National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Baba Usman, in this interview with TOBI AWORINDE, says Fulani herdsmen, like other tribes, are at the receiving end of attacks across the country
The Yoruba Council of Elders has said the South-West is under the siege by Fulani herdsmen. What is your reaction to this?
How is the South-West under the siege of the herdsmen? The herdsmen have been living in the South for so many decades. Some of them that are living there were born and brought up there and I don’t think there is any influx of new herdsmen in the South-West apart from those ones that have been there for decades. So, how can the South-West be said to be under any siege by the herdsmen?
The YCE complained that there have been a lot of attacks by herdsmen and that they appeared untouchable because the government had not done enough to caution them like members of other regions of the country. What is your response to that?
This is part of the name-smearing propaganda that has been going on about herdsmen. What does it (YCE) mean by ‘the herdsmen are untouchable’? Were the herdsmen not victims of the crime that has been taking place in the country? Over two million cows have been lost as a result of cattle rustling and the herdsmen were not described as bandits or cattle rustlers. So, they are also at the receiving end of all the crises in the country. Crime does not discriminate between tribes and religions. There is nobody you do not find in crime. The Yoruba are there; the Igbo are there; even among the herdsmen, there are criminals. As much as I know that herdsmen are not spared from the activities of criminals in the country, some of them too are criminals. But we in the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria do not represent any criminal. We only represent those herdsmen that rear cows as an occupation — the peaceful ones. We don’t speak for criminals. We are not a criminal organisation. We are a peaceful organisation.
Has your group held any discussion with the YCE or done anything to foster peace as well as law and order between the herdsmen and indigenes of the South-West?
We have been to so many states including the South-West to work together with the state governments in bringing about peace. We worked in Ekiti State; we worked with the government of Ondo State recently. We were in Ebonyi State. We have been going from place to place to hold talks with representatives of many state governments in the South-West, proffering solutions to the problems regarding these crises. We have never been a criminal organisation. We don’t condone crime; we condemn crime in all its ramifications, wherever it takes place. We are not part of crime; we are not criminals and we don’t like criminals.
Our members also suffer in the hands of criminals. So, we should collectively condemn the activities of such criminals, not blaming an entire race for a crime being perpetuated by a few criminal elements in society. We are a peaceful organisation; we have also been to so many states in the South-East and the South-South to broker peace between herdsmen and other people living in those regions. This remains our position. So, whoever is trying to portray us as criminals is just doing that to smear our names. And we reject that in its entirety.
Yoruba and Igbo elders said their people may resort to self-defence if Fulani herdsmen continue to attack their people in the South. What is your response to this?
I have no comment on that one.
Do you agree with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s criticisms of the herdsmen that Nigeria is being ‘Fulanised’ and Islamised?
I don’t understand the statement that Nigeria is being ‘Fulanised’? How is it being Fulanised? I’m asking you.
That was what he said. Don’t you know what he meant by that?
I don’t know what he meant. If you don’t know what he meant, I don’t know what he meant by Nigeria is being Fulanised. I don’t know.