Wole Soyinka decries ‘cattle imperialism,’ confirms attack
• Berates Ogun Police for lying over herdsmen invasion
• Ortom writes Buhari says demand for justice, not anti-Fulani
• Requests compensation for victims
• Says Nigerians should bear arms for self-defence
Following the invasion of Professor Wole Soyinka’s Abeokuta residence by herdsmen and their cattle, the Noble Laureate, yesterday, berated Ogun State Police command for lying over the incident. In a statement he personally signed in Abeokuta, Soyinka said, “Cattle imperialism under any guise is an obscenity to humanity.”
He promised to commence a process of public sensitisation on the need to eliminate open grazing and called on the police to join hands with the agenda as it progresses.
Making “a special practical plea,” he drew the attention of the Federal Government to the need to make cattle wagons a priority following the resurrection of the railways. “I grew up with the regular sight of those practical conveyances. It is time to bring them back.”
According to the Nobel Laureate, the most distressful aspect of his recent interaction with cows and herders was that it had created a most unwanted distraction from the ongoing life-and-death Nigerian narrative. “One has to take time off to deal with distortions and fake versions, while students are being reportedly waylaid and killed and/or kidnapped in Ondo and farmers are being slaughtered in my own state. In short, the killings continue, even as panels are being launched to enquire into immediate past human violations,” he said.
“For those who truly seek details of the Ijegba incident, I hereby affirm that I was never physically attacked, neither did I attack any cows. The cows and herders did, however, attack my property – and not for the first time.
“The police need to be very, very careful, learn to be straightforward with public information. Failure to adhere to that obvious, basic form of conduct means that the public will lose total confidence in security agencies and constantly bypass them in times of civic unrest, no matter how trivial or deadly. How on earth could the police claim that cattle did not invade my property? It was. My grounds men knew the drill and commenced the process of expelling them.
“Fortunately, I was then driven out and was able to lend a hand by vehicle manoeuvring. Both cattle and herdsmen were flushed out of my property.
Once they were outside the gates, I came down from the vehicle and beckoned the herdsmen to come over. At first, they pretended not to understand, then, as I approached, fled into the bush. We thereupon “arrested” the cows, confining them to the roadside, while I sent my groundsman, Taiye, to the police to come and take over. Since they took rather long in responding, I summoned a replacement and proceeded to the police station. On the way, we met a detachment, turned around, and together we returned to the scene of the crime. The police wanted to commence combing the bush for the fugitives but I stopped them – what was the point? Keep the cows, I advised, and the owner will show up. Of course, that owner eventually did.
“I thoroughly resent the police version, which suggests that the cows never invaded my home: the home is not just a building; it includes its grounds. And it was not a stray cow, or two or three. It was a herd – we have photos, so why the lie? It is so unnecessary, unprofessional and suspiciously compromised. The police suggest that I have nothing better to do than to go accosting cows on the public road – to what end?
“If the police demand proof, the next time such an invasion takes place, I warn that there will be no lack for cadaver affirmation and the police will be officially invited to join in the ensuing suya feast. So please, let us get serious!
“Getting serious means seeking with a sense of urgency, ways of terminating mayhem, impunity, and the homicidal culture being imposed on us through some near cultic business minority who just happen to trade in cattle. It means not giving up on peaceful solutions, but also being prepared for the worst. Those of my line of thought has been working on various ways of sensitizing the nation to the very real and imminent danger issuing from this cattle aberration.
Soyinka observed that the cattle and herdsmen menace challenges Nigeria as a cohesive entity and as communities of free individuals, committed to the dignity of existence.
IN the same vein, Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, yesterday, sent a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him not to misconstrue the current outcry for justice and equity over the atrocities committed by herders in Nigeria as a war against the Fulani race.
In the letter titled: “Appeal to act before herdsmen drag Nigeria into a civil war,” dated February 8, 2021, Governor Ortom also pointed out the concerns in certain quarters over what he called inequalities in appointments, which he said creates the perception that the president is not being fair to all Nigerians.
Ortom said: “Your Excellency, these security challenges have assumed new dimensions where the now emboldened assailants and armed herdsmen daringly enforce their will on legitimate owners and occupants of ancestral lands.
“There are many areas of concern over the Federal Government’s actions and inactions, including the widely discussed concern over inequalities in key appointments. These have reinforced the perception that the administration is not fair and just to all Nigerians.”
The governor, however, expressed gratitude to the President for the many institutions established by the federal government in Benue as well as the deployment of the military to ensure security in the state.
On the herders’ issue, Ortom recalled the several letters he had written to the president drawing his attention to “the murderous activities” of some groups claiming to be representing the Fulani.
According to him, “These groups and their leaders have also boasted that Nigeria belongs exclusively to them.
The letters alerted you on several challenges and called for the arrest and prosecution of the leaders and proscription of the organisations in question.”
Continuing, the governor stated: “We are alarmed that, rather than being censored, these leaders and organisations have been emboldened and have intensified their atrocities. They have received encouragement in the process through various actions and inactions by the Federal Government, including the following:
(i) Open Visa Policy, which has promoted an unprecedented influx of Fulani herdsmen carrying sophisticated and prohibited weapons into Nigeria.
