Voices in a Choir, Bukar Usman,, Kalmidas Comminications, Kaduna, pp. 351
Long live the book: this isn’t your everyday trite. Kings and queens are used to wishes of longevity, but it’s actually the book that deserves to live the longest. Throwaways books aren’t included, however. Only good books should live long, for on the pages of dog-eared books are layers of knowledge waiting to be explored by generations unborn.
Voices in the Choir: Issues in Democratisation and National Stability in Nigeria,a book in eight parts and twenty-seven chapters, is thebyproduct of seminar papers presented and compiled over a period of years by the retired Permanent Secretary in the Presidency, Bukar Usman, in the course of his active public service. Published on the eve of this millennium, it consists of topical issuesanalysing Nigeria during the transition to civil rule. You will also find echoesof corporative internationalism on human rights, trade unionism, drug control, etcetera.
The most intriguing chapter in this offering, which is germane to today’s talking point, is the tenth chapter, dwelling on “Conflict Resolution Measures between Farmers and Pastoralists”. When Usman published this book, the telltale signs of farmers-herders clashes were beginning to manifest as a national problem. Two decades after, they have become an everyday occurrence, leaving whimpers, tears and gnashing of teeth all over the land. Hence, a revisit of Usman’s dissection of the problem and solutions is necessary at this point in time.
Situating this perennial problem, the author hints that these clashes occur mostly during the dry season when pastoralists move southwards in quest of green pasture, and, in the cause of their movements, the cattle often stray into farmlands, resulting in destructions and frequent clashes with farmers. Consequently, many lives and properties are lost.Worse still, they have led to unprecedented level of illegal possession of firearms by aggrieved parties.
The author observes that no single state in Nigeria has been spared of such clashes, and highlights a few incidents, including that of Jigawa State, between 1993 and 1995, when 69 deaths were recorded and 99 injuries from arrow shots, yet “Seven villages were set ablaze while properties worth thousands of naira were lost” (p.93).
The author chronicles similar instances: “At Tumbi Village in Gamawa LGA of Bauchi State, 2 persons were wounded by the pastoralist in July 1996. In Kondei-Dutse community of Karim-Lamido LGA in Taraba State, some armed Fulani herdsmen reportedly killed 4 persons and injured 10 in July 1996. Similarly, over 50 persons were killed and 5 villages burnt down by nomads who were retaliating the killing of one and injury to 10 of their kinsmen during a clash in January 1996 in Karinjo, Karim-Lamido LGA.” (p.93).
Nevertheless, we are regaled, these days,with stories of cattle herders of Fulani extraction in pursuit of a jihadist agenda as killings exacerbated recently in the Middle Belt, but, through Usman’s analysis years ago, it seems there aresome culprits we aren’t talking about: alien herdsmen.
He writes: “By far, the greatest problem emanates from the alien herdsmen known as the ‘Udawa’. Reports indicate a rising influx of them into the country through the northern axis. States affected by the ‘Udawa’ menace include Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina and Yobe, where the herdsmen frequently destroy crops and farmlands as well as instigate bloody clashes with farmers along their tracks.
“The ‘Udawa’ recognises no international boundaries. They roam anywhere they fancy, and are always heavily armed. They are contemptuous of local authorities and do not recognise even the local ‘Ardo’.”
Much as the migration of alien herdsmen into Nigeria is inimical to internal security, the author thinks it’s not feasible to completely stop it. “Rather, their movement should be controlled and turned into economic advantage. This can be done by creating special corridors for the transhumance where veterinary facilities monitoring by security agencies, as theycan be issued with special passes or grazing permits on annual basis,” he writes (p.94).
The author isn’t sold to “fire-brigade” approach to crisis management.He contends, therefore, that it is better to prevent crisis from erupting than waiting to snuff it out after it has erupted. He recommends thus: all gazette domestic and international cattle routes and grazing reserves should be traced and demarcated; grazing reserves should be fully developed through the provision of water points, medical as well as welfare facilities; lack of clearly demarcated grazing reserves in most states of the federation should be looked into.
Besides, the issue of destruction of farmlands by cattle driven into the farms by herdsmen should be addressed; lapses by traditional authorities and security agents in settling farmers/pastoralists clashes; and logistic and manpower inadequacy which have reduced the effectiveness of the police to tackle the clashes should be carefully examined.