Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka’s country home in the forest area of lbadan, Oyo state capital, has reportedly been invaded allegedly by herdsmen.
Although the police has denied the invasion of Soyinka’s sanctuary, he has confirmed that the peace of his abode was indeed violated by herdsmen and their cattle herd, but he successfully repelled them.
Now , if indeed the residence of the Nobel laureate was breached by cattle herd and their rearers , it would be a new inglorious crown on the ongoing tension between herders and farmers in south west Nigeria which has thrown up unlikely and accidental heroes like the governor of Ondo state, Rotimi Akeredolu and Sunday Ighoho, the new self acclaimed generalsimo of Yoruba nation.
Akeredolu has become an usual hero for issuing a quit order to bandits disguised as herders from the forests of Ondo state and Ighoho , is also an accidental hero for giving an ultimatum to quit the forests of Oyo,where the presumed criminal elements masquerading as herders, are equally accused of unleashing mayhem on innocent indigenes of host communities.
Incidentally , the quit notices to herdsmen/bandits from the forests of Ondo and Oyo states are echoes of a similar order that had been given to bandits cloaked as herdsmen to quit Ekiti forests about 5 years ago by Ayodele Fayose, then Ekiti state governor.
So the pattern of criminality by bandits that take up abode in the forests and commit crimes in the townships and then retreat to the forests has persisted in the south west for over half a decade. Bearing in mind that in 2015 , chief Olu Falae, former secretary to the Federal government, SGF and presidential candidate of the SDP in 1999 was kidnapped in his farm allegedly by herdsmen, who later released him, the current reason for clearing up the forests may become clearer. Even as Olu Falae escaped with his life to tell the story , in November 2020 , which is five years after, his farm was again invaded by herdsmen a second time , and the farm and crops were set on fire by the bandits.
Often, victims of the killer herdsmen don’t escape with their lives. The outcome of an encounter with bandits, for the daughter of chief Rueben Fasoranti , a famous Yoruba political leader, was different as she did not live to tell the story.
In 2013 , two years prior to Falae’s close shave with death in the hands of the outlaws, Mrs Funke Fasoranti-Olaokunrin was shot to death when she was traveling on Ore- Ondo express way by suspected bandits masquerading as herdsmen.
Some of the alleged murders were arrested, but the outcome of the prosecution of the case has been woolly.
It is deeply concerning that all these dastardly acts by alleged bandits/herdsmen have been occurring in the forests of western Nigeria and indeed Nigeria as a whole for nearly a decade , yet the criminality was not nicked in the bud.That’s simply because a clear cut decision on how to deal with the crime and the perpetrators were being politicized. It is only now that the mayhem from armed bandits disguised as herdsmen is proliferating and popping up around the country with counter and defense actions against them by the kith and kin of their victims , that the authorities seem to be scrambling to find solutions as reflected by the scurry of meetings by northern governors forum and subsequently Nigerian Governors Forum.
Metaphorically, it is only after the cancer has metastasized that the doctor’s attention is being sought with a view to curing the disease.
In any case , as the saying goes , it’s never too late to act, even though the current frenzied efforts by governors may be too little , too late.
Be that as it may , one pertinent question that’s begging for an answer is: can’t it be ascertained if the banditry being committed is by the real cattle herders or by criminal elements masquerading as pastoralists?
Therein lies the dilemma and the elephant in the room.
Now, to get to the root of the crisis , should Myetti Allah , the umbrella body of cattle herders allow the criminal activities of presumably a few misguided members or criminal elements that might have infiltrated its ranks be allowed to continue to tarnish their image resulting in genuine cattle herders becoming targets of anger and counter violence by the kith and kin of the victims of their atrocities?
Or should the umbrella body self regulate by fishing out for discipline, those giving the majority a bad name?
In my view , those are the necessary first steps towards reversing the current fast moving train of violence that our beloved country seem to have boarded and which can only lead to a train station of perdition.
To be clear , all the quit notices were issued for the same case of invasion and the take over of the forests in the western region by heavily armed men disguised as herdsmen, making the hitherto serene forests toxic.
Could the forceful occupation of bandits of forests in Yoruba land be a case of another Sambisa forest in north east Nigeria in the making in the south west ?
Bearing in mind that the dreaded forest in Borno state only became the home base for terrorists, cattle rustlers and generally an ungoverned area when the outlaws were allowed to reign supreme over the vast virgin land, it is most likely that it is in the bid to prevent a similar scenario with Sambisa being reinvented in the south west , that the quit notices to the bandits were issued by the authorities in line with the conventional wisdom-a stitch in time saves nine. That’s in addition to the fact that the escalation of the hostilities has been hindering the ancestral owners of the land from engaging in farming and hunting, which are their means of livelihood and sustenance , without which they would basically be doomed. So to the owners of the invaded forests , it is a question of survival.
That this malady has persisted for over half a decade , yet not much has been demonstrably done to arrest the situation before it deteriorated to its current crisis level is very dispiriting.
