believe you me most of today’s self-acclaimed paragons of the Jihad do not think outside the box of the 1804—they didn’t get its lesson much as many of them are the children and grandsons of those who, typical of their ‘Jewish tendency’, refused to answer the call of the Shehu. They’re the children of those Murray Last (1967) observed, on the kick-up of the Jihad, apart from the Torankawa—the clan of the Shehu and some few other clans, were not Muslims and that evidence of their reverence to cattle and ritual exercise around bonfires and trees is noted after all. Yet the ego seems as if all the Fulani are of the same clan with the Shehu or for that matter Muslims since time immemorial. Why then has there always been the perception that ‘Fulani’—or the more disturbed category they always dislike, ‘Hausa/Fulani’, is by all standard Muslim?

Like the Jews, because their lobby is more in common with the aura surrounding the Christian communities across the globe are regarded as Christians despite the fact that there are Muslims among them, so are the Fulani in spite of the ‘Maguzawa’ denomination involved in them. Insignificant as the number of Muslims becomes among the Jews, ‘Maguzawa’ hardly been measured up to any size since its practice (Hausa: ‘Maguzanci’) is more of a ritual exercise, co-exists with not only the culture of the ‘village Hausa’ but also arguably habituated in the nomad life—which is, indeed even more antagonistic to Islamic fundamentals. Little wonder why the Shehu ran the risk of having the nomads settled in towns through the Caliphate’s urbanization campaigns because, according to him, nomad life is not encouraged by Islam.

Much more than the imaginative aura of the title above, how much do we know of the fact that Fulani have the biggest opportunity to rule this country since its inception as an independent Republic in 1963, yet the nation collapsed on their hands; the region with which they share common territorial experience have become even more worse, a criminal scene for human cruelty—increasingly being preyed by their ‘Jewish-like’ predators.

The Hausa man being at the hottest midst in-between their ruling aristocracy and the warring nomads has become victim of ungodly kidnapping and killings. His familiarity has in no way become compatible with his Pullo bellicosity. He’s stuck as his familiarity has almost completely graduated to callousness—that ‘dull’ other cultures having the same lobby interest with the Pullo use to refer to him (sakarai…bai san ciwon kan sa ba)!. Worse, not to forget, is of course the fact that hardly has there been any culture that’s more cold-hearted, mocked and tricked in-and-outside like the Hausa, sorry to say! Ignore it if you like, Hausa culture has been made the victim of a silent colonisation from different ethnic, regional and sub-regional angles. The spirits we always claim anchor our familiarity, diversity and unity is, of course dying among ourselves. We shouldn’t even think we have nemeses just as we couldn’t have believed hitherto are the Fulani.

We must, indeed therefore, get the more important lessons from the daily realities of our time, as to why the Fulani living in our midst chooses to be intimate with any culture but Hausa. Why does he even risk making depressing remarks on the Hausa culture worse as though the latter has never moulded his child, grand-children, parents and grandpas at various levels and on different social circumstances. Why in spite of the changing realities of the social milieu, he wished he had the option not to adapt to the diverse reality of the Hausa language as his Lingua-Franca; why he nonetheless still rather prefers to speak Fulfulde within his family domain, among his co-workers, friends and cronies in market places, school campuses, cinemas and motor-parks and of course, in buses and airlines. We must sense within reason, why the seemingly normative conflict between herders and farmers, which ordinarily occurs on the daily routines, now becomes a visible genocide with excruciating consequences on the security of lives and properties.

Why has this ‘Kado’ been made to become a fraught ‘informant’ armed with potential security risks; manipulated and made to connive and navigate the targeted individuals/areas for attacks, kidnapping and killings. Making him familiarise killings, accommodate and inure the Fulani savage behaviour in this process granted the hypothesis that: ‘Fulani are like Jews’, even more convincing than imagined. Incessant killings, kidnapping, theft and crashing of farmlands are gradually becoming less strange especially among the village population and that reporting them as well, is also becoming a bit more ridiculous.

In another distant look, we (the Hausa) must also get in touch with our spirit whenever we get clear from history books, why the burning desire of the Kanuri to secede not only from us in the North-West but from Nigeria as a whole and establish what they imagined as the ‘Republic of Songhai’. The reason is not far from the fact that, like the real Civil War-time Biafrans in the South, the Kanuri still believe of their purpose; worth the value of their being humans and dared not be flimsies. This is not at all the case with the Hausa. The mathematics of whether the Republic of Biafra or the imaginative Republic of Songhai are in the aftermath, a product of right decisions is not the purpose of this article. The point is to make Hausa re-think of the culture that is worth the value of the lives of our grandparents hundreds of years ago, simple.

Finally I am a Hausa man and therefore I confess that I’m writing from what I see—the challenge I experience, realize and live with. I am not being used by anybody and that my goal is to bring a needed change to my culture careless of the wariness. Perceiving it as a part of cultural patriotism, the mere mention of a few among many of the challenges is one of the promising steps to be taken ahead. But then again if this article only creates the impression that Fulani are, by their behavioural relativism, more like Jews in this regard, it is so without making any libel against the fact that there are quite good and pious ones among them just as there are among the Jews.

As for the Hausa, keep with the corrosives and total elimination becomes possible! ‘Sha-sha-sha’!

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