The Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, appears to have made a grievous mistake. When he asked unregistered herdsmen to leave Ondo State’s forest reserves within seven days, he forgot that the President is Fulani. He failed to realise that, no matter how well-intentioned a policy is, if it does not satisfy the ethnic inclination of some powers, that policy may suffer stillbirth.
To the governor, the activities of the herders had for long threatened the security of his state. But to the national president of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Bello Abdullahi Bodejo, the Fulani herdsmen are not the ones threatening the security of any state. In an interview with Saturday Sun of January 23, 2021, Bodejo said Fulani owned all lands in Nigeria and no power could remove them from the forests. Hubris!
Ironically, the chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Ondo, Alhaji Bello Garba, said his group had no problem with Akeredolu. According to him, the governor, in his meeting with them, did not tell them to leave Ondo or the forests but that they should cooperate with the government to flush out the bad eggs among them. Is Bodejo aware of this?
Nevertheless, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) described the notice to quit to the unregistered herders as provocative and unhelpful. The group said the governor had no power to take such an action.
To an extent, the Presidency agrees with Bodejo and the NEF. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said there was need to delink terrorism and crimes from ethnicity, geographical origins and religion.
Shehu added, “The President, who swore to defend the Constitution, has spoken against the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in asking citizens of northern origin to leave, he did not spare the group based in Sokoto, ‘Muslim Solidarity Forum’, which asked the Bishop of Sokoto to leave and is prepared to do all that the law permits to protect citizens all over the country in their choice of where they wished to reside and are treated as equal citizens.”
Shehu missed the point here. He failed to realise that there is a clear difference between the IPOB or Muslim Solidarity Forum quit notices and the one on the unregistered herdsmen in Ondo. In the first place, no amorphous non-governmental group has any constitutional powers to ask anybody to quit where they live.
Besides, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah merely exercised his right to the freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution. He had, in his Christmas message last year, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism and bad governance. The best option for whoever feels aggrieved is to approach the court.
On the other hand, Akeredolu, as the elected governor of Ondo State, is the chief security officer of that state. The land and security of his state are entrusted in his care. Thus, he has every right to take any lawful action that will guarantee peace and security of his state. The directive that unregistered herdsmen should leave Ondo forest reserves was one of such actions. Note that the quit notice was not for all herdsmen, but only for unregistered, criminal ones. Even if the governor is a general without troops, he should be respected.
This herdsmen’s menace has persisted because President Buhari indulges them. His administration’s emotional attachment to Fulani herdsmen, as Akeredolu rightly said, was inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria. As the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, also noted, the Presidency’s reaction was “in line with non-pretence by this regime that it represents only Fulani interests against those of Yoruba, Igbo, Jukun, Ijaw and other tribes in Nigeria.”
No doubt, Nigeria’s liberation day will come the moment we divorce ethnic and religious sentiments from our actions and utterances. Herdsmen, and indeed all law-abiding Nigerians, have the right to live and do their business in any part of the country. But, in all sincerity, can the Federal Government or the NEF say that some of these herdsmen have conducted their business lawfully?
There have been series of reports about the atrocities they commit in different parts of the country. Oftentimes, they abduct travellers and subject them to harrowing experiences. Some pay huge ransoms to secure their release. Those who are not too lucky pay with their lives. Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of Afenifere chieftain, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was a typical example. She was killed in July 2019 on Benin-Ore Expressway.
Sometimes, the herdsmen invade farmlands with their cows and destroy economic crops. A former Minister of Finance, Olu Falae, has been a victim on a number of occasions. In September 2015, herdsmen kidnapped him from his farm in Ilado village. They took him into the bush and released him after receiving N5 million as ransom. The police later arrested and prosecuted the suspects. Seven of them were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017.
Last November, Falae, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, complained that herders invaded his farm again in Akure and either destroyed or harvested crops worth millions of naira. Members of the Ondo State Agricultural Commodities’ Association (OSACA) lamented that farmers in Ondo State had lost over 2,000 hectares of rice and over 3,000 hectares of cassava, among others, to herdsmen’s activities across the state.
In Benue State, there is no love lost between farmers and herdsmen. Last July, attacks and killings by herders forced the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, to call on President Buhari to declare them terrorists. He said declaring them terrorists would end their wave of impunity.
