Back Page Columnist

The cows are not to blame

If you ask that poor cow, where he would love to live, he would assuredly choose to stay in a ranch and be happy.

 

This long walk to death is not a choice he would fancy especially as he now becomes an object of ridicule, and endangered specie and harbinger of trouble that may snowball into avoidable civil war in Nigeria. That poor cow suffers in the hands of his shepherd.

 

He travels through the thick forest, climb mountains, walk or swim through rivers and streams, destroys farmlands by no ordinary design of his own, and often used as shield by the marauding kidnappers against the rain of bullets. He is being rustled and stolen at any point.

 

He’s being killed regularly for food, but most recently, he has become a source of insecurity across the nation. Remove the cows from our discourse, and peace would return in equanimity.

 

Remove the cows, the armed herdsmen won’t have any article of trade. Remove the cows, the nomads would become jobless. Cows have become endangered species in the sight of all.

 

 

Once a cow surfaces in the village, town or hamlet, or at best in the forest, trepidation sets in. The cow is no longer loved by the people, except the owners who use them as source of wealth.

 

It is a private business that has been transformed to a national culture by those who crave nepotism as a human resource. To them, a cow’s life is synonymous with human life.

 

A human head is equal to one cow, so they said. When you kill a cow, expect to be killed in return. That is the mentality that has been sold to us by the Fulani herdsmen.

 

A cow for a human head. The leaders of the Miyetti Allah Association decreed with impunity and potent effrontery that the forest belongs to them.

 

Bala Mohammed, the Bauchi State Governor, further gave emphasis when he stated that no governor has the right to stop any Fulani herder from habitating the forest. He declared on national television, that the Fulani herder has become a global citizen that must be tolerated.

 

Making a case for self protection, he “endorsed” illegal possession of arms, particularly AK-47 as a “toy” for protection. The ridiculous thing about our plight is the ignorance of the herders about the productivity of his trade.

 

Keep cows in ranches and you will reap so much from the value chain, more money, more products and added value. When you make a cow to trek from the Fouta-Jallon mountains down to the mangrove forests in the southern part of Nigeria, you would have succeeded in reducing his life-span and the quality of his production.

 

He becomes a “beast” of burden. He becomes tired, fatigued and worn out. The quality of his by-products also gets reduced in the process. Cows are no longer friendly. They move with kidnappers and bandits. In fact, some bandits gave cattle rustling as their motivation in joining the illicit trade.

 

The cows are not to blame. Blame those who worship the cows, more than their fellow human beings. Blame those who feast on cow urine as a therapy of unquantifiable solidarity.

 

Blame those who love the cows more than their fellow nationals, their neighbours and compatriots. Blame those who are ready to prepare “suya” with their fellow beings to make passage for their cows. I saw a visual on social media, of some youths chasing cows somewhere in Abeokuta, ostensibly to inflict their wrath on the cows.

 

The helpless cows ran for their dear lives. The bandits don’t run. They rustled the people and abduct them for ransom. I was wondering if the cows are to be blamed.

 

That cow you are chasing around is already tired and fatigued like our ex-service chiefs, having been made to face the vagaries of inhuman conditions from the North to the South, trekking long distances.

If the cows could address a press conference, they would surely tell us about their predicament and frustrations. They probably would embark on hunger strike to make the point that they truly deserve protection and not humiliation. They no longer sleep well.

 

They are also agonising because the pains of the present angst is tellingly making them to be unwelcome strangers. Cows are making bandits to become celebrities, same way bandits are making cows celebrities too.

 

Bello Matawalle, the Governor of Zamfara State, says not all bandits are criminals, I wonder what that is. Or is it that he meant to say not all criminals are bandits?

 

Governor Bala Mohammed says the herders need no permission to stay in my village forest. No wahala, but if their activities constitute a menace, then there is a problem. Sheik Gumi shamelessly asks for amnesty for bandits, equating them with Niger Delta militants.

