Behind the herdsmen

There is an increased outcry that Fulani herdsmen were responsible for Chief Falae’s kidnap because he had previously had a dispute with the group who grazed their cattle on his farm destroying the crops along the way.

I had my experience with Fulani, only that I am not certain we are directing our frustrations to the right group of people.

Six or so years ago, there were talks about cattle grazing in my parents’ neighbourhood. Target areas are usually empty land where cattle can stay for a little while munching on vegetations.

The problem is that herding cattle through neighbourhood always leave residents with unsightly dung on walk paths – not very nice especially that the owners are usually faceless. Also, it is becoming increasingly difficult to plant any crops on empty land without the fear they will be trampled on by cattle.

Community elders’ efforts to speak with the herdsman failed, I was told this particular group is led by a teenager who always signalled not to understand what the local people are saying.

Chief Falae’s kidnap was said to be Fulani herdsmen. I am still a bit sceptical as I know there is nothing stopping anyone to disguise to be whoever they wanted to be in the name of extorting cash from fellow citizens they considered rich/important.

This time I learnt that one of the reasons why south had a surge in cattle herding was because local people have also invested in the trade, so not all cattle around us were 100% owned by the Fulanis, teenagers commonly seeing herding are on payroll.

So rather than turning this cattle glazing into another tribal war why can’t we find solutions that fits in to modern Nigeria where everyone is welcome in all our regions.

I find Senator Ben Murray-Bruce proposed solutions to grazing issue a necessary step that Nigeria must take to avoid needless clash and finger-pointing.

“We should restore the ancient grazing routes of Fulani pastoralists. Both the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Ministry of Lands should work with the apex Fulani pastoral association, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, to revive these routes and where there have been farms or houses built on these routes, alternative routes must be found.” Senator Ben Murray-Bruce.

One other interesting point that Senator Murray-Bruce mentioned in this article was the reality that Nigeria must face, we have grown significantly bigger in population since 1960s, therefore our lifestyle must reflect this, we can not afford to just let things happen on its own. Orderliness must be put in place with plans that incorporate the needs of Nigerians in mind.

This is not me defending Fulani herdsmen in any sense, definitely not after I had to wait in the middle of the road on Easter Monday 2013 during highway robbery allegedly performed by the Fulanis.

Like many Nigerians travelling on Ibadan-Lagos Express, I have heard a lot of unfortunate events happened to innocent Nigerians, this day was no exception. It was around 1pm, the road was not as busy as it used to because of the holiday.

Our car came to abrupt stop as the cars ahead were making emergency U turns. Thankfully, the driver is well familiar with this road and its many unpleasant stories. We were about five vehicles or so to the attacked ones, robbers were only able to attack two cars, the vehicle following the last attacked one was a mini bus, the driver was able to act quickly, so ended up telling the crowd of what he saw of the robbers.

The mini bus driver insisted that the robbers were Fulanis, no guns was involved as that might attract attention of road safety officers, it was a few of them with herdsman’s stick being used to smash the car windscreen.

I ask how sure he was that these guys were Fulanis – his only reason was the way they dressed and the sticks.

How hard is it for anyone to dress up like a Fulani or anyone for that matter?

We must have been on the road waiting for about half hour but it felt like a lot longer. Getting to the spot of the attack, it was clear why the spot was used – there were big pot holes in the middle of a motor way that requires vehicles to travel at a slow, making it a perfect spot for mid-day criminal activities.

Now pointing fingers seems to be doing nothing to resolve the problem of grazing, robbery and kidnapping for ransom.

I can only hope the government has a plan of resolving this before it gets out of proportion.



Categories: Nigeria

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13 replies

  1. Yesterday I was at a funeral of a neighbor that was gunned down by Fulani herdsmen. He was on his way to his village in Southern Kaduna state, to visit his aged parents. He was murdered in the bush, along with the okada rider taking him on the hour long ride through foot-paths. The Fulani men were lurking in the tall farm crops waiting. He is the eight young man from his village killed in this manner, this year alone.They target the young men mainly.

    This Fulani surge is beyond what most Nigerians realize, at least here in the north. Murray Bruce doesn’t fully comprehend how intricate situation is. He is proposing we should restore the ancient grazing routes of Fulani’s. That is a joke. What was termed as ancient routes are un-documented trails through empty lands that have since been turned to farmlands and parts of expanding villages and towns. You need to hear the leadership of the so-called apex Fulani association, (Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association) rant about their rights to other communities ancestral lands, just like that. I call them so-called because they have no full control over the Fulani herds who just do as the please.

    His second point about modernizing our ways in regards to the Fulani herders makes a lot of sense. These Fulani herders must be made aware that juggle justice, land grabbing, killing, thievery is not the modern civilized way. They either comply or are made to. Period!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this Yas. And sorry to hear about your neighbour’s murder, very sad. Interesting they target young men, why is that?

