*We’ve laid examples for others in our management of Keffi – Emir
*Says with constitutional role, monarchs can clear insecurity in Nigeria
*Our respect for religions of one another our unity in Keffi – Monarch
*Says government has done its best but people should cooperate
*Adds: “We have food that can feed Africa in Nigeria”
*You can’t put someone in government and refuse to support him – Emir
*Plus: The book about Fulani as “Red Men of Nigeria”
By BASHIR ADEFAKA
His Royal Highness Alhaji Shehu Usman Chindo Yamusa III is 15th Emir of Keffi Emirate, Nasarawa State, North Central Nigeria, is a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D Energy Laws) with specialization in “Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development” from the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) and research topic: “The Establishment of legal framework for the Sustainable Development of Renewal Energy in Nigeria”, having first graduated from the prestigious Usman Dan Fodio University Sokoto obtaining his Bachelor of Laws LL.B, Combined Honours with research topic: “Doctrine of Judicial Review of the Constitutionality of the Legislative Act in Nigeria”, attended the Nigeria Law School obtaining his Barrister at Laws (BL) and then had gone to obtain his Master of Laws LL.M, legume Magister, Environmental Law and Policy, from the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP), University of Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom, with research topic: “Nigeria Legislative Approach to Oil Pollution from Ship: What Lesson can Nigeria Learn from Exxon Waldez and Erika Accident?”. He got his First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) and school certificate from Baptist Primary School Keffi and Plato College Sharam, respectively, in Nasarawa State. Son of immediate past Emir – late Alhaji Muhammadu Chindo Yamusa II, Dr. Shehu Chindo Yamusa III, born in Keffi on November 4, 1966, was elected Emir of Keffi on 14th December 2015 to be the first Emir to directly succeed his father in the history of Nasarawa State traditional experience if not in entire nation of Nigeria. Alhaji Shehu Usman Chindo Yamusa III is well travelled having toured 23 countries of the world including the United States of America, where he was presenting paper on renewed energy when the news of death of his father, the immediate past Emir, got to him, United Kingdom: (England, Ireland and Scotland), Malaysia, Thailand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Australia, South Africa, Republic of Benin, Brunel, Canada, Spain, Egypt, Germany, France, United Arab Emirate, Ethiopia, Singapore, Poland, Italy, etc, all in his 52 years sojourn so far in life. As ROYAL HOST of The DEFENDER Newspaper, visited recently in his Emirate headquarters of Keffi, the university don turned monarch obliged the media organisation with a 30 minutes interview, held in his Farm House and anchored by BASHIR ADEFAKA, its Editor, during which he told the story of his Emirate, how he emerged the Emir and how Keffi has been able to achieve peace, unity and stability despite its cosmopolitan nature. The Chancellor of Nasarawa State University did not end his submission during the much revealing interview until he had thrown lights on why Fulani should rather be seen as the cheated due to the fact that they have no means of speaking out over atrocities being perpetrated against them than being seen as problem of Nigeria. He said, in truth, arrests made so far of killers of Nigerians particularly in North Central zone in recent times have vindicated the innocence of the Fulani as, according to the President Keffi Emirate Council, Deputy Chairman Nasarawa State Council of Chiefs, Member Northern States Council of Traditional Rulers, most of the arrested ones are now seen to be non-Fulani and non-Muslims.
Not many that have virtually achieved the peak of career like you, particularly with a PhD and active university don, would want to come to pick a kingship. How did yours happen and, the day you heard that you were the chosen person as Sarikin Keffi, what came on your mind?
First of all, let me appreciate the gesture extended to us by The DEFENDER Newspaper for this opportunity to come to our Palace to request for audience and a media chat.
Moving forward, let me say that in every community and every set up, you will find people that think from different angles about their people. I realized that if today I choose to stay away from my people just because I have PhD or I am well educated, then, who will be there to educate them? Who will bring them to the limelight? Who is going to stand for them?
These simple reasons, when you think in-depth about them, then you would be left with the option to stay back with your people to entrench in them the importance of education so that they too can be brought into the limelight and also participate in the development of that community, the Local Government, the State and the country in general.
“Unfortunately those who mischievously caused damages for Fulani would not turn round to correct themselves when the truth about those responsible for insecurity in Nigeria is now exposed. They would rather retreat to come out with another crisis and still find a way to hang it against the Fulani. This is not how we can develop as a nation. We need love, mutual understanding, respect and economic cooperation among our diverse opportunities to keep us going as one nation of great people. That is the best way to go. Not for one tribe or religion to pick another and wrongfully castigate it to be hanged. It is a big problem and it is the major factor that led us to where we are until the government is now tackling that to its root.”