This is more so as the authorities should have learnt from the horrific experiences of the good people of Benue state where there has been a harvest of deaths in the Benue troughs arising from similar invasion of farms by marauders masquerading as herders.
Not taking preemptive actions by our leaders to avert the clear and present dangers illustrates the consistent pattern of cataclysmic management of the herdsmen-farmers crisis now bedeviling our country.
In fact the failure of our leaders to manage the herders-farmers relationship reminds me of the failure to manage COVID-19 pandemic properly by the 45th president of the USA , Donald J Trump resulting in the loss of his re-election bid last year, November .
Clearly, on the matter of security of lives and properties, our leaders have once again been derelict, particularly with respect to avoiding the very dangerous direction that the entire country currently appears to be heading, if concerted efforts are not made to halt the spiraling disorder.
For the umpteenth time, let me ask the question:is a scenario akin to the evolution of boko haram being re-enacted by playing politics with a crisis that is highly volatile and thus has the capacity to exact huge death toll and threaten the continued peaceful existence of our country ?
We will have ourselves to blame, if our leaders allow the crisis in the forests of Yoruba land to become another blithe or as incurable as the malignant tumor like the grievous harm being inflicted by religious insurgents such as boko haram and ISWAP that started in the north east, before spreading to the rest of the north and is currently precipitating a debilitating and catastrophic damage to rest of our country; simply because government has abdicated its responsibility to forestall the imminent danger.
To refresh the minds of readers about how our dearly beloved nation arrived at this despicable juncture where we are faced with a Hobbesian choice of life and death situation , despite concerted calls to avoid the looming disaster via practical advise by well meaning Nigerians , please allow me reproduce my nearly three (3) years old piece on the same issue that was first published widely on online and traditional media platforms since September,2018.
It’s titled Herdsmen Killings: “How Nigeria Can Move From
Chaos To Community.”
In the piece , l addressed the crisis which had reached a tipping point about three years ago and proposed solutions such as the ones now being advanced by northern governors forum and in particular, Kano state governor Umar Ganduje after their recent emergency meeting to address the increasing drum beat of war sounding in yoruba forests and indeed other parts of the southern region of the country owing to herdsmen menace.
If the practical advise contained in my piece was heeded about three years ago, many innocent lives could have been saved.
Here we go:
“As Nigerians, our common goal should be shared prosperity.
Since herdsmen are part of Nigeria, we must all do everything to integrate them into the loop of a prosperous Nigeria.
And one of the most appropriate and universally acknowledged pathways to prosperity, as validated by Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men and founder of Microsoft is innovation.
Not just by harnessing natural resources like oil and gas, solid minerals or engaging in animal husbandry using crude methods, but by leveraging science and technology in the ways production of goods or service delivery are carried out.
Arising from the above, to thrive in this new age of technology, as individuals and a nation, we must set our eyes on innovation.
It may not be the sort of high technology that was introduced by Mr. Gates through Microsoft that earned him (at one time) the title of the richest man in the world.
But even improvements that are a few notches above crudity, such as changing from nomadic herdsman-ship to ranching, could make a significant difference in the life of a nation such as Nigeria.
As part of his philanthropic endeavours, Mr. Gates recently identified Nigeria as a country with enormous potentials to lead Africa through the development of her sizable and young but unskilled Human Resources.
With a burgeoning youth population estimated to be in excess of 60% in a country of about 180 million people, Mr. Gates identified Nigeria as the most viable launch pad for Africa’s development and extended a hand of fellowship and partnership towards helping her harness the potentials.
But characteristically, some top apparatchiks in government who don’t share Mr. Gate’s point of view, ostensibly because of their restricted worldview constrained by some primordial sentiments, rebuffed him.
Fortunately, prosperity for all Nigerians does not solely depend on government, of which it is incumbent to provide the enabling environment for socioeconomic growth and development.
Rather, harnessing of prosperity potentials should be mainly driven by the private sector.
At this juncture, it is worth emphasising that Steve Job/Tim Cook of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page of Google and Elon Musk of Tesla amongst other multi billionaires who got rich through technology developed in the USA, now being sold to the rest of the world, did not become wealthy on account of government patronage. But government created the enabling environment for the innovation and introduction of products and services with universal appeal by the inventors which has also made the US very rich.
Put simply, the prosperity of the aforementioned American entrepreneurs was made possible through creative ingenuity facilitated by government, which only created the enabling environment.
So lbrahim Gambari, said it best when he recently posited that the solution to herdsmen and farmers clashes with the catastrophic fallouts evidenced by monumental loss of lives, does not rest on government alone, but it needs to be driven by the private sector as well.
In aligning with Gambari, who was a United Nations (UN) undersecretary and as such, a top diplomat that has engaged in conflict resolutions all over the world, it’s about time Nigerians stopped considering the herdsmen killings and the colossal collateral damage to lives and properties from the narrow prism of ethnicity and religion.
Rather, government should start viewing it from the wider optics of socioeconomic challenge, which needs practical solution.