Boko Haram cauldron still smoldering in a corner, it does appear Nigeria is
already choking on a much quicker poison: the cocktail of beef and bullet. Or,
how else can one describe the apparition of a trigger-happy herdsman now at the
weapon his forebears carried never used to be more than a stick, to whip the
herd into line. And maybe a dagger tucked in a scabbard, to scare potential
marauder in the jungle. But the new cattle-rearer has added gleaming AK-47 to
that he is migrant makes his own franchise of terror more diffuse, more
intimate in savagery. As he
wanders day and night from his native dry land up north to greener pasture down
south, he has scant regard for the territorial integrity of farm camps he finds
on his way.
north-central down to communities across the entire south, the siege is
complete. The rampaging Ak-47-wielding herdsman leaves a trail of plunder,
rape, kidnap and bloodbath. The kind you find in a Grade-A horror movie.
Consider a slew of reports in just the past few days. On Wednesday, the Taraba
State Government confirmed no fewer than 40 persons were slaughtered allegedly
by Fulani herdsmen (20 in Angai village, nine in Maisuma, eight in Dorei and
seven in Fali). This time, the fight was not even over farmland. Trouble
reportedly started after armed herdsmen were prevented from raping a lady
somewhere which angered them and they responded with violence.
came a rather grotesque report from Delta State. A local vigilante comprising a
member representing Ethiope East constituency in the state assembly (Evan
Ivwurie), security agents and some volunteers simply resorted to self-help by
turning the heat on the herdsmen who had formed the habit of attacking farmers
in the locality. Dubbed “Operation Arrest, Meet and Engage Their
Sponsor”, the mission reportedly led to the sacking of herdsmen’s camp and
their flight deep into the Oria-Abraka forest, in so much panic and haste that
they forgot their precious herd behind.
shared his experience: “I had embarked on a preventive approach to this
matter which is identifying the source and taking the battle to the enemy in
their domain.” (However, the lawmaker was silent on what becomes of the
cows: booties or prisoners of war?)
Monday, in Oyo State, Fulani herdsmen under the auspices of Miyetti Allah
Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria spent the better part of the day
defending themselves against allegations of vandalizing crops of farmers in
Ogbomoso and some parts of Oke Ogun. Rather, they claimed two of their members
(Abdu Chika and Buba Kajere) were gruesomely murdered by the farmers.
earlier in Akure, a security guard at a farm settlement owned by a Yoruba
leader, Olu Falae, was brutally murdered by suspected herdsmen as usual. This
came when some other herdsmen are still standing trial for allegedly kidnapping
and torturing the same Falae for several days in September last year.
Imo entered the radar last weekend following a statement by the Department of
State Security that five Fulani herdsmen were killed in a forest along the
border of the two states. They were allegedly buried in a shallow grave.
Condemning the action at a joint press conference Monday, governors of the two
states blamed it on “miscreants”.
earlier in Enugu, ethnic tension had mounted following the arrest and detention
of 76 Agwu villagers who decided to carry arms against Fulani herdsmen who
allegedly destroyed not only their farmland but also abducted two of their
women. No sooner had the irate villagers formed a barricade than a team of
soldiers (said to be of northern extraction) stormed the community and whisked
some 76 men in army trucks to neighbouring Abia State.
by the reports, the Army high command later described the perpetrators as
“fake soldiers”. The puzzle then: how did they acquire military
uniforms, officially issued FN 7.62mm military rifles and green-colour military
trucks deployed in the “invasion”? So bold, the “fake
soldiers” also had the temerity to head straight to the police command to
hand over their 76 captives for proper custody!
eventually took a court pronouncement in Abia before the Agwu 76 were set free
after wallowing in detention for days.
|President Muhammadu Buhari|
the Abia/Imo killings are a child’s play compared to the genocide perpetrated
in the last two months by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue communities like
Agatu, Buruku, Guma, Gwer-west, Logo, Kwande, Gwer- East and Katsina- Ala. At the last count, more than
1,500 had been butchered so far this year. On a single day in February alone,
about 300 were murdered in Okokolo, Akwu, Ugboka and Aila villages (all in
Agatu LGA). Entire villages were razed. On March 19, another 500 were butchered
in 10 communities of the same LGA.
the nation is now under a siege of sorts. This writer has a personal experience
to share. Two or three year ago in Benin, we woke up at my private home to find
that the flower garden outside which had taken a fortune to plant and pains and
years to cultivate had been completely destroyed by some cows that stomped past
overnight. But should everyone resort to the Ethiope formula, there certainly
would be no nation again.
