OPINION: PASTORALISTS AND FARMERS CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA: TIME FOR FULANI CAPITALISM, NOT HERDSMEN TERRORISM

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka’s country home in the forest area of Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, has reportedly been invaded allegedly by herdsmen. Although the police have denied the invasion of Soyinka’s sanctuary, he has confirmed that the peace of his abode was indeed violated by herdsmen and their cattle herd, but he successfully repelled them.

Now, if indeed the residence of the Nobel laureate was breached by cattle herd and their rearers , it would be a new inglorious crown on the ongoing tension between herders and farmers in South West Nigeria which has thrown up unlikely and accidental heroes like the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu and Sunday Igboho, the new self-acclaimed generalisimo of Yoruba nation.

Akeredolu has become an usual hero for issuing a quit order to bandits disguised as herders from the forests of Ondo State and Igboho, is also an accidental hero for giving an ultimatum to quit the forests of Oyo, where the presumed criminal elements masquerading as herders, are equally accused of unleashing mayhem on innocent indigenes of host communities.

Incidentally, the quit notices to herdsmen/bandits from the forests of Ondo and Oyo States are echoes of a similar order that had been given to bandits cloaked as herdsmen to quit Ekiti forests about five years ago by Ayodele Fayose, then Ekiti State Governor.

So, the pattern of criminality by bandits that take up abode in the forests and commit crimes in the townships and then retreat to the forests has persisted in the south west for over half a decade. Bearing in mind that in 2015, Chief Olu Falae, former Secretary to the Federal Government, SGF and presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1999 was kidnapped in his farm allegedly by herdsmen, who later released him, the current reason for clearing up the forests may become clearer. Even as Olu Falae escaped with his life to tell the story, in November 2020, which is five years after, his farm was again invaded by herdsmen a second time, and the farm and crops were set on fire by the bandits.

Often, victims of the killer herdsmen don’t escape with their lives. The outcome of an encounter with bandits, for the daughter of Chief Rueben Fasoranti, a famous Yoruba political leader, was different as she did not live to tell the story.

In 2013, two years prior to Falae’s close shave with death in the hands of the outlaws, Mrs Funke Fasoranti-Olaokunrin was shot to death when she was traveling on Ore- Ondo express way by suspected bandits masquerading as herdsmen.

Some of the alleged murderers were arrested, but the outcome of the prosecution of the case has been woolly.

It is deeply concerning that all these dastardly acts by alleged bandits/herdsmen have been occurring in the forests of western Nigeria and indeed Nigeria as a whole for nearly a decade, yet the criminality was not nipped in the bud.That’s simply because a clear cut decision on how to deal with the crime and the perpetrators were being politicized. It is only now that the mayhem from armed bandits disguised as herdsmen is proliferating and popping up around the country with counter and defense actions against them by the kith and kin of their victims , that the authorities seem to be scrambling to find solutions as reflected by the scurry of meetings by Northern Governors Forum and subsequently Nigerian Governors Forum.

Metaphorically, it is only after the cancer has metastasized that the doctor’s attention is being sought with a view to curing the disease.

In any case , as the saying goes, it’s never too late to act, even though the current frenzied efforts by governors may be too little, too late.

Be that as it may , one pertinent question that’s begging for an answer is: can’t it be ascertained if the banditry being committed is by the real cattle herders or by criminal elements masquerading as pastoralists?

Therein lies the dilemma and the elephant in the room.

Now, to get to the root of the crisis , should Myetti Allah, the umbrella body of cattle herders allow the criminal activities of presumably a few misguided members or criminal elements that might have infiltrated its ranks be allowed to continue to tarnish their image resulting in genuine cattle herders becoming targets of anger and counter violence by the kith and kin of the victims of their atrocities?

Or should the umbrella body self regulate by fishing out for discipline, those giving the majority a bad name?

In my view, those are the necessary first steps towards reversing the current fast moving train of violence that our beloved country seem to have boarded and which can only lead to a train station of perdition.

