Please read the article posted today, July 10, 2018, on www.breakpoint.org, regarding the serious, on-going crisis in Nigeria.
This is truly a heart-breaking situation, but I want to caution us to be very careful to not quickly believe all we read. Not all that has been reported concerning the Nigerian farmer/Fulani conflict is true.
Not only have the Fulani been hated, maligned and blamed for wrong-doing for many generations, (they are Nigeria's whipping boy,) but because they have been side-lined in regards to basic services such as every human being on the planet deserves, education in particular, (up until now, that is - President Buhari was born into a Fulani family,) they have had little or no strong representation in government, no one to speak on their behalf! My friends, we are hearing only one side of the story! Who has reported on the thousands of Fulani herdsmen, their cattle, laborers and small children killed every year by farmers?
Please read this firsthand account given by my dear friend Bature - the first Fulani cattleman I met in Nigeria. I recorded it live, as he told me of his experiences.
Read it to understand what I'm talking about and know there’s another side to the story!
“I have followed cow from Bauchi State to Cameroon side. From Adamawa State, Dampara, Wada, Dangaraga, I crossed to Tela, to Babajuli. I passed direct to Babi, Gembo side. Everywhere, we walk-a with cow. From Gembo I take cow to Benue, Nassarawa side, there’s no place we no go ‘till we reach Bagagi with cow, with our father. No trouble we no see, problem no stop. We go back. We stay for Uwase side, we take cow to Benue side and Taku, Kasina Ala side. There’s no place from that side to reach Vandekia near Adikoboko, that we no graze cow. Everywhere we go, problem, problem."
“There was one time we ran. A time people came to attack us. We ran. No be small run-o. From morning till evening we run, hiding, people wanting to kill us. Kill our cows. Finally we escaped to Kasina. That time our father was there. It was about twenty years ago."
“And the thing never stop. We walk-a, reach Calabar and we face problem at Odukwane side. Time to time, everywhere we go, we face this same problem―slaughtering our cows, attacking our people, killing our laborers. No be one time. And our friends, from Nassarawa, from Taraba, time to time we hear farmers attack them too and kill their cows.
“Okay, this one now. Where we go? How this thing will end? No way.
“One time, many cows, nearly hundred cows inside that river area, around Assa, Obisere, Idoro, between the boundary of Otukwane and Ibiono Ibom, plenty of cows were killed. No any payment of even one naira. We became tired and left the area. They came again and attacked, killed about three of our herdsmen. Killed cows. That time we had about three hundred cows, our friends’ cows and our cows. Nothing done. We grew tired, came back.
“We walk-a, we reach Calabar side. It’s then we faced problem at this Otukwane side. Every time, wherever we go, we get this problem. People killing our cows, killing people, attacking our laborers…no be one time. It’s a big problem between us and farmers. And our pain, from Nassarawa here, from Taraba, from time to time we hear farmers attack them, kill them, kill their cows. Okay, which time this thing will end? No way. Where do we go? When will this all end?”
Great advantage has been taken of the Fulani.
At a recent government hearing in Abuja, a very high-ranking official admitted publicly that this is true! From earliest recorded history, all benefits, goods and services have been directed towards the indigenous farmers, the landowners, while the herdsmen, who by the way provide the entire nation with meat, have been totally neglected.
It's true that because of expanding deserts, drought and unchecked deforestation in northern Nigeria these herdsmen are forced more and more to take their cattle south. As the resultant migration has intensified, so too have violent clashes between farmers and herdsmen, the farmers accusing and killing herdsmen and cows for what they say is wanton destruction of their crops, and of course, the herdsmen retaliating by killing the farmers. 8,000 lives have been lost this year alone, in this conflict. 86 men, women and children died as recently as this June 25th. It’s a truly desperate situation.
Admittedly, there is blame to be laid on both sides, but rather than cast blame, what can we do to solve the situation?
We can open grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen, a land of their own with ample water for both farming and grazing, ensuring enough food to feed their families. We can build schools, hire great teachers and make education available to both children and adults. Education brings hope for the future! More choices for their children! Active representation and participation in all levels of government!
In Nigeria, second in the world in maternal and infant mortality, we can train Fulani women to be first-responders in the healthcare of their communities and build small maternity clinics to save the lives of mothers and infants.
With all of these good things provided, these things every human being on the planet has a right to expect, we will remove the roots of bitterness, hatred and violence, and replace them with peace.
Schools for Africa is working hard to sow peace in several grazing reserves in Nigeria. I’m happy to report that in those reserves, there is peace. My prayer is that other organizations and especially the Nigerian government will move in the same direction.
Let’s work towards and pray diligently for peace between farmers and Fulani. A turning away from violence. A turning towards peace.