HOLY COW!

Fulani herdsmen 01

The White Paper

The Nigerian government wants to establish “cattle colonies”. There is none in the world, except Pakistan with one cattle and beef trade centre . . .

“Holy Cow!” which dates back to 1905 is a humorous exclamation of surprise or dismay. Cattle, colloquially cows, are domesticated ungulates. Holy Cow is also a film by Imam Hasanov. One man’s dream of bringing an European cow to his village in Azerbaijan unsettles the community who see a threat. Some consider cattle the oldest form of wealth, and cattle raiding consequently one of the earliest forms of theft. Requests and pledges for protecting grazing spaces and cattle passages have been contentious.

The estimated total cattle population in Nigeria is twenty five million. Fulani herdsmen herd these animals menacingly into arable farmlands destroying the livelihoods of Nigerian farmers in the southeast, southwest, south south and the middle belt regions. A centuries-old tradition of a people having no permanent abode, who travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for their livestock, in this technologically-advanced 21st century – is threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.

Historians have written that there is a correlation between settlement and Islam. The Fulani are traditionally nomadic cattle herders of Muslim faith; pastoralists who have herded cattle for centuries in search of grazing land and water. Fula people, with Arabic and North African roots, adopted Islam early. According to David Levison, adopting Islam made the Fulani feel a “cultural and religious superiority to surrounding peoples, and that adoption became a major ethnic boundary marker” between them and other African ethnic groups in Sahel and the West African subregion.

Hon. Aishatu Dukku (Gombe) hollered: “Yes, the herdsman values even the life of the cow more than his own life. That is how God has created him.” Chairman of Miyetti Allah North-East, Alhaji Mafindi Danburam, backed Dukku, saying that God created a Fulani man to value a cow’s life more than a human’s life, “. . . If a Fulani herdsman doesn’t have cows, his life is worth nothing . . . His only jewel is a cow. A Fulani herdsman without a cow is a nobody . . . if you kill a Fulani herdsman, expect his men to come for a reprisal”. With a ringing declaration of support, the aforesaid Miyetti Allah statement rings a dark and foreboding reminder and intimidation against future Fulani herdsmen forays into farmlands.

In reaction to Fulani herdsmen rampaging across the country, Prof. Wole Soyinka said: “Yes, indeed the government is culpable, definitely guilty of looking the other way”. On June 2, 2016, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, released a census of livestock in Nigeria. The 2011 National Agricultural Sample Survey indicated that Nigeria had an estimated 19.5 million cattle. Since then, their population has leaped as non-Nigerian Fulani pastoralists migrated through porous borders, southward bound. They embarked on the destruction of farmlands and when the farmers resisted, as they should, marauded butchery ensued in earnest.

Fulani cattle rearing . Fulani herdsmen & cattle

Former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Danjuma (rtd.), on March 24, 2018 raised alarm: “. . . There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing . . . in Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it . . . Our Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians. The Armed Forces guide their movements. They cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one . . . Somalia will be a child’s play . . . defend your country, defend your territory and defend your state. Defend yourselves . . .”

The Nigerian government wants to establish “cattle colonies”. There is none in the world, except Pakistan with one cattle and beef trade centre. A colony is a country or area under the full or partial political control of another country, typically a distant one, and occupied by settlers from that country. Any attempt at colonization is a takeover bid. In Edo state, cows have taken over many schools. Cows took over Akure Airport in early February 2018 as Air Peace flight 7002 with 65 passengers hovered in the air and could not land after hordes of cows invaded the runway. These animals are everywhere!

Technically, a colony is a group of people of one nationality or ethnic group living in a foreign territory. What did the framers of the cattle colonies have in mind? Traditionally, settlement of Fulani herdsmen depended on the number of years they stayed at one spot, based on two factors: the reaction of the landowners to their presence and the availability of pastures for their cattle. Critics postulate that these planned “colonies” may be a grand plan to institute a Fulani 19th century imperialism across Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari has denied it.

The Land Use Act may be used in this grand plan. Under this act, the Federal Government can acquire indigenous luxuriant farmlands of bucolic village communities to host Fulani Herdsmen’s cattle colonies. Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai recently stated that the Nigerian Army would be raising cattle ranches in almost all the divisions and brigades. The army had sent officers to Argentina to learn cattle rearing. The intention of the army is not just to secure Nigeria, but to contribute in growing the economy. While they are at it, terrorists “abducted and returned” the DapchiGirls and Fulani herdsmen perfected their human butcheries with alacrity.

Separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, had said “Nigeria is a zoo”. While I disagreed with Kanu’s Biafra irredentism, Nigeria has become a wild zoo – where there is a conflict of interest between cattle and humans; where Fulani behave as if the right to herd cattle is a fundamental human right; where many Nigerians are homeless and defenceless but cows have bodyguards wielding AK-47 rifles; where the Nigerian government is an activist for pastoral-nomadism; where the Fulani hegemonic class will be ascendant under the guise of cattle colonies. Many Nigerians say the “ethnic cleansing” alarm by Danjuma is timely. The excitement of APC’s “Change” which swept Nigerians off their feet, ushering in the Buhari administration in 2015 has dissipated – as the national policy on the protection of “rights to welfare” of cattle looms large. Holy cow!

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By: Nnamdi Ebo
The White Paper |
Political scientist | Lawyer | Author | Social commentator | THISDAY Contributor | Scholar in Legal literature & Politics | Online Newspaper Publisher | Blogger | NR Columnist

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