To be clear, all the quit notices were issued for the same case of invasion and the take over of the forests in the western region by heavily armed men disguised as herdsmen, making the hitherto serene forests toxic.

Could the forceful occupation of bandits of forests in Yoruba land be a case of another Sambisa forest in north east Nigeria in the making in the south west?

Bearing in mind that the dreaded forest in Borno state only became the home base for terrorists, cattle rustlers and generally an ungoverned area when the outlaws were allowed to reign supreme over the vast virgin land, it is most likely that it is in the bid to prevent a similar scenario with Sambisa being reinvented in the south west, that the quit notices to the bandits were issued by the authorities in line with the conventional wisdom-a stitch in time saves nine. That’s in addition to the fact that the escalation of the hostilities has been hindering the ancestral owners of the land from engaging in farming and hunting, which are their means of livelihood and sustenance, without which they would basically be doomed. So to the owners of the invaded forests, it is a question of survival.

That this malady has persisted for over half a decade, yet not much has been demonstrably done to arrest the situation before it deteriorated to its current crisis level is very dispiriting.

This is more so as the authorities should have learnt from the horrific experiences of the good people of Benue State where there has been a harvest of deaths in the Benue troughs arising from similar invasion of farms by marauders masquerading as herders.

 

 

Not taking preemptive actions by our leaders to avert the clear and present dangers illustrates the consistent pattern of cataclysmic management of the herdsmen-farmers crisis now bedeviling our country.

In fact the failure of our leaders to manage the herders-farmers relationship reminds me of the failure to manage COVID-19 pandemic properly by the 45th president of the USA , Donald J Trump resulting in the loss of his re-election bid last year, November .

Clearly, on the matter of security of lives and properties, our leaders have once again been derelict, particularly with respect to avoiding the very dangerous direction that the entire country currently appears to be heading, if concerted efforts are not made to halt the spiraling disorder.

For the umpteenth time, let me ask the question:is a scenario akin to the evolution of boko haram being re-enacted by playing politics with a crisis that is highly volatile and thus has the capacity to exact huge death toll and threaten the continued peaceful existence of our country ?

We will have ourselves to blame, if our leaders allow the crisis in the forests of Yoruba land to become another blithe or as incurable as the malignant tumor like the grievous harm being inflicted by religious insurgents such as boko haram and ISWAP that started in the north east, before spreading to the rest of the north and is currently precipitating a debilitating and catastrophic damage to rest of our country; simply because government has abdicated its responsibility to forestall the imminent danger.

To refresh the minds of readers about how our dearly beloved nation arrived at this despicable juncture where we are faced with a Hobbesian choice of life and death situation , despite concerted calls to avoid the looming disaster via practical advise by well meaning Nigerians , please allow me reproduce my nearly three (3) years old piece on the same issue that was first published widely on online and traditional media platforms since September,2018.

It’s titled Herdsmen Killings: “How Nigeria Can Move From

Chaos To Community.”

In the piece , l addressed the crisis which had reached a tipping point about three years ago and proposed solutions such as the ones now being advanced by northern governors forum and in particular, Kano state governor Umar Ganduje after their recent emergency meeting to address the increasing drum beat of war sounding in yoruba forests and indeed other parts of the southern region of the country owing to herdsmen menace.

If the practical advise contained in my piece was heeded about three years ago, many innocent lives could have been saved.

Here we go:

“As Nigerians, our common goal should be shared prosperity.

Since herdsmen are part of Nigeria, we must all do everything to integrate them into the loop of a prosperous Nigeria.

And one of the most appropriate and universally acknowledged pathways to prosperity, as validated by Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men and founder of Microsoft is innovation.

Not just by harnessing natural resources like oil and gas, solid minerals or engaging in animal husbandry using crude methods, but by leveraging science and technology in the ways production of goods or service delivery are carried out.

Arising from the above, to thrive in this new age of technology, as individuals and a nation, we must set our eyes on innovation.

