Before we kill all herdsmen, please let us stop and reflect: Who are they? What do they want? How can we help them? Fulani/Hausa herdsmen are not the infamous Boko Haram (BH). They are not BH trying to infiltrate the South to cause havoc. How would anybody send soldiers and burden them with dozens of flock to take care of? They would either love their flock of love rather than fight. They must neglect one. How many fighters can you infiltrate on foot? There might be one or two who have BH sympathy among the herdsmen, but they are not the means for spreading hate, destruction and murder to the South. They are not Muslim extremists trying to Islamize the Christian South for they do not have any chance. Missionaries would sit down with a prospective convert and try to convert him. Dead men/women do not become converts.
They are farmers, who raise cows that all Nigerians depend on for nourishment. They are farmers, who need green pastures for the flock and are willing to go the distance to feed “my sheep.” They are like those shepherds in the Bible who on losing one would go the distance to find the lost sheep and would carry it on his shoulders as he rejoices on his “find.” They carry arms to protect their “sheep”, just as other farmers do to protect their crops from marauders. They are ordinary Nigerians, who love their country as much as any of us. They are crazy in one sense only – in the sense an engineer is crazy about his new invention like D’Lorean was about cars; or as Okonkwo was about his huge yam crop and harvests in “Things Fall Apart”.
The problem here is that the patient had received wrong diagnosis. Recall that the fight between the Middle Beltners and the Hausa/Fulani cattle rearers had much to do with herdsmen. We misdiagnosed the problem then, and that problem is now heading South and would continue until we diagnose the problem properly.
The proper diagnosis is that climate change has reached Nigeria and the northern region which used to be grassland, has lost the ability to grow enough grass to feed abundant flocks (sheep, goats, cows, etc., etc.). Greener grasses are now in the South and cattle farmers must chase the green grasses and are willing to do anything to get them. That is the second mis-diagnosis by all Nigerians. You cannot take my land because you lost yours. If you come after me with AK-47 I will come at you with mortars and heavy artillery. This is the confrontation that Nigeria must avoid, for we are not too far from it.
My solution is very, very simple. Herding cattle is no longer the way it used to be done; that was an Old Testament approach. The modern agricultural way is to buy acres of land for grazing. Let us say the cattle men are helped to buy for example, 10 acres, of land in the North each. They would grow grass using modern agricultural tools to do so in 5 acres, which is left fallow. In alternate years, they would feed their cattle and let them graze on 5 acres while grass grows in the fallow acres (5 acres) and they keep moving their cattle from one section of their land to the other. Fertilizer, water from canals or wells would be used to grow grass.
This modern farming has many advantages. The farmers can now have as near a family life as possible and the incidents of alleged rapes would diminish. The intrusion into other people’s property would go away and the need for AK 47’s and mortars and bazookas would be in the distant past.
Once the herdsmen settle in one place they could find ways to ensure that their cattle are receiving proper veterinary care. The country would be better assured of a steady supply of meat. Those who are missionary-oriented would now find a more humane way to evangelize. The best place for this massive land purchase is the North where land is two a penny. Will Nigeria listen?
Benjamin Obiajulu wrote in from Boston, Massachusetts, USA.