Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The history of the American Wild West is being replayed on the fringes of Nigeria, as heavily armed nomadic cattle herders compete with crop farmers for access to water and land. Except this time, greens are blaming Climate Change.
Nigeria faces new security threat fuelled by climate change and ethnicity
Recently, Nigeria’s sociopolitical and geopolitical tensions have taken on another dimension. This is evident in the escalating bloody clashes between nomadic cattle herders and farmers. Though there are alternative narratives, the ongoing tensions reflect, in a way, climate change-induced resource scarcity that threatens food and national security.
In the past several months tensions have escalated between nomadic cattle herders and traditional crop-farming communities. Some traditional and farming communities in central and southern Nigeria have been overrun by herders who are accused of grazing their cattle on crop fields.
The country’s media is dominated by reports of maiming, killings, rape and other forms of banditry associated with highly armed nomadic herders. Unofficial figures put the death toll from one such incident in Enugu State, in the south-eastern region, at about 100.
In the absence of state protection, these events have fuelled affected communities’ support for ethnic or regional militias as a civic defence strategy. The clashes between herdsmen and farmers strike at the core of Nigeria’s vulnerable ethno-political faultlines. They also have ramifications for climate change and food security.
Crop farmers produce more than 80% of Nigeria’s food. Leaving this critical lifeblood of the country’s economic and cultural life at the mercy of herders and their cattle is not an option. Farmers, the majority of whom are women, constitute the bedrock of the country’s informal economy. And the unofficial farming sector is the country’s highest employer of labour. Now this key economic sector is under siege.
Granted Nigeria throws in a few additional twists, such as a religious divide, and an element of unhinged savagery which was more muted in the American Wild West, but compare the above to the following, written in 1884.
Early in the fall of 1884 a few settlers located homesteads in the northeast corner of the Brighton Ranch Company’s pasture, on Ash creek. This pasture was about fifteen miles square and extended several miles south of the Loup River almost to Broken Bow, and was enclosed with a wire fence. The land being government land, and subject to entry, these settlers served notice on the ranch company to remove their fence from about their claims within thirty days.
The company paid no attention to this request, and at the expiration of the time the settlers made a raid on the fence and appropriated the posts to make roofs for their sod houses. Roofs in those days were made by laying a large log, called a ridge log, lengthwise of the building at the top. The fence posts were then laid up to form the rafters, to which brush was fastened, the whole being covered with one or two layers of prairie sod, coated with several inches of yellow clay procured from the canyons, which turned the water effectually.
In a short time after the appropriation of these posts the foreman of the ranch had the settlers arrested and taken to Broken Bow for trial. The sheriff had no sooner departed with the prisoners than the second foreman of the ranch rigged up two large wagons, drawn by four mules each, and proceeded to the houses of the settlers, accompanied by a number of the cowboys. They drove up to a house, took a team and large chain, hitched onto the projecting end of the ridge log, and in about three seconds the neat little home was a shapeless mass of sod, hay, brush and posts mixed up in almost inextricable confusion. The ranchmen then culled their posts from the wreck and loaded them into the wagons, when they went to the next house and repeated the operation, leaving the occupants to pick their few household goods out of the ruins at their leisure. The boys were having great fun at the expense of the settlers, cracking jokes and making merry as the work of destruction went on. After destroying several houses in this manner they proceeded to the claim of a Mr. King, and Mrs. King, seeing them approaching, met them with a shotgun and dared them to come on. Had it been Mr. King, the invitation would possibly have been accepted, but the cowboys were too gallant to enter into a quarrel with a lady, and withdrew without molesting her.
To its credit, the first article mentions and links to “alternative narratives”. At least some Nigerians who have been following events are horrified that politicians appear to be attempting to use the climate narrative, to camouflage their own incompetence.
The misuse of climate change theory in the current climate of terror, subterfuge and hate, to explain Fulani herdsmen terrorism and the threat by northern senators and governors to those who object to this evil, is an after thought and a calculated attempt to deceive, obfuscate and intimidate.
It is a new low, in the attempt by the north Nigerian oligarchy to find reason for the unjustifiable pogrom, Fulani herdsmen have unleashed on the country. it is both sad and unfortunate and, exposes the depravity of the minds that created the Nigerian problem and what those who take up the challenge to address it, must confront.
The climate change excuse is unfounded and an abuse of the climate change theory. Those interested in climate change would be horrified that a genuine concept is being misused in this way.
It is mischievous to misuse the relationship between cattle rearing and climate change to explain the premeditated violence and pogrom sponsored by those with hidden agenda and perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen and militia against communities, whose farm they destroy. It is the height of insensitivity and abuse of power, to pay no attention to the damage their cattle do to the investment of farmers and the rights of the victims of their terror.
You don’t need “climate change”, to explain political incompetence, and armed clashes between farmers and cowboys.