It may not be the sort of high technology that was introduced by Mr. Gates through Microsoft that earned him (at one time) the title of the richest man in the world.

But even improvements that are a few notches above crudity, such as changing from nomadic herdsman-ship to ranching, could make a significant difference in the life of a nation such as Nigeria.

As part of his philanthropic endeavours, Mr. Gates recently identified Nigeria as a country with enormous potentials to lead Africa through the development of her sizable and young but unskilled Human Resources.

With a burgeoning youth population estimated to be in excess of 60% in a country of about 180 million people, Mr. Gates identified Nigeria as the most viable launch pad for Africa’s development and extended a hand of fellowship and partnership towards helping her harness the potentials.

But characteristically, some top apparatchiks in government who don’t share Mr. Gate’s point of view, ostensibly because of their restricted worldview constrained by some primordial sentiments, rebuffed him.

Fortunately, prosperity for all Nigerians does not solely depend on government, of which it is incumbent to provide the enabling environment for socioeconomic growth and development.

Rather, harnessing of prosperity potentials should be mainly driven by the private sector.

At this juncture, it is worth emphasising that Steve Job/Tim Cook of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page of Google and Elon Musk of Tesla amongst other multi billionaires who got rich through technology developed in the USA, now being sold to the rest of the world, did not become wealthy on account of government patronage. But government created the enabling environment for the innovation and introduction of products and services with universal appeal by the inventors which has also made the US very rich.

Put simply, the prosperity of the aforementioned American entrepreneurs was made possible through creative ingenuity facilitated by government, which only created the enabling environment.

So lbrahim Gambari, said it best when he recently posited that the solution to herdsmen and farmers clashes with the catastrophic fallouts evidenced by monumental loss of lives, does not rest on government alone, but it needs to be driven by the private sector as well.

In aligning with Gambari, who was a United Nations (UN) undersecretary and as such, a top diplomat that has engaged in conflict resolutions all over the world, it’s about time Nigerians stopped considering the herdsmen killings and the colossal collateral damage to lives and properties from the narrow prism of ethnicity and religion.

Rather, government should start viewing it from the wider optics of socioeconomic challenge, which needs practical solution.

The search for solution should be devoid of ethnic or religious attachments but driven by the objective of converting an existential crisis into an economic opportunity.

In my considered opinion, that is the clearest pathway to a sustainable solution to the menace of wanton killings by herdsmen that is unduly sapping the energy of the country’s security agencies.

It does not help that our President, Muhammadu Buhari, keeps attributing the human carnage arising from herdsmen killings in the Sahel and plateaus areas of our country to the drying up of Lake Chad and influx of displaced Libya-trained militia, because it is way beyond that.

Those may be the primary or remote causes of the herdsmen/farmers clashes, but the crisis has become hydra headed and government authorities must stop living in denial by failing to recognise that the politics of religion and ethnicity which has polarised the nation is the current energy fueling the security chasm.

For instance, was the Lake Chad not drying up and was Libyan militia not existing before the advent of this administration? Why were the herdsmen not as ferocious and as emboldened as they are now?

I understand that the herdsmen and local indigenes conflicts in the Sahel and plateau is as old as the migration of the Fulani from Fouta Djallon mountains in the West African country of Guinea, centuries ago.

After the initial armed conflicts, the Fulani migrants and their Hausa hosts learnt to live in harmony with the neighbouring Tiv, Jukun, Idoma, Berom and Angas in the Middle Belt and Sahel regions of Northern Nigeria.

It’s noteworthy that tension and animosity associated with settlers and their hosts never degenerated to the current level, except during the jihad.

Obviously, something has gone awry in the polity in the past three and half years and the reason can be drilled down to what l would like to term leadership miasma.

It may not be deliberate, but it is possible that President Buhari’s body language is sending the wrong signal to the herdsmen.

For instance, at one point our president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria expressed concern that the herdsmen killings were politically motivated. He then laid the blame on saboteurs from the opposition parties whom he accused of trying to destabilise his government.

