The herdsmen from hell
“Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better and the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph”– His Royal Majesty Haile Selassie 1, Emperor of Ethiopia.
IF there was ever a time to remember the words of Haile Selassie and speak out against evil, this is it, with the abduction of the elder statesman and June 12 struggle hero, Chief Olu Falae, from his home by a group of Fulani herdsmen in south western Nigeria. We thank God and commend the efforts of the Inspector-General of Police that Chief Falae was returned home safely after a harrowing three days. Given his status in Yoruba land, had this not been so, there would have been cataclysmic consequences for the unity of our country.
It is because we wish to avoid such a scenario that it is important that we get these marauders and vandals out of our territory as quickly as possible. This is especially so given the fact that, by Falae’s testimony, it is clear that the Fulani herdsmen that abducted him were working hand in hand with Boko Haram.
These herdsmen have become the pests of our nation. They are like the east African tsetse fly: wherever they go, they suck the life blood out of their hosts and, like the locust, they destroy everything in their path. They are like leeches: they indulge in a parasitic mode of nutrition and they suck the blood of the carcass until their victim is left for dead.
Anyone that doubts this should ask the people of the North Central zone what they have been suffering in the hands of these vagabonds and vagrants for the last 50 years. This is especially so in Plateau, Benue, Niger, Kwara, Nassarawa, Taraba and Adamawa states.
Yet, up until 20 years ago, this was essentially a northern problem and it did not affect the south. Sadly, it has now become a national plague that knows no boundaries and whose poison threatens to consume us all.
In the last few years, the Fulani herdsmen have attacked, ravaged and pillaged thousands of innocent people in the South-South, the South-East and the South-West zones of our country.
We recall how, after a violent clash between them and some Yoruba farmers in Oyo State in 2000, General Buhari (as he then was) led a strong delegation of northern leaders to see the late Governor of Oyo State, Governor Lam Adeshina.
The abduction of Falae may well have brought things to a head because today virtually every self-respecting Yoruba man is calling for strong resistance to these alien cattle-rearers whose criminal activities have led to nothing but blood, tears and carnage. If the government refuses to stop them, some communities may end up doing so themselves.
Yet, a more sinister dimension to this problem is best illustrated by the following question. Can there be any truth in the assertion that the Fulani herdsmen are nothing less than the vanguard and covert armed wing of the Fulani ruling class which has managed to infiltrate the south under the ingenious guise of selling cows?
Are they sleeper cells of a much bigger army and a much wider cause? Are they, as Falae has suggested, working hand in hand with Boko Haram? If a major conflict were to arise, would those sleeper cells be activated and would they commence the wholesale slaughter of the indigenous population in their host states? As painful as it may appear, these are questions that we must ask.
The fact that the herdsmen demanded for a N100 million ransom from Falae speaks volumes. What do mere cattle-rearers want with N100 million? Even more instructive is the fact that when they were offered N2 million, they responded by saying that that amount would not be enough for Boko Haram.
Given all this, it is clear to me that we must begin to look at the wider picture. We must accept the ugly reality that there may be more to all this than meets the eye. Up until the time of writing this piece, not one of Falae’s captors has been apprehended by the police and they seem to have vanished into thin air. One wonders what transpired. Were they granted amnesty or are they ghosts?
Can there be any truth in the suggestion that there was some kind of official collusion in the abduction? Was it an attempt to put Falae, and by extension the Yoruba, in their place for vigorously supporting the idea of a national conference? Is it an attempt to intimidate those from the South-West that opposed President Buhari in the 2015 presidential elections?
Afenifere, the leading socio-cultural group of the South-West of which Falae is a leading member, and the Yoruba people generally have a way of rising to the occasion when they are threatened, cheated or persecuted. History proves that.
Another curious twist to the tale is the fact that it took the government two days to make any formal announcement on Falae’s abduction and just the day after they finally did so, the elder statesman was suddenly released.
The question is this: who is pulling the strings from behind the scenes and who is attempting to test our resolve and test the waters? One thing remains clear. The days of killing people with impunity and stripping them of their lands and possessions are long over.
Permit me to conclude this intervention with an interesting and relevant contribution from the famous British historian, writer and educationalist, Dr. T.R. Batten. He wrote:
“The Fulani were at their most influential in Gobir. Then a dispute broke out between their Imam, Usman Dan Fodiyo and Sarkin Gobir Yunfa. The Fulani rallied behind their leader who encouraged them to defy their Hausa Chief. He began a jihad and fighting broke out. Thus the Fulani seized the country by force against the will of those who lived there. The enmity had nothing to do with religion for among those who fought (against the Fulani) were many Muslims. It was about the Fulani’s wish to seize power from the Hausas.”
It follows that the herdsmen and those that they represent conquer by infiltration, assimilation and guile. Those that doubt this should find out what became of the ancient Hausa kingdoms. May God deliver us from the vagabonds and vagrants in our midst.
• Chief Fani-Kayode is a former Minister of Aviation.