      That is a valid point that many of us do not realise the enormity of this problem, one of the reasons for this is because we all (each region) suffer from the same problem alone and are separately passive-aggressive, waiting until we have had enough before bursting…very sad.

      This is why I thought having a hotline both at the state and federal level where people can call to make reports of murder, grazing atrocities is essential.

      Completely agree that the Fulanis can not be exempted from the rules others are made to comply with, I bet with research into routes suitable for grazing all over the country, we can definitely come up with plans to compensate land owners if their farms are affected then in turn levy the herders using the routes.

      Haha – this will force Nigeria to look into land issue, the area they are not too keen on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I guess they target the young men because the presence of young men mean the most resistance to their land grabbing methods.

        I have seen past arrangements handled by local, state and federal authorities aiming to compensate local farmer for their lands & make turn them into grazing fields fail woefully. That is always a tall order. Farmers never want to leave their ancestral lands or move far away from their homes & villages. The herders want the choicest lands near the rivers & streams the irrigating farmers own. Seasonal changes still means the herders will still want to move to other parts for fresh pasture. The government never comes true with good resettlement & adequate compensation arrangements. It is one huge tall order.

        My idea of a solution: Massive mechanized cattle breeding projects in areas with large concentration of Fulani herders.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good idea re mechanised cattle breeding centres. However, given the size of our country and climate differences, it still means herders would have strategic base in many parts of the country and we should be able to achieve this without causing harm to one another.

          What I have seen is total disregard to other’s concerns, this will likely continue with the government taking shortcut to solve the problem.

          16 million people 100 years ago is completely different ball game for 160M of today, without some sort of firm rules to guide behaviour, wahala likely to continue.

          Having said that, everything has a price, a farmer (ancestral land or not) who makes 10k naira per annum tending his farm would be more than happy to work for another bigger farm where he is able to make double the amount. Now, he can afford to send children to school and up his standard of life – ancestral lands all have prices.

          It is sad that land is the most valuable asset and yet most wasteful in Nigeria, even in my area, we’ll rather have the land stay idle than make best use of it due to sentiments.

          I think government just have to take responsibility to research into the best way to deal with this in the way that all is fairly happy in the end. With digital age, we have plant of examples from other nations to learn from.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. FK, I like your attitude and approach, slow to accuse and open-minded and fair.

    The Fulani question can be a little tricky, other than the Hausa (and a few others) , they seem to have antagonised many peoples they come across (from Mambila to Kwara and many points in between) – due to their inconsiderate cattle practices.

    Senator Murray-Bruce is right to say that talks should be held with their apex organisation (Miyetti Allah), and an orderly agreement be put in place that is respected throughout the various states. The fact that you could point to local examples of blatant disregard to the rights of the locals is an example of disrespect and lack of consideration on the part of the Fulani (Fulfude, or Peul) people. Who ever leads the various herds should be able to speak at least English and Hausa and preferably a local language if that is where they spend a large proportion of their time, it should be someone wise preferably an elder, not a youth who may not know how to read or write.

    Yes, you said that some people were now raising cattle in the south, this should all be planned and overseen by a regulatory authority, so that it is managed and sustainable. If every Ade, Chukwu and Idris decided to raise cattle – Nigeria would become a desert plagued by famine and dying cattle, which charaterises the Sahelian belt.

    One has to recognise that land in Nigeria is not infinite, so land can’t be allocated as before given the realities on the ground. Also has anyone ever questioned is this the most optimum way to raise cattle? There isn’t room for ever expanding herds, so alternative methods and solutions need to be put in place. The Fulani can’t continuously keep expanding their numbers and say it is their only means of livelihood, they should be given training to raise alternative sources of income. Given that drought is not unusual in the north and the south is already crowded, this would be a wise course of action.

    How someone dresses as you rightly pointed out doesn’t necessarily identify them, given that Nigeria abounds in criminal opportunists – this is an avenue they are only too keen to exploit. The other key question is what has happened to the police, are they on holiday too? I’m sure you had mobile phones in 2013 in your trip, so why didn’t anyone who witnessed the robbery call the police. Day light robbery can occur and not a thing is done by the relevant authorities. To my mind this is a really bad state of affairs. Keeping the major transportation arteries clear and safe is vital and should not be compromised. The free flow of traffic and goods is important. Lagos and Ibadan are the two largest cities, so if it can’t be done there, then where?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you.

      Glad you liked Senator Ben’s proposal, the guy makes sense sometimes and this issue can not be left alone without government intervention. Trouble makers are eager to turn everything to political fight for wrong reasons.

