Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Herdsmen Conundrum: Before We Witness Reprisals

By Fred Nwaozor
The popular warning for men to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ would only be considered reasonable and rational when there’s still hay left in the bushes and every arena where it is usually found. Of course, you can only be conscientised to grab something on time when the stuff in question is still available.
Over the years, several communities across the federation had been subjected to untold hardship and seeming perpetual torture by Fulani herdsmen. I can’t forget in a hurry that virtually all the states in Nigeria, particularly those in the Southern region, have tasted a bit of this conundrum at one time or another. The aforesaid set of farmers, rather than concentrating on grazing towards breeding their livestock, end up constituting nuisance in their various host communities, in the name of ‘revenge’ or what have you.
This domineering and nonchalant idiosyncrasy of these armed herdsmen who parade themselves with unspeakable ammunition was arguably overlooked by the government and other concerned authorities, not until they recently unleashed an astonishing terror on the people of Nimbo Community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State; an attack that left in its trail tears and blood. In the crisis, which occurred on Monday, April 25, 2016, scores were found dead, countless persons maimed, about a hundred residents injured, several houses and churches razed, thereby rendering over 2,000 dwellers homeless.
The incident might have come and gone, it is imperative to acknowledge that the peril it inflicted on the living victims is unarguably an experience they will all live to recall. Each time I recollect that a certain community in Enugu State sometime in the history of this country woke one morning only to be brutally taken unawares by a group of total strangers, I invariably take solace in the ‘notion’ that it could be a mere dream.
Obviously, the deed has already been done. Instead of indulging in retrogressive discourse or debate, the most logical and viable thing to do at this point is to concentrate on the way forward. In a situation like this, having taken a formidable step towards checking recurrence, the next most reasonable action to take is to harmonise the atmosphere or the ties binding the affected persons or groups.

Frankly, before we witness reprisal, which is often the most expected consequent approach whenever such incident transpires, every concerned quarter or body needs to leave no stone unturned towards ensuring that adequate measures are taken with a view to avoiding further tragic situations in the country at large. Any reasonable Nigerian, both at home and in the Diaspora, who says he/she wasn’t deeply hurt by the aforementioned ordeal, is, to say the least, a monster; hence, all hands are required to be on deck towards creating the anticipated harmony.
The last time I checked, the herdsmen imbroglio was almost ubiquitous that only a severe and drastic measure is required to address it. The governors of the affected states, rather than aggravate the colossal injuries already caused, ought to map out the areas to be utilised for grazing on behalf of the herdsmen. And the herdsmen shouldn’t be allowed to move from one state to another, which often constitutes nuisance on our roads. Moreover, henceforth, the grazing activity should be commercialised by the various states; it ought to serve as an internally-generated revenue (IGR) source for the states.
Thus, commercialisation of the grazing activity as well as scrapping of routing from a locality to another ought to be captured as one of the clauses in the proposed Grazing Reserves Bill. This is why the citizenry mustn’t be taken unawares as regards the bill; all must be involved while drafting the bill, so that every needed clause or interest would be captured.
Similarly, the government is required to grant soft loans to the herdsmen to enable them prepare formidable and lasting ranches that would stand the test of time, in their respective jurisdictions or farms. To this end, any herdsman who cannot foot the bill for the grazing activity in any state would concentrate on his ranch.
However, I want to bring to our knowledge that it isn’t all the herdsmen that are brutal; the vandals are just a few among them that unnecessarily intends to unleash terror on their host communities, probably owing to one or two frivolous reasons. To this end, the bad eggs must be fished out via the effort of the leadership of the herdsmen’s coalition, and thereafter brought to book. The relevant law enforcement agents ought to take this step very seriously.
I’m a social crusader who strongly believes in ascertaining the fundamental cause(s) of any anomaly if truly the lapse in question must be addressed holistically or towards restoring normalcy, and this very one isn’t exceptional. Hence, I enjoin the authorities such as the police, in collaboration with other relevant agencies, to embark on a rigorous finding with a view to ensuring that they ascertain the prime origin of the ongoing state of unrest. In addition, governments at all levels should set up committees to look into this aspect.
Town hall meetings equally ought to be randomly scheduled to sensitise the general public on their civic responsibilities in this regard as well as give the affected host communities a sense of belonging. We must note that we can’t completely unravel this state of quagmire without employing community policing, which would be thoroughly effective only if the entire dwellers are carried along. We mustn’t take any action without involving the potential victims of the mayhem.
There’s also need for us, especially the security agents, to stop inserting ‘Fulani’ whenever we intend to speak or write on anything pertaining to the herdsmen; we must take into cognisance that anyone could be a herdsman regardless of his/her place of origin. Besides, anyone who intends to hurt you might come in disguise as anything; needless to reiterate that someone or a group that had been longing to terrorise you may decide to hide under the guise of herdsmen. Thus, we must be duly guided on how we go about the so-called Fulani herdsmen.
I can’t round off this critique without reminding the various governments on the need to embark on a massive compensation programme, not just in Nimbo Community but all over Nigeria. Let’s make hay while the sun shines and now that hay is still available in the various bushes. Think about it!
• Nwaozor is public affairs analyst and civil rights activist.


1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, this write up is at best presumptuous and lacks depth. It portrays the Nwaozor's lack of understanding of the realities of the goings on, especially as regards his recommended solutions. While it is valid to express an opinion on a matter of one's concern it is inevitable to understand well the indices at play. There's more to the killings than meets the eye. It has political and economic undertones in the light of deepening ethnic hate pervading Nigeria and plaguing our coexistence. Nwaozor's suggestion that 'Fulani' should not be included in herdmen statements, supporting the passing of a bill that has already brought severe pain bloodshed and further acrimony as well as a suggestion for a federal government loan to Fulani herdsmen to pacify them from continued wrecking of havoc are some of the high points that watered down the whole epistle. Please dig before you plant.

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