Fulani Herdsmen: Inciting The Rise Of Other Militias?

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Herdsmen: Licensed To Kill, By Adekoya Boladale

Fulani Herdsmen: Inciting The Rise Of Other Militias?, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

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The problem of Fulani herdsmen started long ago as isolated cases. It only assumed frightening proportions because one of their own is the president of Nigeria. Under Buhari, herds of cattle roam through Asokoro as if on a state visit to the president. In the last two years, cows have been seen wandering through the Abuja city centre, causing traffic gridlocks and sometimes accidents. The menace of the herdsmen is a sign of what is to come. The hunger for land, with simmering religious and ethnic tensions, if not checked, will tear this country apart. The Fulani have never hidden their thirst for political and teritorial supremacy, a thirst that knows no borders. Their territorial interests always exclude the well-being of indigenous populations, with no interest in existing political and economic stability. Faced with modern realities, they push their economic interests by exploiting and overiding the economic well-being of rural farming populations by herding their cattle into farmlands, letting their cattle feed on crops or trample on those produce their cows cannot eat. Buhari, through his characteristic acquiescence, has succeeded in creating a realistic iconography of the gun-totting, AK47 Fulani.

This piece was written by Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

It is true that there exists a criminal gang devoted to cattle rustling. Does that justify the killing of villagers in rural farming communities? From the killing fields of Benue, the Fulani herdsmen are proving to be a macabre, normalised militia in our sociopolitical landscape. Realistically, they are armed non-state actors with legitimised use of violence. From the way they have carried on their genocidal attacks, they have shown the rest of us that they do not have to usurp political leadership; they own it and can unleash it to challenge, obstruct and undermine the fragile peace in Nigeria to suit their interests. In 2016, the Senate gave a directive that cows should not roam the Abuja city centre. The minister for the Federal Capital Territory ignored the directive. Lame pronouncements cannot stop the Fulani herdsmen and their genocidal attacks. If President Buhari is sincere, he should mount a military crackdown on them. He acted decisively against IPOB, which when under Nnamdi Kanu, did not kill nor undermine the sovereignty of Nigeria with the fervour of herdsmen.

Prominent Nigerians own herds of cattle and they recruit the nomadic Fulani to tend them. Is this sustainable? Is pastoralism suited for the modern age? Are there no better ways of herding cattle? Does it make sense for cattle to leave the vast grasslands of the North to the densely populated south in search of pasture? Who armed the herdsmen with AK47 rifles? Is carrying a military grade weapon and assault rifle legal in Nigeria? Are the Fulani herdsmen acting beyong their brief or are they carrying out orders? When leaders promote impunity; when crimes do not attract sanctions but approval, based on ethnic, religious or social standings, they cause the weakening of state institutions, democratic, social and political structures. It is unfortunate that we elect those who do not see the effects of their actions and inactions on generations.

A faltering economy that fails to benefit the population has given rise to kidnappings, cults, armed youth, bandits and widespread civilian criminality. Worse, the instrument of Nigeria law enforcement provides no succor. It is synonymous with violence, extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, and official corruption. With these ugly combinations, it is only a matter of time before we see the rise of militias, and the Fulani herdsmen is the first in line. In response to killings by Fulani herdsmen, I fear the rise of self-defence units located in rural areas below the Niger and Benue to defend their property and lives. No one has the monopoly of violence. We must collectively understand and appreciate this threat for what it is because many ethnic groups in Nigeria have warrior traditions in which young men are masculinised into violence, and the tradition can easily be called into existence. President Buhari must deal decisively with this problem before it metastasises. A narrow particularistic thinking, driven by ethnonationalism, will severely impact the sociopolitical leadership and economic dynamics of Nigeria because each locality will be manned by a militia and governed by a warlord.

With a thoroughly politicised military and an inept police force, Nigeria is ill-equipped to handle violent civilian conflict. Given the deep religious fault lines in Nigeria, if militias arise, they can extend conflict through the assistance of funders and external supporters with vested interests. As it is, there is enough discontent in the land to launch violence for ideological and identity-based grievances.

We cannot profess unity by words of mouth or platitudes. Unity must be backed by deliberate action. If nothing is done to contain the herdsmen, it will define the Buhari administration in the same way the kidnap of the Chibok girls defined the Jonathan government. It will be to the eternal shame of a retired General turned “democrat” that Nigeria descended into anarchy and became a country of militias under his watch. Like Boko Haram, the Fulani herdsmen’s attacks are resource-driven, extraction-focused, and for self-enrichment. Behind the attacks is a powerful coalition whose raison d’être is political authority, territorial expansion, visibility and wealth. Crush them or have Nigeria crushed!

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo

This piece was written by Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.



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