Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fulani Herdsmen: Fayose Bells The Cat

By Bola Bolawole
Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, has trod where angels would fear to tread: he has banned the medieval practice of grazing cattle all over the place in the state. He has promised to send draft legislation to this effect to the state House of Assembly to be passed into law. When this is done, both cattle and herdsmen caught on the wrong side of the law will be sanctioned. The beasts will be confiscated while the herdsmen will cool their heels in goal.
*Gov Ayodele Fayose 
Not only is the practice of itinerant rearing of cattle archaic, it also negates the giant strides that Mankind has made from the Stone Age. Grazing cattle in an unruly and unorganised manner over farmlands, destroying the means of livelihood of law-abiding citizens and trampling their inalienable rights is an affront to the legal order and an unwarranted assault on those at the receiving end of the bestiality of both beast and herdsman.
All over the country are strident cries against the callousness of the herdsmen who not only feed their cattle on, and as a result destroy, farmlands, thereby complicating the problem of skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs in the land; they also main, rape, and kill innocent indigenes of the communities they traduce to the bargain. They kidnap and torture, they demand and collect ransoms before releasing their victims. Most times, the victims still get killed even after ransoms have been paid.
Cattles have been known to cause fatal accidents on the highways. The increasing wave of armed robbery attacks in many of the rural communities has also been traced to herdsmen who wield AK-47 in broad daylight in flagrant violation of the laws of the land, which frown at the proliferation of small arms. The authorities look the other way while these atrocities are perpetrated across the country.
The latest bus stop of the audacious bestiality of the herdsmen was Ekiti State, at a community called Oke-Ako in Ikole Local Government. Not less than two residents lost their lives instantly while scores of others suffered varying degrees of injuries and the community as a whole was sacked. Reports said it was a reprisal or vengeance mission by the herdsmen, in that earlier; the community had repelled a similar attack and got some of the assailants arrested by law-enforcement agents; even though they were reportedly left to go scot-free soon after.
As if they expected the community to simply fold its arms and do nothing, the herdsmen returned penultimate week to teach the Oke-Ako people “a lesson”. The community got wind of it and alerted the security agencies but for reasons, which bother on complicity, duplicity, and dereliction of duty, the appropriate authorities failed to act.

A government that is pouring troops into the Niger Delta to “crush” Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), looked the other way while Fulani herdsmen avengers swarmed and over-awed Oke-Ako. Whether in the cities or in the rural areas, the security agencies appear the same: They wait until the deed is done before showing face!
This is one reason to support the clamour for state police. It is also another reason each state government must endeavour to act outside the strait-jacket of the Federal Government-controlled security apparatus. Until reason prevails and the security architecture is decentralised, each state must find ways and means to circumnavigate the current strictures of a centrally-controlled security force, such as arming vigilante groups.
Fayose deserves commendation for blazing the trail in his resolve to compel cattle owners to do the right thing: Look after their cattle in ranches, as is done in other parts of the world. Seizing lands to create grazing routes all over the country as some nit-wits are contemplating in the National Assembly is not the right way to proceed. This is private business and should be privately organised and financed.  The decision of the government administration to use tax-payers money for this purpose is not only superfluous but also an act of corruption.
The President’s tardiness; nay, lack of interest, in threatening hails and brimstones against the Fulani herdsmen in the same manner he has repeatedly done against neo-Biafra and neo-Niger Delta militants is worrisome. This President must not only act as the president of the whole country in an even-handed manner, he must also be manifestly seen to be so. So far, this has not been the case.  In his appointments – from the beginning to the latest ones that he made last week, he has marginalised the other ethnic groups to the consternation of his most ardent supporters.
It is imperative for other governors to follow the example of Fayose and enact laws that will outlaw cattle rearing in their respective states. The President must also be prevailed upon not to spend a dime of tax-payers’ money – or oyel (oil) money – on any grazing route of trouble and acrimony. Then, all men and women of conscience must get ready to defend and protect Fayose because he is already being attacked for his courageous act of protecting the interests of his own people.
Anti-Fulani charges and the badge of an ethnic jingoist are already being pinned on him. But I am disappointed that Fayose appears to be falling for it. He had no business denying that he is not an ethnic jingoist. Most Nigerian leaders are ethnic jingoes! In fact, those making the allegations are themselves the worst culprits.
In Nigeria, only the Yoruba appear to belabour themselves unnecessarily not to be seen as tribalists. We are always talking fair play.
This way, we have suffered. Is that not why Olusegun Obasanjo, in his eight years as president, handed over the Presidency to people from other tribes while the Yoruba, whose turn it was, got nothing? Even the Yoruba in Obasanjo’s cabinet suffered in the hands of others. Ask Prof. Babalola Borisade. Ask Prof. Tunde Adeniran.   Since the Otta farmer left the Presidency, which other president has towed his line of fair play to tribes other than their own?
*Bolawole, one-time editor of the Punch, a Lagos-based media consultant, can be reached with turnpot@gmail.com,  0705 263 1058


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