Ibadan — The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, has cautioned traditional rulers across the country to be wary of their comments over Fulani herdsmen's attacks on farmers, saying they should ensure that their comments do not aggravate the situation.
The Alaafin, in a statement yesterday, also wondered how the herdsmen came to be in possession of sophisticated weapons.
He spoke following the defence of the Fulani cattle trade group, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) by Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II who claimed to be a patron of the group.
Sanusi had last week alleged that 800 Fulani herdsmen were killed in Taraba State with scant reportage by the media.
Responding, the Alaafin, without mentioning the Emir of Kano, however, cautioned traditional rulers to be cautious in their utterances in the face of sensibilities arising from the latest killings in Benue State.
Oba Adeyemi III, said: "But today with the arms at their disposal, some Fulani breeders choose to target green leaves of farmers' crops as good protein for their cattle and therefore lead their cattle aggressively in that direction. The big question, therefore, is how do those cattle breeders come across the sophisticated weapons with which they arm themselves as if they are going to war? This is the task before the various security agencies to unravel in the interest of peace and unity of the country."
The monarch, who remained unconvinced about claims of the herders, said: "It is not only laughable but indeed ridiculous that as many as eight hundred Fulani with an imaginary one million cows would have been killed in one single attack without any documentation or report. The level of mass communication in the country had gone beyond that Dark Age in sophistication and modernity."
He added, "any responsible traditional ruler should not be seen in any religious or ethnic justification in the present situation. Rather, the institution of traditional rulers should use both individuals and collective efforts to quell the crisis from further escalation. That is what is expected of royal paternity".
"With every sense of modesty with truth, I make bold to say that among the first class traditional rulers in the country, I stand as the one longest on throne so far. On this statement, I stand to be corrected. With that, it follows that I have acquired experience more than any other traditional ruler across the country in relation to traditional rulership and political development of the country especially with regard to crisis resolution within the polity whether ethnic or religious.
"It is on this note that I am appealing to all traditional rulers in the country especially those who are relatively new on the exalted throne, to be cautious and indeed circumspect in their public utterances especially in the trying period of the country's sovereignty and national unity.
"The greatest challenge facing the country at the moment is the herdsmen otherwise known as Miyetti Allah Cattle breeders. The recent Benue State experience is too fresh to be forgotten so soon. While it is true that there had been co- habitation between the Fulani and indigenes in various communities in the country, this, however, is with the Fulani herdsmen not wearing political colouration.
Condemning the use of AK-47 by the herders, he said: "The use of firearms including AK-47 guns to protect cattle is a complete novelty to what hitherto used to be a business endeavour. In those days stick was the only weapon with which the breeders directed their cattle. When was it the practice that Fulani breeders would arm themselves to the teeth just to protect their cattle? In the past, part of the guidance which breeders gave to their cattle was to ensure that they did not destroy farm crops along their way.
"It is unfortunate that some highly-placed traditional rulers should see the recent Benue incident as a justified reprisal quoting fictitious and imaginary figures of similar incident that happened in another neighbouring state."
Sanusi, had in an interview with a national newspaper (not Vanguard), lamented that 800 Fulani were killed in Taraba State with scant reportage by the media.
"Some months ago in Mambilla, in one weekend, over 800 Fulani were murdered by Mambilla militias. The papers did not even go there to cover the story. Most of those wiped out were women, infants and the elderly," he said.
"Nothing has happened. I also ensured that authorities received video and audio evidence of senior politicians in Taraba State, who were involved in this act of genocide. No one has been arrested. Fulanis were also murdered in Kajuru and Numan."