By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, October 7, 2011
Abdul Musah Sidibe’s rejoinder to public calls for swift action to deal with Fulanis abusing our Ghanaian hospitality is misconceived. In that rejoinder (“Media Ignorance: The Story of Ghanaian Fulani,” ghanaweb.com, 7/10/11), the writer created the erroneous impression that any stern action against the Fulanis (such as expulsion) is unacceptable because it will be a violation of their rights as Ghanaians.
His arguments sought to portray the Fulani elements as bona fide citizens of the country who must not be isolated for any selective justice. He has misfired big time and must be told the stark truth that public anger and calls for action to deal with the Fulani menace have nothing to do with citizenship rights. They have everything to do with punishing Fulanis whose criminal activities have come to notice.
Basing the argument on citizenship to say that these people are “Ghanaian Fulanis” is mischievous. In the first place, there is nothing in our official population census/records to confirm that we have an ethnic group called Ghanaian Fulanis. Identifying the Fulani elements as “Ghanaian Fulanis” is wayward; it is a mere attempt to justify a self-constituted position on this populace and to seek sympathy for a lost cause. A Fulani is a Fulani, whether he is in Ghana or not! A Fulani who has acquired Ghanaian citizenship may be a Ghanaian (and recognized as being of Fulani extraction) but none is a “Ghanaian Fulani”!!
Although there are over 100 ethnic groups in Ghana, the nomenclature has no such compounding or dual identity (a root name indicating one’s origin and a second one establishing one’s Ghanaianness). No one ever says he/she is a Ghanaian Fante, Ghanaian Frafra, Ghanaian Ewe, Ghanaian Asante, or any other such hyphenated name because all are known as citizens of Ghana.How come, then, that a Fulani should be identified as a Ghanaian Fulani? The citizens of the United States may have such dual identities for stated reasons (e.g., African American, Chinese American, Indian American, or Mongolian American). The US’ demographics are the way they are because of the peculiarities of that system. Ghana is not that way at all.
Any attempt to portray Fulanis the way Sidibe does has to be seriously interrogated and debunked before it materializes into another national headache. I am particularly concerned that the ongoing menace from the Fulani cattle herders and public calls for government’s swift action to stem it should now be twisted into the kind of arguments that Sidibe has adduced.
His opinion piece doesn’t turn my crank. It fails to tackle the real issues even though his perspectives throw a new light on the problem. In attempting to explain issues, Sidibe went to a great length to invest the Fulanis with an identity they don’t have. I strongly disagree with him for several reasons.
I reiterate that the Fulanis have their roots elsewhere and must not hide behind our altruism to tempt us. Every historian and keen social commentator knows that the Fulanis are alien to Ghana, having all along been known as citizens spread across Northern Nigeria and its environs (cutting across Chad, Niger, etc.) as well as the Fouta Jallon mountains (especially the Sene-Gambia region). The artificial boundaries constructed by the European colonialists might have caused shifts in the demographics but the Fulanis have never been known or recognized as part of the ethnicities constituting the Ghanaian citizenry. Sidibe’s attempt to twist matters at this level don’t wash with me.
The Fulanis have traditionally been known as itinerant, whether moving their cattle from one grazing ground to another in the West African sub-region or shifting grounds, depending on occupational interests. They are mostly nomads whose occupation is controlled by natural forces such as water and pasture; they have no permanent abode; if they have that in Ghana, they should count themselves lucky and stop doing what will evoke unpleasant reaction against them.
The constitutional provisions regarding Ghanaian citizenship are clear and if any Fulani happens to fulfill the requirements to become a bona fide Ghanaian citizen (whether by marriage or naturalization), such a person must know what the entailments are. It means collapsing one’s identity into the national one, and behaving as a law-abiding citizen should. Of course, every society has its miscreants—and our experiences show that there are many such misfits in all the ethnicities constituting the Ghanaian populace. But none has done so in bulk as these Fulani criminals are doing. Ours is a Fulani menace!
If any Fulani claims to be a Ghanaian, he must know that Ghanaian citizenship is not a warrant for indulging in anti-social activities and hiding behind that cover to escape punishment. Citizenship entails rights, privileges, responsibilities, and obligations. Just as any member of any ethnic group is expected to abide by our laws, so will we expect the Fulanis too to do. If they fail to do so, they deserve nothing but any action that will punish them for flouting the law. Depending on other factors, such characters deserve deportation if they are established to be non-citizens. And there are many of such people who are roaming about because our law enforcement agencies don’t monitor or control them.
Sidibe’s arguments are rooted in citizenship rights, which is not the basis of the public anger against the Fulani undesirables. If his arguments and the examples he cited to authenticate his claims are anything to go by, then, we can say that our authorities have a big problem to solve in ensuring that the Ghanaian hospitality is not overstretched and abused as we’ve been seeing of late. There is nothing wrong with citizens of other countries residing in the country to do genuine business; but if they abuse our hospitality to become thorns in our flesh, we have every right to flush them out.
The government must take immediate steps to plug the loopholes that these elements are exploiting. Procedures for acquiring Ghanaian citizenship through naturalization or marriage must be strictly enforced and measures put in place to monitor the situation. It seems there are too many loopholes that all non-Ghanaians exploit. At least, Sidibe’s arguments have drawn attention to some of those loopholes.
The Fulanis have particularly become noxious for what they’ve been doing of late. Those among them who will move cattle around during the day only to turn themselves into armed robbers, rapists, and murderers at the end of the day when their cattle are relaxing in their kraals at night have given the rest a bad name. Not until those bad nuts can be identified and flushed out, the Fulanis should expect to be on the lips of the people.
Fulanis in Ghana have never drawn so much public anger as they are doing now because of their anti-social behaviour. It will be foolish for one to lump all Fulanis together as criminals to be bundled out of Ghana. There may be good, law-abiding ones among them; but their fate seems to be negatively sealed by the bad nuts among them whose criminal activities have tainted them all. By not acting to rein in such wayward elements among them, any good aspects of these Fulani nomads have already been neutralized. And every society confronted with the kind of menace that these wayward Fulanis pose will take prompt action to stem the tide. That’s what we want our authorities to do so as to rid us of the Fulani menace.