It is increasingly becoming the norm for every opinion leader in the entire southern Nigeria, including politicians and the monarchy to call for the banning of the activities of the Fulani herdsmen in our communities. Failure to speak against the herdsmen in strongly worded terms often makes our leaders look like weaklings in the minds of the led.
The truth is that these cattle dealers are here on our collective invitation. And even as we are asking them to leave with one side of our mouths, we are at the same time urging them to stay with the other side of our mouths and our body language.
Fulani herdsmen do not go to areas where there is no demand for their product. So, the easiest way to get rid of these people from our environment is to cut down on our demand for Fulani cows. But is it possible without providing alternatives?
In the time past, burial ceremonies for the elderly in most communities in Ika land attracted just one cow. When slaughtered, one lap of this cow goes to the traditional ruler of the place. Those who would not kill a cow for any reason were allowed to monetize the sharing of the animal to the king and other elders of the communities.
The burial rite that attracted the slaughtering of a cow at that time only began after the initial five days of mourning for the departed elderly person. These rites of passage lasted for another three days and are collectively fixed by the family with the consent of the elders to commence immediately after the initial five days of mourning or after some days, months or years of planning. Nobody sold his or her property to bury the dead parents.
In Owa land for example, where people like late Efamehule Agboma who reared cows and sold same to those who needed the item either at burial ceremonies or during Igue festival (not even Christmas).
As it stands now, it is not clear whether the traditional rulers are now demanding for more than one lap of a cow for the burial of the elderly by compulsion. But what we have presently is a situation where folks, including those who never fed their parents with beef in their life time begin to buy and slaughter cows as soon as the death of a loved one is announced.
Sometimes, more than twenty cows are used to mourn one departed soul. The use of cows to determine how befitting an event is cut across all forms of ceremonies like Christmas, Easter, Marriage and birthday ceremonies. In other words, the more cows we send to their early ‘graves’ for the sake of an event, the more successful we presume such events to be.
A few years ago when Ebola disease broke out in some places in the country, we were advised to avoid eating ‘bush meat’, we complied. Till date some people still do not eat ‘eletu’ for fear of Ebola disease. Similar stories have been told of cow meat and milk that they are injuries to our body. But the more the stories are told, the more we consume anything that comes from cow.
Without local cattle rearers in our communities, how do we cope with our high demand for cow meat, bearing in mind that it is cheaper when the cows are locally trained here for us by the Fulani herdsmen?
In any case, the Fulani herdsmen and their cattle should not be the only concern of any discerning mind in Southern Nigeria. Apart from cows, dogs, goats and rabbits are equally imported from Northern Nigeria for us to eat.
Apart from meat, other farm produce from the north include tomatoes, pepper, garden egg, yam, carrot, onions, cucumber, yam, melon, and so on. While can we not do without these items? Our okro and ujuju means nothing to the Northerners. They have alternatives to them.
Presently, the north is doing everything possible to discover oil in their land whereas we are trying by all means, including ritualism to live cosmetic lives that begin from the mind but lead to nowhere.
Merely asking the Fulani herdsmen to leave our land is not likely to solve the problem created by their presence. Kidnapping for example was not the idea of the herdsmen. They only learnt from the youths of the Niger Delta region who originally used the act to intimidate the expatriate oil workers into addressing the plight of the oil region.
The root cause of the activities of these Buhari’s kinsmen must be thoroughly addressed by the Federal Government of Nigeria and Nigerians in order for the country to return to peace as existed before the political class introduced the use of cows as gift items during ceremonies of any sort.
In the north, agriculture is no longer the business of the peasant farmers and their children, even though the South have continued to make it appear like the profession of the poor and their children only. Come to look at it, what is the population of Nigeria demanding and using petrol compared to those doing same for onions and tomatoes?
All efforts geared towards making the country a better place for all of us will remain futile without addressing the problem of education beyond mere acquisition of papers called certificate and this problem is worse in the north, especially among the Fulanis.
The leaders of the nation at all levels must be seen to be fair to call citizens in terms of the recruitment of our youths into government establishments. We must depart from the culture of undue favouritism embedded into tribal and class struggles. A situation where twenty-three out of the twenty-seven judges recently appointed by our President are his ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ cannot obviously be justifiable for a nation in search of peace and harmony.
For the first time in Nigerian history, the recent police recruitment exercise produced highest mark scorers from the North. Ordinarily, this feat is supposed to be applauded as a mark of intellectual growth of our northern brothers. But unfortunately, one cannot draw conclusion from this as the test which was administered by a federal agency – Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) was mostly made up of Islamic Religious Studies questions.
So, apart from a few chaps of the Southern extraction who had studied beyond secondary school but pretended as passing only the Senior Secondary School certificate, majority of those who “passed” from the region are likely to have submitted some money along with the answer sheets.
As the Federal government’s fight against corruption rages and unemployment rate continues to rise with workers’ salaries remain static, it will be foolhardy for anyone to conclude that Nigerians are living without corruption. It can only take some magical acts for any one with wife and children to survive with a salary of eighteen thousand naira monthly in any metropolitan town in Nigeria without cutting corners.
On the whole, the hazardous Fulani herdsmen are a creation of bad governance in Nigeria and only a good government can change the situation. The visit of Buhari to the Plateau State government house in the name of commiserating with the state over the killings by herdsmen without meeting the affected people is not enough.