By Bisi Olominu
This is not the best of time in this country. Nigeria is indeed in crisis of great proportion. Killings, maiming, raping and destruction of farms are ongoing in the country as herders have descended on farms in various parts of the country, destroying food crops worth billions of naira in the process.
Are Nigerians going to experience pang of hunger this year because of the activities of the herdsmen? The answer is yes. From the west to the east, it is the same thing as farmers have been driven away from the farms and their crops given to cows to eat.
There are anxiety, pain and fear everywhere. The country has been turned to a theatre of blood. What exactly is wrong with Nigeria?
The herder-farmer clashes are not a new phenomenon in Nigeria, the problem has been with us from time immemorial. But in the last six years of President Muhammadu Buhari, the crisis has become intractable with enormous potential of throwing the country into avoidable national tragedy, if no urgent solutions are found to the crisis
There is the need for a proper contextualization of the crisisto have a better understanding of this potential time bomb that poses huge threats to the sovereignty of the nation. The issue of climate change has been identified as the key driver of this conflict in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, where the herder-farmer clashes have become prominent. Due to climate change, as a result of the ongoing dry season which brings reduction to the water level, this forces the nomads to migrate southwards in search of greener pastures and water for their animals.
For their lack of knowledge and indifference to other people’s problems, the herders movement in search of grazing pastures and water for their animals brings them into conflicts with farmers on whose lands they illegally feed their herds.
The farmers and communities would naturally resist the offensive actions of the herders and this usually elicits unbridled violence and bloodshed by the herdsmen who believe that they have unchallenged right to enter and graze on any available land.
They always display assault rifles like AK-47 and other sophisticated weapons with which they commit mayhem against farmers and indigenous communities that oppose the destruction of their farmlands and property.
The one million question is that who gives this assault rifles worth millions of naira to the herdsmen? How do herdsmen gravitate from rod to Ak-47 in guarding their cows. Who gives them the assault rifles. Who trained them and what do their backers want to achieve in the country?
These killer herdsmen have killed many people in many states. In Ondo State, the daughter of pan Yoruba sociocultural group, Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasonrati was killed, so also the monarch of Ifon, a first class King in Ose Local Government area, Oba Israel Adeusi. The herdsmen also killed the Deputy Registrar of Federal University of Technology, Akure, Dr Amos Arijesuyo.
They have also carried out many kidnappings in the state and many farmers have been displaced from their farms.
But the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Odunayo Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has vowed that he would not abdicate the sovereignty of the state to bandits.
Akeredolu while reading out the riot act ordered the killer herdsmen to vacate the state’s forest reserves, which they have turned into cattle settlements and fortress of kidnapping, maiming and rape.
But Akeredolu’s order was deliberately twisted by some sections of the elite and media in the North to give the impression that he was asking all the Fulani in the state and elsewhere in the South to quit. There is also the issue of the campaign by human right crusader, Sunday Igboho to rid Oyo, Ogun and other parts of the South-West of killer herdsmen who have become a pain in the neck of the people. The destruction of farmlands, killings, kidnapping and rape have been the same story in the eastern part of the country, where the South-East governors recently announced a ban on open grazing.
With the foundation of Nigeria shaking and about to be uprooted , the North with her undisguised support for the herdsmen and the body language of President Mohammadu Buhari giving the herdsmen tacit support, there was a bloody clash in Ibadan where many lives were lost, and this made the northern governors to make a U-turn a few days ago by agreeing with the rest of the country that open grazing was no longer fashionable and sustainable. They are now calling on the herdsmen to embrace ranching, which is the global best practice, and discard the archaic culture of roaming around bushes and destroying farmlands in the process. This is a welcome development. The Northern governors should go a step further to provide ranching facilities for the herders in the North.
Meanwhile, Ondo State Governor and Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has warned that the Southwest Governors will not allow foreigners occupying the forest reserves illegally to perpetrate crimes, to breed insurgency in the Southwest region.
Governor Akeredolu said the Southwest is learning from the festering cases of insurgency in other states of the country.
Speaking in his capacity as the Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, at the Ogun State Government Stakeholders Parley on Farmers/Herders Conflict held at Abeokuta, Ogun State last Tuesday, he stressed that criminality must be jointly fought together.
The parley, hosted by Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun was also attended by the Governors of Kano State, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello and Zamfara State, Bello Muhammad Matawalle.
Others at the meeting included, Traditional rulers , leadership and members of the Meyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Farmers Association and heads of Security agencies.
The Governors unanimously agreed that there was need to check the influx of foreign herders into the country without proper identification and records.
Arakunrin Akeredolu noted that what was important was to identify ways to reinforce and foster peaceful coexistence between the people in the Southwest and the Hausa/Fulani who have been living in the region for ages.
He joined the Kano State Governor on the call to stop the movement of cattle from the North to the South as one of the ways of providing lasting solutions to farmers/herders clash in the country.
Akeredolu highlighted the commercial gains and advantages of keeping cows in a designated area instead of moving them around from one region to another, urging them to reflect on the business opportunity that the situation was offering.
The Governor further reiterated the need to place a ban on open grazing, stressing that it will continue to create problems between farmers and the herders.
Arakunrin Akeredolu said criminals illegally occupying forest reserves in the Southwest will be flushed out, adding that those who are interested to do legitimate business in the forest must be registered.
While calling on the Federal Government to provide incentives for herdsmen, Governor Akeredolu said incentives must be made available for animal husbandry just like it is done for farmers.
In another development, Arakunrin Akeredolu has called on President Mohammad Buhari to tell Nigerians that he does not support criminality. Akeredolu spoke in an interview watched on Channels TV.
He said: “Sunday Igboho is a child of circumstance, and we must look at the circumstances that led to his intervention. I do not support people taking law into their hands. I do not support illegality. Those circumstances might not be legal, but when you look at it, you’ll know we are a child of circumstance.”
He said most of the criminal herdsmen caught in Ondo State were speaking “Fulfude.”
His words: “Essentially in Ondo State is our discovery of criminal herdsmen who were using our forest reserve to perpetrate crimes and we said look we cannot stay by and watch things happen this way. People were kidnapped. We’ve been debriefed by all of them, and we know people who took them.
“If you’re not licensed to be in the forest, then you’ll be taken to be doing illegal ventures, that’s where we stand.
“My duty does not include profiling those who come into the country, but all I know is that those perpetrating these crimes speak a common language. Whether they are foreigners or from here, it is a matter of police to go after them and identify them..
“What we heard from those who have been debriefed is that they spoke the language that were clear to them. Most of them were speaking Fulfulde and that is clear, this is a common language spoken across the length and breadth particularly in West Africa and some part of North Africa. So how did they come here? One of our major problem is when we have issues of this nature, and we have Miyeti Allah. If they are not your members, there is no need to defend them.”
Akeredolu said: “What we expect from Mr. President is for him to come out and let Nigerians know that he does not support criminality. He once said, if you find anybody with arms without a license, they should be arrested. Security agencies must be at work without rest. Everyone has said no to open grazing, then the law should follow.”
Akeredolu berated Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed, saying he did not speak like a “statesman”.
He said: “Bala Mohammed has not spoken like a statesman. How can you come out to say people should come out and carry firearms (AK-47) when it is illegal, people are not licensed to carry guns?
“Bala Mohammed has only added more petrol to the fire. No governor should speak that way. So I should ask my people to carry guns? Statements like that must be condemned and I condemn it.”
What will douse the present tense and volcanic situation in the country is what the Northern States governors have started by condemns open grazing by herdsmen in the country.
What Nigerians are now waiting for is for Mr. President to say it out that he does not support criminality. Over to Buhari now.