But like the earlier attribution of the killings to climate change and Libyan militia, the claim that the killings were politically motivated has been without conclusive evidence as it should.

Thereafter, Mr. President seemed to have reversed himself in the course of his recent trip to China by reportedly attributing the killings once again to climate change and blaming the media for orchestrating the violence.

That’s the same line our president toed when he was hosted by the US President, Donald Trump in the White House earlier in the year; he did same thing while he was attending the African Union meeting in Ethiopia, just as he also did in the UK during his last visit.

It would appear as if Mr. President has two views on herdsmen killings- one for his international audience and another for the local audience.

For his international audience, climate change and Libyan militia are the culprits and for Nigerians, he insists that the killings by herdsmen is motivated by political opponents who want to destabilise his government.

Assuming l’m correct in my assessment, the approach is confusing and would make finding a solution very difficult, if not impossible.

As such, Mr. President must make himself clearer.

And that’s a task which Presidential spokesmen – Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu – must redouble their efforts to achieve, so that majority of Nigerians would stop misunderstanding their president.

There is no better evidence of a disconnect between the current leadership and majority of Nigerians than the polarisation of the country along ethnic and religious lines that now defines our country.

Is the indisputable fact that a large proportion of Nigerians feel alienated by the leadership not chaotic?

Is that not the justification for the threat of secession by the Igbo via the action of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement that left a bad taste in the mouth of both the secessionists and security agencies that have been accused of human rights abuse in light of the deadly force applied in dealing with the agitators?

In my estimation (which hopefully is not naive) polarising the country along sectarian fault lines is an antithesis to what President Buhari stands for as reflected by his oft requoted inaugural day speech “l belong to no one, l belong to everyone”.

Without further equivocation and in the light of the foregoing, the Presidency must elect to make some progress and stop considering the national malady of herdsmen killings from the narrow perspective of climate change and fallouts of Libyan militia only.

The havoc being wreaked on unarmed Nigerians by herdsmen militia who are systematically hewing down and hacking to death fellow Nigerians is a socioeconomic issue that should task the creativity of our development economists and strategists.

It is based on the strength of the above precept that l’m proposing a concept that l would like to refer to as FulaniCapitalism as a viable solution to the seemingly intractable herdsmen killings that have practically put our country in perpetual mourning mode as hardly any day passes by without deaths arising from killer herdsmen.

Before proceeding to the nitty gritty, permit me to introduce you to the concept of FulaniCapitalism which is a variant of Africapitalism-a pseudo or hybrid business/social investment model being promoted by Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings.

As earlier stated, the underpinning philosophy behind FulaniCapitalism is similar to the raison d’être for Africapitalism, which is the creation of job opportunities for Africans by Africans in ways that the host communities of the business are not exploited but empowered by the presence of the corporate entity.

A sort of symbiotic relationship between entrepreneurs and host communities.

FulaniCapitalism is conceptualised to catalyse and drive the concept of cattle ranching to discourage or displace the current nomadic practice of animal husbandry. It is so named because it is the Fulani that are undeniably, inherently the predominant pastoralists in Nigeria.

The whole idea is to overtly or covertly persuade the well-heeled or deep pocket Fulani men and women to strategically invest in ranches to facilitate the change of the lifestyle of the nomadic herdsmen and offer them more reliable as well as better return on their investments and efforts.

Given the strategic role that cattle ranches, (as opposed to nomadic animal husbandry) can play in stemming the ugly tide of human carnage arising from herdsmen killings, investing in ranches (confining animal husbandry within a farming space) by successful men/women of Fulani extraction needs no further elucidation because it is both a social and economic investment.

By this, l mean that rather than wait for government to set up ranches, Fulani men and women of means (who are in their legions) should make deliberate and conscious effort to invest in ranches, which would serve as sanctuaries for cows and those who tend them because it is financiall

***Magnus ONYIBE, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst ,author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former Commissioner in Delta State Government, sent this piece from Lagos.