Fulani herdsmen had been having conflicts with farmers long before now, but the conflicts have reached a crescendo in recent times with many people blaming it on the fact that General Mohammadu Buhari is the current Nigerian president. Buhari is a Fulani man and, therefore, from the same tribe with Fulani herdsmen. Buhari is also a herdsman himself.
Many have declared that Buhari refuses to call the criminal Fulani herdsmen to order because he belongs to the same group and tribe as them. Information has it that Buhari is a Life Patron of Myetti Allah, the umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen, thereby handicapping him from dealing with issues head on.
The above indicates why Fulani herdsmen have been able to destroy farms, kill farmers and rape their women without any meaningful effort form the Buhari presidency to curtail them.
Cause of the conflict
The Fulani people migrated to Nigeria about a couple of centuries ago. Their activities have continually threatened the peaceful coexistence of Nigeria. Over the centuries, they have migrated southwards to several other parts of Nigeria, including the middle belt because of the need to feed their cows, which is made difficult during droughts.
The southern parts of Nigeria have a good number of farmers and Fulani herdsmen are known to direct their cattle into the farms of the southerners to eat up the crops. The Fulani herdsmen are even knew to come fully armed with cutlasses and AK-47 assault rifles.
This makes it difficult for the farmers to attack back. If you call the Fulani herdsmen terrorists, you will not be far from the truth. In fact, Fulani herdsmen have become the fourth deadliest terrorist organization in the world according to the Global Terrorism Index.
Southern Nigeria is not the only victim of Fulani herdsmen the northeastern part of the country and the middle belt have also recorded several actualities of Fulani herdsmen terrorism.
All the Fulani herdsmen are Muslims and the farmers usually attacked are Christian farmers. This brought a religion dimension to the whole issue. The ethnic dimension is also not deniable. There are fears already that the conflict may go beyond the boundaries of Nigeria too spread to several other African countries.
The Buhari government has made a lot of effort to downplay the ethnic and religion perspective of the attacks, however, but their efforts had rarely convinced the majority of Nigerians.
Terrorism caused by Fulani herdsmen dated as far back as 1999 in Nigeria and studies show that the violence had claimed the lives of over 19,000 people. Several hundreds of thousands of people have also been displaced as a result and rendered homeless.
Desertification occurs in the Sahel savannah and these forces the Fulani herdsmen too migrate with their cattle to the southern part of the country so that they can find feeding ground for the cattle. The agriculture population in the south has also grown over time and expanded their reach across the south.
While migration to the south may not be the fault of the Fulani herdsmen, directing their cows into people’s farm to eat their crops is condemnable. There were even cases where the Fulani herdsmen would uproot crops like cassava to fee the root to their cows. Aside from the crops being damaged by the Fulani herdsmen, the herdsmen also claimi that the farms are blocking grazing routes.
The economic implication of the attacks caused by the Fulani herdsmen his far reaching. For example, farmers are unable to go to their farms freely and this prevents them from farming. The outcome is that the rate of food production has reduced a great deal.
It also indicates that farmers are unable to go to farm and this invariably leads to find shortage. Food shortage means that more money will be chasing few goods and this will lead to inflation with the few available foods becoming very expensive.
The destructive conduct of the Fulani herdsmen has led to low income for the affected farmers. Even those who are not directly affected are afraid to go to the farm for fear of what the Fulani herdsmen will do. Crop yield also falls drastically as a result. Consequent of the above, the special relationship, self esteem and even the health of the farmers are negatively affected.
To be fair to the Fulani herdsmen, they too suffered some economic losses. For example, there are reporters of cows dying as a result of attacks from farmers. There had also been several reports of cattle rustling, but the latter is usually caused by their fellow cattle breeders, who are usually fellow Fulani herdsmen.
Even at that, the loss suffered by the Fulani herdsmen cannot be compared to the great losses suffered by the farmers. The emotional trauma suffered by the farmers is equally noteworthy.
Many of the farmers are consistently filled with fear, anxiety, worries and anger at what the Fulani herdsmen do to them. The destructive activities of the Fulani herdsmen usually take place in the rural areas, which means people of the rural areas are the main victims
What is the way forward?
The government had not been adequately responsive to the plights of farmers. Rather, the government had lived in denial and even attempted to cover it up. There was a call years back for the government to designate Fulani herdsmen as a terrorist organization, but the federal government turned deaf ears to the call.
Many are of the opinion that the federal government refused to do as expected because buhari himself is a Fulani herdsman and as the life patron of Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, which is the umbrella body of the herdsmen in Nigeria.
The government must be ready to put aside ethnicity, tribalism, nepotism and religion intolerance to carry out its duty to the people. The trend can rarely be abated if this is not done.
If the government is seriously about putting things under control, it must first be ready to put things in the right perspective by first designating Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association a terrorist organization in line with the Global Terrorism Index, which places this organization as the 4th deadliest terrorist group in the world.