Any close watcher of the sanguinary activities of Fulani herdsmen in the country in recent times would know that the country is passing through a very trying period. Never in the history of Nigeria has it faced this kind of reckless killings of fellow human beings in manners that are reminiscent of the slaughtering of helpless chickens. Not even during the civil war!
If there is any evil in our contemporary society that has assumed a worrisome dimension, it is undeniably the unprecedented and callous manner in which innocent lives are being cut short by rampaging Fulani herdsmen. With the news of the gruesome killings perpetrated in Benue state in the last few weeks, one cannot but conclude that Fulani herdsmen have placed inconsequential value on human life in our country.
Millions of people find it difficult slaughtering chickens, goats and other domestic animals. But ironically, the herdsmen have seemingly been deriving pleasure in exterminating the lives of others without even blinking their eyelids. In fact, the life of any man in the estimation of these wicked Fulani herdsmen is just what can be called a “CowWorth” in this context.
It is germane to say that screaming and gruesome news headlines in newspapers cast in the similitude of “55 feared killed by Fulani herdsmen in Taraba”, “Hundreds displaced in Adamawa as Fulani herdsmen attack two communities”, “Many killed as Fulani herdsmen attack Benue community Nigeria”, “Why we attack Benue people’ – Fulani herdsmen”neither hold readers spellbound nor stir their emotions anymore. Paradoxically, most newspaper readers are beginning to see screaming and gruesome news headlines on herdsmen and their killing spree as one of the elements of a good newspaper or magazine.
In a state of lamentation over how reckless human life is being terminated by each passing day in the hands of Fulani herdsmen, I recently overheard a co-passenger in a commercial bus jokingly opined that Fulani herdsmen may not resist the predilection to kill their fellow Nigerians as they place more values on the lives of their cows.” He may not be wrong because it seems the herdsmen value the life of a cow more than that of their own fellow Nigerians. Succinctly put, it appears they no longer see the lives of others as priceless. The callous manner people are being killed these days by herdsmen, no doubt, indicates that human life has totally lost its value. One may not be wrong to insist that life is CowWorth in the estimation of Fulani herdsmen and Fulani elites that are ostensibly maintaining what can in this context be called conspiracy of silence.
Nevertheless, no sane human being will grade the lives of others on the same value scale with that of Cattles. The value, which herdsmen have ostensibly placed on human life, is so inestimable that it would continue to defy logical reasoning.
Permit me to say that contrary to what many people think concerning Islam as a religion, that murder is strictly forbidden in the Qur’an. Qur’an 6:151 says, “And do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully.” (i.e. murder is forbidden but the death penalty imposed by the state for a crime is permitted). 5:53 says, “… whoso kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.”
However, in the Christendom, right from the womb, the life of man has been valuable in the eyes of God. For example, in Psalm 22 verse 10, David said “From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”
Though, this piece is not a sermon, suffice it to say that David also in Psalm 139 verse 14 said, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Life is so precious and valuable that a hackneyed aphorism aptly says “Life has no duplicate”.
From moral perspective, does it mean that killer herdsmen that are presently giving Nigerians sleepless nights are so trigger-happy that they enjoy killing others? Does it mean they do not have conscience? They are supposed to have it since conscience is physiologically inherent in any living human being.
The inspiration to write this piece emanated from the fact that human life cannot continue to be taken each passing day through the sanguinary activities of rampaging herdsmen. Also, the inspiration to write this piece is to sensitise fellow Nigerians that we cannot continue to live in this Hobesian state of nature that is short, brutish and nasty. The society we are presently living in is not too different from the proverbial dog-eat-dog society. In fact, the three tiers of government should try as much as they could to ensure that the killings by Fulani herdsmen are nip in the bud. After all, Thomas Jefferson of blessed memory was quoted to have said that “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”
It is sad that the typical Fulani man who we admired as children in my village in the southern part of Edo state in our childhood days has today become a killer. One could recall with nostalgia how Fulani Herdsmen were almost inspiring the children in the 70s that children were wont to playfully imitate them by herding goats with long sticks in their hands amidst the scream “Kai, kai. Kai” at the herd of goats. Also, the “Abokis” as they were then called, were very friendly. Even the ones that usually come to our village’s 4-day interval market to buy various food items always rent a room and stay in the village for some days before going back to the north. They were friendly even with their passable English. However, at a point, still in the 70s, children began to dread them by derogatorily calling them “Ogudada”. For the sake of clarity, “Ogudada” simply means ritual killer. But the mutual suspicion did not result to any conflict as much as I can recall. Then, when called Ogudada they would jovially respond with the same derogatory word in a retaliatory manner. If I may ask, how come the Fulani Herdsmen are no more friendly and no more value the lives of the people that have been hosting them and their Cattles for ages? If they were to be in their sane self I do not think there should be any issue about a peaceful co-existence. There is no more love lost between the farmers or better still the rural dwellers and the Abokis. Where did we get it wrong?
For us to get it right once again, I believe the elites among the Fulanis should embark on talking to their people, preferably through Town Hall Meetings that can be organised across the state. In the same vein, governments should oil and strengthen available security machineries, and extend their presence to the rural areas as well. As it seems, the issue of security provision in the metropolitan is comparatively given preferential treatment than the rural areas. To me, this imbalance should be addressed across the country.
Isaac Asabor, A Journalist, Writes From Lagos.