For years, many threatening situations have tested Nigeria’s unity. From the years of independence to events that led to the Nigerian civil war in 1967, the country has stood the test of time. The mantra, one Nigeria, has persisted over the years even on shaky grounds. It appears however that the Fulani Herders crisis that has toured every geopolitical zone of the country, and has now landed in the South-Western states of Oyo, Ondo and Ekiti, is threatening seriously to expose Nigeria’s fragile unity as a country.
It wasn’t long from the time mixed reactions trailed Rev. Kukah’s Christmas speech, accusing Buhari of “subordinating the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women” that the Fulani Herders Crisis currently rocking Oyo and Ondo States sparked off.
The allegations are that Fulani Herders are responsible for the killings, kidnappings, raiding, and other atrocious crimes in the region. Residents of the Yoruba regions decried the lamentable situation which according to reports had been going on for quite some time now.
Following these mindboggling allegations, Ondo State Governor, Akeredolu issued an ultimatum of seven days to the Herders to desert the forest reserves. The situation was further compounded in Oyo where a well-known Yoruba leader and activist, Sunday Igboho, gathered a rally of aggrieved natives asking that they did not want any Fulani in Yoruba land.
Sunday Adeyemo, well known as Sunday Igboho, alongside his followers, stormed the Fulani settlement in the ancient town to eject Seriki Fulani, Salihu Abdukadir, and other herdsmen accused of perpetrating crimes ranging from kidnappings, killings, rape to invasion of farmlands with their cattle.
During the crisis, the Seriki Fulani of Igangan and his family members were evicted from the town and their property torched. This saw the house of the Seriki Fulani razed to the ground. It was alleged that two persons lost their lives.
In a bid to restore sanctity and prevent further escalation of the conflict, the IGP ordered the arrest of Sunday Ighogbo. This generated series of reactions. Major political stakeholders argued that any arrest of the Yorúbà activist would further lead to political tension in the regions and that dialogue was expedient to douse the fire.
When the Oyo state government delegation came to the town, residents of Igangan in the Ibarapa area of Oyo State recounted their ordeals in the hands of Fulani herdsmen. The delegation had officials of the state and the new Commissioner of Police in the state Command, Mrs Ngozi Onadeko, who visited Ibarapa where the violence had erupted.
According to the community leaders, they had paid a total of N50m as ransoms for series of kidnappings carried out by herdsmen in the community. A statement by Mr Taiwo Adisa, Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, revealed that aside the payment of N50m as ransoms, not less than 15 women were raped by herders in the town in recent weeks.
The community presented to the delegation, pictures and other evidence of ransoms paid to the herdsmen. They further accused the Seriki Fulani of complicity in the negotiation of ransoms.
Following all of these, a good number of Nigerians have used Reverend Kukah’s statement on Buhari as a bark for their argument that he’s spearheading an agenda for a particular section of the country to dominate Nigeria. Secessionist kingpin and IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has equally taken advantage of the situation to solidify his separatist campaign. He had repeatedly called the Yorubas to come to a “higher” realization and defend what is theirs.
The likes of Femi Fani-Kayode and Femi Falana who are always quick to give credence to anything that is anti-government, have accused the FG of carrying out actions that are suggestive of supporting the Fulanis Herdsmen menace. According to Falana, the issuance of eviction by Akeredolu notice was not unconstitutional.
Lauretta Onochie, Buhari’s social media adviser, however insists that all tribes have good eggs and bad eggs, that it would be deliberate mischief to discredit the president on account of what has been claimed that some bad eggs from his tribe are doing.
According to the social media aide to the president, “If there’s an ethnic or community clash where lives and properties are lost, we pick and choose which to attribute as community clashes and which to lay on the doorsteps of the Fulanis, President Buhari’s ethnic group in order to satisfy the craving for more bitterness and hatred towards President Buhari.
“There’s no tribe that is free of bad eggs. But criminalising an ethnic group because you don’t like President Buhari’s face, is nothing short of evil.”
Some stakeholders like political activist, Adamu Garba however weighed in on the situation and have concluded that pastoralism is the underlining factor of this recurring crisis.
Garba, strongly advises that ranching system be adopted. His words: “I’m a Fulani man, but I can tell you that it doesn’t make sense for cows to be roaming the streets in 2021.
“Cows should be ranched on a land acquired or rented by the ranchers.
“By law, land can only be acquired through rent or purchase. Government should step forward & clear this out.
“I believe, to reconcile the raging Fulani herders’ crisis is to open proper communication where each knows the laws of the land.
“All lands in Nigeria, including forests belongs to some entity, FG, SGs, LGs, Company or individuals.
“Thus no land can be used without proper authorisation.
“The problem of the Fulani herders is a betrayal from the city Fulanis, who decided, after moving to cities, acquiring wealth and power, they forget to carry the village brothers along, leaving them in a desperate situation.
“The rich Fulanis must come together and assist our fellow brothers to get ranching land or forest for grazing.
“Else, this will be a breeding ground for a cyclical conflict, a very ripe situation for civil war. This must be avoided at all Cost.”
For years, the question of Nigeria’s unity has been a bone of contention. The country has experienced many threats to her existence as an entity but the issue of Fulani herdsmen has remained one of the toughest to crack. For a country with great diversity, the need for peaceful coexistence is key if genuine unity must be achieved. Statements and actions intended to escalate and heat up the polity should be discouraged and dealt with decisively.
It is on record that many citizens hold strong belief in the unity and oneness of Nigeria. Some nonetheless feel it is a poisoned chalice. A discerning few opine that heeding to calls of restructuring would help unify different ethnic groups and solidify the bond of togetherness that has held Nigeria for more than 60 years.
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