OPINION: DR. TOM OHIKERE
A two term Commissioner for Information in Kogi State, Dr. Tom Ohikere has broken his silence on the controversy surrounding citing of Cattle Colony in Ebiraland, Kogi State by Governor Yahaya Bello.
THE PRESS RELEASE
“To be forewarned is to be forearmed..there is no way for fulani herdsmen in ebiraland.
Let all Ebiras think about this:-
MY TAKE ON CATTLE COLONY (IN KOGI STATE)
When the herdsmen came to Ebira land, they were never ready to maintain peace with their hosts or our farmers at Osara, Aku and Irepeni. They would barge their cows into the farm, eat crops and attack farmers with their stick (sanda) and cutlass if the farmers protest. They don’t offer apology. Its like they took it as the right of their cows to eat the crops.
In the eighties, several clashes were recorded between farmers and herders. In most cases, the herders were the first to report to late Ohinoyi Alh. Sani Omolori who would believe them and pacify them. One day, they attacked late Itopa (the custodian of Omawo masquerade of Okene) in his farm but they found a hard nut in him to crack. The late Itopa beat the hell out of multitude of them, collected their sticks (sanda) and cutlasses and brought them before the late Ohinoyi Sani Omolori.
They also mercilessly attacked late Isa Asido the ‘Akisobe’ of Ikotu, a night masquerade from Okunchi. My childhood friend and brother, Mal. Salihu Zubair, a singer from Okunchi suffered multiple injuries from cutlass used on him by the herdsmen (Agoyi) at Aku. Many such clashes occurred unrecorded in those days (late eighties and early nineties) in Aku, Osara, Irepeni, etc until when our people mobilized youths from Okene who invaded their abodes and razed down their huts. Since then, the clashes minimized considerably.
These clashes would have been catastrophic if it is now that the herdsmen possess AK47. What they do with their AK47 in Ebiraland now is robbery and kidnapping. When herdsmen is being discussed, many people base their opinion or argument on religious sentiment. My very close observation and encounter with them when I was growing up is that even if they are Muslims, they are hostile neighbors to accommodate.
When they were operating at Zango, Iresu Otutu in Adavi LGA, our late Ohinoyi Sani Omolori and the present Ohinoyi did not, in their wisdom, give land to them to build their permanent abode. They would have occupied Anyoke GRA and its environs. The herdsmen fought to be the Sarki of Zango but was viciously resisted with the help of our Ohinoyi. Zango was subsequently shifted to Kabba junction area and Anebira (Alh. Abdullahi Salihu) is the Sarki there up till today.
I salute the courage and wisdom of our people not to subjugate themselves to the rulership of Fulanis. Their tendency to dominate their hosts has no rivalry and, that’s why many people are against them as neighbors or settlers in their lands. Their love for their cows is primary while that of fellow humabeing is secondary. In fact, they kill for their cows. If a driver hit or kill their cow by accident on lonely road, the driver must escape from the scene immediately or else, he pays the supreme price.
The herdsmen are in private business of animal husbandry and, the fact that they move from one region of the country to the other in search of green vegetation and water does not confer on them the right to own massive land from each state of the federation in furtherance of their businesses. Let’s not deceive ourselves because no class of citizens in Nigeria are so peculiarly favoured in promotion of their businesses. Agreed that every citizen has the constitutional right to acquire land and reside anywhere they like.
But using the state machineries or resources to promote the private business and life style of a section of Nigeria by acquisition of massive landmass for them and providing structural facilities/social amenities in the land is not in accord with fairness and justice. Let cattle business be modernized in such a way that every citizen or citizens of each States of Nigeria can decide to venture into it and provide gainful employment to all strata of the population. There can be revolution in that sector of agriculture like what the government is doing in rice farming. It is then Nigeria can benefit from cattle business through export of cattle and its products such as beef, hides and skin, dairy products, etc.
Ajaokjuta Steel , with all its potentials for industrial and economic growth for the country, is lying wasted and being neglected by PMB who stopped the work upon overthrowing Alh. Shehu Shagari in 1984. Now you want to cede my ancestral land to promote the private business and lifestyle of Fulani herdsmen!! Fulfill your campaign promise to complete Ajaokuta Steel and I will listen to you on the ceding of my ancestral land for herdsmen!! Furthermore, how much dollars in export is Nigeria earning from export of cattle or beef or hides and skin that would warrant ceding massive land as cattle colony to the herdsmen?
The 5,000 hectares of land being proposed by government for cow colony in each state is massive land. It is said to be about 25 kilometers by 20 kilometers of land mass. This translate to an area of 500 km sq. Adavi Local Government as a whoke covers a total area of 718 km2 (277 sq mi). Simple arithmetic calculation will show that approximately 70% of the total land mass of Adavi L.G. may be ceded to the herdsmen!!
Presently, the Igalas and Okuns have strongly rejected the idea of cattle colony in their lands. It could be an invitation to communal war if Governor Yahaya Bello insist on ceding their lands for herdsmen and, by his demeanor, Governor Yahaya Bello is eager to make Kogi State the pioneer State for cow colony!!!
As things stand, Ebiraland may be the destination point for cow colony. Where do we have such land in Ebira to dash away for herdsmen? Hope GYB is not going to cede Osara, Aku and Irepeni to Fulani herdsmen for their cows? Hope we know we have generations of our children unborn ahead? Hope we know that once government cedes the land for the herdsmen, their brothers in Mali, Niger and other African countries will definitely come to settle and establish themselves there? Hope we know that such government approved settlement can never be taken back again in years ahead?
In my own opinion, GYB was hasty in his decision to make Kogi a pioneer State in Nigeria with regards to the cow colony issue. Land matter is serious and sensitive matter anywhere. I humbly urge the Governor to take it easy and thread softly. He needs serious consultations on this issue because any attempt to cede such massive land for the protection of business interest and life style of the herdsmen may occasion negative chain reactions now or in future. I was made aware of government’s plan to make the herdsmen full citizens of Kogi State, with the likely consequence of future marriage between Ebira and Agoyi.
This is not a bad idea. In fact, by such development, Agoyi may even become Councillor or Chairman of Okene or Adavi L.G.A in future. It may take 50 to 100 years to come but it certainly can happen. How Fulani is rulling a Yoruba town of Ilorin and other major cities in Northgern Nigeria up till today is well known. Fortunately, my ancestors were not conquered and their lands were not captured by the Fulanis. The story may change if such chunk and massive part of our ancestral land is surrendered to herdsmen in the guise of cow colony. Let’s look at the future implications of this government’s plan.
In this situation, government is not ceding our land for establishment of higher institutions, companies that can employ large percentage of our youths or foreign investors that can transform the socioeconomic life of Ebira land. Therefore, for whatever economic benefits to Kogi government, I am strongly against ceding as much as 5,000 hectares of land in Ebira land to promote the private business of herdsmen. Since the Igalas and Okuns have rejected the idea of of cattle colony in their lands, we should not be carried away by religious or political sentiment to accept it. We should thread softly.
This is my humble and personal opinion.
May Allah give our Governor the wisdom to handle this issue to the benefit of all of us and the future generations.
www.sojworld.com (c) January 27_ 2018