 

When you hear such bile from those who ought to properly call a spade by its very name, then you know everything has become politicised. And the silent mourner in the villa, idles away, with palpable numbness. The president is not involved.

 

The president’s silence in the face of the huge challenges threatening our very foundation, is like calling us fools. It is possible the president is angry with us that perhaps, we are now behaving like cows, becoming like cows, mooing all over the place rudderlessly. Everywhere, Nigeria is upside down.

 

Brothers against brothers, neighbours against neighbours, friends against friends, cows against cows. The country is anaemic, showing visible signs of debilitation.

 

Like a kwashiorkor child trying effortlessly to stay alive, Nigerians have become more troubled than ever before. The worst government has just birthed and we have collectively entered a cul-de-sac.

 

Do we truly look like Nigerians with similar ideology, where we can collectively connect the dots? Don’t we behave like broken tongues, scavenging for solutions from nowhere?

 

Do we truly look like a country with shared commitments and ideological underpinning?

 

The fact is, the Fulani herders are not native to Nigeria, but why is our government using strangers to hurt our collective sensibilities? Tempers are high. Anger is all over the land. Suspicion reigns supreme. The leaders, rather than speak like elder statesmen, are full of bile, delivering messages of provocation to blur our sensibilities.

 

Do you blame the cows for the inchoate utterances of Sheik Ahmad Gunmi? Do you blame the cows for the blame game of the Senate President, who, instead of addressing the real issues, decided to accuse the Governors of the South-West of being intemperate with their utterances?

 

Do you blame the cows for the insensitive suggestion of the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), that the villagers should stand up to bandits’ invasion with bare hands? It is like telling a man with cutlass to confront an AK-47 wielding bandits.

 

That is the suggestion of a retired General who is presently appointed as Minister of Defence, a member of the association of tired and fatigued brains who should be enjoying his retirement in the midst of his grandchildren. The symptoms of a looming war are dotted all over the land.

 

When criminals are being seen and treated as celebrities, when governors are making excuses for bandits, when religious clerics are asking for amnesty for our tormentors, when lawmakers have abandoned their responsibilities of making laws for good governance, what you get is a celebration of criminalities with effervescent embrace.

 

What we ought to have done is in line with the thinking of Governor Ganduje of Kano State, who reasoned that this pastoral nomadism can no longer endure, that it was time for the herders to be restricted to the North by ranching.

 

First, the business of cattle rearing is a private one, making it wear the garb of national business of government, is a huge anomaly. Second, many of these herders are not of Nigerian nationality. Because they are nomads, they have no fixed addresses.

 

They roam around, with AK-47 straddled to their shoulders, move their cattle from the North to the South, in search for feeds for their cattle. In the process, they get enlisted in kidnapping adventure, get easy money from ransom payment, abandon their cattle and end up accusing everyone of intolerance and rustling of their cattle.

 

 

When they no longer have cows to disguise, they enter school premises to take students for cows. They are taken out in huge numbers, and their promoters enter into the forest as chief negotiators, rationalising the reason for the pervading criminality.

 

This is Nigeria of 21st century, where criminals are lords, where laws are twisted to suit the infantile ego of the men of power. The most biting irony of this whole madness is the ominous silence of the powersthat- be, a palpable feeling of abscondment from duty post, allowing us to engage in selfindulging endless twaddle.

 

Why has it become so difficult for the Federal Government to outlaw the Miyetti Allah Association? Why? Why?

 

Does this not suggest that there is some kind of ethnic solidarity and entitlement? Is this how we will continue to run from pillar to post as a people without a leader? Are we learning from Rwanda at all?

 

Does it require too much to assemble at the village square to dialogue on these issues? Is it the silence of the Commander-in-Chief that would help proffer solutions, or we have just been told to seek selfhelp?

 

Once the tongues are broken loose, that might signal the end of one Nigeria. We may continue to procrastinate on this, but the outburst won’t be good meal for anyone. President Buhari, help Nigeria to avoid war.

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