One of the notable and most lampooned controversial asssociations in the northern part of Nigeria is the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the umbrella body for pastoralists with Fulani genes.
From the outset, the group clearly took on the toga of being the advocate of Fulani herders formed and registered with headquarters in the city of Kaduna. Unfortunately, since the election of President Muhammadu Buhari, members of the Miyetti Allah have ‘graduated,’ attracting unnecessary notoriety to themselves. Among their numerous activities that stand them out as a stubborn and inconsiderate association is their temerity in invading already cultivated farmlands and allowing their cattle to ravage the crops.
They move cattle in their hundreds and the herdsmen (mostly Fulani) oftentimes look the other way while the cattle unleash mayhem on crops and, where there is any resistance from the farmers, hell is let loose as the herdsmen who unknowingly are armed to the teeth, usually brandish assault rifles like the AK-47 to kill. There are numerous cases already incidented with the police without any arrest nor prosecution.
Such brazen effrontery perpetrated by members of the Miyetti Allah herdsmen is commonplace around communities in the country. Hundreds of innocent lives have been lost, many children have been turned into orphans, women turned into widows, while crops worth millions of naira have been destroyed, with properties.
Most times, where a number of cattle are rustled or killed during the ensuing fight, the herdsmen would organise reprisal attacks on such communitoes and such attacks usually entail loss of many lives and destruction of houses as reported in Benue, Plateau, Kebbi, Zamfara, Delta and many other communities of both lslamic and Christian faith. Of course, the attacks are reversed when these communities take the law into their hands and revenge.
For example, it was reported that there was extrajudicial killing of 68 herdsmen in four local government areas of Kebbi State between April 29 and August 11, this year.
This was disclosed by Alhaji Othman Ngelzarma, national secretary of the association, in a statement. For how long shall we continue on this track of hatred? How come these herdsmen, who had been fraternizing with communities where they ply their trade, suddenly embraced demonic traits of destruction.
Who is their backbone? Who is giving them impetus to move into people’s farmland and leave heartache, pain and outright destruction of hard-earned properties? At what point did they discard the business-cum-personal relationships they made over the years with villagers, traditional rulers and individuals before the ascension of President Buhari?
What is more baffling is the intervention of the aggressive officials of Miyetti Allah who suddenly have found their voices and are spitting fire from every side of their mouth.
Just like the student who is fully aware of the power and political influence of his father, such a student would always exhibit audacious propensity. If this is what Miyetti Allah members are conveying through their actions, then no one would be confused of where they are drawing their power from.
The world system has evolved, so have many developmental ideas, whether political of scientific, everything has changed. A time was when people ate everything with bare hands; today, people use cutlery. A time was when traders trekked to neighbouring villages to sell their products and, with development, these traders used bicycles but, today, they use vehicles and trains as means of transportation.
Question then arises: why is Miyetti Allah ferociously attacking the decision of the southern governors who agreed to stop open grazing by assenting to the unanimously agreed plan to ban open grazing?
By way of reasoning, the anti-grazing law is completely in the overall interest of the country. The Federal Government that wants to dust up the document that supported the grazing route during Uthman Dan Fodio’s time may in the long run be courting disaffection that may lead to nationwide instability and acrimony.
How do we then use such move by the central government to re-enact a dead policy just to create the impression that its interest is for the country, when its body language and interest is really tilting towards providing a safe haven to Miyetti Allah and the herdsmen in general?
What is rather more disturbing is, why is Miyetti Allah’s leadership flaunting their closeness with top Islamic and traditional rulers and even the Presidency just to intimidate Nigerians.
Once, this writer had an interview session at the Central Area, Abuja, office of the national secretary general of the association, Alhaji Baba Othman Ngelzarma. He disclosed that over 724 herdsmen were annihilated in Mambilla mountain area and nothing was done by security agencies to apprehend the perpetrators.
He fumed at the willful blockage of cattle routes in the country and the unfortunate stoppage of night grazing by some state governors.
If the group is utterly angry about the way Nigerians perceive them, then they should repent and have a change of behaviour by complying with laid-down rules and regulations.
After all, Nigeria is not an island when it comes to restriction to open grazing. Countries like USA, Venezuela, South Africa, Australia and others used to be in the same shoes in the past but development and modernization completely changed the archaic method of open grazing to a modernized system of mechanized cattled rearing, which is the present trend around the world.
Agriculturally, “grazing” is “a method of animal husbandry whereby domestic livestock are allowed outdoors to roam around and consume wild vegetation in order to convert the otherwise indigestible (by human gut) cellulose within grass and other forages into meat, milk, wool and other animal products, often on land.”. Today, modernization and development have overtaken these cattle routes and compel the herdsmen to have a rethink by adjusting, to settle down and embrace civilization and the new method known as ranching.
This is the way to go, instead of harassing innocent farmers with illegally acquired rifles and intimidating them just because herders have alledged “presidency cover.”