with Olu Obafemi
SMS only: [email protected]: 08056180052
ALL newspaper and other media headlines are screaming with the explosive issue of the herdsmen and farmers, which has begun to rock the nation. War-drums may not be pounding as yet, but given the ethno-national sensitivity of our country—a stark symbol of the tenuousness of our nationhood, it is crucial that the governing elite of this country found prompt resolution to the murderous rampage and incessant bloodletting carnage that the ‘herdsmen’ have let loose of our nation—especially in the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. There is a token relief in the reaction of the President. Tokenist because the response has been taken by the majority of the people from the directly impacted zones and sub-zones of our country and acutely sensitive and enraged individuals that the promise to terminate the whole conflict under eighteen months as inadequate, lacking in concreteness and comprehensiveness. Methinks that the fact that the President has broken his ominous silence over the matter is a welcome beginning. It is important, however, that persuasive policies and palpable strategies for terminating the perennial crisis between sedentary farmers and the nomadic ones be put in place—in the interest of restoring confidence and belief in the cohesiveness and coherence of Nigeria as a nation. Alarm to the effect of a looming disintegration cannot be taken with cavalier approach by any responsible government such as the Buhari government certainly is.
To do this, that is to find an enduring resolution to the emerging national crisis accentuated by the mindless killings by ‘herdsmen’ grazing rather than ranching in territories that have identifiable owners across the land and engaging in destructive practices of murder, raping, massive destruction of lives and property is most urgent. And a number of red-herrings and grey matters have to be re-perceived or correctly perceived. Issues of identity, nature and character of the perpetrators of this mortal violence ought to be clearly ascertained. Secondly, the solutions being proffered, such as the existence and factuality of a Grazing Bill must be streamlined. The sociology of the crises—as a cultural economic issue – must be properly defined and understood.
First, who are these people causing this dastardly mayhem? Are they herdsmen or not or are they terrorists or other types of criminals and villains? If they are herdsmen, are they Fulani herdsmen who may have infiltrated or are they illegal fundamentalist migrants coming across through our dangerously porous borders? Where are they coming from and how and why are they able to infiltrate the ranks of our normal cattle grazing nomads? Is this a cultural problem or truly a problem of cultural economy? There is an imperatively urgent need to supply unequivocal answers to these problems and marshal clear and sound action policies to address and resolve the problem before we are literally eclipsed as a nation. And these answers must be offered with mature objectivity and patriotism from across the Manichean divide.
Who are these elements stampeding the nation toward a damning halt? There is a history of relationship between the sedentary farmers and their nomadic counterparts who rear their cattle, essentially through grazing. They were Fulani and they have always grazed in this country to the amusement, bemusement and excitement of the people who own the lands across the nation where they had formed grazing routes. These herdsmen of old have moved on and have progressively stepped on the toes of their hosts to bleeding and sanguine points. There have been clashes. The Fulani herdsmen have deployed their long and, some believed, charmed grazing staff, and at the very worst, with cutlasses and arrows. Never, until this recent mortal outrage, with guns, not to talk of sophisticated small arms and light weapons and now A-K 47 and so on. Where are the wielders of these lethal weapons coming from? There are few un-ignorable identifiers. The highly revered Emir of Ilorin, retired Justice Ibrahim Sulu Gambari and the northern Governors have spoken. They have made their observations separately. First, the Shehu and Emir, genuinely worried and alarmed, on receiving the Vice President in audience in his palace, took the occasion to voice his convictions. He was quoted to have said that the activities of these ‘herdsmen threaten the existence of Nigeria as an entity’. Second, he nudged the Federal Government to ‘curtail the excesses of the herdsmen—as an incessant security issue.’ Then he assertively declared that the ‘ herdsmen are not Fulani’ and he named their origin as ‘migrating herdsmen from other parts of Africa, a wandering tribe of people’ with a deliberate mission and political purpose, that of coming ‘here to destroy the Nigerian entity.’ He counseled the Government to take a firm and fast action so that they don’t ‘become another Boko Haram on our hands.’ These opinions, advise and admonition coming from a revered royal father, a highly enlightened one at that, ought to sink. At least he has made a good attempt to address the identity and political character of the ‘herdsmen’. The only thing is that he still refers to them as ‘herdsmen’ who are not Fulani. This is a very perceptive and informed mediation from the Emir but one that has not fully answered the identity question.
Steve Nwosu, Deputy Managing Director of The Sun Newspaper and owner of Frank Talk column on April 27, 2016 addressed the Grazing Bill matter. In doing so, he had offered an adjectival clause which prefixes and unmasks the mendacious piranhas by shunning their ‘herdsmen’ identity. He graphically defined them as ‘machine-gun wielding terrorists masquerading as herdsmen. For all intents and purposes, this definition is the most apt of them all. While it has not declaimed their Fulani identity, which to me is the best thing not to do if we, as a nation, must handle the culprits in a manner that is totally devoid of primordial, ethno-centric trappings. And I believe those in government must take a cue from this perceptive definition in order to be able to carry the nation along in finding enduring solutions to the problem. We must not develop cold feet because we are made to think that we are dealing with Fulani herdsmen. Neither should we, true as it may appear, see the elements as set on destroying the Igbo, Agatu and Yoruba. We must take them, whatever else they are, only but as felons and criminals engaged in acts that are nefarious and treasonable/felonious to the cohesion of our country and who must be checkmated with all the principled instruments and resources at our nation’s command , including the monopoly of violence and rules of engagement.
With specific reference to the Enugu attack and the expedient resolution strategies, Deputy Senate President condemns the attack on ‘unarmed Nigerians by ‘people suspected to be ‘armed herdsmen’ (a rather surreptitious admittance of the terrorist character of the bandits without letting off the herdsmen’s end of the rope for whatever purpose.)
Now to the issue of finding a perceptive resolution to the lethal crises. What options have been offered thus far and are they the best we can explore? One option provided by/for the National Assembly is through a Bill Grazing in the country. It is now beyond debate that the National Assembly has a Grazing Bill for Act in its custody which it intends to at least debate and/or pursue. This is a Bill meant to establish a National Grazing Route and Reserves Commission to establish and control Grazing Routes in all parts of Nigeria. And another Bill for an Act to create a Department of Cattle Ranches under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture or any such Ministry overseeing the production and rearing of livestock, including cattle. Is this the best solution to the deadly crises on the ground and will it subtend enduringly, if passed?
To continue next week