The issue of clashes between herders and farmers and its perennial recurrence had become a fixture in any discussion on insecurity in the country. I have alluded to it a number of times on this page and commented on the unreasonably bellicose and belligerent utterances, particularly from those whom we assumed to know better. One clear voice of reason, however, was a speech delivered by the Emir of Muri, HRH Abbas Tafida, when the Presidential Committee on Farmers/Herdsmen crises visited Jalingo in February this year. Though the speech focused on Taraba state, where the emir had continuously been in office for thirty years now, it could apply to any of the problem states. I decided to bring it to the notice of my readers because I view it as the kind of talk our leaders should be making to get us out of this imbroglio. The speech is apolitical and resonates with good sense. Please read on:
“Your Excellency Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency my Governor of Taraba, all my colleagues, seniors and juniors in Taraba state. My name is Abbas Tafida and my position is Emir of Muri and I’ve been emir for 30 years.
“Your Excellency Governor of Ebonyi, you’re welcome to Taraba state and I’ll go straight to the issue. The first matter in the matter of all the conflicts whether by grazers and herders, or farmers and herders, all start from problem of our failure in mental development. The level of ignorance is too high, and the ignorance I am referring to, is not the ignorance where you see person and say he doesn’t know ABCD. No, the ignorance is even of the most educated people you see around, and ignorance I mean is the failure of each individual to be able to quickly assess the full implications of his actions when he comes to act.
“I’ll give an example, just one month ago we had a crisis, we call it Jessi. One man who was rearing cows, I will not call him a Fulani man, or herdsman – because anybody can be a herdsman, it’s a business; He ate another person’s corn, not the corn, but the stalk of the corn, and the man met him and said why did you eat the stalk of my corn, and he said I thought you didn’t need it, he said it’s not your business to think for me, so the stalk of my corn is my own, so pay me. He said what do I pay you, he said pay me 1000. He said no it’s too much, I can’t pay you 1000. He said if you can’t pay me 1000 I will hit you, and he hit him, and the other man revenged, and they both fell down. But revenge was stronger than the first hit, it was reported to the village head, the village head rushed, he called the police to arrest the man who was hit harder and they took the man who was on the ground to the hospital, the village head has acted correctly. But within two hours, relatives of the other man came and burnt the village, the relative of the people in this one also burnt the other village, by the next 3 days 80 people were dead. The reason was simple, none of them could assess the implication of his action, and that comes from mental underdevelopment, and that is my responsibility and that of Governor Darius, we have to work hard to improve the reasoning of our people, and the time within which each person will be able to judge his action, and we must encourage people to know that there’s no judgement should they do, to kill anybody.
“Number 2 is failure of policing and the legal system. I have been in Taraba for 30 years, we are now today talking of herders and farmers, but ten years ago we were talking of Jukun and Tiv in Wukari. 2000 people died. Not one person was taken to prison, not one person was taken to court, not one judgement was passed, not one person was caught with arms. Who failed to do all that? Its whoever allowed the Jukun and Tiv to fight freely for 3 years, and he maybe the person who supports the herdsman to hold their guns. We must stop the first round if you want the second round to be saved.
“If you look at the conflict between Kuteb and Chamba, there was totally no reason. These are people we know, you can’t even distinguish between the two, but almost every orange tree in Takum has been cut down and almost every house was brought down. And our law enforcement agencies are there, our systems are supposed to work, they are not working, we must make them work.
“The chairman said when you say a problem, say the solution. The solution here is: the police is not effective. It is not because they are bad. They may not be very good, but the biggest problem is underfunding. The police have no resource to act on time, they don’t have enough guns, they don’t have enough bullets that they don’t have whatever it takes to move quickly, including the ignorance I am taking of. Most of the policemen are less than what a Nigerian police should be, and if that remains the case we will never solve any problem.
“Today we have herders and farmers, and let’s not forget that yesterday we had farmers and farmers. And we don’t know what we are going to have the next time. All of them need one solution, the solution is our legal enforcement system must be made to work, and must be made to work on time, and it must be made to work intelligently.
“The third, it comes to us leaders, we make noise here and we claim whatever we want to claim, but the first thing in the leadership is impartiality. We cannot have a governor from every tribe, we cannot have an emir from every tribe, we cannot have a governor from every religion, we cannot have an emir from every religion. Whoever becomes a governor, becomes an emir, becomes whatever position, he can only have one tribe and one religion. And therefore it is the honor and responsibility of the men leading -including myself, that we should not belong to any tribe. Our blood can belong to a tribe, but our actions should be totally impartial. If we remain in any way partial, nature has no vacuum. The person that you are partial to will react and you will end up regretting your partiality. Justice is good for everybody, is for the benefit of everybody. It is the only source of safety for everybody.
“Number 4 is youth; everybody before he becomes old was a youth. The young age is a time we are supposed to know what is right. But alas, what we have in Taraba, almost every community has a militia, Youth militia! Youth militia! These youths do not go to school, they become agents for politicians, and when there is any crisis, no matter how small, they take advantage and go beyond their mandate, go beyond whatever is reasonable. So I call on the Governor to outlaw outright any question of youth militia, in every community. Our youths can associate but they should associate to be able to develop themselves mentally, to be able to create careers for them, and be good members of our society.
“Finally, the last issue I want raise, is the press itself. You fill everywhere with your cameras, when people are killed you give stories, 2 people you say 200, 200 you say 2, according to what you want. We cannot move forward unless you Pressmen become analytical, impartial, productive, creative and sensitive to national interest. We must make Taraba good, we must make Nigeria good, and we cannot achieve that unless we all intend to do good. Thank you very much.”