How Christmas is rekindling farmer-herder relationships in Plateau

3 min read
Journalists with Islamic cleric that saved over 200 Christian locals during the June 2018 "herdsmen attacks" in Plateau

At least nine policemen have been killed in Plateau State, in five patrol targeted attacks since September 2019. On October 25, 2019, four policemen on patrol were ambushed and killed in Mangu LGA.

Three police Sergeants were killed in a similar attack in Bokkos on 8th October, 2019. This was barely two weeks after the killing of another Sergeant and an Inspector on 21st September, 2019 in Barkin Ladi.

A week earlier, a Police attache with the Special Task Force was killed while escorting a bread supply van near Monguna village in Bokkos LGA.

With the last of such attack foiled on November 2, 2019, many fear civilian populations might be at risk of fresh attacks especially as Christmas approaches.

Many suspect them to be an arms harvest for possible attacks during the yuletide. However, the sustained mutuality between farmers and herders is increasingly narrowing the chances for any hostilities between the two groups.

Christmas purchases

To start with, the predominantly Christian crop farming population in Plateau State has traditionally relied on the mainly Muslim livestock farming Fulani group for diary products. During festivities like Christmas, the demand for these products increases, causing the two groups to interact more frequently.

In many communities, farmers begin payment for cattle as early as October, but seldom take delivery of the animals till December when Christmas approaches. The herders often, voluntarily bear the responsibility of feeding and caring for the cattle until their buyers are ready to take them home.

During these transactions, the conversation between the two groups is usually centered on gain – the exchange of value, not parochial interests. Hence, friendly, not hostile words or gestures are used to communicate.

This makes it less likelier for there to be clashes except for few, isolated cases of organized crimes such as armed robberies, gang fights, kidnapping, rape and among others, assassination which are often misreported or mistaken for farmer-harder conflicts.

Be that as it may, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Plateau State branch has taken steps to ensure its youths do not engage in acts capable of disrupting peace and smearing the name of the Fulani tribe.

State Chairman of the group, Alh. Nura Mohammed told MKR that his members will not just sell but accompany and help prepare cattle for the Christmas celebration.

“We will accompany them with the cattle to any location, slaughter it for them and also join in the feast,” he said. This Mohammed said is to strengthen social relationships and teach younger generations the value of peace.

In addition, the group according to him has since September, began organizing peace seminars for its youths in different LGAs.

The goal is to caution them against violence for mutually beneficial relationships to thrive in communities. This partly falls in line with what his local counterpart in Daffo village, Bokkos Local Government Area is doing.

Despite losing eleven communities, and over 40 subjects to violent attacks in January and March 2018, Mr. Bitrus Mandong, the District Head of Daffo has maintained regular peace and security dialogues with all people groups within his jurisdiction for months now.

This is with a view to identifying issues that constitute threats to peace and proffering solutions before they escalate.

With government increasing collaborations for peace through its Peace Building Commission, and the sustained interventions of independent bodies like Search for Common Ground, it is obvious that violence especially during the 2019 yuletide would not be heard of.

What next?

Such efforts must however be emulated by other communities, and sustained beyond Christmas to yield lasting results.

There must also be deliberate efforts to identity and correct existing stereotypes and prejudices, as well as resolve undiscussed issues that have lingered for years.

Similarly, efforts must be made to revive eroded societal values, check unlicensed firearms in the possession of civilians, and among others, encourage community vigilance.

Government should also support such initiatives through sustained public enlightenment, community engagement and prompt crime detection.

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