The worrying aspect of this impunity is the reported involvement of soldiers in the herders’ attacks. Last week, some monarchs in Ketu communities of Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State accused some officers of the Nigerian Army of conniving with the herdsmen during attacks on villages in the state. Thus, the traditional rulers filed a petition to the Brigade Commander, 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta, on the issue. They alleged that the soldiers mercilessly beat up one Mr. Seye Mulero, who merely called the attention of the soldiers to the challenges inherent in allowing herdsmen to openly graze in their communities based on their past sad experiences. The soldiers had, in a meeting with the villagers, informed them that the Fulani herders would be coming into their communities to graze cows.
Surely, nothing lasts forever. History records that there was once an Oyo Empire, Benin Empire, Roman Empire and many others. The Miyetti Allah Empire will fizzle out sooner than expected.
All that the sane society requires of them is to do their business with decorum. Ranching is the modern way of rearing cattle. Open grazing is out of fashion. Roaming from one bush to the other, raping and kidnapping innocent people can never be tolerated by any sane society. Not by Akeredolu, not by Ortom and definitely not by any reasonable being.
The Federal Government should stop being partisan. It gives people like Bodejo the audacity to vomit nonsense in the name of defending Fulani interests. It quickens the drumbeats of disintegration staring us in the face. IPOB made some noises a few years ago. Government proscribed it and hounded its members. Some herdsmen move with sophisticated weapons and attack communities with impunity. The government makes excuses for them. Do we have separate laws for different groups in Nigeria?
Nigerians desire peace and unity. But it doesn’t have to be obtained by force and with tears. Rearing of cattle is not different from other business. Hence, for individuals or groups to make use of any land for business, they have to abide by the state’s laws, knowing that every piece of land belongs to the state. The earlier we understand this fact, the better for us all.
Re: COVID-19: Do wise men still come from the East?
Dear Casmir, at the community level, societal myths, superstitions, rumours and scepticism becloud people’s sense of reality. Such is what obtains in the society’s perception of COVID-19. It is a very hazardous trend. The unfortunate school of thought ranges from that of the belief that it is the malaria/typhoid that we know through outright belief in nonexistence of the virus and as a disease of the affluent to a ploy by the Western world to instate the scriptural Antichrist through vaccination. It behoves on the government and the stakeholders to intensify awareness campaign and where possible display more videos of scenarios of COVID-19 patients for public view.
– Idongesit Inyang, Uyo, 2348084318845.
Casmir, people are not convinced that such disease actually is in existence. These doubts can be likened to the level of distrust of the citizens about the government of the day. In an environment where lies have been institutionalized, citizens can hardly believe any serious information intended for their own safety.
To ensure that the citizens comply with the non-pharmaceutical measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the government should embark on aggressive campaign that will involve the traditional leaders, churches and news media.
– Pharm. Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922
Dear Casy, the low observance to COVID-19 protocols arises from two belief factors, to wit: (1)the geo-difference in our hot climate and that of Western nations with temperate climate contributes to our low record of fatalities in comparative terms; (2) our faith in God as the ultimate protector and healer. Again, the cynicism is a silent protest against our endemic corrupt system in managing public affairs wherein it is believed that while the hype about COVID-19 lasts, government officials make windfalls out of it. SOLUTION: (1) Noticeable transparency in managing the pandemic; (2) continuous education of the masses; (3) decent enforcement devoid of commando style.
– Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731
Dear Casy, the pauperised and traumatised populace didn’t believe the government because the rulers used lies, propaganda and deceit against the people. There is one case in Enugu State where a high court judge died of hepatitis and government claimed that he died of COVID-19 until the late judge’s son told the people the truth. Do you blame the people? May God save us from this Wuhan coro and evil and wicked government. Wise men still come from the East.
– Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495
Dear Casmir, the problem COVID vaccine is facing may have come from the fact that lab results were withheld from the people at the wake of the pandemic. I had earlier written against politicisation of public health. NCDC should correct this error.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215
As learned as you are, Casmir Igbokwe, what a priest said on the pulpit is what you are using to compare all the eastern side of the country? As a journalist, what did governor of Kogi State Yahaya Bello say about this pandemic? Ok have you taken the vaccine? Have you seen the drug made for th African continent, which warned that it should not be sold to EU, USA and Asia, only for Africa? I need reply. Thanks.
– Anonymous, +2348058581713
Thanks Mr. Igbokwe. I am back to Jos. Could you believe I felt like an orphan seeing only me wearing facemask in our Anglican Church in Anambra?
– Anonymous, +2348034505095