forward, I believe a more sustainable panacea to this festering crisis is to
first recognize and appreciate the cultural issues involved. Beside immediate
economic benefits, farming communities have emotional attachment to their land
considered ancestral legacy. Just the same way the Fulani herdsman views his
herd as his only store of value and the national landscape as his legitimate
pasture. Lasting resolution lies in both parties understanding each other and
the boundaries clearly demarcated.
what is required at this hour is a leadership that is not only creative but
also courageous. President Buhari’s dilemma is understandable. Before the last
election, the charter of demand by the Fulani included a request for the
grazing reserves to hold and nourish their cattle and other animals. But the
challenge of statesmanship is to pursue a course of action that also
accommodates the interests of others.
with, the specter of the herdsman brandishing at all an unlicensed rifle – much
less a weapon of mass destruction like AK-47 – constitutes clear and grave
assault on public decency. Rushing to deploy such lethal weaponry without
inhibition in otherwise civil dispute over right of way on farmland is, to say
the least, taking the culture of impunity to a treasonable bend.
the time for President Buhari, himself a cattle farmer, to go beyond the normal
call of duty to stave the dangerously growing perception that seeming official
lethargy – if not indifference – to the continued killings is dictated by the
spirit of kinship he shares with the rampaging herdsman or that the nomad’s
renewed audacity, this genocidal reflex, feeds on the opium of expected
solidarity from the top.
have told that the rampaging Fulani herdsmen are not Nigerian. Given their ferocity
and that similar incidents were reported even in core northern states, they are
suspected to be migrants from Niger, Mali and so on. That being the case, why
is the Nigerian nation still shy of responding more strongly? Such attacks
ought to be viewed properly then as direct assault on our sovereignty as a
way to start is urgently enunciating a disarmament programme. The wandering
herdsman first needs to be engaged to turn in his AK-47 as the minimum
pre-condition. Relevant security agencies should be directed to enforce this.
The mass killings cannot continue.
commendable that President Buhari, by some policy steps already taken, has the
clarity of mind to, at least, appreciate the real existential point at issue:
the most sustainable source of pasture for the cattle. This had led Abuja to
consult with states with a view to finding lasting solution. Borrowing from
modern practices elsewhere, most stakeholders were said to have agreed that the
option of ranch is the most feasible and sustainable. But the optimism that a
workable solution was finally in sight seems vitiated with a statement credited
few days ago to the Agriculture Minister, Audu Ogbeh (himself a successful
farmer), that the Federal Government would rather set up grazing reserve.
|Former President Goodluck Jonathan|
Ogbeh disclosed that based on Buhari’s directive, arrangement had been
concluded to import improved grass seeds to cultivate the proposed 50,000
hectares of grazing reserves within six months. Bold as the step may appear, the
devil is in the details. While Ogbeh’s enthusiasm is welcome, it remains to be
seen how he hopes to secure the land to start with. The idea of grazing
reserves runs counter to ranch which the states are understandably comfortable
with. For the extant Land Use Act vests allocation and control of the land
resource in state authorities. Besides that, the concurrence of affected
communities and landowners also matters. Ogbeh’s grazing reserve will,
therefore, require a constitutional amendment to begin with.
we do not have to reinvent the wheel. Ranching provides more decency not only
for the cattle-rearer themselves but also their herd. It enables the
application of modern techniques in the animal husbandry. It provides clean
water, hospital, schools and other facilities for the convenience of the
dwellers. Studies have shown that the Nigerian cow suffers stunted growth
partly because of the exceedingly harsh condition it is bred. For instance, it
is estimated that the average Nigerian cow travels some 25 kilometers per day
under scorching sun and is left to quaff polluted water.
properly harnessed, livestock has potential to raise our national GDP,
especially now that there is a renewed clamour to diversify the economy from
oil as mono product. According to a 2008 survey, Nigeria’s population of cattle
was put at 14.7m, out of which 10 percent were classified as milking cows.
thanks to the herdsman’s primitive rearing technique, less than one percent of
the cattle population is managed commercially. It explains why the country
still spends an average of N50b importing milk and other dairy products
annually simply because the full potentials of cattle farming are left
untapped. But a relatively smaller country like Uruguay today owes the bulk of
its national wealth to livestock. In 2014, it exported $1.4b worth of beef,
$800m of dairy products and $400m of leather goods. At 3.3 million population,
its per capital income is a whopping $22,000.
