By Richard Maduku
For some years now, the civilized world has ignored an activity that ought to be classified as a crime against humanity in Nigeria. The situation has become very worrisome to many today because of the unabashed support President Muhammadu Buhari is giving to this ‘trade’ since assuming office in 2015. From his words and deeds, promoting this activity above every other thing seems to be the sole reason he strove desperately for the office for so long. The reason he and his lieutenants always give for this stance is that the activity is cultural. He even revealed that when asked point blank by the haughty former US president, Mr. Donald Trump, why his people (the Fulani) are killing Christians, he told him it was cultural! It is as if everything our ancestors did is still good today and worth promoting with a do or die zeal.
President Buhari and his aides seem to have forgotten that less than two hundred years ago, slavery was an honorable business in many parts of the world. That our forefathers once threw baby twins into the forest to die. And that some communities were once burying human beings alive together with their late kings. These and other practices too numerous to list here that have not only been prohibited by modern governments but are also repulsive to the majority if not all, is due to the gradual evolution of humans into better beings. But why has this not been the case with the subject of our concern here?
If you have just strayed from Mars or any other planet and so did not know what we are talking about here, we shall tell you right away. It is the open cattle grazing by the Fulani. lf you are wondering what we mean by blood beef, we shall also explain it briefly here. We know there is no beef without blood anywhere in the world. We call it blood beef here because the word ‘blood’ is what is used in describing products that cause pain and much suffering on others especially minors and the vulnerable in the process of extracting or manufacturing them.
For instance, some solid minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are referred to as blood diamonds because of the conflicts associated in the process of mining them. As a result, they are banned in many countries. Some clothing from Bangladesh are also tagged blood garments and banned in many western countries because of the engagement of children in their production as well as the inhumane conditions both these minors and adults (mostly women) are made to work under. To some groups and individuals the rubber in Liberia also deserves the tag because of the closeness of its exploiters to a brutal dictator in the recent past. Ironically, the crime of these businesses whose products are classified with the blood tag is like a slap on the face compared to the nomadic Fulani open grazing that is like a sword stab at the heart! For, unchallenged by the state security bodies, they have turned farms into their grazing fields, highways and streets into cattle routes while obstructing them means death or in case of a community, the Janjaweed treatment!
Before we delve into the menace the nomadic Fulani herders had become to Nigerians especially to farmers, we shall point out a few things they are doing to themselves that should have been discouraged. Like wild animals, they are still more at home in the bush than in the towns and villages with other fellow human beings. They still sleep in the open bush or inside rickety structures made from sticks, straws, leaves and sometimes polythene sheets. As a result of their roaming about year in and year out with their families in search of pasture, they hardly send their children to any conventional school. Before a young man is allowed to marry a Fulani girl, he is mercilessly flogged in public to determine if he was strong enough to marry.
If successive Nigerian governments and the Fulani elite in the cities see nothing wrong with these practices, the international community is not expected to also overlook them. Benevolent governments elsewhere, the United Nations and humanitarian bodies should do something to wean them from some of these practices. Some NGOs have already been doing this to some ethnic groups in a few cases of this nature such as the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Since most Nigerians don’t even know about these painful practices the Fulani inflict on themselves in the name of culture, the rest of the rational world could be absolved of any blame if it claimed to be totally unaware of them. But it cannot claim ignorance of the death and destruction the Fulani nomads are wreaking on farmers who tried to stop them from destroying their crops in recent times.
In the last five years or so, their gory tales have become a weekly fare in newspapers, television and radio stations owned by individuals in Nigeria. They are a daily fare in the ubiquitous social media. But the government owned mediums rarely report them. In the few cases when they do, the facts are distorted. Take for instance, the case where herdsmen armed with automatic rifles that only security personnel were allowed by law to bear attack a farming community late in the night when the farmers were deeply asleep. This is after trekking a long distance unchallenged! The government-owned radio and television will not call it an attack on farmers but a clash between farmers and herdsmen! It will not end there.
The spin doctors of the government would go on to argue that such clashes were not new and will reel out cases of clashes that dates back to biblical times and what-have-you! Even if scores of farmers were roasted alive when their homes were set on fire by the herdsmen, the government would not track them down for prosecution. It would instead appeal to the survivors including women who had been raped to allow the herdsmen to live amongst them in their communities!Thus protected by the government, the herdsmen have now illegally occupied many forests in almost all the states in the middle belt, the southwest,the south east and the south south! From these forests they now do all sorts of things unrelated to cattle rearing such as raping women in their farms or kidnapping for ransom! Cult groups are also everywhere in the entire south killing indiscriminately for flimsy reasons almost every day! These, combined with the boko haram terrorism in the north east and banditry in the north west have literally turned Nigeria into an outlaw country today!
Some individuals and bodies like Amnesty International have been releasing for global consumption details of Fulani terrorism in Nigeria since 2016 or thereabout. Why these reports have not made the United Nations and the government of more civilized nations to label the beef of the Fulani cattle as blood beef remains a puzzle to many. It is true the beef is not sold outside Nigeria due to its low quality and so, banning its exportation is out of the question. But the blood tag alone will give many a psychological satisfaction. The international community could even do more than that. It can, for sanction purposes, track the northern emirs, big politicians, businessmen and top civil servants who own the cattle and are responsible for the animal life the nomads are living as well as the deaths they are causing. For, they and their patrons are worse than slave owners!
Richard Maduku, a retired Nigerian Army (Infantry) Captain and novelist, lives in Effurun-Otor, Delta State