We have been here for the past 24 hours and have moved round town, and today being our second day, and in the course of our moving round we discovered that there are many tribes yet they are all said to be indigenes, not settlers, in Keffi and also found out that there are particularly those who are Muslims, Christians and people of other beliefs. I then asked questions and was told, “We have been peaceful even the way we are”. What is the secret that, despite being a community of many tribes, you are still together as one united people and in peace, considering that intolerance over differences of language and religion is mainly the cause of social conflicts in parts of the Nigeria?
I will like to point to you that this place can correctly be said to be the most peaceful environment in the whole of Nigeria. And this is so because, right from inception, our forefathers put down structures that we kept building upon.
When they came here it was a virgin land, a Trans-Saharan (trade) track and so, before anything at all, their major duty was to ensure how to live together in peace based on understanding. This they achieved by ensuring that they treated everybody equally and that nobody, by their actions or inactions, would feel cheated.
Now coming to that legacy of having a united peaceful environment, I must say that when you have love and respect for one another, you will live in peace. The Christians, Muslims and all the tribes that come to Keffi, we treat them equally because we are all equal before God.
Even during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace of Allah be upon him), he spoke seriously about equality because, according to him, it is only God who knows who is better among us. On that, even the devil cannot tell what is in the heart of another person. Only God knows because faith cannot be read through the face.
In Keffi, no matter what and as far as you are not a risk to the community, as far as you are not conflict maker, as far as you are willing to live together with all of us in peace, we treat you equally and with respect. It is because of that equality and transparent leadership that we live in peace.
Keffi is the only environment as far as I know where you can see the Christian brothers and sisters coming together to celebrate with us; they join us during fasting and join us in breaking fast. This happens; it is traditional that Emir breaks fast with some few individuals throughout the month of Ramadan.
It is only in Keffi during Christmas that you can see Christian brothers and sisters distribute gifts among people in town and also send gifts to the Emir’s Palace because of that spirit of equality and respect for one another.
It is only in Keffi that you will see Christian brothers and sisters go to hospital to support those that have no financial strength to foot the bills of their treatments and they do that without considering your tribe or religion.
And also it is only in Keffi that you can see Muslim brothers move from one maternity to another to support both Christian and Muslim sisters even others without looking at their tribe or religion during the time of giving birth.
So, these things contribute to our living together in peace. We respect the religion of each other. We all believe in God; only the way of worship is different, as Christians have theirs while the Muslims have theirs. We follow the process of worship of Allah as taught to us by Prophet Muhammad (peace of Allah be upon him) while they follow the process of worship as they believe was taught to them by Christ.
And in Islam, you are not yet a believer if you don’t accept all the Prophets of Allah including Isa (Christ), peace be upon them all, as prophets of Allah. So, the Christians in our community understand and respect us. We recognize their prophet as prophet of Islam. The only thing is that they don’t accept Muhammad (peace of Allah be upon him) but they respect him because we the Muslims respect ourselves.
It is only in Keffi that you see when the Emir is celebrating Sallah, Muslims and Christians troop out to the streets and celebrate with him. And this applies to all tribes. You see, when a guest is in a community and notices what we do, he joins us, except that he wants to live and stand alone; and it is so difficult to do that.
So this is the secret of the peace of Keffi and whenever there is any conflict that comes before us, we treat the people concerned based on law of equality and fairness. We do not deny anybody his or her right, no matter his or her religion or tribe. If you are wrong, you are wrong and if you are right, you are right.
“I must say that when you have love and respect for one another, you will live in peace. The Christians, Muslims and all the tribes that come to Keffi, we treat them equally because we are all equal before God. Even during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace of Allah be upon him), he spoke seriously about equality because, according to him, it is only God who knows who is better among us. On that, even the devil cannot tell what is in the heart of another person. Only God knows because faith cannot be read through the face. In Keffi, no matter what and as far as you are not a risk to the community, as far as you are not conflict maker, as far as you are willing to live together with all of us in peace, we treat you equally and with respect. It is because of that equality and transparent leadership that we live in peace.”
What cultures and traditions do you have in Keffi as a notable Emirate in Northern Nigeria?
We have so many cultures. First and foremost, the people of Keffi have accepted horse riding as part of their culture and this is because, on Sallah day we go to Eid and come back on horses. That is one.
