This Was And Is My Stand From The Beginning To Date – By Timawus Mathias
Urgently needed, resolution of the deadly Numan farmer/herder
I am writing today in shame. All my hopes and entreaties for patience, tolerance and reconciliation in my hometown Numan failed. Numan is where Bachama Farmers and Fulani herders have clashed, leaving a deadly trail. The expected Fulani reprisal on the Bachama indeed came and it has been even more bloody and deadly. Lawaru, Dong, Kikon, and Shaforon have been sacked and the body count could rise above 50, and include two Village Chiefs. The armed herdsmen attacked in broad daylight and literally mauled the common folk in their path. This is in reprisal for the earlier raiding of a Fulani camp in Kikon that saw to the shocking killing of of women and children, itself a reaction to the previous shooting dead of a farmer and his son in an altercation with a herder.
For Numan itself, the cows had all left the grazing fields, hundreds of thousands of them. The rivers’ waters ran free, their lush valleys abandoned, herders had taken all their flocks up the dry mountains. Farmers in trepidation, farm and harvest implements abandoned for crude weapons of war and destruction or self defence. Today, Numan stands on edge as rumours of war rent the air, emptied of most of its mixed ethnic inhabitants – the spectacle is hard to believe.
But for the current crisis, Numan is a bubbling junction town, strategically located on the confluence of the Benue and the Gongola Rivers, and as well the junction of the Nigerian North – South highway, and still more, the vital link road between Northern Nigeria, the Cameroon and East Africa. 15,000 hectares of Numan, neighbouring Guyuk, and Shelleng land is cultivated by Dangote Sugar, and tens of thousands of more hectares of fertile land abound along both banks of the Benue and Gongola Rivers – nearly 1000 kilometres of stretch of river valley. Begs the question of why communities that give up 15,000 hectares and can still give up more are war struck over less than a hectare.
But I am angry because peaceful coexistence has been deliberately extinguished from our communities by the wicked manipulation of bigots and greedy folks. Thus in this day and age, herders have taken out their cattle and left the land of their once peaceful habitation. Farmers have scurried their crops into hiding. In the abundance of land and water for cropping and grazing, drums of war are beating, and those without weapons are at the mercy of the armed. Folks waiting to be attacked and to defend themselves and their land.
The elite and our politically elected leaders can not remain aloof. It is a resource conflict, certainly neither religious nor ethnic. Even if both farmer and herder were Fulani, same would have occurred. The land resource is the issue, not tribe, not religion. We must condemn unequivocally the unnecessary killing of Fulani women and children, no matter the provocation, and I dare say that opinion leaders like myself from Bachama land feel the same, believing the law should have been allowed to take its unbearably slow course. Numan and similar flash points in Nigeria are pure evidence of bad leadership and governance at several if not all levels. The security architecture has weaknesses and gaps to the point that the herders and farmers must individually assert their rights and dominions. Crude and brutish. It should not be so.
The killings did not just explode. It was a build up of altercations to which authorities failed to act and hence our security institutions hold the blame for inaction leading to common folks taking the laws of the land into their hands. When first blood is drawn our security is often at a loss what to do. How do our police arrest a man that they have allowed to arm himself with an AK47 assault rifle? They let the bereaved mourn their dead until unbearably aggrieved, they take the law in their hands and retaliate, then of course wait for reprisals. When only two people would have perished, our inactive system caused the death of hundreds, the burning of settlements and the awful murder of future harmony. In the past, assailants were immediately apprehended and the victims assuaged, and dues even paid and justice obtained.
For the sake of our communities of herders, traders, and farmers, already at the mercy of the ravaging economy, it is pertinent to plead with our traditional rulers, specifically the Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Muhammad Barkindo Aliyu Mustapha and Hama Bachama Honest Irmiya Stephen, to graciously and in the name of God Almighty and on the honour of their forefathers, engage in reconciliation and dialogue that can restore public confidence. It is more to the advantage of a bigger and more promising future, that peace is promoted even for the sake of the common poor folks. Governor Muhammadu Jibrilla who has achieved remarkable peace and transformation so far should bring the traditional rulers in on the peace project.
I think the socio-cultural groups that speak for the communities, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association and Pene Da Bwatiye should immediately and promptly engage one another under a respectable arbiter, in the interest of a peaceful future and restored normalcy for the good of all.
Against the glaring abundance of land resource, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Nigerian Government must take a drastic stand on the incessant farmer-herder clashes. The drift towards unattended extremism and ethnic militancy with a proliferation of assault weapons must be checked. The inability of the Buhari Government to address this rampaging herdsmen phenomenon as expected such that amicably resolves the resource conflict will without doubt, tell on the outcome of 2019 second tenure bid. Presidential aspirants with a robust solution narrative will be attractive certainly.
Nigeria must change its food security perception to accord equal and managed status to beef and milk as against rice and maize taken into more account for the purpose. Herders are not “unwanted intruders” but a fundamental link in the food security chain. Ironically, our forefathers without education were able to foster “laws of the grazing fields” that were mutually respected and adhered to by pastoralists and farmers. Shame we are such a woeful failure.