By Godwin Etakibuebu
I will like to start this discussion with a worthy joke l found in the social media a few days ago, considering it of having the potential of reducing tension in the land because if the truth must be told, there is more than enough tension in Nigeria today to destroy everything positive. The joke posted on my Whatsapp page says “Obasanjo is a farmer while Buhari is a herdsman hence the fight between them”, alluding to the letter the former sent the latter a few days ago.
Come to think of it, Obasanjo has one of the largest farms in Nigeria, which makes him a famous farmer. With such pedigree in farming, he is not most likely to tolerate any one coming to destroy his farmland at all. It does not matter if the marauder is a former colleague in uniform or not. The typical farmer in Obasanjo would fight to defend his. In the other hand, Buhari, while filling his Asset Form in 2015, after being sworn-in as President, did not forget; as a typical Fulani man, hammering more on “some cow heads” than any other property. And it has been said time without numbers how much contempt a Fulani herdsman has for any life that threatens his herds. Not even the spirit of comradeship in the military or NNPC can deter him from pulling the trigger [it used to be dagger] to end the life of any suspected, or intending attacker.
Beyond this joke, which is for dousing tension, the issue of herdsmen in promotion of hostility and dominating same in today’s Nigerian cannot be brushed aside. The way things are going, with the herdsmen’s audacious manifestation of being in total territorial dominion of the Nigerian landscape, mostly given the seemingly backing of the Federal Government with all its military might, unless an acceptable solution is arrived, Nigeria may not survive as a cooperate entity.
The prospect of allowing present status quo ante to continue or, in addition, of not creating a novelty for the solution is, to me, too frightening not to be considered. It is for this reason that l would be pushing out some suggestions for articulations of both sides of the divide in this national conflict. Yes, there are two divides to this impending war which can be qualified as “those of us in that side and those of us on this side” of the conflict. But before l start proffering the solutions, permit me to mention a few utterances from few individuals that have given different interpretation of escalation to the dispute.
Audu Ogbeh, President Buhari’s minister for agriculture has been around with us for such a long time and of course, he is vast and seasoned in the technic of farming. His greatest asset, in my mind, is that he is from the Middle Belt, known as the food basket of the nation. It is expected therefore that this elderly statesman ought to have come out with acceptable solution to the invasion of herdsmen; operating with sophisticated weapons, against farmers and farmlands, starting from the Middle Belt region before extending to almost everywhere in Nigeria. Unfortunately however, his two proposed solutions fell short of Nigerians’ expectation, for reasons we are yet to come to term with.
His first anticipated solution came very draconian. He wanted the Federal Government to acquire [more of confiscation] lands as deemed fit; strictly to the discretion of the Federal Government in terms of geographical area, terms of payment and absolutism of acquiring, without the prospect of what the owner of the land wants or does not want, for ranching. He wanted such acquisitions, having been secured by the federal government, to be later ceded to the herdsmen for ranching. This proposal even came in form of an Executive Bill to the National Assembly. When this failed, the seasoned old man is now pushing for an obnoxious “Cattle Colonies”. How on earth would Audu Ogbeh advocate for Nigeria coming under CATTLE COLONY, having been delivered from the Colonial Masters of the British Empire, beats my imagination.
Maybe, the reason for this can be found in the fact that the man has been too long in government. We should not be in hurry to forget that he was first cleared for a ministerial appointment in 1979, by a Senate that had the late Doctor Olusola Saraki as a leader. Then Thirty Six years later he came back to the Senate in 2015; a Senate presided over by Doctor Bukola Saraki [son of the late Olusola Saraki] for clearance for the office of a minister. Could this have affected his reasoning in what he proposed? Or could it be that he has accepted ab initio that Benue State was a conquered territory of the Fulani and remains same till date, in accordance with a lecture recently delivered by Professor Umar Labdo Muhammad of the Faculty of Humanities, Northwest University in Kano? Let us move to another personality.
A few days ago, the Nigerian Minister of Defense, Mansur Dan Ali made a startling revelation in a statement, where he justified the killing of Nigerians [using the Benue, Plateau and Taraba as benchmark] and also confirming that the killer herdsmen are Nigeria, thereby contradicting the Federal Government’s claim that the herdsmen are not Nigerians. Let us listen to what the Minister; a retired Brigadier General of the Nigerian Army, said about this matter’:
“Whatever crisis that happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of this farmers’ crisis? Since the nation’s independence, we know there used to be a route whereby the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation. If you go to Bayelsa or Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen? These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block the shoreline; does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with one another. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave. Finish!”
Asked if he was justifying the killings because of the blockage of the routes, the minister said, “I have told you that the remote cause is part of the grazing law. Since independence, there are clear routes where these people pass”. At this point it will only be wise to leave conclusion of readers to their discretions. Suffice to “thank” the minister for telling us the truth, according to him, why herdsmen must be killing Nigerians continually and also debunking the Federal Government’s claim that “the killings are being carried out by foreigners from some other West Africa Countries”.
The third personality’s speech for consideration would be from the beautiful Honourable Aishatu Dukku, representing the Dukku/Nafada Federal Constituency of Gombe State. What she said on the floor of the House of Representative while contributing to the debate of the killer herdsmen was a showcase of a shoddy work in lying as she obviously contradicted herself. Let us listen to what she said, that is after comparing Nigerians’ impatience to “the rate we eat Maggi” probably. “My colleague said the Fulani herdsmen value their cows more than the lives they are killing but that is not true. You can’t sit here and jumped into conclusions. Yes, the herdsman values even the life of the cow more than his own life. That is how God has created him”.
In one hand, she said that her colleague who said that the herdsman valued the life of the cow more than the lives of those he [the herdsman] is killing is lying by jumping to conclusion while in the other hand, she escalated the conclusion by saying that the “Fulani herdsman even value the lives of his cows more than his own life”, emphasizing that “it is the way God has created him”. God forbid that He would create a human being that value animal’s life, albeit a cow, more than his own life. Not many Hausa Fulani of notable standing in society; like the types of the Sultan of Sokoto or the Emir of Kano would ever think of valuing their lives less than that of an animal. But, as sad as it is, that is the conviction and belief of Honourable Aishatu Dukku.
Enough of reproducing some highly placed Nigerians’ thought on this disaster of herdsmen. Let us proffer solutions that are most likely to bring peace to the country if only our political leaders would be willing to go for the proposal as shall be out-laid hereafter. We shall complete the exercise tomorrow by the grace of God – just endure with me please.
- Obasanjo and his love for writing letters, is he a saint or demon?
- Can we ignore the messenger and take the message wholeheartedly?
- We shall discuss this in a few days’ time by the grace of God.
Godwin Etakibuebu, a veteran journalist, wrote from Lagos.