THE Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, has confirmed the acquisition of an amplitude modulation (AM) radio broadcast licence by the Federal Government to reach out to Fulani herdsmen in different locations across the country. The radio service, which according to the minister will be strictly in Fulfude, will be used to preach the message of peace, unity, tolerance and education. The seemingly compelling objective for the establishment of the radio service is ostensibly to contribute to efforts aimed at ending ‘farmers/herders’ crisis’ in some states in the country through information dissemination and persuasion.
It is commendable that the Federal Government is concerned with disseminating information to people on the go. Nigeria is not alien to official programmes being specially dedicated to benefit citizens who would otherwise have been excluded via the conventional means of executing such programmes or projects. The nomadic education policies introduced by Professor Jubril Aminu as Minister of Education under the Ibrahim Babangida regime were targeted at reaching Fulani herdsmen and it was supported by a cross section of Nigerians. Even if it is debatable whether or not it has significantly impacted the lives of beneficiaries especially in respect of their worldview, the national consensus is that nomadic education is a worthy cause. That is why the Goodluck Jonathan administration was also widely applauded for building Almajiri schools with a view to reaching out to the same demographic.
However, it is unprecedented to dedicate a radio platform exclusively to a single language. That is rather unnecessary, wasteful and insensitive. For instance, how would the generality of Nigerians know what is going on at the station? How will they know if untoward things are being said since the only medium of communication is a language understood only by the Fulani? Why is the government embarking on this ill-advised project at a time when there is ethnic tension and strife virtually everywhere in the country? The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo services; it did not establish new stations to run these programmes. The truth is that there is nothing that is legitimate and in the overall interest of the country that the government wants to achieve with a Fulani radio that it cannot accomplish through the instrument of the existing stations.
If the goal is to attract the patronage of the target audience, the most convenient period in the day when herdsmen love to listen to the radio can be determined and specially dedicated to Fulani programmes. That way, the government will be able to reach out optimally to the herdsmen and simultaneously avoid being held in suspicion of a hidden agenda by other ethnic groups. But it would appear that the government relishes courting controversies, especially those that border on insensitivity and overt tactlessness. Otherwise, why is it deliberately promoting isolationism and sectionalism? If indeed it is ‘herders/farmers’ crisis’ that the government wants to solve, what radio will it now use to speak to the farmers? Or will there be official radio stations for the Akoko people in Ondo State, Ife/Ijesa in Osun State, Tiv and Idoma in Benue State and for all other ethnic groups whose territories have been experiencing acts of criminality traceable to Fulani herdsmen?
There is even the bigger question as to whether there are Fulani of Nigerian extraction that do not understand or speak Hausa. The information in the public domain is that since the Uthman Dan Fodio conquest of the Hausa territories and the subjugation of their people to the authority of the Fulani overlords in 1804, Hausa has remained the language of transaction in virtually all parts of the North. Why is it that the Fulani cannot be reached through Hausa? Is it because they no longer speak or understand the language that their forebears had accepted and spoken since the 17th century? Could it be that the information to be disseminated on the radio is for the ears of the Fulani only? And would the radio not benefit the alleged non-Nigerian Fulani kidnappers in Nigerian forests whom their victims claim speak only Fulfulde and French? Perhaps the only welcome development about the Fulani radio statement is that the government by its action has inadvertently acknowledged what every dispassionate Nigerian has always known: that the herdsmen are the aggressors in the acts of terror dubiously dubbed ‘farmers/herders’ clashes.’
And the timing is by no means helpful. It is clearly inauspicious that the announcement of the establishment of the radio station is coming on the heels of the recent controversial official rapport between the Federal Government and Fulani herdsmen, the grave allegation in high places of state-orchestrated Islamisation of the country and the escalating incidence of kidnapping in the South-West. Ironically, till date, northerners are by far the largest victims of the manifestations of internal insecurity in the land. Consequently, the hypothesis that terrorists, bandits and kidnappers were officially sponsored for some specific northern agenda raises serious questions. However, the government has unwittingly dressed itself in a garment of a partial arbiter by its lethargic approach to resolving security issues around the activities of Fulani herdsmen, its slanted public pronouncements on herdsmen’s terror attacks and the policy prescriptions it often puts forward to address the menace.