We have a good habit of being welcoming to people, especially strangers, who may be in need because we recognize the fact that regardless of differences in ethnicity, language, or religious affiliation, we share a common humanity that binds us all.
And, as the cliché goes, salt is added to the injury when we find out that some of our chiefs and leaders who are supposed to protect us directly or indirectly take the side of the Fulani people because of some egocentric interests and selfish gains.
This is betrayal and sabotage to the core. Permit us therefore do a brief analysis of this unfortunate development from my perspective and put forward some suggestions for addressing the issue of Fulani menace in Idoma land.
In those days, Fulanis would come and go because their visit was seasonal. They would come at a favourable season to pasture their cattle and move on to greener pastures after exhausting the food available in a particular area for their cattle. That is why we call them nomadic Fulanis. Today, it is a totally different situation.
Today we have large Fulani settlements in and around Agatu, Edumoga, Okpoga, Ichama, Owukpa and other areas in Idoma land. Are these Fulanis ever going to leave or have we settled to the reality that they have come to stay for good? As we all know, farming is the major occupation of Idoma people. Economic life therefore revolves mostly around agrarian activities for self sustenance as Idoma people practice a predominantly subsistent farming method.
The encroachment of the Fulani herders pose a great problem because their presence results in destruction of crops and arable land; contamination of streams which serve as the main source of water supply in most villages; overgrazing of land resulting in erosion and depletion of top humus soil needed for good crop production; harassment of the local host community members resulting, in some cases, in major conflicts and loss of lives; indiscriminate bush burning; defecation on our roads as herds of cattle cross from one place to the other; and road accidents.
There are lots of others examples. In fairness to the Fulani herders, there have been instances of harassment from certain miscreants in villages and isolated cases of theft of cows, but this is nothing compared to the menace of the Fulani herdsmen. How often have we heard of innocent farmers murdered in cold blood by Fulani herdsmen? How often have we heard of destruction of whole farm land along with crops just planted or only beginning to germinate at the planting season?
Worse still, how often have we seen our leaders/chiefs and the police turn a blind eye or refuse to act in glaring cases of injustice to our farmers just because they have been bought over by the Fulanis. Among the strategies being used by the Fulanis are: giving gifts of cows, offering to raise cows for these local chiefs and other leaders who come from the area, or giving their daughters in what I call gift-marriage to the chiefs/leaders to buy them over to their side in times of conflict. One may argue that it is possible to have a symbiotic relationship with Fulani settlers such that both parties mutually benefit from their stay on our land.
Yes, that would be a valid argument except that in this situation we are dealing with a people who have an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda which explains why it is sad that some of our chiefs/leaders are too myopic to read the handwriting on the wall.
And so I ask: Is the encroachment and settlement of the Fulanis in Idoma land not part of a general plan of the Hausa/Fulani to infiltrate all corners of Nigeria to facilitate Islamization and entrenchment of Islamic beliefs and values?
We may think that this is not that of a big deal, not a serious matter as such. Please take a deep breath! To begin with, anything that results in loss of lives is serious enough, especially innocent lives in the hand of people who have no remorse for their evil and nefarious acts.
One life lost is too many. Come to think of it? Is any Idoma man audacious enough to go to a place like Birnin-Kebbi or Kaura-Namoda in the far North to do to the natives of that area what Fulanis do to us on our Land? Let us fast forward for a little while.
Do you not envisage a situation where Idoma land, over time, will become like Jos-Plateau which has and continues to witness a great deal of violent and deadly clashes between the natives and the Hausa/Fulani settlers? May be we think it is too much of a stretch but we must not be too naïve and complacent.
Idoma land is by no means alone in the experience of the menace of Fulani headsmen. Our neighbors, the Tiv people, have been dealing with similar situations. But if my assessment is correct, they have been more pro-active in the way they have handled the matter so far. Sometimes aggressiveness pays, and so, it is perhaps about time we learned a few lessons from our Tiv neibhgours.
The resulting socio-economic consequences in the affected areas either in Idoma or Tiv land among others are: Displacement of farmers and whole farming communities who, without farm and production of crops for that year, are sure to be victims and starvation in the months ahead; reduction in agricultural output resulting from destruction of crops by herds of cattle carried through the farms by remorseless Fulanis. But this is only a tip of the iceberg compared to the loss of lives and property as whole communities are raided by Fulanis and their hired mercenaries.
When innocent poor children become orphans and wives are reduced to the status of widows because we fold our arms and allow foreign aggressors take over our land, it is a sad and unfortunate development. It is important for our chiefs/leaders to understand that leadership is not a brute exercise of power by way of force or coercion.
From the philosophical point of view, power is distinguished from authority in this regard. In the exercise of authority, a leader dispenses leadership role by virtue of the right that accrues to that office or position conferred on him by the community.
Through the legitimate exercise of this office, the leader secures willing obedience and compliance from his subjects to whom he is accountable as he leads in a transparent and selfless manner. This is different from the sheer exercise of force and coercive power which, unfortunately, some leaders use as they manipulate and exploit their subjects.
“Leadership” of this nature, found all too often among us Africans, is not worthy of the name leadership. In the analysis of kinds of authority from the philosophical perspective, three types are identified, namely: traditional authority, charismatic authority and legal-rational authority. In either of these three kinds of authority, the underlying principle is that the legitimacy of authority is conferred by the subjects themselves.
In exchange for the surrender of their rights to self-governance, the people are entitled to a leadership that protects their rights and interests. It is in this regard that I would like to emphasize the place of moral authority among Idoma chiefs and leaders.
The moral authority of any Idoma chief/leader comes from that which is directly or indirectly conferred on him/her by the community. This puts his/her leadership role on a representative status --- representing the needs, interests, hopes and aspirations of his/her own people.
It therefore follows that if our chiefs/leaders lose their moral authority as leaders of the community either by their inaction or worse still, by being an accomplice in the evil perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen, they must be deposed and replaced.
We call on the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic to come to our aid.
Enough of this madness.