By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has suggested that cow owners in the country should be registered in order to hold them accountable.
The group argued that cow owners should register their businesses in the same way other businesses are registered. It further suggested that cow owners should approach banks and other financial institutions for loans to build ranches.
MURIC’s suggestions came in the wake of the discovery that the owner of the cows that strayed into Professor Wole Soyinka’s compound is a Southerner and a Yoruba man. This was revealed in a press statement circulated to the media on Thursday, 11th February, 2021 by the director of the human rights organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
According to the statement, “We strongly condemn the incident in which a cow strayed into Professor Wole Soyinka’s compound at Kemta Estate, Abeokuta, on Tuesday, 9th February, 2021. It is a desecration of a hallowed space. The respected professor needs peace to be able to contribute intellectually (as usual) to the Nigerian debate. Nigeria still needs his rich interventions.
“But the incident has thrown up another dimension in the herdsmen saga. For instance, it has hitherto been assumed that all cattle are owned by Northerners and that all herdsmen are from the North. But the truth is beginning to surface. The owner of the cows that strayed into Professor Wole Soyinka’s compound happened to be a Southerner and a Yoruba. He was identified as Mr. Kazeem Sorinola, an indigene of Ijeun, Abeokuta. This is instructive.
“The movement of cows on our roads as well as in our farms has constituted a serious security breach leading to tension across the country. In our search for solutions to the herdsmen imbroglio, MURIC has forwarded two main suggestions within the past two weeks. We muted the idea that the Federal Government (FG) should give herders bailout funds to enable them establish ranches. Secondly, we suggested that FG should also compensate farmers whose crops were damaged by cows which invaded their farms. We still stand by these suggestions.
“It has now become necessary to add another suggestion. All cow owners in the country should be registered. Let us know who we are dealing with. It is becoming glaring that most of the cows we see in the South are owned by Southerners. Many important dignitaries in the South own hundreds of cows but they remain silent even in the face of this controversy. It has been alleged that some of the cattle owners are retired army generals, leading politicians, traditional rulers, etc, all from the South West, South East and South South.
“FG must set the machinery in motion to unveil the face of the masquerade. Nothing stops cow owners from registering their businesses the same way other businesses are registered. This will facilitate probity and accountability in cow business. State governments must enforce the ban on open grazing while cow owners must build their private ranches and stop constituting public nuisance.
“Therefore, our message to Mr. Kazeem Sorinola of Ijeun, Abeokuta, the owner of the cow which forayed into Professor Wole Soyinka’s compound and other cow owners like him is this : ‘Source for funds to build a ranch for your cow. Stop hiding behind the Fulani façade. The movement of cows on our roads is a big threat to motorists while the free grazing of cows on our farms is a threat to food security. It impoverishes our farmers. Criminal herders also hide under the guise of tending cows to commit atrocities. Every cow owner must take responsibility for his herd. Take responsibility for your cows. Go to your bank and get a loan to build a ranch for your cows.’
“The problem of Nigeria is perception. We assume that every cow owner is a Northerner while every herdsman is a Fulani and a criminal. We must separate the wheat from the chaff, the criminal from his tribe. Oyenusi the armed robber was tied to the stake, not the entire Yoruba race. Anini was executed but his Edo tribe was spared the trauma. Evans the kidnapper was tried without stigmatising the whole Igbo people. None of the six kidnappers arrested in Abuja four days ago is a Fulani. They belong to Evan’s tribe but nobody referred to them as Igbo. That is how it should be. We must address the criminal, not his tribe.
“One major disadvantage of focusing on a particular tribe in our search for criminals is that it beclouds our sense of judgement and enables the real criminals to hibernate while the blame is shifted to innocent people of the persecuted tribe. We must therefore stop the Hausa/Fulani stereotype.
“The signals emanating from the North is reassuring. Northern governors are clamouring for a stop to the movement of cows southwards. Northern leaders are advocating for a ban on open grazing. Some are already calling for the sensitisation of herders on acceptance of ranching. In our own opinion, herders are not the problem in this regard, it is the cow owners. Let cow owners demonstrate the will to start ranching and everything else will fall into place.”