the Nigerian narratives for the better means rethinking the way we work and
& political idol-worshipping
five dark years of political idol-worshipping, cheer-leading Goodluck
Jonathan’s political Sodom and Gomorrah rapturously, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor now
whines about the loss of values and feigns ignorance of all the iniquities of
interview published by Sunday PUNCH, the outgoing president of Christian
Association of Nigeria (CAN) was at his sanctimonious best. He now reels in
shock each time a negative thing is reported about Jonathan who he describes as
“my son and he’s still my son.” Of course, such “negative
reports” definitely include Dasukigate.
Jonathan “did his best to fix Nigeria but sabotage swung into action to
ensure he did not succeed.”
did not go further to reveal the identity of the so-called
“saboteurs”, it is safe to assume they would include the clan of
pastors and other spiritual consultants who either made Aso Rock their second
home while Jonathan reigned or kept silence while he was going astray. His
latter-day posturing notwithstanding, Oritsejafor himself was their dean.
of God are supposed to be defined not by how sparkling their white robes are or
how long their gold neck-lace is; but what position they take in the face of
temptation or if their voices carry any weight at all in the hour of moral
crisis. However, many chose to keep silence because of the “stomach
infrastructure” they were lavishly plied with as the nation floundered
the Titanic began to sink, those who should know had raised the alarm. Then CBN
governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, alerted that billions of dollars of oil money
was missing. But such criticisms were simply viewed by the likes of Oritsejafor
and other hallelujah choir either through ethnic or sectarian lens. They tried
to justify every thing in the context of defending “a Christian
presidency”. (As if hunger knows religion.)
open partisanship – and sometimes loose talk – they clearly helped sharpen
dangerously Nigeria’s religious fault-lines.
instance, a few weeks to the 2015 elections, the airwaves was awash with
allegation of N6b cash given to some church leaders. (By the Dasukigate diary,
billions were also splashed on Islamic prayer-warriors for same spiritual
services.) Not surprising, some soon began to prophesy in earnest that
Jonathan’s second term was already “sanctioned by all the angels in
heaven”. The conscientious ones in Christendom felt scandalized by the
report of bribe and reacted angrily by raining curses on those behind the
attempt to induce the church. Meanwhile, the response from Oritsejafor’s CAN
was, at best, a studied silence.
that while the likes of Oritsejafor were busy carousing with Jonathan inside
the Villa, we still had some principled clergymen like Cardinal Anthony Okogie,
Bishop Mike Okonkwo, Pastors Chris Okotie and Tunde Bakare who fearlessly and
relentlessly spoke truth to power.
dubious pontification did not end with Jonathan. With greater fervor, he also
wailed in the same interview against the infiltration of the church by
“mercenaries, commercially minded people”. The church should seek to
inculcate the right values and purge itself of such elements, according to him.
His words: “(Congregants) fall prey to some of these pastors or prophets
of doom. The way they live gives a wrong impression of what should be in a
church of God. There should be no room for material possessions.”
talk! But if the logic in Oritsejafor’s homily is stretched further, one then
wonders if ownership of a private jet is excluded from list of worldly things
so condemned. It is on record that the powerful pastor joined the exclusive
club of private jet owners while Jonathan reigned, perhaps to illustrate how
really abundant life really was under his “son”. The source? We were
only told it was “a blessing” from the pastor’s “children”
(presumably including Jonathan). Well, it did not matter that as the CAN
president began jetting around luxuriously, more and more congregants, the
faithful tithe-payers, plunged deeper and deeper into penury.
scandal of all scandals, later in 2014, Oritsejafor’s jet would be caught in
the web of money-laundering in the botched attempt to procure arms from the
black market in South Africa. When confronted with the hard facts, Oritsejafor
attempted to escape culpability by the most jejune route. He said he had handed
the aircraft to a private company to run it on charter basis when he was not
flying. That he was not in a position to know the sort of cargoes – human or
material – they were ferrying. But pray, when did it come appropriate for
pastor to double as air transporter to begin with? So, who is
together, it would now seem wisdom has finally dawned on Oritsejafor.
Unfortunately, it is coming but when no longer useful. Therefore, the least
expected of him is spare us the obscenity of his crocodile tears. Nigerians
already know the false prophets who misled Jonathan to political Golgotha.