Dear cattle herder,
My condolence on the losses you have suffered since this herders/pastoralists conflict started. The essence of this long letter is to commiserate with you and also bring to your notice certain home truths at this time of sorrow and shame.
My dear brother, cattle breeding or herding is a business, a money-making venture. It is not different from selling pepper, owning a refinery like Dangote or Telecommunication Company like Mike Adenuga. The pepper seller is also distracted when his pepper is stolen. Cow stealing or rustling is a serious offence and cows are even protected by state laws, the pepper seller is not that lucky. But stealing, robbery is generally a crime In Nigeria.
I know there are cultural practices and traditions attached to cattle rearing, I know that the Fulani herdsman does not see himself as just a business man selling cattle or breeding beef for consumption. I learnt it is also about bravery, manhood and manliness of the herdsmen. I was told that a young boy who can multiply inherited heads of cattle is more respected among his kinsmen. That is all well and good. In Fulani land, in the herdsmen’s country and among his kith and kin.
Dear brother, once you leave your homeland, you must know that you have to live within the laws, beliefs and tradition of your new environment. You must accept that your new neighbors are your new family and they have traditions and beliefs that are age-long too. The two of you must blend, agree and tolerate each other, if there will be peace, if there will be no bloodshed. Let me cite a quick simple example; in the family and lineage I came from having a cat is a taboo. My mother is from another lineage and she loves to have domestic animals including cats. She was told of the taboo but she bought kittens anyway and they all went wild and wandered into the wild, many times with their new born kittens too. It is centuries after it became taboo in my family to own cats and I know that if my mother buys another kitten today, it will wander off even if it lives for a whole year in our fine house. In other words, if my tenants in Lagos decide to own cats, they cannot hold me responsible if their cats die or wander into speeding vehicles all the time. Like my mum, my tenant will have to adjust. My tenant will have to make do with other pets.
My simple point; when in Benue live like they live in Benue when in Rome behave like a Roman. The Benue man knows too that if ever he has to live in a Fulani community, there will be new things he has to learn.
Back to the basic business rules in Nigeria. When you want to start a business you must rent or build or buy a place of business. Traders rent shops, farmers lease, buy land or use the one they inherited. Businesses in other parts of the country exist side-by-side in peace. When traders from Sokoto go to Onitsha to do business, they rent stalls in the market. Go to Ketu and Mile 12 Markets in Lagos, you’ll see traders from Benue, Jigawa, Kaduna and Taraba doing brisk business in the shops they paid for. They do not kill Yoruba or Igbos traders so their own businesses can survive. I cannot pretend that I understand why you prefer this hard life of living in the wild. That is the path you are used to and ordinarily it should not become a national headache. That you want move your business from one town to another should not become a matter for national dialogue, front page news, and television and radio talk shows topic. That you prefer a nomadic life should not cause a state governor sleepless night or reasons for two governors to accuse each other of heinous crimes. But that is where Nigeria is right now. Your business is causing not just national headache but migraine. The president is awake thinking about you. The Inspector General of Police has been moved from his wife’s bed because of your matter. The mortuary attendants are overworked. The mosques and churches are conducting non-stop burial rites. Grave diggers are smiling to the bank. Everybody is mourning. Everybody is worried. And all the governors are in a panic even if they are pretending that they are not.
My brother, you are now the center of national attraction, everybody is talking, thinking, WhatsApping, Facebooking, Instagraming and Twitting about you. For all the wrong reasons. Blood is dripping everywhere. Blood of people who could not afford to even eat beef twice a week has been shed. So much gore, and anguish because of a simple business of cattle breeding and profiting from agriculture.
If the rest of Nigeria has moved from the way things were done 300 years ago, you cannot afford to be left behind. You cannot insist on remaining in the stone age. This is the 21st century sir. You need to embrace civilization and modern ways and method of conducting livestock business. The breeding, buying and selling of cows cannot continue to cause us so much grief. I mean, it is just cattle breeding, not nuclear warhead business. How is it that cow business is rendering people homeless and making us bury our children? Why do farmers have to die on their own lands because of your cows?
You do not see poultry farmers holding up traffic so their chicken can cross the road. You do not see owners of pigs doing their business outside of their piggeries. Why do you insist on holding the entire country by the jugular because of your cows and what they will eat? It is so unfair and ungodly. How do you even sleep at night after throats are slit and babies beheaded?
See how prosperous ‘ordinary’ fish farmers have become because they have moved their fishes from public rivers and streams to private business places. That is the difference between fishermen and fish farmers. That’s the difference between then and now.
Cattle colonies or ranches or whatever tag we decide to use is not as important as making you understand that the days of moving beef from Kano to Umungasi is over. Roaming thousands of miles in the forest with little or no profit, getting killed and being accused of all kinds of crimes must stop. Wasn’t your wife kidnapped last year? Did you not lose cows two months ago? How much have you saved sef after all these years of wandering in the wilderness?
Change is everywhere and it is finally at your doorstep. Embrace it. I know it is hard. All of us have found change hard but we are living with it. Change is tough but that is the only option. Burying 73 people in one day just so we can make cows happy is more than one country can bear. 73 coffins in one day! How can you even live with yourself after inflicting so much horror? The security agents who should come after you most likely won’t but how will you escape the wrath of God? How?
From my mail box
Your write up on “Benue war and castrated generals” is good. They had the chance to do whatever they like. I dare them to have come to Taraba. Wukari LGA in particular.
Punchy, can never be less, sister. I weep for this country for Benue may just be a testing ground. Let the rest of us get ready.
We all invested in President Buhari because we wanted change but he has failed us. His silence and inaction while our people are being killed is suspicious. Killers are bathing with the blood of the innocent and celebrating a festival of power. This genocide must stop.
Young MC, 07068212015
Minorities in d North are in serious trouble. It’s so unfortunate that our neighbours in Nasarawa do not see what is ahead of the Middle belt states. It seems we will wake up one day and Danfodio would have fulfilled his dreams in death.
Deep, rich and thought- provoking piece as usual. Ours is indeed ‘national ridicule beyond ridiculous ‘.Interesting to note that Ife produced you. You are a pride to journalism.
Funke, your advice to parents, to tutor their children along self-employment in “ROAD TO NOWHERE”, is the most potent solution to the senseless emigration of Nigerian youths to Libya; for unachievable dreams. We have never had it this bad; as you aptly enunciated in your piece.