By Omonigho Johnson
Nigeria is not a safe country now! Yes, it can be argued that Nigeria has never been safe in the last few years. But clearly, the degree of safety differs. And I can tell you this: it’s getting pretty worse and more unsafe.
Previously, the indices and worries have been the bad roads, lack of effective policing, crime and it concomitant criminality, poor medical care, lack of institutions for espousing the value of human lives, etc. But today, the greatest threat to life in Nigeria is terrorizing and Islamic fundamentalism.
I wrote a piece titled “Run, the Fulani herdsmen are coming” a few days ago, and many people commented that I hit the nail on the head. I thought the best way to secure our people in the face of unprovoked or potential attacks is to highlight this problem, even though the government of the day pretends the problem does not exist.
You see, we have never been as fragmented as a people as we are today. The leadership which comprises of people sympathetic to the cause of a particular religion have turned a blind eye as militias of a particular ethnic group make forays into other people’s lands in the form of herdsmen or nomads, take over the lands and annihilate the inhabitants there.
The most frustrating thing here is that these nomads, who are Fulanis, are untouchables. The life of one Fulani man, it seems, is worth more than the lives of 100 other Nigerians.
The Fulani herdsmen are moving down south, making in-roads into our villages and towns, and surrounding us with palpable fear. They are deep inside our forests, deep into our farm lands and deep into the heart of our lands. They have established settlements there. They have also surrounded us with arms and ammunitions, and waiting to pounce on us at the least provocation.
This is a larger agenda of the Fulanis who must now continue where Othman Dan Fodio stopped.
It seems this problem has been dormant until last year when a Fulani man was elected President of Nigeria. Suddenly, the volcano of occupation and attack erupted, and the Fulani quickly ran amok as they suddenly became emboldened with a new oxygen of power and terror in their veins. Now, nobody can stop them.
They slaughtered over 300 people in Benue state some days back. This is in addition to the pockets of attacks and killings that go on daily in the state, which most times are not reported for fear of not offending the leadership of the country.
Recently, the Fulani and their Hausa brothers descended on Orile, a suburb of Lagos and slaughtered people like cows. Who can stop them? Even the police and security forces were nowhere to be seen as the Fulani/Hausa terrorists unleash mayhem, leaving in their trail death, destruction and sepulcher gloom.
Now as a way out of this problem, there are suggestions that states should establish farm or grazing settlements for these armed nomads. I understand Ondo State is in the forefront of this.
While this may appear plausible, the major challenge is that the Fulanis may never return home to where they came from again! Today they are permanent resident and citizens of states like Kogi, Kwara and Benue.
Nomads are supposed to move with the seasons. During dry seasons in the North they will move down south to the wet grassland to enable their flocks graze; and when the season reverses, they will move back north. This is the norm, even in East Africa where we have the Masai.
But today, because of political expediency and Islamic jihads, the herdsmen no longer return home. They enter your forests at the dead of night, foray into your village, and – at the least provocation – attack and decimate the local populace there and grab your land.
Even in states like Cross River, Delta and Edo, the Fulanis are deep inside their forests. Three years ago we went to buy cow meat for a ceremony, and we were led into the deep forest in Okpara inland. I was shocked to see such a vast settlement of Fulani people inside a secluded forest in Urhobo land!
Clearly, if the meat from cows reared mostly by people from the North of Nigeria are inevitable delicacies in our food, the best bet is to transport these cows from the North. There are logistics costs no doubt, but it is better to incur these costs than establish livestock or farm settlements for the Fulanis in our back yards, and risk the danger of potential attacks and deaths.
* Omonigho Johnson contributed this piece from firstname.lastname@example.org