Pastoralists and agriculturalists of Nigeria, Unite!

Dead cows lie next to their posts in a burned out park. Nigeria, May 3, 2012, following a raid by gunmen in a cattle market in Potiskum, Nigeria. At least 34 people were killed after a failed cattle raid on Wednesday in the northeast Nigeria market sparked a retaliatory attack by robbers angry one of their colleagues had been burned alive by herders, an official and witnesses said Thursday. (AP Photos/Adamu Adamu)

The ongoing bloodletting between cattle herders and agriculturalists is the subject of an International Crisis Group report titled “Stopping Nigeria’s Spiraling Farmer-Herder Violence.”  The 44-page document is also accessible and downloadable below.

Nigeria. Pullo (Fulani) pastoralist and his cattle and sheep herds.
Nigeria. Pullo (Fulani) pastoralist and his cattle and sheep herds. (Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Nigeria survived the 1967-70 Biafra secession and ensuing Civil War. Today it still faces deep-seated and violent major crises: Boko Haram terrorism in the Northeast, a resurgent Igbo separatism in the Southeast, and a rebellion led by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. During that period the giant federation experienced decades of coups and ruthless military regimes.

Since the dawn of this century, armed pastoral and agricultural groups are engaged in an open guerilla warfare against each other.

Earlier this month, someone asked on my Facebook page the following question:

« Do you think the Fula herders could make sacrifice of the current species of cows they breed for the ones suitable for ranching? »

I replied as follows:

  1. The views expressed by the Mi-yettii Allah association in the Vanguard article are logical. They tell us mainly that, as citizens, they are keenly aware and don’t want to be fooled by the demagoguery going around. They pay every day the consequences of the failed policies and poor economic record of the Nigerian leadership since independence.
  2. Mi-yetti Allah knows that previous ranching experiments failed. So, why would Fulbe cattle owners submit now to laws that are biased and detrimental to their economic activity?
  3. In particular, how and why Fulɓe herders would abandon their familiar bovine species in exchange for breeds unknown to them? It would not be simply a mere sacrifice. No, it would be an economic and cultural suicide!
  4. For we should not forget that cattle has more than an economic value in Fulbe communities. Indeed, it is embedded in their ethnic identity and it reflects their cultural heritage.
  5. That said, ranching is a technical and industrial economic system. As such, it requires modern infrastructures as well as a trained and skilled workforce. It depends on a steady, abundant and affordable supply of clean electricity. It runs on efficient transportation and communication networks.
  6. Unfortunately, such prerequisites and commodities are rare, expensive and sub-standard in Nigeria and throughout Africa. Greed and corruption of the political and economic elite stand in the way of genuine development policies and programs.
  7. The fact is that agriculture and farming are both indispensable to Nigeria and Africa. Therefore, they deserve equal support, not to be pitted against each other.

Domestication of cattle: two or three events?
Cattle Before Crops: The Beginnings of Food Production in Africa
Taxonomy of Nigeria’s Endemic Corruption

Environmental Corruption
Environmental remediation programs have long been a lucrative corruption mechanism. A recent audit of the Ecological Fund—a voluminous federal fund for undertaking preventative and remedial environmental projects—was the first since it was established in 1981.55 It and other investigations have revealed how politicians, civil servants, and contractors have connived to embezzle a significant share of the ₦432 billion (over $2.5 billion in 2015 dollars) allocated to the fund from 2007 to 2015.56
Nigeria is already grappling with many of the most devastating consequences of global climate change. Desertification, coastal inundation, and shifting weather patterns all seriously threaten the country’s long-term stability and socioeconomic development. Weak and corrupt governance—key drivers of deforestation, gas flaring, and other environmentally destructive practices— will magnify the impact global climate change has on Nigeria. In Taraba State, for example, corrupt officials have helped illegal loggers deforest much of Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria’s largest and most ecologically diverse forest preserve. They also exact bribes from these illegal loggers and logging truck drivers in exchange for turning a blind eye to their activities. (A New Taxonomy for Corruption in Nigeria)

  1. Fulɓe are called the “Master cattle herders” of West Africa for at least two reasons: (a) their deep knowledge of cattle (b) their contribution to the domestication of the bovine thousands of years ago.
    In the trade and scientific literature, there are dozens of bovine sub-species that bear technical names such as Fulani, Bororo, Ndama, Adamawa, etc. Those labels underscore the acknowledgement of the pioneering and steadfast role of Fulɓe in animal husbandry (cattle, sheep, goats). For centuries they have roamed three of Africa’s five regions, seeking greener pastures for their animals.
    Since 1980, however, Fulɓe pastoralists have faced relentless natural and man-made disasters. Now many of them must cope with hostile, state-sponsored policies across the Sahel and the Savanna. But Fulɓe should not give up their rights to carry on their traditional activity. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going!
  2. Real ranchers, environmentalists, international organizations, scientists, etc. from around the world would be appalled and would eagerly join Fulɓe to oppose vigorously any policy aimed at the destruction of the indigenous cattle of Nigeria. Because those breeds contribute to the diversity of the bovine population, which, again, was tamed tens of thousands years ago. It is highly likely that Proto-Fulɓe participated in the domestication of cattle. In turn, that watershed event/process is broadly credited for spurring humans into civilization.
Fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the People of the Niger Delta
Fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the People of the Niger Delta

Las, in Central Nigeria pastoralists and agriculturalists are playing the game of provocateurs — such as the author of the article “Genocide, hegemony and power in Nigeria”— troublemakers, shady politicians and arms merchants. By going at others’ throats they have everything to loose. In the end there will be no winners because they will have self-destructed. In waging deadly attacks against each other they only contribute to weakening the already failed Nigeria State.
Pastoralists and agriculturalists, beware! You are all on the same —barely afloat— boat. You  should step back, negotiate, and resolve your contradictions and conflicts peacefully. Don’t fight! Unite! Against poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, corruption, intolerance!
Challenge your local, state and federal leaders, and chiefly President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration. Hold their feet to the fire and make them accountable for their lethargy and inadequate response to the crises devastating the lives of millions of citizens.
Since the mid-1960s Nigeria’s civilian and military “elites” have wreaked havoc and brought the country teetering to the brink of collapse. There is plenty of land to accommodate agriculture and animal husbandry. The Federal Government must spend the oil revenue on the majority of the population: the rural communities.

Tierno S. Bah 

Author: Tierno Siradiou Bah

Founder and publisher of webAfriqa, the African content portal, comprising:,, webPulaaku,net,,,,,,,, and

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