There is, at last, a silver lining in the violent relationship between herders and crop farmers that has claimed hundreds of lives across the country and still counting.The silver lining has appeared in Enugu State where the two parties held a peace meeting. They were represented by their respective umbrella organisations – Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association and All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).
After the meeting,the leaders of the two bodies spoke with journalists. Mr. Gidado Siddiki, Chairman of Miyetti Allah in the South-east, explained that the meeting was called to “foster peace” between the two sides. “The essence of this meeting is to bring farmers and herders together for an interaction so that we’ll know ourselves better and dispel rumours of an imminent attack by herders. We are here (Enugu State) to feed our cattle, not to fight anybody. We want to assure farmers that herders are peaceful and won’t terrorise anyone. The cattle breeders will take members of their host communities as brothers and sisters.”
Asked what the meeting agreed on, Gidado said, “The agreement is that we shall promote peace through this kind of meeting which we shall hold regularly. We also made it known that we have a peace and security committee in Government House. Whenever something we cannot resolve at the local level comes up, we’ll take it to the committee to tackle.”
On his own part, Sunny Watarali, Chairman of AFAN, said the meeting has brought about improved understanding between the two parties. According to him, at the heart of the matter is a need for the parties to “respect the cultures and traditions of the two distinct groups. He said, for instance, herders should understand that host communities would not allow cows to contaminate their sources of drinking water while the hosts must not kill cattle for whatever reason. “If a cow strays onto a farm or defecates in water meant for drinking and cooking, our people should not resort to self-help.They should be patient. If we can do this, mutuality will bring about better understanding and peace.”
We, at Peoples Daily, commend the courage of the two parties to come together to put an end to the needless bloodshed. We have every reason to believe the peace deal will succeed. For one, it was initiated by the two parties, not imposed by government or another third party. Being their brainchild, the parties know it is their duty to nurse it to fruition. We wish this move had come much earlier. It would have nipped in the bud the carnage we have seen all over the nation. Still we endorse the peace move and recommend it to other states.