Herdsmen crisis: How Fayose outperformed Ajimobi on citizen protection

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I’m not a big fan of Gov Fayose but on the issue of Fulani herdsmen, he outperformed Gov Ajimobi. Here’s why

This week, we finally got to know the position of the Oyo state government regarding the issue of Fulani herdsmen. Everywhere you look at in Ibadan, you will see herdsmen. They’ve even been sighted right in the garden in front of the governor’s house at Agodi. Recently, IBPulse also reported that the cows were sighted in front of the University College Hospital Ibadan. If you don’t believe, check out the picture below and more of such here.

So we can all agree that Ibadan has an herdsmen problem. Moreso, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP) was recently killed in Oyo by herdsmen. In all, a total of ten lives have been lost in recent times in the state to violence involving the herdsmen which compelled the state government to finally decide to act beyond the governor merely saying that it is against colonization by Fulani herdsmen.

So yesterday, the state governor met farmers and herdsmen in the state where he revealed the decision of the state government on the issue of herdsmen in the state. According to him, security agencies should begin the immediate arrest and prosecution of Fulani herdsmen caught carrying guns and other dangerous weapons across the state.

Ajimobi also directed the immediate registration of herdsmen and possibly their cattle to separate genuine pastoralists from criminal-minded herders, as well as the convocation of a monthly stakeholders’ meeting at the state and local government levels.

Besides, the governor said that a surveillance unit would be created under the Oyo State Joint Security Outfit, Operation Burst, to curtail the menace of cattle rustlers, murderous herdsmen and farmers who may take the laws into their own hands by poisoning cattle grazing on farmlands.

He called on residents to join hands with the government to secure the state by being vigilant and to always report any form of security breach to the appropriate security agencies instead of taking the law into their own hands.

The governor wondered why anybody would be carrying guns and other dangerous weapons all in the name of herding cattle, saying such a person should not be regarded as a herdsman but an armed robber.

He said: “The flagship of our administration’s programmes and successes has been the maintenance of peace and security and we will not allow anybody to truncate this. Fulani people are good people; if not I will not allow my only son to marry a Fulani lady. We must separate criminals from the good people.

“Why will a herdsman be carrying gun? Henceforth, any herdsman found with guns should be arrested and prosecuted. Owners of cattle found grazing on farmlands and destroying crops should also be arrested and prosecuted, Any farmer that poison cattle should also be arrested and prosecuted.

“But, we must realise that some of these herdsmen come all the way from Niger Republic and Chad for grazing. Not all of these herdsmen are Nigerians.”

“The people have their roles, while the government also have a role to play in finding lasting solutions to the menace. We must all participate in the security of our communities. Yes, it is the responsibility of government to guarantee the safety and security of the citizens, but we cannot do it alone.

“We must learn to live together in peace. A special surveillance unit will be created under the Operation Burst to curtail the excesses of those concerned and they will be adequately equipped and given necessary logistics.”

Herdmen pushed back

The state chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) exonerated his men from criminal activities and called on government to apprehend those who are criminals among herders.

Bello said: “I must state that the fact that one Fulani is a criminal does not make the whole Fulani criminals. Our normal instruments are cutlasses, knives, rods and hats. Anybody that carries guns should be arrested. The media has not been fair to us by their sweeping generalisation.”

Learning from Fayose

The Ekiti state government under the leadership of Gov Ayodele Fayose probably handled the issue in more decisive way than Oyo state governor. As a matter of fact, in addition to providing a legal framework to protect the citizens, it also achieved diplomacy considering that it was commended by the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Mohammed Sanusi 11 and the National President of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Muhammadu Kiruwa.

Instead of just directing the policemen to round up herdsmen, Ekiti state enacted the Anti-Open Grazing Law which reportedly protects all interest groups. especially the herders, farmers, host communities among others.

The governor also announced amnesty for any armed herder who surrenders such arms to security agencies in the state.

In a statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr Idowu Adelusi, the Emir, who is a patron of the MACBAN, was represented by former Kano State Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who is also the Sarduana of Kano.

Just like Ajimobi said, Emir Sanusi also frowned at the situation whereby some criminal elements would hide under grazing of herd to perpetrate crimes.

“My mission is not politics and it is about peace and peaceful coexistence of our nation

“The law Governor Fayose enacted is the best to defend the rights of farmers and cattle breeders. Whoever crosses the red line should be dealt with as the law provides. That breeders should obey the rules of the communities they reside,” he said.

In his comment, the MACBAN President, Muhammadu Kiruwa, described the meeting as a great eye opener and one that would put an end to incessant clashes between farmers and herders.

“I am really impressed with the governor for organising this meeting. Some state governors would just sit in their offices and not being proactive like Governor Fayose. Some misconception that I personally had against the governor have been cleared now.

” I can say it categorically that Governor Ayodele Fayose is a true leader of his people. He is definitely a lover of all groups including the Fulani people I can say he is the Sarkin Fulani of Ekiti State. He is a peaceful leader and represents hope for all.

We align ourselves with the grazing law as made by Ekiti State Government because it protects the interest of all parties,” he said.

Speaking in the same vein, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe Aladesanmi 111, said Fayose, being a visionary leader, ensured the enactment of the law following the killing of some people in Irele-Ekiti about two years ago.

“Some people thought he wanted to create problems with the law but as a visionary leader, he only took a proactive step and that was what helped prevent bloodshed like we had in some states. We need to tackle the issue before it gets out of hand. We are toying with danger if care is not taken. I would suggest that traditional rulers from across the country move round to meet and interact with the people,” he said.

In his speech, Governor Fayose said the essence of the meeting was to find peaceful means of resolving issues instead of beating the drums of war.

“A criminal is one and should be so treated. Our interest is peace. As we are interested in the welfare of everybody and we must not allow criminal elements to go free. Our relationship goes beyond cows. We must respect each other and we will cooperate to achieve result. We want Ekiti to be a shining example and anybody that needs to be charged to court or fined will be so disciplined,” he said.

What Ajimobi should do

Giving directives will not be enough. In fact, it may complicate matters as the herdsmen will feel they now have to even protect themselves against even the policemen who may be hyper-anxious to make arrests. Look at the expression on their faces at the meeting from the pictures released by the state government. Then look at the faces of the Yorubas in attendance in the picture below them.

The herdsmen were not happy and comfortable and this is where I think the problem is. I think they should be made to also feel safe. It’s only when they know that they are not threatened that they won’t feel they need to arm themselves for self protection.

Oyo state needs a law that clearly state everything in black and white, it also needs to put in place a way of brokering peace because, if we will all face the facts, nothing said by the governor, the police chief or the others speakers at the interactive session would take away arms from the herdsmen and farmers arming themselves.

Diplomacy is the key to resolving this issue and to protect the safety first mantra of the Ajimobi-led administration. The governor can talk to his Fulani in-laws to send a high power delegation to the state to talk to the herdsmen and let peace reign because the herdsmen are everywhere in Ibadan and across the state, it would take more than threats of arrests to get them to put their weapons away.

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