Two, to compliment the celebration of Sallah, we have the Andoche, where the Emir and chiefs ride on horses round the town to greet people. Those that don’t have the opportunity to see the Emir on ordinary day will see him that day. The Emir will distribute kola nuts and it is during that period that people who have complaints lodge them, especially when the Emir comes around in their respective districts.
Thirdly, we compliment the celebration of Sallah with horse riding. And you know Prophet Muhammad (peace of Allah be upon him) supported the game of horse so that Muslims would be strong and healthy with ability to perform during the war at that time because, horse was one of the instruments used in war of conquest.
So, horse racing in Keffi is well promoted. Sometimes the winners get cars and sometimes they get money. It depends on the financial capability of the Emirate at a given time of holding it, but that takes place every year.
Also we have the local boxing which is the game of people with youthful exuberance because, it is only the young people with youthful exuberance that have the strength to fight each other; not fight of conflict but fight of game. It starts from a day after Sallah and lasts for seven days.
Sometimes the Emir calls for local boxing especially when the harvest period is completed during the dry season. So it is one of the cultures that bring people together and through which young people show their talents and strengths.
We also have the Bull Game done by the Fulani and the butchers. You know the Fulani and butchers are friends because Fulani keep the cows and sell them to butchers who slaughter them and sell their meat to people for food.
So, every year such game is done twice. I have seen such game in places like Texas in United States of America (USA). The Nigerian people of Keffi promote that game.
Fulani as “Red Men of Nigeria”
In those days, I read one of the books written by a colonial master, in which they referred to the people of Keffi particularly the Fulani as the Red Men of Nigeria. So, a book was written specifically about us and I was surprised that I never saw that book before. But when I became the Emir, I had access to it. It is about 300-page book and the title is even “The Red Men of Nigeria” by Captain J. R. Wilson-Haffenden, published by Oxford Academy London on 1 January 1931.
So the colonial masters called us “The Red Men of Nigeria”. Bull game, which is one of the games recognized with us by those colonial masters, is a game that has to do with the bull (cows). And it may interest you to know that most of us, when you go to our houses, you will see us sleeping around our cows. We have cows, we maintain them and some of us have them in the bush. If you go to my house in the GRA now you will see cows. Mostly when I sleep and I don’t hear cow, I may not feel complete (laughs).
These few cultural activities hold us together and promote unity and love among us. Particularly, the local boxing promotes inter-marriage. Sometimes it is done at the city centre and also sometimes it is done from village to another. And most of the champions use to leave with wives. So, you see it is sign of unity here in Keffi.
How would you describe the impression being created about Fulani people of Nigeria?
First and foremost, most people see us, the Fulani, as people that don’t know about the past and about what they do. So, when they see a Fulani man they want to cheat on him. Two, most people believe it is Fulani that use to bring conflict on the society or attack people. It is not true.
Mostly the bandits, those involved in kidnapping and stealing of cows are the people causing problem in this country. But unfortunately, Fulani people are castigated and tagged as troublemaking and bad people. That impression must change.
But why don’t they come out to say “No. We are not what you call us”?
They don’t talk because they don’t have the means of speaking out (media) which is at the disposal of those who are painting them in that bad light. And because of this, they cannot speak out about the wrongs being perpetrated against them. Whenever something bad happens, therefore, those who are out to paint them bad say it is Fulani.
Take for example, all the times they will say “Suspected Fulani people and bandits”. There were conflicts in places like Benue, Plateau and other parts of the country. You will not hear them say “Suspected Tiv people and bandits” or “Suspected Berom people and bandits” but only what you will hear is Fulani. Why linking Fulani with everything negative?
So, it is just unfortunate and I believe with time, people will realize the truth. And the truth has started coming out because on several occasions, when arrests are made, you now see they are not Fulani.
Unfortunately those who mischievously caused damages for Fulani would not turn round to correct themselves when the truth about those responsible for insecurity in Nigeria is now exposed. They would rather retreat to come out with another crisis and still find a way to hang it against the Fulani. This is not how we can develop as a nation. We need love, mutual understanding, respect and economic cooperation among our diverse opportunities to keep us going as one nation of great people.
That is the best way to go. Not for one tribe or religion to pick another and wrongfully castigate it to be hanged. It is a big problem and it is the major factor that led us to where we are until the government is now tackling that to its root.
Now, let’s go to the economic activities of the people of Keffi. What is their economy like?
