By Godwin Etakibuebu
I sincerely thought l had completed my intervention on the issue of Fulani Herdsmen when l submitted a two-part treatise, captioned “Solution proposal to President Buhari & Nigerians on herdsmen”, Tuesday and Wednesday last week. There were some happenings of the last few days that however aborted my conclusion that the subject-matter had been done with. Hence another attempt in escalating the discussion in today’s exercise but l fervently pray that this would be the very last of my involvement in the Fulani herdsmen seemingly forceful colonisation of Nigeria. I sincerely hope l shall not come to this subject-matter again.
Two important things forced my return. One of it was a telephone call from a very close friend of mine, based in Europe, who claimed that my proposed solution did not take into consideration what he called the “permanent life-style of the nomadic Fulani”. I told him to educate me more on the “permanent life-style of the nomadic Fulani” and my friend launched into a very lengthy lecture, which did not make any sense in its totality. Yet, the zeal with which he spoke says everything about his state of mind, which is pitiable. Let me tell you something about this my friend.
We have known ourselves for close to forty years, a well-educated fellow with two masters’ degree in humanities, a retired one-star General officer of the Nigerian Armed Forces and presently very successful in business. He is a reliable and dependable friend. We are so close that he would be willing to defend me with anything he has, even with his life, should my own life comes under threat of annihilation in his domain.
What annoyed me most during our discussion was his thought and conclusion of accepting that the nomadic life-style of the Fulani must be “permanent”. He refused to accept that if the Fulani; of the turn of the last century, was “nomadic”, he needed not remaining same [nomadic] in this 21st century any longer; with the metamorphosis of technological advancement and advantage of education now available. He was adamant that there is nothing in “the world that could alter the life-style of the nomadic Fulani from taking his cattle for grazing through the route his forefather followed and as long as he is denied that route there would be war”.
At this point l gave up on my friend for two reasons. The first being the similarity between his conclusion about the “grazing route of the Fulani herdsmen”, and the argument of the Nigerian Minister of Defense when he spoke about what he called “the immediate cause of the killing in Benue, Plateau and Taraba by herdsmen as being deliberate blockage of the traditional route of the herdsmen”. The second reason is that my very good friend who has consigned the Fulani herdsmen to a “permanent” life-style of nomadic himself is a Fulani, from the Caliphate in North/West Nigeria. What a revelation!
Yet, my friend; who has quite a good number of “Cow Heads” there in the North, did not remain in the “permanency of nomadic life”. He went to University, joined the Nigerian Security, rose fast enough to the rank of one-star General, left when the ovation was highest for him, settled down in Europe – from where he controls his business empire with occasional visit to Nigeria. And here is the same man advocating that his fellow Fulani herdsman; a person he [my friend] and his Fulani-co-aristocratic-travellers made [the herdsmen] to remain miscreants or the rejected of this earth, is yet being expected still, in that “permanent nomadic life”.
My friend’s thought remains the foundation of the creation and sustenance of the “Almajiries” [urchins] regimes in Northern Nigeria. For him and his co-travellers, what is good for the goose [the bourgeois class] is never good for the gander [the urchins] hence there shall remain the great divide between the have and have-nots. To the people in my friends’ class; and there are many of them in the North, the continued usage of the “permanent nomadic Fulani herdsmen” for dirty, menial and unprofitable jobs in exchange for miserable pay-packet that can never become a take-home pay is “a divine arrangement”.
This class of people must be seen as end-receiver and beneficiary of the numerous nefarious activities of the herdsmen as long as their cows are to be secured with the blood and lives of the farmland owners or farmers. It is crystal clear ipso facto; who the suppliers of those sophisticated arms and ammunition, for the safe-guarding the herds, are. Can the fraudulent Nigerian Federation System of Government; as presently constituted, deal with this category of human beings?
Another important reason why l had to continue today’s work is because of a statement credited to Professor Umar Muhammad Labdo of the Maitama Sule University, Kano, while defending his earlier claim that “Benue State belonged to Fulani by right of conquest”. The Professor delved into and presented more of fiction works than historical facts of the Nigerian history. I shall not attempt raising issues with him in this work because l am too sure that very soon, his historical colleagues shall reply to his fiction but suffice to say it here that the reason he adduced of the Fulani ruling and dominating Nigeria; politically speaking forever, maybe yet another fallacy that cannot stand.
