Much more could be done to improve the lot of the Fulani boy who rears cattle, argues Okezie Victor Ikpeazu
Like every other Nigerian, I am deeply appalled and genuinely concerned over the horrific and merciless bloodletting being unleashed on the citizenry by the Fulani herdsmen. The truth is also evident that Nigeria’s security architecture as presently constituted is at their wits end or pretending to be, over whose mandatory responsibility it is to clinically nip the herdsmen jigsaw in the bud.
In the light of these realities however, my narrative in this endeavour will seek to slightly differ as I draw and zero in on what I consider a historical neglect, which I am persuaded to believe has become the albatross of the herdsmen menace.
The ingredient of my sincere submission therefore is anchored on the disdainful and serial neglect of the Fulani boy by the national government and multiplicity of our Fulani nationality elites who as it were would have written their names in gold by advocating a change in the way and manner their nomads tend to cattle. “Change they say is the only constant thing in life”. If providence smiles on you, the expectation is that you will generously pass it on to some members of the society you represent.
As I script this piece, some of our Fulani brothers globetrotting and bestriding blue-chip companies, will gratefully recall their frightening past which was bleak and fraught with hopelessness, until God turned the hand of the clock.
We delight in the vanity and fantasies of playing tin-god and Lord of the manor, while our growing Fulani young ones are indoctrinated and radicalised into believing that their destinies and chances of making the much expected difference is foreclosed. At best, they are conscripted and charged to maim, kill and destroy perceived political and business enemies. And by extension, host communities, whose farmlands and source of livelihood they end up destroying.
Islam we were told, is a religion of peace and it beats my imagination why these virtues are not being inculcated in this young and upcoming adherents. No argument or explanation will rationalise the violent response of a herdsman and his collaborating traducers to every assumed or established cattle theft in any host community rather than toeing the noble path of peaceful settlement. Our enlightened Fulani brothers should therefore soberly look inwards, swallow their pride and strategically seek to jointly establish how the interest of their herdsmen brothers can be best promoted without having to keep constituting a nuisance here and there. Indeed, whatever and however the herdsmen act, is usually deemed to have dovetailed from the dispositions and insinuations of their elite leaders. Their elite therefore, have urgent need to change this deception through a deliberate and resolute determination to end the catastrophic orientation of their herdsmen kins. The sophisticated arms and ammunitions possessed and deployed by the herdsmen are certainly procured and availed to them by some persons above their intellectual background and capacity.
My joy will know no bounds if pay masters of that rustic Fulani boy is provoked by this honest and sincere submission into accepting his obvious failure for not doing enough to better the life of these Fulani boys rather than this despicable delight of using them to make us the laughing stock of the world community.
Let us be pertinently mindful of the truism that nobody has the monopoly of violence and people will naturally react most times in dimensions and proportions with horrific consequences when pushed to the wall, and silence they say, may not always be cowardice.
Herdsmen in exchange for their cows also access foods cultivated and produced in other parts of the country. If at every slightest provocation those consuming the cows are heartlessly decimated, one wonders who will be left to consume the cows.
The middle belt states, largely held to be the major contributors to Nigeria’s food production needs, have become the most affected in the ongoing disregard for the sanctity of human life. Recall the identifying acronym of Benue State, as “the food basket of the Nation”. It is evidently not for nothing given their richness in agricultural products which include but not limited to mass production of yam, rice, beans, cassava, sweet potato, maize, soybean, sorghum, millet, sesame, cocoyam, etc.
My science oriented background has taught me to know and rightly so too that their soils are generally characterised by tropical ferruginous types derived from crystalline rocks with an appreciable quantity of ferromagnesium minerals.
The farming cultivation and production comfort in this regard is that the area allows for participation in both the grain-based and the yam based economies derivable from the Northern part of Benue and the yam cultivation based economies of the South. This advantageous ecological position permits and facilitates year round farming activity, contrary to the shifting cultivation which obtains in the South-East.
