With the recent resurgence in the Boko Haram terror attacks, widespread cult-related killings, violent gang wars by drug barons, growing kidnapping for ransom, and armed robberies, the perennial violent conflicts between host communities and the herdsmen have compounded an already bad security situation in the country.
Most worrisome is the fact that most of those involved in these violent activities are young Nigerians, who are supposed to be engaged in gainful employment, or some beneficial economic activity.
This problem is complex and there’re no easy options. The setting up of ranches or special grazing lands for the herdsmen, as being canvassed may not work. We have to understand that the Fulani are nomads who, by their culture and life style, like to roam in the wilderness in search of pastures for their cattle. They are already used to this lifestyle and it would be very difficult to confine them permanently to specific places outside their ancestral homes. It may, however, be easier to restrict them to their places of origin, with proper re-orientation and dialogue.
That’s why I am suggesting that we take into account their culture, beliefs system and life style in trying to solve this problem. Here is my take. Certainly, this is a restive generation and is probably a reason for the change in narrative. This crisis is a wake-up call to us to proffer a permanent, realistic solution that is beneficial to both the herdsmen and the host communities. A root cause of this problem is climate change, which has resulted in the massive loss of green lands, forests, lakes, rivers and water reserves.
We have to think outside the box and take bold, difficult decisions to stop this crisis. We must come up with a new paradigm. First, investors can partner with local governments to set up beef factories in catchment areas of the north where the herdsmen rear the cows. This lines up with the principle of comparative advantage in the location of industries, where raw materials are readily available.
Millions of jobs would be created in those Fulani homelands and such industrial endeavors could spur commercial activities on a very large scale as well. Schools may spring up around those communities and Fulani children would have no difficulty getting good education. This would free up the cost of funding nomadic education, which could be diverted to other projects.
Train coaches and trucks could still transport well produced canned meat to designated markets across the country. And so, there’s no fear of job losses in the transport sector because of the inevitable end to the inhuman transporting of live cows in open trailers on very long, agonising trips. This archaic mode of animal transportation is cruel, considering the hardship they suffer along the grueling journeys.
Most times, the cattle arrive down south, very sick or distressed. I wonder why animal rights advocates are not protesting this blatant cruelty against cows in-transit. But the take-away from the current crisis is that the setting up of meat factories up north will not only render unnecessary, the imperative of seeking grazing lands across the country, it could head-off simmering explosive tribal war between Fulani herdsmen and host communities that may ultimately become embarrassingly protracted. We do not need another sectarian crisis on our hands because continued attacks or reprisal attacks on the predominantly Muslim Fulani, could stoke widespread Muslim anger across the north.
The attraction of slaughtering the cows at source and canning them is that an important industry like hides and skin that serves as vital raw material for the shoe industry may spring up, creating huge employment opportunities. Button factories need cow ivory for raw materials. There are other by-products from this animal, some of which are even medicinal, that could feed other industries. Some farmers use cow dung as manure. The potentials for job creation if this venture is properly handled are enormous.
Currently, slaughtering the animals at abattoirs creates little job opportunities, when compared to the beef factory and ancillary industries aforementioned, in addition to the social services involved. The beauty of the mechanized meat production is that the system will not shut down the abattoirs; rather they could remain as outlets for better packaged meat, sold in more hygienic conditions. This is good for the health of the cows and the consumers as well. Good thinking is about seeing opportunities from problems. The Fulani herdsmen crisis is an industry waiting to explode, if we adopt the right strategy.
Finally, we all know that Fulani herdsmen are nomads for whom roaming the wilderness with cattle is a cultural life style, but they can’t live like this forever. Their way of life is affecting the education and development of their children. They need to change because the whole world is changing and change is the only constant in history. Where are the nomads of Europe, Asia and Latin America? They have all integrated. The Fulani must submit to modernity, that’s the way to go.
WEEKEND SPICE: Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity-Lou Holt.
Ok friends, have a nice weekend. Until next week, stay quietly motivated!
Ladi Ayodeji is an Author, Conference Speaker/Pastor and life coach. He can be reached at [email protected] and 09059243004 (sms only).