Samuel Johnson, the man who wrote the Yoruba history and invented the Yoruba alphabet which we are using till today said agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but also gives the only riches a nation can call her own. This thought about agriculture makes humanity to know that apart from the fact that it is the first job divinity gave humanity. It also shows that no matter how a nation is ready to flaunt her affluence, the mainstay of all economies all over the world is agriculture.
And in Agricultural Science, we were taught that agriculture is a chain that encompasses other aspects like animal husbandry, cash crops and food crops and a whole lot of other money making production line. This means that agriculture entails both livestock and vegetation; consequently, any form of attack on agriculture is dangerous and constant attacks on agriculture by whoever is a pointer to hunger.
This is the reason the running battle between farmers and herdsmen (armed and unarmed) across the country especially in agrarian communities calls for serious attention before food security is completely jeopardised. Indeed, there had been efforts from various quarters in some communities in the South-West to ensure there is a compromise to enable both parties to live in harmony but it seems enough has not been done.
In Oyo state, there had been series of such meetings but the first to really make some headway is the recent meeting that took place in Iseyin Local government area of the state. The meeting was facilitated by the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Iseyin branch under the leadership of Comrade Gbenga Okunlola.
The uniqueness of the said meeting was that all parties were represented and were willing to give peace a chance. The herders were led to the meeting by the chairman of Myetti Allah Association in Iseyin, Alhaji Yaqub Bello while the farmers were led by the state chairman of AFAN, Engr John Olateru represented by the state secretary, Comrade Adewumi Abass Adekunle.
The meeting which held at the Iseyin Township Hall was a step in the right direction as it spoke on issues that lead to clashes between herders and farmers and ways of avoiding them. It is a fact that conflict is bound to happen as long as humans exist because humanity is a two-sided entity where good and evil coexist. The zeal to do good and evil is in human nature just like harmony and conflicts are mere reflection of people’s mentality and their attitude to it as well as what we think that we have become.
Every normal human being has both dove and hyena tendencies in his anatomy; it now depends on what individual feeds on often in terms of environmental influence and beliefs.
Among farmers and herders, there are two classes of people; some choose friendship and good relationship while some choose hostility and wars.
Socrates said that “the particular product of morality which none of the other arts produced was friendship within communities.” Available evidence indicates that poor relationship exist among farmers and herders due to lack of a common ground which can be facilitated through periodic meetings where they can talk on issues and resolve conflicts.
The consequence of not working together and coexisting in harmony is what culminated into constant clashes, destruction of farm and unnecessary deaths as a result of increasing fears of insecurities and diminished trust. That the principal actors sat on the same table to harmonise their interest is a good omen and a pointer that the pandemonium orchestrated by lack of understanding and a platform to resolve issues can be avoided, it also indicates that in some communities, the season of constant battle between herders and farmers may have come to an end.
There are a lot of factors that cause disaffection among farmers and herders; selfish interests, lack of consideration for others, language barrier, hegemonic arrogance, border porosity, open grazing, ethnic disunity and the sense of being above the law.
Understanding through periodic meetings and effective communication with each other can solve the fundamental issues while the government can solve many of the other factors. In the case of border porosity, the government agencies vested with the power to check the influx and infiltration of foreigners can help reduce hostility by doing its job effectively.
Many people believe that there are two kinds of Fulani,the native and the Bororo. And recently, the Emir of Muri aggressively spoke about them, saying he was ready to use what he has to fight the Bororo, who he said despite the opportunity given to them as kinsmen still commit atrocities and inflicting blows and injuries on his people.
The words of the Emir reflect on border porosity which government could have stopped initially if its agencies perform their duties effectively at the border. Perhaps this is why the chairman of Iseyin Local government mandated that henceforth the Fulani or any herder must not only register in his local government but also be given a numbered cape for identification purposes to make it easier to identify recalcitrant herders.
The fears expressed by farmers are legitimate. While they do all they can to improve produce, they face the threat of not having anything to show for it due to activities of herders that move cattle from one place to the other without respect for cultivated land, destroying plantations in the process. The Oyo State AFAN has procured tractors to facilitate food production and it plans to give it out to farmers at a reduced rate was a vision to operate mechanised farming to reduce cost of production and market price of produce but the fear of herders destroying farmland and produce is a clog in the wheel of progress.
But now that the meeting has taken off, AFAN has stated that it will take place in all the 28 agrarian areas in Oyo State especially Akinyele, Ido, Atiba, Afijio, Oyo East, Oyo West and all local government areas in Oke–Ogun. While AFAN is making spirited efforts to solve the problems and herders also seem to be cooperative, government should take the necessary step and show the will power to put a stop to the menace.
Anything that can fan ember of discord should be curbed and government at all levels should not be singing discordant tunes. It is time to be united and government should bear in mind that farmers and herders complement each other and no government should stoke the fire of discord.
Traditional rulers in all localities should have it in mind that it is not bad to allow herders in their environment but the expectations of Isakole, the local tax collected should not stop them from warning herders to follow the law or treat them as untouchables at the detriment of the locals.. The elites who have cows should also stop subverting justice.
Now that herders and farmers have agreed to have periodic meetings in Iseyin Local government, the effort should be replicated in all agrarian areas in the state, the government should encourage them by providing resources.
Babalola, a public affairs analyst and social commentator sent this piece from Oyo state.
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