Nigerians have continued to witness one tragicomedy or another in this land suffering from cow disease. This is not unexpected in a COWntry, where cows have more premium than humans; where the Fulani are unrestrained and omnipotent such that not a few are wondering whether this country is Nigeria or Fulania.
Over the years, Fulani herdsmen had let loose their cows on people’s farmlands. The cows did not only eat up the crops but the marauding herders also bludgeoned the owners to death and raped their women, if they dared to protest destruction of their crops. Such clashes have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians.
The Federal Government’s aloofness and failure to check these atrocities compelled governors from the South to gather in Asaba, Delta State, and resolved to ban open grazing of cattle, as a desperate measure to tackle insecurity in their respective states, and save the lives of their endangered people.
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has been in the forefront of this ban in the Middle Belt, having lost so many indigenes of his state to the wanton killings by the AK-47-bearing herdsmen. In fact, nothing would give the Fulani herdsmen greater joy than the death of Ortom. Indeed, if not for divine providence, he would have since been a dead man, as he escaped assassination by the whiskers.
However, the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the umbrella body of the Fulani herders, rejected the ban, vowing a showdown with any state operating anti-open grazing law.
The national president of the group, Alhaji Abdullahi Bodejo, in a statement, arrogantly hinged the existence of peace in the states of the federation on the establishment of settlements for herdsmen.
Similarly, its national secretary, Saleh Alhassan, erroneously claimed that the anti-grazing law by southern states was a political plot to destroy the means of livelihood of Fulani herders without considering that the herders have continued to do incalculable harm not only to the lives but also means of livelihood of southern Nigerians.
Nevertheless, governors from the South and the Middle Belt have vowed not give any land for herdsmen’s settlements despite the latest threat by Miyetti Allah. The impasse can only lead to a catastrophic confrontation in the event of any attempt to forcefully take the people’s lands.
However, Miyetti Allah added a new twist to the saga when Alhassan told the Lagos State House of Assembly not to pass its proposed anti-open grazing law because it could result in a cow selling for N2 million.
This statement has been derided by southerners. Generally, they would not care less, wondering how that could equate a human life unjustly wasted to feed a cow. So, let it cost even N2 billion, as long as human lives are preserved.
In any case, who needs the cow? It is mostly southerners that buy the cows anyway, usually for burial purposes. Not a few southerners think that those ancestors who refuse to sleep without being sent off with a cow may have to come back to life if they must have cows before resting in peace or pieces.
Actually, people are making these herders feel their cow is all-important. And that is because of lack of interest by those who have the means or political will by our leaders to go into ranching or encourage those who want to. In fact, the ehi Igbo (Igbo cow), can easily dislodge the herders’ cows, if the needful is done. It is the South that keeps the herders in business and could decide to say ‘to hell with their cows, even if it sells for peanuts.’
In the first place, cow meat (beef) is not healthy. In fact, at a certain age, you spend more money on drugs than you use in buying the meat. So, it’s even advisable to opt for better and healthier alternatives.
Definitely, without the southern market, the cattle trade is in jeopardy. The statistics are clear on that. If the South-East focuses on ehi Igbo and aqua culture (fisheries), especially in the South-South and South-West, the value chain will be so huge that the economic benefits will create a completely new economy for the South.
With the envisioned economic opportunities, our youth will be more productively engaged in the South; crime and social vices will reduce and migration to other parts of Nigeria will also reduce. Consequently, more youth will be at home to protect their areas from herders, in case they make good their threats.
These measures are definitely not because of hatred for the Fulani; far from it. The truth is that the Fulani have made themselves obnoxious, most unfortunately. People are now wary to associate with them because death seems to follow their trail. They are almost certain to be at the scene of the savagery going on in the land and have not hidden it. At least, Miyetti Allah has not made any pretence about that by their brazen utterances.
Sadly, too, while the government of the day is proscribing and labelling organisations like, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) terrorist, it is overly tolerant of the atrocities of the herdsmen in word and deed. That is the cause of the mistrust of the Fulani; fear of a hidden agenda, especially when there is a bold declaration that the country is a no man’s land where foreign Fulani are welcome to make their permanent home at the detriment of indigenous people.
Whereas the Fulani have a right to live and do their business, they must also recognise the right of others to live and do business. It is unacceptable that, in this age and time, they still want to roam about in the forests, herding cows, while the world has gone digital. Even if that is the life they choose for themselves, how they want to impose it on other peoples of this country is unimaginable. You cannot use your business to destroy other people’s businesses and expect to go on unchallenged; those days are long gone. You cannot make your private business a national affair; nobody is more Nigerian than another or be treated as such.
The South has also opened another flank of battle to correct the brazen injustices in the country via what can be described as the VAT war.
Before the recent challenge, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) had been collecting the Value Added Tax (VAT) on behalf of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) after which the proceeds are shared among the three tiers of government.
This is against the principles of federalism. Ebun Adegboruwa, SAN, aptly describes it as “feeding-bottle federalism and Abuja financial pilgrimmage.”
Moreover, the disproportionate sharing formula and refusal of the Federal Government to revisit it despite wide outcry is at the root of the current imbroglio.
This anomaly has been ongoing for years coupled with the hypocrisy of most northern states, which forbid the consumption of certain products in their domain but, ironically feel comfortable receiving hefty figures accruing from the same forbidden products from other parts of the country. This is unfair, unjust and hypocrisy gone wild.
Rivers State took the bull by the horns and secured approval of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt to collect VAT in the state. Expectedly, other states have joined the fray; Lagos has already enacted its own VAT law. Of course, the FIRS has appealed to the National Assembly to put VAT on the exclusive list, thereby vindicating the states. It also secured a stay of execution of the Federal High Court ruling.
Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike, perhaps, is brash and avant-garde but his argument is infallible.
The North is destroying itself by several unlawful acts by sleight of force and deceit. However, though both the anti-open grazing law and VAT challenge are coming rather late in the day, it seems the South has woken up from its spell and everyone prays they remain awake despite the existence of moles and saboteurs in their midst.
President Buhari’s vow to stabilise the country before his exit is salutary but the rightful resolute challenge by the South of the unjust practices is a wake-up call that Nigeria cannot continue to run on the same trajectory, which heads nowhere but the precipice.