The Untold Story of Fulani Herdsmen
Nigeria News take a look at the personal experience of a Nigerian with the Herdsmen as the country battles the excesses of the cattle breeders.
I found myself at the Old Oyo National Park about four years ago. I was ready to quit journalism for mining. Things had not been going well in the media industry and having studied Applied Chemistry, I resolved to move away from journalism.
Journalism had given one some awards and what mattered to me was how to make money now. So I got a job with a mining firm in Lagos as project supervisor. My job description was to make a report at the mining sites for the company.
It would make me travel far into the forest and climbed high to the hills. It was a tough job and I never stayed long because of the rigour of it.
However before I went back to journalism, I had travelled as far as Iseyin, Ipapo, Komu, and Saki all in Oyo State. I also travelled to Igboho, Igbeti, Iganna, Ago Are, Ado Awaye and Iwerele Ile where the Old Oyo National Park is located.
From Iwere Ile, one would have to travel on a motorbike for about two hours in the bush to get to the mining site. The mining company was dealing in precious stones, mainly Tantalite.
It was a journey that took me to the Oyan River. This season, the water had dried and glaringly exposing the metaphoric nature of the rocks that contained the precious stones.
Right inside this forest are human beings and animals; herdsmen and their cattle. The cattle breeders live in huts and would always drive the animals to the bush for grazing both day and night. That is why they are called nomadic.
They are wild and weird with their weapons delicately carried on their arms. Two lecturers from the Federal University of Technology, Akure had accompanied me to the site.
The lecturers wanted some rock samples and together we could only wave to the herdsmen as they drove the animals in the bush for grazing.
At a point, the commercial motorcyclists had to stop the engine and ask us to come down. There were thousands of cows walking ahead of us, they must not hear the sound of the engine.
“They may attack us,” said the rider who identified himself as Nuru. We complied and followed the cows until they were driven out of the road by the herdsmen. That was the first time I saw a cow as big as elephant. It walked slowly and made our journey slower.
There was no way these population of cows would enter a farmland that they would not cause disaster for any farmer, a thought flew into my brain. The cows did not need to graze on the crops, their movement alone was enough to damage farm.
I thought of the riffles in the hands of the herdsmen and became jittery. The three of us were armless and had to comply with every order by the herdsmen. I thought we had invaded their territory, even though it is Yoruba land.
“Many farmers have been killed here by cows,” Nuru said. He explained that the cows could not stand the sound of hoes and cutlasses working on the farm.
“These herdsmen are wicked. They can kill at the slightest argument. So, we don’t argue with them because they cannot speak our language. They are very hostile and would do anything to protect their cows even when they have destroyed crops,’ Nuru stated.
In his narration, the Village Head, popularly known as Baba Sunday told us that more farmers were killed by cows than herdsmen.
He said, “These cows and their keepers communicate very well. The herdsmen can easily control the cows to attack human beings. They are fetish. They have a lot of charms. They talk to the cows like the human beings. That is why we don’t engage them in any altercation at all.”
So when it was reported that scores of peasant farmers were killed in Benue because the herdsmen allegedly lost about 1, 000 cows, what came to my mind was my sojourn at old Oyo National Park.
What if our “Okada man” failed to off the engine? What if there was a minor argument between us and the herdsmen? What if a cow had strayed and rammed by the bike? All these questions came rhetorically.