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NIGERIA NOW A CATTLE REPUBLIC?

THE first time I saw livestock in major roadways of a city
was in December 1988 when, as a young reporter, I was in
Sokoto city to cover the turbaning of Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki as the new Sultan of Sokoto.
It was around 6pm, and hundreds of rams, goats, sheep and cows invaded about the only major dual-carriage road in the state capital. One thing that struck me was that all vehicular traffic came to a halt, waiting patiently for this seemingly endless cavalcade of quadrupedal livestock to complete their unhurried saunter through the city.


I asked my driver where all these animals were coming from
and where they were going. The driver, a local who spoke
quite good English, told me that this was the normal time the
shepherds returned home with their livestock. Since many
people (especially the big people) in the ancient city owned
livestock, a special time was set aside for them to come and
go, following designated routes. Being from a different part of the country, I could not understand what animals of that
large number were doing inside Sokoto.
Fast-forward to 28 years later, what do we have? On 8th of
May 2016, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State was
personally driving a bus full of journalists from Owerri to
Orlu. A group of about 50 cows barged into the Owerri-Orlu
Road, apparently from nowhere. The armed herder did not
bother about the shrill blasts of the convoy’s sirens and
calmly kept on walking his animals along the same road,
making no effort to make way for the governor.
Pray, what were herdsmen and their cattle doing inside
Owerri city? The security men swung into action and within
three minutes the cows and their minders were nowhere to be found.
I am sure that the sight of grazing cows is not strange to any
Nigerian. We have been seeing them since we were born –
Fulani herdsmen, with sticks across their shoulders, guiding
their livestock through green pastures. But it used to be in the outskirts of major urban settlements. Because they never disturbed anyone’s lives and property, nobody saw them as a threat but rather as part of the exotic lifestyle associated with the Fulani ethnic group.
But not anymore. Cows and their herdsmen have become not just a threat but a national nightmare. This appears to have taken upon a new tone of impudent arrogance since
President Muhammadu Buhari, the Grand Patron of Mine Ettington Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, assumed power last year.
Buhari, as an ethnic Fulani, is an owner of quite a sizeable
number of livestock, but the impression created is that his
own flocks are quartered in a ranch. We saw how, shortly
after he was sworn-in last year he visited his hometown,
Daura, and went to see his livestock. He also “spoke” to them and the photos of him communicating with the cattle went viral on the internet. Perhaps, because of this, Abu Baker Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, in his most recent video, taunted Buhari, calling him a “cow worshiper”. I don’t know about that.
What I do know, like other Nigerians, is that cows and their
herders are now seemingly above the law. Herdsmen now
carry sophisticated weapons, invade villages, burn them
down, drive away the villagers, rape their women, steal their food and unleash their cattle on their farms. This is
happening ALL OVER THE COUNTRY – from Southern
Kaduna to Nasarawa State, from Plateau to Benue State,
from Taraba to Enugu State; from Delta to Ekiti State and
from Lagos to Oyo State. These armed herdsmen have
kidnapped highly-placed individuals, including traditional
rulers, killed some of them and extracted heavy ransom from all.
When some villagers raised a vigilante group to look for
missing women in Enugu State the Army suddenly came into the picture. All the men were stripped and dumped in police custody in Umuahia and were only freed on bail by a court judge. 
Another instance was when the Directorate of State
Services ,DSS, dug out over 50 dead bodies from a mass
grave in Abia State. Five of the dead were identified as people of Fulani descent. The DSS Spokesman, Tony Opuiyo, without any shred of credible evidence, accused the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a non-violent separatist group, of responsibility for the murder of the Fulanis but showed no interest in the rest of the victims.
The Federal Government kept quiet while these bandits have been running riot across the land. When they slaughtered innocent people in Ukpabi-Nimbo in Enugu State, Governor
Ifeanyi Ugwanyi ran to Aso Villa to shed tears for Buhari. The President then (finally) ordered the law enforcement agents to bring the hoodlums to book, but later made it clear that the marauders were “not Nigerians”! The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, has since picked up the same refrain:
“armed herdsmen are not Nigerians”. Is that an excuse?
Whose job is it to stop these “foreigners”? Despite the
presidential order, nothing changed.
Now, the herdsmen have grown in braggadocio. They have
taken their animals into the heart of our Federal Capital
Territory,FCT, Abuja (some now prefer to call it “Federal
Cattle Territory”, since all complaints about their unwelcome presence has been ignored). An exasperated Senator Dino Melaye has asked residents of the FCT to slaughter any cow found within the city. Some now say the cows are in Abuja to pay homage and thank the President for his plans to establish grazing reserves across Nigeria and import Brazil grass for them at a time Nigerians are told to look inwards for their needs.
A radio presenter in Lagos advises that we should just see
them as “national cows” and stop complaining. Are we
becoming a “Cattle Republic?” Is this how livestock farming is done in other, more civilised
countries, even the Middle East?

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Source: vangaurd

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