Those who own the cows roaming other people’s homesteads, whether in the northern or southern part of our beleaguered country, may actually have blood on their hands, without realising it. In their naivety (criminal?), they may be postulating that they are not the gun-men killing in the name of cows, neither have they procured the killers. But those who hand over their cows to itinerant herdsmen to roam the homesteads by that act may actually be accessory to the killings.
As argued by some of the apologists of the armed killer herdsmen, the crisis bedevilling the northern part of the country, which has now mutated into mass kidnapping as an economic activity, is the result of ethnic warfare over cattle rustling. So, if you handed over your cows to herdsmen to roam the wild and the result is mayhem and killings, you are as guilty as the herders and their armed wing that kill to protect cows from farm-owners.
A leading figure amongst the apologists, and governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, in justifying the carrying of arms by Fulani herdsmen contended that the armed herdsmen are protecting themselves from cattle rustling. That argument may be one of the original reasons for bearing arms. But a prognosis of the crisis will show that cattle rustling may have become an economic activity, because of the destructive activities of the cows, which has made normal farming activity useless.
So, if farmers whose farms have been destroyed by herders have turned to cattle rustling as an economic activity, the blame should fairly go to the owners of cows which roamed about and destroyed the farms. Unfortunately because the herders come from a privileged class, what originally may have been precipitated by their actions are now pushed forward as a reason why they should be allowed to illegally bear arms.
Of course, the herders and their armed wing that are paid to defend the archaic culture are mere couriers of death. Those who procure death as an economic activity are the owners of the destructive cows. So, the next time you meet any person (Fulani or non-Fulani) who boast of owning cows, the question to ask is, where are your cows? While it is legitimate to practice the culture of one’s ancestors, like rearing cows, it is only fair to ask those concerned whether their cows are roaming the hinterland and causing death and mayhem to their fellow citizens.
So, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, this writer asks you: where are your cows? It is important that the governor understands that if he owns any of the cows roaming parts of Nigeria, then he may have blood on his hands. The same question applies to all elite Fulani who understandably take pride in engaging in the cultural proclivities of their illustrious ancestors. There is no doubt that the Fulani has a rich history of being herders, and agreeably they deserve to be proud of that.
But just as it was macho and a sign of virility for Fulani men to tend cows in the bush and fend of wild beats in the past, or get beaten with canes to earn the right to a bride in the past; in the modern times, it is cowardly to steer the cows into the private homes and farms of fellow citizens, and brutally assault them when they confront you for destroying their homesteads.
For this writer it is criminally unconscionable for those who are living in big mansions to pretend to be cultural activists, by allowing their less fortunate brothers to still roam the wild in the name of practising an archaic culture. If these privileged few, especially those of them in positions of authority, believe the practice of roaming the wild with cows is worth retaining, they should allow some of their own children to engage in it.
When Governor Bala Mohammed and his supporters push the argument that because the practice of roaming the wild is dangerous and governments have failed to provide security, therefore the Fulani herdsmen should be allowed to carry guns, they are turning logic on its head. As elected representatives of the people (both Fulani and non-Fulani), it is their responsibility to promote a fair and equitable economic environment for every citizen. That responsibility includes steering the herders away from any practice inimical to their own well-being.
To allow the herders to engage in an economic activity that exposes them and their fellow citizens to danger is a failure of governance. To encourage them to engage in unlawful activity like carrying guns illegally to further their dangerous economic activity amounts to criminal collusion. So, those in positions of authority who openly argue that herders are entitled to carry guns, should be tried for criminal conspiracy to engage in the unlawful conduct of bearing firearms illegally.
For if we accept the logic of the apologists, then it is what started off as destructive activity of herders who engaged in indiscriminate open grazing on farm lands that morphed into cattle rustling. And it is those who suffer the dispossession from cattle rustlers that now bear arms to protect themselves. With the cattle herders overpowering them and freely destroying their farms, the farmers have in turn acquired their own guns, to further the cattle rustling and other criminal activities.
From cattle rustling, the bandits have grown in stature and have taken to kidnapping as a more lucrative criminal activity. The above scenario may not be far away from the tragedy that has befallen Nigeria, particularly northern Nigeria. Those who have no economic activity to sustain them like the grown up Almajiri children, criminally abandoned by the state (again in the name of cultural proclivities) may also have joined to swell the ranks of the bandits that have rendered boarding in secondary schools a dangerous social behaviour.
With the north already lagging behind educationally, and with the Boko Haram’s war on education, this latest practice of kidnapping of secondary school boarders, as a pastime, may be the death knell on education. So, unless the tide is reversed, the northern part of Nigeria may soon become one of the most dangerous places to live in the world. For many with separatist disposition, the northern part of Nigeria is a drag on the southern part, so they don’t mind an end to the relationship.
While disintegration should be a far-fetched contemplation, efforts must be made to stop the haemorrhaging in the north. The answer does not lie in bearing illegal firearms; neither does it lie in enforcing the archaic culture of open grazing. Without doubt, those elite whose cattle roam the countryside may have innocent blood of their fellow citizens on their hands.