The reason he attributed his claim of Fulani’s continuous political domination of the Nigerian landscape is too nebulous to be true. He claimed that because “the Fulani were the first to be well educated they are most likely to remain in political domineering for a long time to come”. The difficulty of agreeing with the Professor in this very voyage of discovery he is venturing into is the type of education he is talking about. One, if he is talking of Koranic education, I will not make any attempt in contradicting him because l am not vast in that field but, in the other hand, if he is talking of Western education associated with the English language, then this man would need to go back to the classroom, even at the Primary School level for acclimatisation. He just needed to be told quickly that out of the first Thirty Secondary Schools that were established in Nigeria, starting with the CMS Grammar School, Lagos, in 1859 to Barewa College in Zaria, established in 1927, only four were in the whole Northern Nigeria while all the remaining Twenty Six were in Southern Nigeria. The Four in the North, just for the purpose of reminder, are  Alhuda College – 1910  Government Secondary School – 1914  Government College – 1914 in Katsina-Ala and  Barewa College – 1927. His entire exercise remains nothing but instigation of crises and indictment of the federal government in failing to do the needful by arresting the Fulani herdsmen that were fingered and even mentioned [by the Governor of Benue State] in the massive killing of fellow Nigerians.
Having said this much, l represent the last of the three solution proposals submitted last week for further evaluation and acceptance for implementation by the Federal Government.
THIRD AND LAST PROPOSED SOLUTION.
Somebody told me that Sambisa Forest in Borno State of the North/East is as large as 686 square kilometers of land, which is over-exaggerated. The real size of Sambisa Forest, according to a statement credited to Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, when he visited Enugu State on March 17, 2016, is 7,161 square kilometers because he told his audience that “Sambisa is the size of Enugu State”. If that forest is as large as that, the totality of the land can be converted into cattle ranching or even “cattle colony”, as the Federal Soldiers have secured the whole land from the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents – that is what we were told.
It will be better to use the whole land for this purpose than what the Chief of Army Staff once proposed for that place, to wit: turning the forest into a training ground for small arms operation for the Nigerian Army. Let us look at the beauty of making Sambisa Forest a befitting Ranching place.
At 7,161 square kilometers, it gives about 8,000,000 plots of land of 100×100 and that can take 80,000,000 cows at 10 cows per plot and the total cows we have in the country today is far below 30,000,000. Sambisa Forest is the answer ipso facto.
The question now remains how can we get that forest to ranch all the cows and get the consumption of the product circulated all over Nigeria? Again, this is a simple solution. All over the world today, herdsmen are no more nomadic and if they are not, their routes can never be blocked as the Minister of Defense accussed. In Europe and all over the world, the cow meat being consumed in the major cities are slaughtered some miles away from the point of consumption. It is the finished product, the slaughtered cow, properly sliced to pieces that are moved through refrigerated coaches [train] or vehicles. In Moscow, the meat they consumed in the Kremlin is moved from about thousands of miles away from the place of ranching and slaughtering.
A focused government, like the one Muhammadu Buhari is trying to create can bring this to come to pass within few months. All he needs doing is redirecting our money which he is investing to extend rail-line to neighboring country of Niger Republic back to build dual gauge rail lines from the North/East to all other geo-political zones of the Country. If this is done, he would have killed two birds with one stone.
The first benefit of such venture would be creation of jobs for most of our youths all through the route of the rail lines – this would amount to employing millions of youth across the country. Where about a million of people are gainfully employed in Nigeria, the first multiplying effect would be a encouraging reduction to the population that would have otherwise patronized the market places of Boko Haram and other militant groups across the land. In addition to depopulating the market places of criminality, gainful employment for a population of about a million people would increase economic activities of not less than four-six million people, considering the fact that for every one person in gainful employment in this country, there are between four to six people [family tie] benefitting.
The second derivable benefit of such venture is that once these cows are being slaughtered in Borno State [in Sambisa Forest specifically] many companies that will turn the bones, horns and other waste materials of the slaughtered cows to befitting creation of other finished products would be established inside or around the Sambisa Forest and that will amount to creation of jobs for thousands of my brothers and sisters from the far North. Again, economic activities would boom around that zone within the rules of healthier living conditions. Like the first benefit, this will check and reduce insurgency to the barest.
The bottom line being the fact of elimination of the derogatory language of “nomadic” from the proud heritage of the Fulani tribe in one hand while in the other hand, the cows would be slaughtered in the North with consumption going round the whole country. There will be no marauding or terrorising herdsmen, there would be no place for AK 47 for respected Fulani men, there will be no destruction of farmlands by herds and there will be no self-inflicted damage among “brothers within one country.
Godwin Etakibuebu, a veteran journalist, wrote from Lagos.
N:B This article, written and published some months ago, is represented on popular demand.