The directive from the government of Kogi State that signals an attempt to indigenize Fulani herdsmen across the state is a great concern to us as youths in the state. Even though detail of this directive, if it exists, is sketchy at this point, the singular fact that, as weighty and sensitive as the issue is, the media version of the directive has not been refuted by the government, hence the need for this article.
The understanding, cooperation, and resilience of Bunu youths towards government policies have never been in doubt, thus this article is borne out of our genuine conviction that the government directive was not issued to cause disaffection. We are however of the opinion that the decision may have been based on incomplete information and inadequate appreciation of the feeling of majority of the people affected by it.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sections 25 – 27 already describes in details who a citizen of Nigeria is, while sections 41 – 43 spell out some of the rights of citizens, including the rights to freedom of movement, right to freedom from discrimination and freedom to acquire immovable properties anywhere in Nigeria respectively. Despite the fact that many of these itinerant Fulani herdsmen are illegal immigrants from northern Africa, they have, to a very large extent, been enjoying these constitutional rights together with their Nigerian counterparts without being resisted either by indigenes or immigration operatives. This is exactly the case in Bunu-land, where many Fulani herdsmen have taken wives, acquired lands and built houses, undeterred.
The reputation earned all over Nigeria by many of these herdsmen who have constituted themselves into ravaging marauders armed with assorted weapons and their untethered cattle must not be taken with levity. In recent times, several hundreds have been killed in Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau and Taraba etc. Only last month in this state, 10 people were reportedly killed on a farm in Omala, while another farm was invaded in Yagba with the farmers barely escaping with their lives. In all these, the security forces have been perceived unwilling to apprehend the perpetrators and, in many cases, seen as providing support and cover for them.
A similar scenario played out in a farm around Iluke Bunu few months ago when a farmland was being continuously destroyed. As there is no single functioning police post in the entire 38 communities in Bunuland, the farmer traveled an hour journey to report at the police station in Kabba. There it appeared the herdsmen and the police connived and he was told, since no cow was arrested, there was no way to tell which cow destroyed the farm.
The next time that farm was to be destroyed; the poor farmer contacted some hunters to shoot one of the cows inside his farm as evidence of their destruction, since he couldn’t restrain one alive. But he was arrested and sent to prison.
There are many other pathetic stories all over Bunu, and now our people are afraid to go to their farms or stay long in the farms. We ask whose interest is the Government of Kogi State serving. Those of the masses or that of the fulanis? If he serves the interest of the people of Kogi State, it is an aberration under a democratic institution to give such order without regard to the wishes of “the people “
We do not encourage people taking laws into their hands, but cases like this tend to lend credence to the narrative that the marauders enjoy the support or fear of the government and security operatives. This directive also, if implemented as it is, would not only be seen to affirm the people’s fears but also cause disaffection between the people and their traditional leaders.
Furthermore, since Nigerian Constitution already provides them with robust coverage, same as other citizens, indigenizing the Fulani herdsmen with stoutly divergent cultural, traditional, linguistic, religious, and social behaviours and etiquettes from their hosts would be, perhaps incorrectly seen as adding another layer of immunity and impunity for the aggressive and destructive ones as against their hosts. These hosts would not get the same privilege outside their homes, yet, the indigenization would result in massive influx of these men from all directions into the state.
Let’s not forget the report that the marauding few of the Fulani herdsmen constituted the fourth deadliest terrorist group by Global Terrorism Index on November 2014. It is on this note and with all sense of responsibility, that we ask that the government reconsider and rescind its decision to indigenize the Fulani herdsmen in Kogi State or force them on our traditional leaders.
We will leave you with the words of Prof. Wole Soyinka:
“…Food security has been jeopardized! Life and properties are not safe in our land due to unchecked activities of Fulani Herdsmen in our neighborhood. This unilateral order is merely an endorsement of their atrocities and an outright imposition. Rather than hold criminals accountable the government appears to be rubbing Vaseline on cancer”
– Alfred Meseko
Bunu Peoples’ Forum