Guest ColumnistPolitics

Herdsmen of Katsina, By Lasisi Olagunju

Lasisi Olagunju

From Geoffrey Chaucer to Robert Southey and to James Russel Lowell we learn, like all men who unleash chicken to pasture and forage, that chickens are like curses; they always come home to roost. Because the rains are heavy down South, herdsmen from Katsina State have moved their cows up North and are back home. Because they are back home and they need food for their cows, they are invading farms. Because they are invading farms, there was violence between farmers and herders last week in Katsina State. Herdsmen from Katsina attacked Katsina farmers and lives were lost. Because there was violence and people were killed, President Muhammadu Buhari became very angry and sad. And because he is a man of peace, he caused a statement to be issued on Friday talking tough against herdsmen of Katsina, his home state.

I read the statement over and over and held a thanksgiving service. So, our president can blame herdsmen for killings! It is the Lord’s doing that Maigaskiya could condemn cows invading farms and ask that violent herdsmen be prosecuted! God is truly the Lord of Change!
You too can read the statement, celebrate the renaissance in our president and give him rounds of applause: “Following a brief on incidents that triggered violence and loss of lives in Katsina State on Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed immediate reinforcement of the security architecture in the state, and prosecution of all those involved in the conflict. President Buhari warned herdsmen and communities to stop taking the law into their own hands by resorting to violence at every provocation, adding that the herdsmen returning from the South due to the rainy season must respect the boundaries of farmers and villagers, while the communities must refrain from attacking herdsmen.
“The President commiserated with families that lost loved ones in the attacks from herdsmen, assuring the state that the security structure will be further strengthened to avoid unnecessary violence between herdsmen and communities.”
For this statement alone, our president deserves a Nobel Peace Prize – and even a third term. He has surpassed himself.
Benue people reading this would remember their own herdsmen experience and how the president assisted them with a snub. They would remember that at that trying time, their president counseled them to learn to accommodate the herdsmen who forced them to buy 73 coffins – because they were their countrymen. You are surprised the president did not ask the farmers of Katsina to also learn to accommodate the herdsmen who attacked them? Never expect your leader to understand your journey if he has never trekked with you. No one knows where the shoe pinches but he who wears it. We now have a president who talks angrily at herdsmen because they did in his Katsina what they’ve always done outside their home.
President Buhari
President Buhari
Our president’s cows have come home to graze. Now that the cows of trouble have barged in to graze at the president’s backyard, he comes angrily around. And we laugh.
The herders’ trouble is back to the sender and the king is hurt. If the president now knows who the guilty party is, I will advise that he tells the Coalition of Northern Groups to also know. This is a pampered group that believes the South is hostile to herdsmen just because they are from the North. It gave a 30-day ultimatum to everyone last week but did not tell us what will happen to us at the expiration of the deadline. Groups like this won’t know that even in Zamfara, herdsmen do what they do down South and they get in Zamfara the treatment they are getting from the South.
The new Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle, has so far done very well calling a spade a spade on this Fulani herdsmen scourge. Three or four weeks ago, in search of peace, he met with the Miyetti Allah. His lamentation at that meeting is worth quoting: “The security challenges in Zamfara had been my concern even before I became governor. It is very unfortunate; Fulani were known to be a peace-loving people. There was good relationship between Fulani and other people. Any law-abiding Fulani today is not happy with what is happening in Zamfara and other parts of the country. Some bad elements among us are fond of smearing the image of the Fulani. As I heard, in some towns in this state, Fulani cannot come out, so we want to stop that; we want to carry everyone along.”
He wanted all responsible Fulani people to help “restore their culture of peace, stability, tolerance and understanding.”
Did you note where the governor said “in some towns in this state, Fulani cannot come out”? And we are talking of a state in the North-West – not South-West; not South-East; not South-South. So, those issuing threats against the South because of herdsmen, what will they do to their kinsmen who are making it unsafe for Fulani to “come out” in Zamfara?
It is always good to have a change of guard when things go bad and life loses its meaning. We are learning, for the first time, from this brand new governor that the famed bandits of Zamfara were human beings and not invisible spirits from hell. The old order there gave us all gas and fart and no one could tell exactly who was unleashing the killer odour on the state. Thanks to this governor and the new convert, President Buhari. We now know that the disease ailing the South is the same virus ravaging good, old Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina states. Helpless southern victims can now shout, coast to coast, and call for justice. They won’t walk and cry alone again. The president has joined the wailers.
Southerners, Benue people and Zamfara people and all whose complaints of herdsmen’s atrocities have not received the favours of power now have hope. There was no hope before because it was difficult for him who had not walked their painful path to understand the soreness of their journey. The president’s herdsmen have put their shoes of pains on Buhari and he doesn’t find it cool.
Did you notice that in that statement, the president did not blame herdsmen from Libya for the violence in his home state? Did you notice that he did not blame the farmers for blocking the ‘grazing route’ of herders? Instead, he talked about territorial limitations for herders and one was aghast at where that came from. “Herdsmen must respect the boundaries of farmers and villagers,” the president warned.
So, indeed, there was a boundary beyond which herders must not go with their cows? We pray that the president would allow such boundaries to exist outside Katsina, his home state. May he never be heard again talking about an 18th century grazing route from the North to the South and of herders’ fundamental right to other people’s ancestral farmlands.
  • This article was published in the Nigerian Tribune on Monday, 8 July, 2019.
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