Mainly the economy of our people is, first and foremost, trading on farm produce. Secondly, they are engaged in farming activities. You know most of us are peasant farmers. People come from far North to buy our farm produce.
Truly, in the whole country, a research was conducted and it was discovered that, if you grow maize in Keffi being the Central part of this country and grow maize in Enugu, Benin or other part of the country, the taste of maize that will be harvested in Keffi is different from the one grown in Benin. And the quality in the maize is also different because, according to the official research, the soil texture in the North Central, particularly Nasarawa and Benue states, is the best in the country.
If you plant yam in Keffi and the same in Benin or Delta, if you taste the yam, you will feel that of Keffi is sweeter because of the soil texture. That of Benin is a little bit salty also because of the soil texture.
So, people come to buy our crops first. Mostly, before they go down South or somewhere else to buy crops, they come to the North Central to buy. It is when there is no longer crop in the North Central that they go somewhere else to buy.
That is why even the conflict in the North Central is more, because, the nutrient in the grass of the North Central is greater than the nutrient in the grass in other parts of Nigeria. So, everybody comes here to graze.
That research was just conducted by a few researchers and it is now they begin to realize why there is a lot of Fulani in the North Central and also the herdsmen/farmers related conflict in the zone.
Farmers are struggling for land and rearers, not necessarily Fulani, because some people also have cows but are not Fulani. So, they are always struggling for grazing area while the farmers also struggle for farm land.
At that point, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, like in other ECOWAS countries where the same farm/grazing related conflicts exist, has made effort to put ranching in place. But even some Fulani leaders fear whether the cattle rearers would even accept the ranching idea, even as some people outside the economic arena of farm/grazing kick against the idea. Do you see ranching as the best solution?
Yes. It works in other places. I have seen where ranching has been adopted in other countries. It is only that we need to acquire the land and then prepare it for ranching. And then secondly, we need to conscientise the Fulani and whoever owns cows.
In fact, when you have ranch where the cows graze and they don’t go far distance but are restricted to the ranch location, you will find out their meat is softer.
I don’t get it. Your Royal Highness, do you mean when cows do not move far distance their meat are softer?
Very correct! It makes their meat softer when they are confined to moving around only within the ranch area than when they move long distance and doing that makes their meat stronger. Most of recent, the military acquired some land for ranching in Keffi and it is because of the belief that it pays.
Okay, between the cow with softer meat and that with stronger meat, which one is better for human consumption, talking about health friendliness?
When you eat cow meat that is softer, it is richer than the cow meat that is stronger.
That means ranching is better?
Of course, ranching is better and it possible to achieve it here. But some of the cow owners don’t have enough money to acquire the land. That is the problem.
But the impression that people have down South is that government wanted to take their land and give to Fulani?
Now, let me ask you from what you have said; how many people has government taken away their land and has given it to Fulani for ranching in Nigeria? How many people? Can you tell me one?
In fact, I don’t know of any.
(Laughs) Toh! You see, anything that is satanic gets more easily spread like wild fire.
Will one then be correct to say that people should show understanding first in the way they look at issues particularly in this regard when government intervention sets in?
Of course! You are right. You see, sometimes some people just want to destabilize the community, the state or the whole country. All that you have seen happening is handiwork of trouble makers because, there exist trouble makers who are trouble entrepreneurs. They live on troubles and conflicts.
When there is crisis like all these problems, killings, fights and other unrests, they benefit from them. So they promote the conflicts and it is very unfortunate.
Would you say the government has done enough in tackling the conflicts or stopping the promoters of insecurity in the country?
The people in government are trying to the best of their ability. It is just that the communities are not willing to cooperate. That is it. Government is trying, truly. There is no doubt about that. They are trying seriously, speaking. But what is happening is too much for government. The people themselves have to play their own roles.
Have you seen anywhere a country is successful without participation by the people? There must be joint collaboration and participation.
That is where I think the traditional institution has a role to play. What is the attitude of traditional rulers to this aspect of joint collaboration and participation in ensuring security, peace and development?
The unfortunate situation is that we are not even recognized in the Constitution because we don’t have functions stipulated in it. That is why there is too much conflict in the land.
So, you mean if the traditional institution is given constitutional power, the peace that government spends heavily on security to achieve will be earned on a platter of gold?
Of course, they know it.
Knowing full well that the political class got their powers from the traditional institution, I do not believe they can just decide to neglect the institution and its vital roles in community peace and development just like that?
