Written by the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper
The dangerous activities of the Fulani herdsmen in different parts of the country have curiously become the third national security concerns in the country still smarting from the debilitating effects of insurgents in the Niger Delta and Boko Haram in the North East. This is worrisome. And the deadly business of the herdsmen has raised some questions about the real motive behind the strategic invasion. With aggrieved communities, especially in southern Nigeria now literally resisting the destructive invasion of their communities by the herders, tension has been mounting in many places. Ekiti State, for one, has just raised the alert level because of the threat by the herdsmen after enacting a law to control ranching in the state.
The protest, the other day, by residents of Agu Obodo in Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State against the arrival of over 200 Fulani herdsmen in the community underscores the heightened tension in most communities.
The panicky residents who were reportedly overwhelmed by the sudden arrival of five trucks fully loaded with the herders, their families and cows, urged the “strangers” to leave their community promptly on the ground that they could no longer go to their farms. This is a dangerous development.
Similarly, thousands of women from Ossissa in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State recently barricaded the community’s axis of the Ughelli-Asaba Expressway, protesting the invasion and destruction of their crops; incessant brutal attacks on their men and rape of women in their farms by the rampaging herdsmen.
There have been similar protests in many places in almost all the three geo-political zones in the South and the Middle Belt zone against the menace of Fulani herdsmen. Even in far away London, Nigerians reportedly protested the destructive activities of these dangerous cowmen. These incidents are only a tip of the iceberg.
But the most curious element in all these is that the authorities in Abuja have remained untouched by the activities of the Fulani invaders who now seem to be enjoying some measure of ‘immunity’. This is vexatious too.
There is a curious historical context to the current development. The Fulani came as invaders from North Africa and the Middle East. Although, the first recorded Fulani presence in Nigeria was in 1461, it was not until 1804 that the Fulani launched a pernicious jihad in Hausa land led by Usmandan Fodio.
The conquering danFodio completely overran Hausa land, established the Sokoto Caliphate and installed pockets of power with his children. The cattle grazing that was subsequently introduced to establish cattle rearing was reportedly used to annex lands where the Islamic religion was planted.
Thus, Islam was propagated by the Fulani using cattle grazing as a ploy. So it has been with us since the beginning, though they the Islamic jihadists were stopped somewhere in the present Osun State. It appears that the jihadists are back using grazing reserves they ant everywhere as a decoy. The quest for grazing reserves by the herdsmen seems to be enjoying official endorsement in Abuja. This is worrisome.
At the moment, the launch pad is usually in the rural areas where unsuspecting natives are systematically overrun and their plots of land dispossessed.
Against this backdrop, several communities in southern Nigeria are apprehensive about the ruthless incursion of the herdsmen. This is what history has taught them. It is incomprehensible how anyone expects the entire country to have grazing reserves carved out for Fulani herdsmen.
What else is the motive behind this adventure if it is not to grab land and have strategic power, which is tantamount to ‘re-colonization’ of Nigeria by a section of its people?
The classical Fulani invaders came with the Koran and Islamized a large part of northern and western Nigeria. Today, Fulani herdsmen are farming with AK47 assault guns, killing and maiming innocent people while their cattle destroy farm crops. What are cattle herders supposed to be doing with AK47?
It is again incredible that the federal government headed by a Fulani is not responding adequately to the danger already in our midst. One cannot explain why not a single herdsman has been arrested or prosecuted despite the widespread destruction of lives and property in many communities.
The formation of Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) seems to be a deliberate attempt to have a formal platform to fight the cause of the herdsmen. The MACBAN, by its stance, has chosen a path that may breed irredentism from other ethnic groups. Recently, the group vehemently opposed a plan to register herdsmen in the South-West on the ground that it would “set a dangerous precedence to the peace in the country”. It was not clear how keeping a data base of herders could pose any danger.
Again, ever since the Ekiti State Government enacted a law to regulate cattle grazing in the state, MACBAN has challenged Governor Ayodele Fayose in no small way. The other day, the group said Fayose was playing with fire for enforcing the state’s anti-grazing law. This has pitched the group against the Afenifeere, the pan Yoruba socio-cultural organization.
Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. And so, no ethnic or religious group should, in any way, attempt to lord it over others, let alone taking over the land belonging to another group. Needless to say that people will resist such an attempt so ruthlessly. This is why the federal government should not keep quite over such a burning issue of urgent national importance.
At this juncture it is pertinent to ask the Fulani what they want. It is not that anyone is fighting the Fulani but this question has become necessary as a step towards dealing with the problem.
This is no time for political correctness about this sensitive issue. Now, most people in the country believe that what we a dealing with is a subtle implementation of the Abuja Declaration of 1989 on the Islamization of Nigeria. The alleged plot includes the advent of the current Boko Haram insurgency and other forms of political manipulations by the Muslim leadership to weaken the base of Christianity in the country. This suspicion should be raised before it is too late.
That is why we have always believed that a restructured Nigeria would handle this problem better. The states and not just the federal government can handle this menace better. Ekiti state has demonstrated this through its legislation on grazing reserve. Unfortunately, it is not possible to foster unity in diversity.
It is unimaginable how cows are valued more than human beings that are being killed all over the place. A lot of human and material resources have been wasted. By bearing arms and killing people, the herdsmen are demonstrating that they have a hidden agenda.
Sadly enough, we are in a country where gun ownership is not controlled. Anyone can own a gun. There is easy access to arms and ammunitions, which now poses serious security threat.
It is imperative to understand the Fulani agenda in Nigeria. There is need for a national colloquium on this matter so that ask what other ethnic nationalities too want. The level of discontent across sections of Nigeria is unnerving. Nigeria is being held down as a result of mass discontent. A perception that the Fulani have some exclusive right to graze anywhere is worrisome. And the Fulani leaders should note that. Each ethnic group is unique and has something to offer for national good.