Following the invasion of Professor Wole Soyinka’s Abeokuta residence by herdsmen and their cattle, the Noble Laureate, yesterday, berated Ogun State Police command for lying over the incident. In a statement he personally signed in Abeokuta, Soyinka said, “Cattle imperialism under any guise is an obscenity to humanity.”
He promised to commence a process of public sensitisation on the need to eliminate open grazing and called on the police to join hands with the agenda as it progresses.
Making “a special practical plea,” he drew the attention of the Federal Government to the need to make cattle wagons a priority following the resurrection of the railways. “I grew up with the regular sight of those practical conveyances. It is time to bring them back.”
According to the Nobel Laureate, the most distressful aspect of his recent interaction with cows and herders was that it had created a most unwanted distraction from the ongoing life-and-death Nigerian narrative. “One has to take time off to deal with distortions and fake versions, while students are being reportedly waylaid and killed and/or kidnapped in Ondo and farmers are being slaughtered in my own state. In short, the killings continue, even as panels are being launched to enquire into immediate past human violations,” he said.
“For those who truly seek details of the Ijegba incident, I hereby affirm that I was never physically attacked, neither did I attack any cows. The cows and herders did, however, attack my property – and not for the first time.
“The police need to be very, very careful, learn to be straightforward with public information. Failure to adhere to that obvious, basic form of conduct means that the public will lose total confidence in security agencies and constantly bypass them in times of civic unrest, no matter how trivial or deadly. How on earth could the police claim that cattle did not invade my property? It was. My grounds men knew the drill and commenced the process of expelling them.
“Fortunately, I was then driven out and was able to lend a hand by vehicle maneuvering. Both cattle and herdsmen were flushed out of my property.
Once they were outside the gates, I came down from the vehicle and beckoned the herdsmen to come over. At first, they pretended not to understand, then, as I approached, fled into the bush. We thereupon “arrested” the cows, confining them to the roadside, while I sent my groundsman, Taiye, to the police to come and take over. Since they took rather long in responding, I summoned a replacement and proceeded to the police station. On the way, we met a detachment, turned around, and together we returned to the scene of the crime. The police wanted to commence combing the bush for the fugitives but I stopped them – what was the point? Keep the cows, I advised, and the owner will show up. Of course, that owner eventually did.
“I thoroughly resent the police version, which suggests that the cows never invaded my home: the home is not just a building; it includes its grounds. And it was not a stray cow, or two or three. It was a herd – we have photos, so why the lie? It is so unnecessary, unprofessional and suspiciously compromised. The police suggest that I have nothing better to do than to go accosting cows on the public road – to what end?
“If the police demand proof, the next time such an invasion takes place, I warn that there will be no lack for cadaver affirmation and the police will be officially invited to join in the ensuing suya feast. So please, let us get serious!
“Getting serious means seeking with a sense of urgency, ways of terminating mayhem, impunity, and the homicidal culture being imposed on us through some near cultic business minority who just happen to trade in cattle. It means not giving up on peaceful solutions, but also being prepared for the worst. Those of my line of thought has been working on various ways of sensitizing the nation to the very real and imminent danger issuing from this cattle aberration.
Soyinka observed that the cattle and herdsmen menace challenges Nigeria as a cohesive entity and as communities of free individuals, committed to the dignity of existence.
IN the same vein, Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, yesterday, sent a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him not to misconstrue the current outcry for justice and equity over the atrocities committed by herders in Nigeria as a war against the Fulani race.
In the letter titled: “Appeal to act before herdsmen drag Nigeria into a civil war,” dated February 8, 2021, Governor Ortom also pointed out the concerns in certain quarters over what he called inequalities in appointments, which he said creates the perception that the president is not being fair to all Nigerians.
Ortom said: “Your Excellency, these security challenges have assumed new dimensions where the now emboldened assailants and armed herdsmen daringly enforce their will on legitimate owners and occupants of ancestral lands.
“There are many areas of concern over the Federal Government’s actions and inactions, including the widely discussed concern over inequalities in key appointments. These have reinforced the perception that the administration is not fair and just to all Nigerians.”
The governor, however, expressed gratitude to the President for the many institutions established by the federal government in Benue as well as the deployment of the military to ensure security in the state.
On the herders’ issue, Ortom recalled the several letters he had written to the president drawing his attention to “the murderous activities” of some groups claiming to be representing the Fulani.