THE MENACE OF THE NATIONAL NEIGHBOURHOOD BULLY – THE FULANI HERDSMAN – By Barrister Mike Ahamba – SAN

Bullying is the act of using one’s advantage of strength, real or perceived, to force or coerce a real or perceived weaker person(s) to behave or react in a particular way; to forego some rights. I have introduced perception into it as against the presentation in the dictionary of real strength against real weakness because of my personal experiences about bullies as I grew up from childhood into adolescence, and thereafter.

The neighbourhood bully generally believed that he/she was the strongest child in the neighourhood who could not be dared by the other children. His perception of his superior strength arose either from, oftentimes, his apparent size or the economic advantage of his parentage. Who dared to challenge or dispute his words or actions? Anyone who dared was usually brutalized into submission, at least psychologically. He was usually a scare to the other children most of whom thought that their own safety depended on their loyalty to the bully. He called the shots at will, until one of the other children would decide that enough was enough, and opt or volunteer to risk ‘belling the cat’. Then the self-adulated apparently strong big-bodied bully was seen to be no more than a mass of protoplasm bereft of enabling muscle, the bullying attitude being a means of shielding the reality of his weakness.

It is a fact which is self evident that a neighbourhood bully, this time not a child bully and not without back-up strength, is on the prowl in Nigeria. He had carried on his business of cattle rearing before now all over the country with a stick and, sometimes, with a bow and arrows; was never considered a threat to anyone. There were no ‘clashes’ beyond the usual human societal friction between individuals. But today he carries AK 47 rifles openly without an authorizing license. But nobody calls him to question; and when one resists the destruction of one’s crop farm by his herd of cattle, he uses the AK 47 to kill or maim the owner(s) of the farm who are unarmed and, as seen to have occurred recently, not in the farm purported to be in issue. I am talking about the now notorious Fulani herdsmen who appear to be on a south-ward march, ostensibly in search of feed for their cattle, but who are acting in a manner that suggests that they constitute an advance part of an intending invasion with land occupancy intent. It is common knowledge that these Fulani herdsmen on their own have no personal economic capacity to own a cow individually let alone herds of them; they cannot afford the AK 47 rifles they openly flaunt. Who owns the cattle, and who supplies the rifles and materials they use?

In my humble opinion these suppliers of the killer weapons are the patrons of Nigeria’s contemporary make or mar problem. It is as a result of the patronage of these political and business moguls that the erstwhile peaceful herdsmen have been turned into neighbourhood bullies. They appear to have been guaranteed protection, or have cause to so believe; Hence, after they have perpetrated the carnage, they become phantom and appear to varnish into thin air, or so people are made to believe. It is difficult to accept that after committing the heinous crimes of murder, rape, defilement and infliction of grievous bodily harm, they are never apprehended. I submit that these sponsoring patrons are the real enemies of a united Nigeria who must be fished out, exposed and brought to book. Failure to do this will eventually bring us face to face with a more deadly ‘boko haram’ – like episode right in the centre of Nigeria!

Let us not forget too soon the origin of the Boko Haram war in the North East of Nigeria. My position will be better appreciated if the story of Mohammed Yusuf, the original leader of the Boko Haram sect who was murdered in police custody, is recalled. This our dear nation has been kept in the dark as to who was or were behind the murder of Mohammed Yusuf. If we had discovered it, the Boko Haram menace could have been nipped in the bud or, at least, substantially weakened. The result of that failure is that we have been fighting a brutal war for close to a decade.

Remember the Otokoto saga in Imo State in 1996? Young Ikechukwu Okoronkwo was beheaded and the suspected culprit, Innocent Ekeanyanwu, was apprehended. A public resentment of the event led to a riot the magnitude of which had never been seen in that part of Nigeria before, or since then. But because of the death of Ekeanyanwu the murderer, the ritualist sponsors who engaged him to procure the human head were never identified.

Therefore, to discover and apprehend the patrons of these human butchers masquerading as herdsmen is a TASK THAT MUST BE DONE.

Many people have postulated on the cause of the recent pogrom in Benue State, Prominent in this postulation is the Benue State Anti-Open Grazing Law. Firing the first salvo in this lame and defective justification of the massacre of families in that state, a leader of the Miyetti Allah herdsmen called for the repeal of the law as the only guarantee that the massacre would not re-occur. That amounts to a notice that the Law is either repealed or he and his brothers would strike again. This was followed by the Governor of Nassarawa State who openly declared before television cameras that it was the Anti Open Grazing Law that triggered the violence. Then, there was the Minister of Defence, Brig-General Dan-Ali being quoted as also blaming the Benue State Law for triggering the attacks involving persons said by a Security Agency to be non Nigerian Fulanis from other countries of West Africa. Cross border invasion or infiltration should be a source of concern for any country’s Minister of Defence, for it is his duty to stop such invasion or infiltration. Rationalizing the ‘invasion’ should not have been the Honourable Minister’s portion.

But then, fellow countrymen, was it not in an effort to prevent the further killing of innocent farmers and their families that the Law was enacted? Was it not a civil effort by a people whose cries had fallen on deaf ears to help themselves? If the federal government had intervened earlier to stem the tide of open murder of women and children preceded by shameless raping and defilement of the victims, perhaps the Anti-Open Grazing Law may never have been enacted. I hold the view that holding the Anti Open Grazing Law responsible for the recent carnage in Benue State is like holding an antidote to a poison responsible for the poisoning. Let us not forget that this carriage is not happening in Benue state alone.

