The main socio-cultural code for Mbororo–Fulani group is known as pulaaku, a code of behaviour and ethos believed by them to be peculiar to and distinctive of the pastoral Mbororo-Fulani (Kirk-Greene 1986: 42). ‘Pulaaku’ provides both a moral framework and a code of conduct to the pastoral Mbororo- Fulani, and is also maintained by town Fulani. This code of conduct is intimately bound up with nomadic pastoralism and with good animal husbandry. It is also bound up with the fulfilment of duties to elders, wives and the lineage group, and the proper arrangement of marriages. The four dominant strands of ‘pulaaku’ have been identified as: fortitude in adversity and on ability to accept misfortune (munyal); sound common sense and manners (hakkiilo); reserve and modesty in personal relations (semteende); and dignity (neddaaku). For the Mbororo Fulani themselves, ‘pulaaku’ makes them unique and different. It is about dignity and hiding problems.
‘Pulaaku’ functions as a means of maintaining an ethnic boundary around the Mbororo category, such that it describes an ideology of racial and cultural distinctiveness and superiority that ranks the Mbororo- Fulani above all other ethnic groups (Burnham, 1996:106). The Mbororo Fulani equate their distinctive pastoral way of life with their ethnic origin, to the extent that “there is a strong attachment to the idea of ethnic exclusiveness” (Steening 1959:388) as evidenced by the existence (and use) of disparaging fulfulde terms for sedentary farmers (e.g haabe). There is also a continued tendency to marry within migratory groups, often with close cousins, as a means of preserving ‘pulaaku’. Mbororo culture can therefore be seen as exclusivist in orientation, a factor that has sometimes exacerbated inter-ethnic tension between the Mbororo-Fulani and their farming neighbours. Thus cultural conflict is stereotypically expressed as such:
“The natives in town see the Mbororo Fulani as uneducated, primitive and having a wrong religion. The Mbororo-Fulani in the rural areas looks down on the natives as haabe, mean people who are poor, feel racially superior even to a native who is rich”
As with all cultural codes, pulaaku is not interpreted uniformly amongst in the different ethnic groups, and more broadly remains subject to local interpretation and variations between different Fulani groups across West Africa (Azarya 1999: 6-10).
However, pulaaku provides a unifying factor across the Mbororo-Fulani of Cameroon as between the Jafun’en Bodaabe and Aku’en.