Behind the herdsmen

There is an increased outcry that Fulani herdsmen were responsible for Chief Falae’s kidnap because he had previously had a dispute with the group who grazed their cattle on his farm destroying the crops along the way.

I had my experience with Fulani, only that I am not certain we are directing our frustrations to the right group of people.

Six or so years ago, there were talks about cattle grazing in my parents’ neighbourhood. Target areas are usually empty land where cattle can stay for a little while munching on vegetations.

The problem is that herding cattle through neighbourhood always leave residents with unsightly dung on walk paths – not very nice especially that the owners are usually faceless. Also, it is becoming increasingly difficult to plant any crops on empty land without the fear they will be trampled on by cattle.

Community elders’ efforts to speak with the herdsman failed, I was told this particular group is led by a teenager who always signalled not to understand what the local people are saying.

Chief Falae’s kidnap was said to be Fulani herdsmen. I am still a bit sceptical as I know there is nothing stopping anyone to disguise to be whoever they wanted to be in the name of extorting cash from fellow citizens they considered rich/important.

This time I learnt that one of the reasons why south had a surge in cattle herding was because local people have also invested in the trade, so not all cattle around us were 100% owned by the Fulanis, teenagers commonly seeing herding are on payroll.

So rather than turning this cattle glazing into another tribal war why can’t we find solutions that fits in to modern Nigeria where everyone is welcome in all our regions.

I find Senator Ben Murray-Bruce proposed solutions to grazing issue a necessary step that Nigeria must take to avoid needless clash and finger-pointing.

“We should restore the ancient grazing routes of Fulani pastoralists. Both the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Ministry of Lands should work with the apex Fulani pastoral association, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, to revive these routes and where there have been farms or houses built on these routes, alternative routes must be found.” Senator Ben Murray-Bruce.

One other interesting point that Senator Murray-Bruce mentioned in this article was the reality that Nigeria must face, we have grown significantly bigger in population since 1960s, therefore our lifestyle must reflect this, we can not afford to just let things happen on its own. Orderliness must be put in place with plans that incorporate the needs of Nigerians in mind.

This is not me defending Fulani herdsmen in any sense, definitely not after I had to wait in the middle of the road on Easter Monday 2013 during highway robbery allegedly performed by the Fulanis.

Like many Nigerians travelling on Ibadan-Lagos Express, I have heard a lot of unfortunate events happened to innocent Nigerians, this day was no exception. It was around 1pm, the road was not as busy as it used to because of the holiday.

Our car came to abrupt stop as the cars ahead were making emergency U turns. Thankfully, the driver is well familiar with this road and its many unpleasant stories. We were about five vehicles or so to the attacked ones, robbers were only able to attack two cars, the vehicle following the last attacked one was a mini bus, the driver was able to act quickly, so ended up telling the crowd of what he saw of the robbers.

The mini bus driver insisted that the robbers were Fulanis, no guns was involved as that might attract attention of road safety officers, it was a few of them with herdsman’s stick being used to smash the car windscreen.

I ask how sure he was that these guys were Fulanis – his only reason was the way they dressed and the sticks.

How hard is it for anyone to dress up like a Fulani or anyone for that matter?

We must have been on the road waiting for about half hour but it felt like a lot longer. Getting to the spot of the attack, it was clear why the spot was used – there were big pot holes in the middle of a motor way that requires vehicles to travel at a slow, making it a perfect spot for mid-day criminal activities.

Now pointing fingers seems to be doing nothing to resolve the problem of grazing, robbery and kidnapping for ransom.

I can only hope the government has a plan of resolving this before it gets out of proportion.