Interestingly too, choice of farmland in the Agrarian Tiv enclave is determined by proximity to the compound, the implication of which is that compounds are part and parcel of the farms with provision for kitchen gardens where large proportion of the vegetables are grown. Consequently therefore, our Tiv brothers reside in their farms, making any herders dislodgement colossally disastrous.
Plateau State, which is currently reeling from the heartless massacre of over 200 souls for unsubstantiated case of missing 300 cows, is highly condusive for the cultivation of varieties of fruits: tomatoes, vegetables, onions, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes. Studies have shown that Benue, Nasarawa and Jigawa are the largest producers of sesame.
Down South, the Easterners and their Western counterparts, are still adding taste and value to our economic well-being, following from their constant cultivation and production of palm oil, cocoa, cassava, yam, plantains, bananas and so on.
I sincerely empathise and share in the president’s desire for us to proffer a workable and nationally accepted recipe to the herdsmen malady. But first he may have to begin by showing enough commitment in terms of roundly condemning these murderous monsters with a view to winning the people’s confidence in his ability and sincerity to restore peace in the Nigerian polity.
The contradictory claim of saying that herdsmen are Libyan militias and in the same vein advising Nigerians to give up their ancestral lands to foreigners for ranches is too suspicious to be desired. I have to humbly observe that some of the positions so far churned out were not well panel-beaten with a view to conscientiously accommodating all shades of opinions.
First was grazing reserves and routes which are not anything different from cattle colonies as latter bandied. The multiplicity of angst and rejection which greeted the idea of cattle colonies and reserves as initially advanced took us back to the drawing board.
Acquisition of lands for ranches as currently being considered ultimately involves giving up of lands. But the note of caution is that the peculiarities of states in matters concerning land must be seriously considered and accorded its well-deserved priority attention in any peace-anticipated policy formulation for dealing with this matter in our country today.
One of the inhibitions discouraging the willingness of my itinerant Igbo brothers from retiring home to invest bothers on scarcity of land. Other ethnic nationalities and geo-political zones are naturally feasting on this challenge to gainfully play host to our numerous entrepreneurial Igbo brothers who are desirous of a condusive and convivial environment to invest and express their wealth of business know-how.
Given the obvious reality that cattle business is predominately a private concern, I will advise that we refrain from tinkering with contentious solutions that will aggravate an already bad situation.
My panacea of choice is for us to rise from the ruins of this herdsmen/farmers clash to acquire and cultivate pro-vitamins species of the appropriate grass for our cattle’s in the vast Sahel of the North East.
Our response therefore should be towards the establishment of large feed stock derived from the cultivation of the huge expanse of land in the North. We can replace desert encroachment with lush green fields for the benefit of our cattle economy. Israel has done it. And there is certainly no reason Nigeria cannot, except insincerity and non-commitment be the anchor of our aims and efforts towards finding a lasting solution to this tragic socio-political quagmire that has engulfed the nation especially in recent time.
Today’s Dubai, used to be a sprawling desert city, which started out as a tiny fishing village. The earliest recorded mention of Dubai is in 1095 in the book of Geography by the Andalusian-Arab geographer Abu Abdullah Al-Bakri. The livelihood of the areas inhabitants was based on fishing, pearl diving, boat building and providing accommodation and sustenance for the traders who would pass through there, on their way to sell gold, spices and textiles.
But visionary leadership and well placed determination provided the vista and caused Dubai to explode within the space of half a century, boasting in its wake of eye wondering and ear tingling high rise buildings such as the Burj Al Arab and BurjKhalifa and innumerable high quality infrastructure and expatriate friendly environment. This is the kind of socio-economic vision and formulation that the Fulani boy with cattle should be oriented and exposed to, rather than making them a perennial beast of burden that has no hope for a great future, other than a life of fatality and tragedy whose only means of expression is violence and destruction of life and property . What a destroyed youth! What a destroyed society!
The further we procrastinate, the deadlier it keeps getting and by the time we get our acts together to restore normalcy, we would have created another devastating hunger problem.
God willing, we shall overcome. But we must demonstrate readiness, availability of ourselves and sincere commitment to really overcome.
Dr Ikpeazu is the Governor of Abia State