Nigeria is being confronted with the security threat of the Fulani herdsmen attack on farmers, farmlands and rural dwellers, but in the State of Osun, the government have been so proactive to prevent such attacks, as against the situation in some other neighbouring states. SOLA JACOB writes on the measures put in place by the state government.
Virtually all the states in Nigeria are counting human and infrastructural loss due to the menace of the Fulani herdsmen, which has been threatening the fabric of the existence of the country. The continuous siege of these marauders who masquerade as herdsmen had almost pitched the nation along political and ethnic lines.
The State of Osun also had its fair share on the recent menace that plagued the nation, but the proactive stance of the state government has saved the situation and averted loss of lives in the state.
According to the Commissioner for Special Duties in the state, Honourable Mudashir Toogun, it could be estimated that Osun has over 3 million cattle herds in the state but the state had not conducted census to know the actual number of Fulani herdsmen in the state.
He continued that the state had taken proactive stances since June, 2014 with the establishment of committee of Fulani/Farmers, which is the composition of representative of Ministry of Agriculture, Chairman of Fulani Community, the Bororo representative, Chairman of Agricultural Farmers Association of Nigeria, Representative of Bureau of Communication and Strategy, Traditional Institution and Women in Farming.
The committee had visited Fulani settlements across the state. The settlements are largely concentrated at Osun West Senatorial District because of the climate and Savannah nature of the area which is suitable for cattle rearing.
In the process of the visit, the committee held series of meeting with Fulani Communities which bothers on the peaceful coexistence with their host communities, as well sensitise them on the cultural values and beliefs of others.
The committee as well took time to know their need and what could enhance their peaceful living in their land of sojourn, which could make them contribute to the development and growth of the state at large.
Toogun said that three major demands were made by the Fulani’s across the state among which is Hajj slots, request for potable water for their consumption and their cattle as well as qualitative education for their wards.
It is interesting to note that Fulani women desired quality and qualitative education as reflected in their requests, and in collaboration with the state Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), nomadic schools in the state were rehabilitated and about eleven boreholes were sunk in different communities occupied by Fulanis.
This attracted the respect of the Fulani herdsmen in the state for farmers in their host communities and foster peaceful coexistence because of the foresight and proactive stance of the state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
However, the recent experience in the state was the migration of some armed bandits who are referred to as Bororo. According to a security report, they usually come in through Osun border from the neighbour Kogi and Kwara states.
In the last one week in the state, reports of their atrocities had been reported in Ila, as a large farm settlement was destroyed by these marauders, while information has it that presently, some parts of Ijesaland are under their siege, especially Esa Odo, Esa-Oke, Ilesa and Ila.
At times, the real Fulani people in the state do not understand their language and they are not peaceful but rather militant in their dealings.
The chairman of Miyetti Allah Fulani Association in the State of Osun, Alhaji Sulaiman Oloruntoyin, who is the head of Fulani community in the state, in a chart with Osun defender, said “they are violent in nature and in appearance, usually armed with dangerous weapon like AK47 and other sophisticated weapons, they usually move at night, they rustle our cattle”.
Oloruntoyin has since been appointed as the Special Assistant to the Governor on peaceful coexistence of Fulani Bororo Farmers in the state.
To corroborate the claims, Toogun, who is the chairman of the Peaceful Co-existence of Fulani and Farmers in the state said that with dismay, the state noticed strange movement of armed bandits who also rustled cattle of Fulanis who are law abiding in the state, saying, they are nocturnal and very destructive.
Toogun said, to combat their activities, the state has launched a surveillance team in the trouble prone points in the state, saying, “they alerted us and we have sent some of these marauders amongst the herdsmen out of the state in collaboration with other Fulani stakeholders in the state.
“The keywords are vigilance and cooperation of all and sundry which gave us feats achieved in sustenance of peaceful atmosphere we have in the state”, the Commissioner stressed.
Despite the moves of the state government to promote and sustain peaceful co-existence among various ethnic groups in the state, it does not mean that there are no minor skirmishes among the Fulanis and their hosting communities, but the committee on peaceful co-existence between the Fulani/Farmers in the state had settled almost 6,000 cases which bothers on grazing on peoples’ farms and both parties at the end of the cases always abide by the decision of the committee which premises on fairness and quality.
Even some litigations had been withdrawn by parties and resolved amicably through the committee. This shows the level of the credibility and acceptance of the committee’s verdicts by the litigants.
Marriage had always been a bonding force as well, as the Fulani’s had got married to Yoruba’s in their hosting communities, hence, the mutual relationship and respect for other peoples’ culture had come to play.
Oloruntoyin has revealed that most Fulani residents in the state are citizens by birth, saying he is the third generation of his great grandfather in Yorubaland.
“We build modern houses here, our children are in universities and we have inter-marriage. There is need for the populace to know that the issue of senseless killing across the states of the nation affects us as well. The marauders who masquerade as herdsmen rustle our cattle, just that we are lucky not to lose any lives to them in Osun. So, it is only our collective effort that will make us to conquer them. But if we continue to apportion blames along ethnic and religious lines, we are not doing ourselves any favour with that.
“To curtail the menace of these marauders, it must be the collaboration of the villagers, traditional rulers, Fulani communities, the security agents and the general publics”, he said.
According to him, the Fulani residents in the state have discovered that some farmers do invite other herders from other states to their farms to help use cattle to graze their land after harvesting, saying, this portends danger, as most of these invitees sometimes come to graze such farmers during the planting season which always result into losses for the farmers.
“Fulani residents in their host communities are known by the people and traditional rulers in such communities, any strange herders seen should be thoroughly interrogated and the villagers should quickly alert the committees.
Oloruntoyin then advised that more sensitisation and education should be carried to the rural communities, especially border villages on the need to be vigilante and report presence of strange herders to the appropriate authority.