Rejoinder: The menace of the Fulani Herdsmen
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Rejoinder: The menace of the Fulani Herdsmen

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Rejoinder: The menace of the Fulani Herdsmen

By Oise Oikelomen… This piece is a response to an article of same title by Mr Joseph Edgar in his Talk to Power column. I am an avid reader of Talk to Power. I find the perspectives on national issues presented there to be refreshingly objective, non-partisan and thought provoking. Mr. Edgar’s acerbic wit and sense of humour (sometimes subtle, sometimes reckless) make the articles an enjoyable read of quality analysis of matters bordering on the common good.  This response is therefore not to be seen as a rebuttal but a contribution to meaningful discourse on a very distressing national affair.

In his piece, the respected Mr. Edgar essentially attempted to absolve the Fulani herdsmen of blame for the mindless atrocities that have been perpetrated against farmers in the Southern and Middle Belt areas of the country over the past several weeks. He suggested a new and interesting perspective: the possibility that these marauding agents of death might really be Boko Haram terrorists posing as herdsmen. The relentless bashing of their North East base of operations may have made the terrorists adopt a different strategy: infiltrate the ranks of herdsmen and extend the spread of terror to other parts of the country

I consider this a brilliant angle to this vexatious matter, informed by a nationalist outlook rather than sectarian sentiments. However, I have nagging questions and concerns that make it hard for me to agree with this perspective. First, I’m wondering about that so called peace meeting with the IGP after the Agatu massacre. I understand that representatives of the herdsmen at that meeting justified their havoc spree by insisting that they needed to defend the lives of their cattle, hence the taking of any human life that posed any kind of threat, real or perceived, to the cattle. That suggests to me that these people are well known and carefully organized herdsmen, not some unknown impostors or infiltrators. When any group of people seek representatives to speak for them they choose well known, well trusted and distinguished members of the group who are viewed as capable of presenting the group’s position and defending the group’s interest assertively enough. Those who came for that meeting came as representatives of the herdsmen, and they never denied killing people. If these representatives covertly spoke and acted for the Boko Haram cause, then one begins to wonder how long the infiltration has been going on for them to have successfully hijacked leadership of herdsmen affairs in the country.

Moreover, I have not heard any coherent disclaimer from the herdsmen or their sponsors. I have heard of childishly insensitive tantrums from elected Northern officials decrying the fact that the perpetrators are being referred to as Fulani herdsmen. For God’s sake, do we know of any Igbo or Yoruba nomadic herdsmen in Nigeria? The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, issued a statement to defend the horrors they are enacting across the land. The herdsmen themselves are victims, we are told by their leader. They have been displaced by Boko Haram and other sinister forces, their grazing reserves wiped out. And since they must continue in their bounden duty to provide meat for the gluttonous population (Apologies, Senator Dagiri Alkali) they have resorted to displacing other Nigerians from their ancestral lands, destroying their crops, raping their women and killing whoever is perceived to be standing in their way. Please note that this arrogant justification of the unjustifiable did not even resemble a denial or disclaimer from MACBAN. It was not intended to.  Like the Agatu meeting, the statement by the MACBAN leader, citing self-defense as the justification for murder, rape and arson, is a reckless display of impunity.

The much talked about but poorly thought through grazing reserve bill is, for me, the final tacit acknowledgement that these atrocities are the handiwork of Fulani herdsmen.  What the sponsors of this bill are saying in other words is that: if you want Southern lives to stop falling for Northern cows, then provide Southern lands for Northern herdsmen and their cows. Against the backdrop of the fact that the Federal Government, and particularly President Buhari himself, has been largely silent about the matter, this comes across as the final insult and human degradation to the South in general, and the surviving victims in particular. The silence from PMB is alarming in its loudness, ominously pregnant with possible meanings and divisive interpretations. This is particularly so, considering the fact that Southerners view the evil doers as Buhari’s kinsmen, and in view of his antecedents in championing the Fulani cause over the Nigerian cause there is even more cause for alarm.

Finally, I know that the atrocities by Fulani herdsmen didn’t start today. I was raised in Sabongidda-Ora, a rustic little town in Edo North, in a community that was small enough for everybody to know every other person, and news on local happenings circulated effectively without the aid of modern media tools. As a young lad then, I heard of many cases of atrocities of Fulani herdsmen in our area. The pattern is same as what is happening today: destruction of crops, raping of women, killing of innocent and defenseless Nigerians. The scale of the atrocities, and the level of organization involved in the execution of the horror have only just increased. These nomads, once the object of exotic intrigue to their fellow countrymen, have now turned to ferocious and remorseless murderers, purveyors of pain, and distributors of destruction.
They say power corrupts.  It appears like here in Nigeria you don’t necessarily need power to be corrupted. Proximity to power and association with power is enough to corrupt a people destructively, imbue them with impunity and cloth them with immunity from consequences. But some people should be reminded that violence is contagious; where left unchecked, it breeds further violence.

 

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