TENSION is mounting in Kwara State as the arrival of Fulani herdsmen who fled from the southwest geo-political zone in response to the growing resentment at their presence have created an atmosphere of fear as they move northwards.
Last week, Yoruba rights activist Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Igboho gave all Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State seven days to vacate the area after they murdered Dr Fatai Aborode, by hacking him to death. Dr Aborode, a former diasporan, was a commercial farmer employing about 300 local people but cattle raided his farm destroying his crops and he was killed by the Fulani for complaining about this.
After local people asked Igboho to intervene, he went to meet the local Serikin Fulani Alhaji Salihu Abdulkadir to discuss the matter but was attacked by local Fulanis. In response, he asked the Fulani to leave and after seven days, this order was executed, forcing Alhaji Abdulkadir, his family and kinsmen to flee to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
Emboldened by activities in Ibarapa North Local Government Area, other communities across the southwest have also driven away Fulani herdsmen within their midst. Apart from the fact that cattle owned by the Fulani destroy crops, the herdsmen are renown for committing violent crimes like kidnapping, rape, murder, armed robbery and banditry.
With many of these expelled Fulanis now in southern Kwara State, locals are starting to get anxious, fearful that the violence will be imported into their communities. However, the Kwara State government has urged local people not to panic and to ensure that they live in harmony with the new settlers.
Several communities in Kwara south said that the herders were already encroaching on and destroying their farms and they are fearful that the development would lead to a repeat of their past bad experience with herders. Sunday Adeniyi, a farmer in Offa, recounted how his cassava farm was destroyed by herders in 2019.
Mr Adeniyi added: “I saw their cows grazing on my farm and I wanted to chase at them. The next thing I noticed was that the herders were moving towards my direction with their cutlasses, so I had to quickly hop on my bike before they tried anything.”
He said he did not harvest a single tuber of cassava from the farm of about three acres as the cows destroyed everything. Mr Adeniyi added that the experience forced him to quit farming, adding that he now works as a bricklayer.
Another farmer in Osi in Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State, John Ayodele, recalled herders chasing his friends from his farm in broad daylight last year after grazing their cattle on the farm. He added that the herdsmen are ruthless as among other things they rape and steal.
In Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state, residents of Igbaja stormed the palace of the local monarch who was hosting a meeting of the council of chiefs. They chanted that they do not want Fulani herdsmen in their midst, forcing the traditional ruler Oba Ahmed Arepo, to promise to address the matter.
Oba Arepo said: “In the name of Kabiyesi, Elese of Igbaja, and the kings of Ifelodun, I greet you all. Because of this same issue of herdsmen-farmers conflict, we have gathered here today for solutions to the problems and we don’t want them too. We are working towards what you want.”
In Oro in neighbouring Irepodun Local Government Area, local women marched to the palace of their king to protest the influx of the herders into the town. They said the herders had settled on a portion of land a prominent indigene had acquired to start a large farm, while a group of prominent persons in the area known as the Igbomina Professionals Association, also decried the influx of the herders into the area.