(ii) Non-compliance with the ECOWAS protocol on transhumance; (iii) Swift condemnation of any perceived or real threats on Fulani while maintaining silence over their atrocities and admonishing victimised host communities to accommodate their oppressors and learn to live at peace with them;
(iv) The failure to arrest, disarm and prosecute armed herdsmen and Fulani militia; (v) Disarming other Nigerians who have licensed weapons; (vi) Continuation of open grazing and support for grazing reserves, stock routes, cattle colony and Ruga despite nationwide acknowledgement that this practice is unviable; and that ranching is the global best practice for livestock production; (vii) The non-implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan, despite its approval by the National Economic Council and its acceptance by pilot states.”
While noting the devastation their activities have caused in Benue and other parts of the country, Ortom said: “This ugly situation has caused devastation across the country. In Benue State, 19 of 23 Local Government Areas have been affected by Fulani herdsmen attacks, leading to loss of lives, destruction of property and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Benue people who are now living in Internally Displaced Person Camps and host communities across the state.
“The total number of Internally Displaced Persons currently in the Camps in Benue State is 483,692 persons.
“Returning these Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their ancestral homes has been impossible as herdsmen continue to attack, kill, maim and rape those who return. The Federal Government is also yet to redeem the pledge made on 15th May 2018 by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to contribute N10 billion to Benue State towards the reconstruction, rehabilitation, reintegration and resettlement of displaced persons.
“The failure of the IDPs to return to their ancestral homes to resume normal farming activities, together with the impact of climate change, has posed a serious threat to national food security, as evidenced by rising food prices.
“Sir, we all remember the wise counsel of Nigeria’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, the late Alhaji Maitama Sule, when Northern Leaders Forum visited you as the President-elect in 2015.
He said, inter alia ‘…With justice, you can rule Nigeria well. Justice is the key. If you do justice to all and sundry (and I say all and sundry) if you’re going to judge between people, do justice irrespective of their tribe, religion or even political inclination. Justice must be done to whosoever deserves it.’
“Mr. President, this call for justice is the heart cry of every patriotic Nigerian. It is not a call against the Fulani race or any other ethnic group, but a call to make Nigeria work for every Nigerian in line with the Oath of Office we took as leaders and your pledge to be a President for all Nigerians and to be for everybody and for nobody. Unfortunately, you seem to be tilting towards the Fulani at the expense of other nationalists.”
Ortom cited leading voices that had spoken against atrocities of Fulani herders, including the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad, who he said had acknowledged that seven or eight of every 10 kidnappers arrested in Nigeria were Fulani.
“This is not a good testimony,” he added. “More so, the consequences this image has cast on the Fulani tribe should be corrected now.”
While emphasizing that he has nothing against the Fulani, Ortom further stated that these are not sentiments directed against Fulanis, who are indigenous to Nigeria and have been living at peace with other Nigerians.
“Testimonies abound in that regard. For example, my wife and I were accommodated by a Fulani man while in school at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Till date, we are still very good family friends and he visits me occasionally in Benue.
“This point underscores the pain we all have had to go through to understand the tragedy where armed herdsmen from Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and other neighbouring countries are pushing the whole country to the precipice.
“While addressing the Nigerian community on Tuesday, April 19, 2019, in Dubai, You also blamed these foreign herdsmen for the attacks on Nigeria.
“Mr. President, as a major stakeholder in the Nigeria project, I have a responsibility to raise these major concerns and to offer some recommendations towards addressing them.
“A Ranching policy in Nigeria will provide an avenue for both crop farmers and those involved in animal husbandry to increase production using modern technology. This is the only way out of ending farmers/herders conflict;
(ii) Direct the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to enforce Prohibition of Open Grazing Laws passed by various states of the federation;
(iii) Abolish Open Visa policy and direct relevant security agencies to ensure full compliance with the ECOWAS Protocol on Transhumance;
(iv) The Federal Government should immediately pay compensation to families killed and those whose properties were destroyed by the herdsmen in various communities across the country;
(v) Condemn the atrocities perpetrated by armed herdsmen; arrest and prosecute the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and other Fulani Socio-cultural groups who have consistently admitted to the wanton killings and destruction of communities across the country.
(vii) License Law-abiding Nigerians to carry weapons in self-defence;
(viii) Ensure justice, fairness and equity in all issues relating to public safety and security;
(ix)Support the resettlement and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons as a result of herdsmen atrocities in all States of the country.”
Concluding, he said: “Your Excellency, I am writing to you as a patriot who is concerned about your reputation and the fate of our dear country. I am imploring you, once again, to rise to the challenges of these times to avert the country’s drift to anarchy and disintegration, a situation that sycophants and praise-singers might be unwittingly shielding from you.
“In 2015, Nigerians enthusiastically welcomed your return as a leader with a reputation for uprightness, fair-mindedness and integrity. The current situation is raising doubts in the minds of many Nigerians who had believed in you.
“Mr. President, your compatriots are looking up to you to act fast to redress the situation.”