Taming the Rampaging Herdsmen

The herdsman wants to forcefully assume headship of any community he visits with his band of cows in tow. He sees himself not just as an itinerant herdsman but as a headman of any town he enters. He wants to boss over all, grab and rule, even when he is ill lettered. That’s why we can’t afford to allow them have any colony here in the name of Ruga settlement. They are usurpers.

PIC.2. HERDSMEN MOVING THEIR CATTLES ON MAKURDI ROAD FOR GREENER PASTURES

The easy line of thought to toe is that their courage is Dutch inspired. And you can’t fault with forceful finality those who go this lane.

The ruthless manner they mow down lives border on insanity. To them, it has become a routine. And so it means nothing to them to gorge on human blood with barbarous indignity at the slightest provocation.

Their marauding instincts accounts for why the country rose in unison against what the federal government chose to term Rural Grazing Areas, RUGA for short.

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Pale and frail, a big circular headgear for coverage from sweltering heat and pelting rain, a footwear that had seen better days, clothing barren of any scintilla of finery, stick in hand, the herdsman peregrinated through communities with their herd in peaceful procession in the past.

They looked for no trouble and none troubled them. Their cows grazed and graced communities as they scrounged for food. Crops were not cropped away neither by the herdsman or by his herd. They were welcomed because they didn’t come for war. They bore no arms and broke no arm or limb. They only minded their cattle as they shuttled.

All that has changed now especially since the current administration came on board in 2015. The herdsman wants to forcefully assume headship of any community he visits with his band of cows in tow. He sees himself not just as an itinerant herdsman but as a headman of any town he enters. He wants to boss over all, grab and rule, even when he is ill lettered. That’s why we can’t afford to allow them have any colony here in the name of Ruga settlement. They are usurpers.

If you give them space to settle, they’ll inevitably use such leeway not just to violently test your mettle, but will run you out of your ancestral land. They are not people who understand what it means to be one’s neighbour, neither are they neighbourly. So you risk your life by giving them room to abide.

The Fulani man does not grasp what coexistence means. His own is to rove and roam whether to Romania, Kafanchan, Brass or anywhere he finds feed for his cows. And so we call them itinerant pastoralists. They are constantly on the move. It has been their traditional way of minding their cattle for ages.

Today, they wield sophisticated but unlicensed guns. Provoked or not, they train it on innocent farmers with blood-curdling rage. The days they wielded only sticks are all but gone. Any community they invade, they want to run down the inhabitants and take charge. They do it with chilling impunity. Befuddled Nigerians are watching with mouth agape, while Buhari, a Fulani, dithers and so inspirit them.

He cannot act or wield the big stick because he’s their kinsman. Not a few belief his non-action has provided fillip, not to say the teeth, for the marauding herdsmen to keep slaughtering Nigerians on a scale that has become benumbing, even unbearable. It’s one of the reasons many are railing, roiling and calling for a revolution.

President Muhammadu Buhari has been half-hearted in tackling the issue of killings by the violent herdsmen. He has not shown any practical desire to rein them in. He once said communities should learn to live with and accommodate herdsmen. That, again, was a Freudian slip which unmasked his deep-seated soft-spot for the nomadic pastoralists.

All he does, every other day, is to lamefully condemn their ignoble and brutal misdeeds whenever they bare their deadly fangs. But when IPOB popped its head, they were summarily dealt with. The hammer was brought down on them with no hint of hesitation. Today, that errant group is lost in oblivion, or so it seems.

Only an insincere few will doubt that under Buhari, Nigeria has been sharply polasrised along ethnic lines on a scale that has put the nation on edge. We’ve never had it this bad. Tribal tempers are flaring daily. Hunger and anger pervade the land. A pale of disillusionment is plastered on the faces of hapless Nigerians. Yet the government of the day remains inexplicably blithe and fixatedly unwilling to turn the corner.

Gloom and doom is staring us menacingly in the face each passing day under the Buhari-led administration. The herdsmen are becoming deadly and daringly emboldened as they carry out their bloody carnage with demonic disregard on a daily basis. Where are we headed?

Ikot Obio Nso, a community in Mkpat Enin LGA of Akwa Ibom State, came under a hale of bullets from the murderous Fulani herdsmen the other day.

They clashed with the victims whose farms and crops were under attack by the herdsmen who are said to have hit the community recently with their herd. In the ensuing mêlée, one Friday Etor was dispatched to the world beyond. His compatriot, Nsikak Udo, was gashly injured.

This incident, frightening as it is, of course, is the clearest indication yet that a clear and present danger is here with us. It’s no time for rhetoric and wishing the sad and unfortunate incident away as a one-off thing. No. It calls for more vigilance and decisive action before other communities become victims of this monstrosity that has gripped our land by the neck.

That one could have the temerity to kill another in a land that is not his is shocking. Doing business in another man’s land isn’t a crime, but when such business threatens the peace and lives of members of a community, it calls for serious concern. This is how it started slowly and degenerated into a hydraheaded monster that wiped away lives in Agatu, Benue State, Nimbo in Enugu State, farming communities in the Middle Belt areas of Taraba, Nasarawa and Plateau States.

Truth is that until the federal government deals decisively with these herdsmen as they deserve, this orgy of killings may not abate anytime soon. By its continued criminal silence, consenting body language and proposal of policies that seek to favour the herders and their herd, without sparing a thought for those whose farmlands have been decimated, crops gone, the herdsmen will continue carrying out their horrendous expedition knowing full well that they’ll neither be arrested nor prosecuted.

Is there any Fulani herdsman that has ever been arrested or persecuted for murder? Has the President ever spoken in a manner that shows he truly frowns at the wanton killings by herdsmen and taken concrete steps to nip their evil activities in the bud?

This is a critical moment for which all hands must be on deck before the incident in Mkpat Enin spreads and trickles down to other communities in the state. 

Will we fold our hands and watch them turn this part into a slaughterhouse? 

Kenneth Jude, a public affairs analyst, writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

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