Herdsmen of Fulani extraction have been accused of killing hundreds of Nigerians in recent times.
From Benue to Nasarawa, from Plateau to Kaduna, from Taraba to Adamawa, the herdsman has become the poster child for the murders that have gripped the landand destruction of entire farmlands.
When Pulse paid a visit to Bauchi, Jos and Jigawa recently, we took the time to visit the natural pastures around Darazo LGA, Soro Ganjuwa, Azare and Kafin Madaki to speak to herdsmen grazing in the wild about their damaged reputation.
Herdsmen are not killers
“We are not killers. It is unfair to paint us as killers”, Adamu said as he stood beside his herd of cattle in the scorching harmattan sun.“My father passed on this trade to me and I’ll pass on the business to my children. We rear cattle and sell them.
We don’t kill people”.
Ibn Musa said it isn’t true that herdsmen are destroying farmlands for fun. He also considers the whole crises political.
“We used to exist peacefully with these same farmers. After harvest, the farmers will invite us to bring our goats and cattle to clear the land of weed. The dung from our cattle serves as manure for their crops. Why is it that all of a sudden, the politicians have made these farmers to regard us as enemies?”Musa inquired incredulously.
Yakubu, another herdsman of Fulani extraction, also pointed to the damaged symbiotic relationship between pastoralists and farmers as the handiwork of the political class.
“As you can see, elections are coming. These politicians are arming young men to score cheap political points. And when these young men successfully kill people, Fulani herdsmen take the blame”,Yakubu said.
WhenPulse pointed these herdsmen to media reports that the Miyetti Allah—an umbrella body of the herders—has accepted responsibility for the killings; while stating that the murders were acts of self-defense, they first bristled before denouncing leaders of the Miyetti Allah.
“They don’t speak for us”, Ibrahim said of the leaders of the Miyetti Allah.“They speak for themselves and their stomachs”.
One herdsman who wouldn’t want to leave his name, told Pulse that politicians in some of the affected States have been arming youths to kill innocent people so they can use the killings as a campaign message ahead of the 2019 elections. Pulse couldn’t immediately verify this claim.
As we journeyed through the undulating topography of Bauchi, Plateau and Jigawa, we saw herdsmen leading their cattle to graze peacefully on farmlands spread as far as the eyes could see. Farmers were irrigating some portions of the land as well, side by side.
“These people committing these killings are not herdsmen. We are peaceful people. Write that in your story”,Mohammed instructed sternly.