The Nigerian constitution is very clear on the powers and responsibilities of the three arms of government. For the State legislature, the power to make law for the peace, order, and good government is clearly stated in Section 4(7) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN). Once enacted, it is a law, and must be obeyed. It does not fall on the leader of the Miyetti Allah herdsmen, or the Governor of Nasarawa state, or any other person no matter how highly placed to justify the gruesome murder of children sleeping in their homes because some guys consider as inconvenient a law which is not void. Disobedience to an extant valid legislation is indiscipline, and when collectively done as some people now desire to do could lead to anarchy; and anarchy is a very dangerous past-time.

Patriotic discipline demands that any person or group of persons who feels aggrieved by a legislation should test its validity in a court or Lobby for it repeal or amendment by the appropriate legislature. Section 4(8) subjects all legislations to the jurisdiction of courts of Law and judicial tribunals established by Law, not to whims and caprices of individuals, or to irresponsible use of guns and machetes on the preceded beneficiaries of Law. The irreversible art of killing is not a solution to a detested law, and should not be seen to be in any form whatsoever.

Desert encroachment is the latest justification being flaunted by some apologists in this country. But the encroachment has been on-going for decades, and so have efforts been made to address the issue. But if someone had to leave his home to some other person’s home in other to survive, is it proper that the anticipated hosts be first wiped out with their families, and their land taken over by force? This cannot bring peace between any guest and the host.

The age of acquisition of land by conquest is long past.

I heard Chief Audu Ogbe say on television that the issue was that Fulani problems had never been given adequate attention by the country. False! For whom were the normadic schools which gulped billions of naira established? When did Nigeria start tackling social problems through official ethnic bias? That statement by the Honorable Minister was most regrettable. Perhaps, he forgot that there are more than two hundred fifty ethnic groups in this country. Maybe each of them should go on a spree of massacre of others to draw attention to its problem.

We must find a solution to this problem, but not by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Those who have advocated ‘colonies’ for cattle should re-think. They should have a look at the meaning of the word “colony” in the dictionaries. In political history it connotes enslavement by conquest. How would it look for the Federal Government of Nigeria to be seen as a colonialists within her own territory? God forbid!

Hmm, I am told that colony in Hausa language is ‘Zango’. Plenty of not too palatable history trail the existing Zangos in the Northern Nigeria.

Yesterday it was British, Spanish or French Colonies; today cattle are being positioned to become “Colonialists” in Cattle Colonies.

Let us warn ourselves that in history, peoples, when faced with colonization or enslavement, have often preferred to die on their feet than live on their knees. We must not let it happen to us with our eyes wide open. In our Constitution, our social order is founded on the ideals of Freedom, Equality, and Justice. We must all note that, and strive to apply it in anything that we think, say, or do. Treating this matter as issue of Fulani herdsmen/farmers is faulty. It is simply a case of an attempt at modern day acquisition of territory by some migrating Nigerians. This is the issue which must addressed.

The herdsmen are farmers or, should one properly say, agents of farmers. Their farming is not superior to crop farming. The nation needs both. I submit that the solution to this problem of feed for cattle is Ranching as done in Brazil, Angentina, U.S.A., etc. Just as there are feeds for chicken in poultries, goats in goateries, pigs in piggeries etc, so are there cattle feeds in ranches. Cattle moving in the streets is an obsolete and mundane agricultural concept. Dr M. I. Okpara, Premier of former Eastern Region of Nigeria, realized this immediately after independence; hence he set up the Obudu Cattle Ranch. Chief I.I. Murphy of Ogoja followed suit by privately establishing the Ichaka Cattle Ranch in that part of the country. I visited that ranch as a youth corper. There may be other ranches. But somehow, people ate up the cattle in Obudu, and the ranch is now for tourism. Nobody in our political history has considered re-enacting the Okpara initiative; and this is 2018!

I am almost certain that this territorial invasion which is threatening the country with a possible civil strife does not involve every Fulani. Infact a majority of them may not be involved, or may not have sanctioned it. It is this silent majority that I now proceed to address.

Fellow countrymen, most of us, if not all know about a man who once walked this planet. His name was Adolf Hitler. Members of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party were called the Nazis. They were thought to be a bunch of upstarts. But eventually they had a leader called Hitler. Nobody gave them any chance of controlling power. But they did, and nobody cared. When they started the extermination of Jews and using people of colour for experiments, majority of Germans did not approve of it. But that majority remained silent. Germany was plunged into a deadly war, and lost. Every German, not Nazis alone, paid the price!

So my brothers, the silent and disapproving Fulani, bear in mind that if the Fulani herdsmen are allowed to plunge this country into a fratricidal strife in the protection of their private business, the silent but presently uninvolved Fulani will suffer together with other ethnic groups. Let no one wallow in the belief that people would perpetully accept being massacred over their legitimate property. Let us not get to the point of self-help by the victim Communities through self defence which is legitimate under our Criminal Law. Once easily begun, as history has shown, it will not be easily quenched. Prevention will always be better than cure, and the time to prevent this impending calamity is now. Nobody is anybody’s Mumu in this country. May Godly wisdom prevail in this matter.

Chief Mike I. Ahamba SAN

Ugo Lorji

Owerri

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