Far from the madding cows
On Thursday, May 19, 2016, it was 20 years when my article (satire) of the above title was published in major Nigerian newspapers – for ease of reference, the Sunday Times issue of May 19, 1996. I wrote the satire in the heady days of Nigeria’s military dictator, the late General Sani Abacha, whose regime tortured Nigerians most, and the motivation for the article was the ravaging Mad Cow Disease Bovine Spongriform Encephalopathy (BSE) of that time. In the article, I wrote, inter alia, “Oftentimes, during the long treks in search of food, our cows act as ‘mediators’ between their dagger-wielding owners and landowners / farmers when they get mad at each other over grazing rights. Roles reversal you will say”.
Could anyone ever imagine cows ‘mediating’ between their owners and landowners/farmers over grazing rights in Nigeria? But that was my statement even though on allegory, 20 years ago. Today, Nigeria is in the precipice of cows mediating between their owners and landowners/farmers, if great care and diplomacy, are not urgently taken.
The raging national controversy over the speculated Federal Government’s proposed N940 million grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen especially in Southern Nigeria, and attendant protests against the plan, coupled with the reported atrocities of herdsmen across the land, spurred my reach for my said article. One of the aims of the recall is to draw public / government attention again to what I said in 1996. It is not a joking matter, as they say.
I wish to lend my voice to the ongoing reasoned calls/advice that negotiations, rather than government fiat/sentiments, are the better options in the pros and cons for ranches, grazing rights, path ways, etc to avoid an unnecessary chaos, bloodletting and what have you. As a saying goes, sense and sensibilities are quite often embedded in jokes/banters.
Following is my 1996 article (excerpts). Please ponder on it.
“What lessons can human beings learn from animals?” I asked. How naïve I was! Scientists have since proved that animal share basic instincts with man. They also feel, communicate and react. Nigerian herdsmen have authenticated this scientific theory on animal communication, as they (herdsmen) talk to, and receive responses from their cows and goats.
“Recently, I overhead some Nigerian cows discussing the raving malady afflicting their British counterparts, the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise called the mad cow disease. The submission of our local breed was that British cows, having been part of the revolution on the “Animal Farm”, had become over-pampered along with their fellow co-plotters such as dogs, cats, horses, pigs, birds, etc.
“Our cows are of the opinion that since animals in foreign lands are treated like gods, live in palaces, fly first class, ride in limousines, attend balls, inherit fortunes and get state burials, madness cannot but creep in.
“They (local cows) wished that, but for Commonwealth ban, their British brothers and sisters swap position with them and lo, their so-called madness will evaporate upon landing at our ports. Our cows believe that the scary look of the Nigerian beef eaters, the poor state of our roads and the contraptions that ply them, ‘sannda’ (the herdsmen’s stick) and the wrestling prowess of our butchers are more than enough cure for all forms of madness. I tend to agree!
“Take into view mental and physical torture the Nigerian cows undergo. They are born in the open with Mother Nature as the mid-wife. They trek hundreds of kilometres on hoof (or is it foot) in search of food (and what’s food, but grass) and un-potable water.
“Oftentimes, during the long treks in search of food, our cows act as ‘mediators’ between their dagger-wielding owners and land owners/farmers when they get mad at each other over grazing rights. Role reversal you will say.
“The local breed, when luck smiles, are cowed into open roofed mammy wagons (heavy duty trucks) and are heavily whacked by the owners either for standing or sitting too long during those tortuous journeys.
The poor fellows absorb the whacks and file out meekly upon reaching their destinations.
“At the various cow markets, the animals are herded in the open, come rain or shine, and they watch helplessly as would-be purchasers (food contractors, celebrants, fortune tellers, etc.) size them up for sexes and colours.
“Wham! the ‘sannda’ lands on the rear or broadside of the purchaser’s choice. The poor thing, to justify the asking price, must be on all fours for the purchaser to behold. Then haggling over prices begins. The animal is verbally assaulted and ridiculed by the purchaser as a tactic to beat down the price. Yet, the local cow only moos at the maltreatment.
“The ‘sober’ animal is led into a van, usually rickety, to be taken to the purchaser’s place. Slaughtering is more of a public execution…The slaughtered cow is boiled under very intense heat and stewed in very hot pepper. As a matter of fact, some portions will end up at the famous pepper soup joints where someone once said “insane acts” are hatched.
“In spite of all these potty acts, the Nigerian cow does not get mad except for the very few ones driven round the bend by man. In appreciation of our cows good behaviours, a road has been named after them (Malu Road) in Apapa, Lagos, our capital of commerce and industry.
“Thank God for His mercies, our cows are far from the madding cows, at least. Let the mad British cows and other animals continue to sing their anthem, ‘Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland’. After all, they sent Mr. Jones out.”
In conclusion, I wish again to appeal to all concerned parties (herdsmen, governments, lawmakers, the media, public etc) to think deep and correctly about the implications of their utterances and actions on the issues of Fulani herdsmen, landowners/farmers, grazing rights, etc and please steer Nigeria clear far from the madding cows.
Oloye Lekan Alabi is the Agba-Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland
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