Of course, not neglect. The thing is just that we are redundant. Just check the 1976 reform; it is not favourable at all. Look at the whole of Keffi, now, they say Chairman Local Government is the Chief Security Officer. Some of them are very young with their youthful exuberance.
And some of them don’t even have the wherewithal or technical know-how to handle security situation?
They are there because they are elected.
Any Emir in the North that you see must have been a Prince before he becomes Emir. He must have lived with his father to see how he administers and runs the affairs of the Emirate. He grows up in it right from its birth.
Now, tell me, whether, if it is even a 10 years old Emir you find, he would not rule better. He will rule better because he must have spent 10 years in the Palace learning through the rope to see how things go on.
Now is time to move to your personality. Your Royal Highness is also a farmer, not just a small but big farmer. What is the secret of your interest in farming?
Anyone who stays in the city particularly Lagos and do not move round the country may hardly know that Nigerians can actually produce what they eat, as said by President Muhammadu Buhari. Now, if just one person has what I can see here in your farm, we should not lack food as a people in this country. Ironically, some Nigerians still blame government for banning importation of rice. When you hear that and you remember the contribution of yourself as a single man, how does it sound to you seeing some Nigerians saying imported food must continue when, like the President says, we can produce what we eat in Nigeria?
All those that are querying the ban on importation because they say we don’t have food in Nigeria are lazy people. Nigeria can feed the whole of Africa. It is just a matter of some technical support and encouragement for our peasant farmers.
You know in those days we used to have extension services and there were farming competitions too. But all those services are not there today and we have a lot of agriculture officers around who need employment. If they are employed and assigned to work with peasant farmers, production will increase.
Although I have not said that the government people are not doing well, they are doing well. They just need collaboration with the communities.
“And if you don’t want to be seen as a failure, whenever you put somebody in government, you must support him to succeed because, if his failure is also your failure, you should realize that his success is also going to be your own success because you will be seen as having the ability to put good person in government and only by your support he can achieve that.”
In essence you are saying that the people should not leave all that is needed to be done to government alone and that the government should enlist the cooperation of the people in achieving its set goals particularly in agriculture?
Yes, that is correct. People should not leave everything to government alone. They are the people that brought the government and so they must support the government.
How can you put people in government and then fold your arms saying, “Let them do everything for me”? It is not possible.
When you put somebody in the system, you have to support that person to succeed. If you see it as a challenge because you have elected somebody and he fails, it is not him that fails but you that elected him fail. When you know that you are going to fold your arms and watch him to fail, you are also a failure.
And if you don’t want to be seen as a failure, whenever you put somebody in government, you must support him to succeed because, if his failure is also your failure, you should realize that his success is also going to be your own success because you will be seen as having the ability to put good person in government and only by your support he can achieve that.
Yes because I don’t want to take much of your time, Your Highness. I must tell you that the level of respect that is accorded to the traditional rulers in the North among their governments and people is subject of interest to the rest of the country, so much that no matter what effort anybody thinks he can make to break the resolve of Northern people to unite behind their traditional leaders, it would never work. Is there anything that is not known to the rest of us about monarchy in Northern Nigeria?
You see one thing that people don’t know about this traditional institution is that, it is ordained by God.
God has said we should follow our leaders. He says look, “Respect me and respect my prophet and respect those in positions of authorities among you” who are your leaders. In another place He says respect your parents and respect your leaders.
Normally, even in the lifestyle of the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (peace of Allah be upon him), he was always telling the Ummah who a leader is and that a leader shows direction. The Prophet showed direction to the Muslim World at that time and that direction, up till today, still guides the affairs of the Ummah. So, Emirs in the North show direction to their people, although I had never thought of becoming Emir until I came to this throne.
In fact, I was in the United Nations when I lost my father, the then sitting Emir of Keffi, His Royal Highness Alhaji Muhammadu Chindo Yamusa II. I was there delivering a paper on renewable energy. I was to come back but unfortunately, despite that I did my best to attend his funeral, it was not possible because of the nature of our religion; you cannot continue to keep his body because a son was not around. And it took me two, three days before I came back.
I was thinking that even if I would be one, Emir, somebody would be there before me because there was never a situation where the son of an Emir succeeded his father directly or immediately after him. This is the first time it is happening.
Alhamdulillahi. I thank my God for giving me such opportunity and I will do my best because, when your people decided to select and appoint you and you deny it, then, you are denying your religion.