      On the highway robbery, on this particular day Easter Monday of 2013, there were no single road safely officer around. We didn’t see any all the way from Ife to this point, this can only be because of the holiday. Many people made calls to friends and family to alert the police, some of the commercial bus had several police numbers to call – nobody showed up for the whole 30 mins or so we were there.

      I had thought the incidence would be on newspaper next day, no it wasn’t. I suppose I Should have reported it but I was too scared at the scene to take any photo as evidence.

      The other day I shared this experience with a fellow blogger, whose husband was mugged by the ‘Fulanis’ somewhere in Sekona Osun. With the new business breakthrough of kidnap for ransom, the road is a bit better now.

      Then if you look at all this herding/Fulani issue, one can see the age long talk of land ownership raring its head but Nigeria government perhaps think it a complicated issue, it won’t get any easier ignoring it either.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Because an issue is complicated is no excuse for government to duck its responsibilities, if the issue is beyond them, they should do the right thing and step down, so that someone else who is capable can do the job.
        We have seen what has happened in Plateau, and the Mambila incident (Yerwa), no to mention the problems in Nassarawa, all because of lack of a wide ranging comprehensive agreement which should be enforced.
        With all this ‘religion’ everywhere, one would have thought that there would be no room for criminality in Nigeria, the opposite is nearer the truth.
        What can be done about it, Nigeria seems to descending to new depths of depravity? Kidnapping was the domain of countries like Colombia, they have now brought that under control (though it still exists to a lesser degree). I can’t see Nigeria snuffing this thing out any time soon.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ok, you make me giggle, sorry. But Nigerians, especially the most incompetent will never step down…

          I actually don’t think many of our problems are as complicated as our leaders/elders made it to be. We are lucky that there are many nations we can learn from, if we really wanted to.

          With the kidnapping spree, I totally agree that realistic approach to stop it must be done. Citizens keep paying ransom to get their loved ones out of the lion’s den, without government help, it will only get uglier.

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          • I guess that is British naivety… but I have observed this first hand in both Britain and Australia, and seen it in the US and elsewhere. One is doing no justice to oneself and more importantly to the people that rely on you doing your job well.

            I think inaction over many issues is due to politicians not wanting to fall out of favour with ‘vested interests’ – but they have to understand that they will need courage and should keep their eyes focused on the national good. Like you said with the grazing issue/land issue failure to take action will only make matters worse, the evidence exists on the ground throughout Central Nigeria.

            If I had no experience of Nigeria, the stories you relay would make one think that Nigeria is not a nice place, there are nice spots without a doubt. But contemporary Nigeria seems to be getting worse on many fronts.

            How one goes about combating kidnapping, will require a massive investment in the police and surveillance, which no one is willing to pay for.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Oh well, this is what Ms Adichie calls Danger of a Single Story. You would be forgiven to think Nigeria is not a nice place based on my stories if this were to be say 20 years ago. But today, there are many ways to learn about Nigeria and Nigerians.

              What I am usually drawn to is the side of our story that we don’t talk about and for some reason we expect people/things to change by magic.

              Take for example the talk about Nigerians in the States having the highest number of educated family amongst minority groups. Non Nigerians may automatically think our public schools are the best in the world. And of course this would not make sense if after 50 years of sending people to study abroad, we failed to develop our own schools to acceptable standard.
              See here: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/nigeria/487468/pdfs/JanuaryEducationFactSheet.pdf

              If you heard the story about the national train transformation a few years ago, then one is likely to have mental picture of trains filled with human – however, if my sister tells you that her train from Minna contains human and horses in the same carriage – there is another picture, the one we choose to ignore.

              You get the gist… one of the reasons social injustice continues is because if we are not directly affected, we tend to ignore it.

              On kidnapping, for Nigeria to invest on anything, it has to affect the VIPs first. Sad but that is our ‘other’ side. Reportedly, some of Chief Falae’s abductors have been arrested. Let’s hope their identities is made public.

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              • Now that you have explained it so well, I understand your stand point. Several months ago, there were a load of Nigerians working for WHO, one was a former health minister under the Jonathan administration, another was based in South Africa and was concerned with population control. Like South Africa has a population problem!! What about his native Nigeria? – One would think that Nigeria had a decent healthcare system, as we know this is not the case.
                When I was 13, before I visited Nigeria, my head was full of the nonsense my Dad would tell me about Nigeria, and he had introduced me many of his professional friends. So I was under the impression that Nigeria is the next South Korea or Malaysia, nothing could be further from the truth. So I fully understand and appreciate your view on shining a light on aspects of life there, that Nigerians are only to ready to ignore, gloss over or simply deny. Problems can never be fixed by ignoring them. The magic solution to date simply hasn’t worked, it will take discussion, thought and application. I believe you do discuss and think, though you may not be in a position to apply it. Maybe others might read and learn and apply…

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