Apparently worried by unending bad press, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), has started to explain the reason behind the disturbing unease in the country.
The herdsmen crisis has been threatening the peace and security of the country, leading to the loss of lives and properties worth multi billions of naira. The crisis has so many faces and has been going stages of evolution and with time, becoming deadlier.
It is a situation where herders and rural dwellers clash for a fair share of their ancestral land and the herders seeking to graze their cattle outside ranches and migrate from one location to the other in search of greener pastures for their animals.
Some accounts say there are many things that led to this menace, many of them, cultural, while others emanated because of some alleged leadership loopholes.
Without the doubt, cattle-rearing is an ancient agricultural practice which is practiced by some of the ethnic groups in Nigeria. But, it is predominantly practiced by the Fulani and even outside Nigeria. They specialise in cattle rearing as their major aspect of agriculture.
In Nigeria, herdsmen are still engaging in archaic systems of moving with the animals from one location to the other, mostly because of the weather conditions because the grasses these animals feed on need good weather to grow and the weather varies by location.
There is a major stumbling block to the peaceful coexistence of farmers and the herdsmen. These movements were not controlled at all, these herdsmen take advantage of these to go into people’s ancestral lands and destroy their agricultural produce. This leads to conflicts and reprisals and most of them lead to the loss of lives and properties. If these men have embraced the ranching systems, where these battles are kept in confined spaces, these fightings and killings won’t be happening.
While the movements have led to a breach of boundaries and cattle grazing on people’s farms and causing damages, the herdsmen are disturbingly equipped in different ways to unleash mayhem on the helpless farmers who live in the remotest part of the country, sometimes in the jungles.
They are mostly armed with heavy weapons like AK-45 and AK-47 rifles and other heavy weapons. It appears, the arms are easily accessible to them. Watchers say it is baffling how a people with no military training or clear psychology examinations to determine their mental health history and data are allowed to possess this kind of dangerous weapons.
The black market, the porous border, and corruption seem to be helping these men to acquire these weapons and it has led to these men to have a firepower that can subdue any community they invade. These arms get these guys vicious and make them to sometimes intentionally invade these helpless farmers..
However, while blaming it all on a suspected Islamisation and Fulanisation agenda in Nigeria, the herders said MACBAN is principally a trade/cultural union whose primary responsibility is to protect the interests of Fulani herders across the country.
Chairman of the group, Gidado Siddiki, who made this known said they are hoping that with time ‘’Nigerians will increasingly understand our role as a trade and cultural group. Such interests do not undermine those of other people or economic units in any part of the country.’’
Continuing, the MACBAN chief said the fear of Fulani herdsmen and Islamic dominance were responsible for the challenges bedeviling the giant of Africa, claiming that the whole bad blood was fueled by rumours of Islamisation and Fulanisation agenda in Nigeria.
Siddiki is also urging the National Orientation Agency (NOA), to sit up and boost its sensitisation of the citizenry on the need to love and reduce suspicions over the alleged Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda.
According to him, ‘’Nigerians should open their hearts to be more tolerant and receptive of the activities of our herders and duly feed us back when conflict brews, so that better understanding and more enduring harmony will be sought. This way, in no distant time, the friction and the suspicion will die a natural death.’’
While urging faith-based organisations, cultural and political groups to liaise freely with MACBAN on issues that arouse their suspicion and obtain clarification rather than rush to media houses, spreading confusion and unsubstantiated accusations, Siddiki equally appreciated the hospitality people of Eastern Nigeria have given to the group and called on persons of different ethnic affiliations to embrace dialogue and brotherhood.
He further advocated increased sensitisation of leaders and opinion shapers from different ethnic backgrounds to reduce mistrust and foster peace, adding, ‘’at 59 years, Nigeria can be said to have come of age. However, 59 years might not have proved enough time to offer Nigerians the height of their expectations as people.
‘’But the country has made progress even in her few stumbles in the course of growth. It is the ability of both the leadership and the citizens to resolve evolving differences and make progress that determines the legacies they leave for posterity. It is this ability that determines their place in history.’’