Is cow meat good for human health? Are snail and rabbit not better sources of animal protein? And can they not replace cow meat in our diet? These and other similar questions have filled my thoughts since nomadic Fulani herdsmen became a new serious factor in Nigeria’s political turbulence a few month ago. Man began earthy life as a nomad millennia ago. But in many parts of the world today, Nigeria inclusive, most men live in settled communities, in many cases peacefully under a social contract known as the LAW. But there still are nomadic people. Some Fulani are settled, others nomadic. The nomadic Fulani are shepherds and cow rearers.

In Nigeria, they walk their cows over thousands of kilometres, grazing them on greens and herbs in the bush and on crops in farmland they fall upon. When the owners of these farms challenge them, the Fulani open fire from AK47 assault rifle, killing and maiming.  They have killed thousands of agatu farmers this way in the middle Belt region of Nigeria. Last month, they killed more than 40 people in their sleep at night in some villages in Enugu state. They claimed some farmers in these villages assaulted or killed herdsmen and cattle which grazed on their farms. So, the nomadic shepherds mobilised reinforcement to avenge their loses.

To rub salt on injury, as we say in Nigeria, the presidency may have masterminded the bill in the national assembly under which governors of the states would be forced to reserve land in their states for the exclusive grazing of Fulani cattle, or, if they do not, the Federal Government can make compulsory acquisition for these purposes.

This has led many Government watchers to wonder anew if the Fulani is, indeed, a special race in Nigeria “Born to Rule”, as many of them say they are. Many media writers have reminded the nation that the Fulani sneaked in on the Hausa states, overthrew their governments, imposed Fulani religion, Islam and sought to expand territorial south worlds, in particular into Oyo Empire. They were halted at Oshogbo. But the army general, Afonja, the Alaafin of Oyo, supreme commander of Oyo forces, sent to Ilorin to defend the northern boundary, connived with Alimi, leader of the Fulani, to seed Ilorin from Oyo Empire. He succeeded only to be consumed soon after words by Fulani forces.

Today, a Fulani Emir, not a Yoruba Oba, presides in the royal court of Ilorin. It is not surprising, therefore, that many southern, Nigerians see the attempt to set up Fulani cattle ranches in southern states as a modern move by the Fulani to conquer the south politically .

This bid has failed through political party machines such as the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), Nigeria’s National Alliance (NNA), and National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and lately the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). As one government critic has pointed out, the proposed Fulani cattle ranches may grow in two or three generation of their families to formidable military bases from which a Boko Haram-type military/political conquest of the unsuspecting south of Nigeria will be launched.

BUHARI’S ROLE?

Many people suspect president Muhammad Buhari, a Fulani, is pursuing a Fulani agenda, from the way he has handed Fulani herdsmen aggression so far. If this is true, it is capable of overthrowing his Change agenda which, on the surface, is guided to be a fight against corruption in the Nigerian system which would make the country more efficient. South western love efficient government, and fell for these trap, say Buhari’s critics. If the agenda turn out to be a mere fluke for some other initiative, it should take no time for him to learn that the billions of naira recovered from individual public thieves every day cannot compare with the life of a southern Nigerian killed by Fulani herdsmen because he would not permit that his property be stolen by armed robbers. For armed robbers, and nothing else under the law, are what Ak-47 wielding Fulani herdsmen are when they forcibly break into a farm land or a suppress resistance to a break-in with the force of guns.

President Buhari’s guild, according to many people, is that he kept mute while his kinsmen were rampaging other people’s farms, and even sought to extract land for them from the state governments, as a way of stopping the carnage. Thus, Buhari is seen as fighting corruption and thieving public officials and private business men on one hand and, on the other, condoning the same actions among his kith and kindred. The much he has done in public, and that was after the governors of Igbo states took the fight of their people to him, was to ask the Inspector-General of Police to fish out the hoodlums. Did the Inspector-General have to be told by the president before he would know that was the job for which the public pays his salary and takes care of him and his family? Did the Government of Enugu State not appeal to the Commissioner of Police in the State for help before the carnage occurred in which 40 people were murdered callously in deep sleep at night and 300 were critically injured?.

Was it not worth the while of the Inspector General to visit the affected villages? Was the inefficient commissioner of police compensated with his deployment to another state, rather than sacked for the loss of lives and disturbances of public peace which he was meant to protect? Was his deployment a salute for correctly reading the body language of the president and the Inspector – General?.

BUHARI BLAMELESS?

Left to me the blames belongs not to Buhari, the Inspector-General, the Police Commissioner or the Bridgade Commander. The trouble lies with southern political leaders. Every President from the south (Obasanjo, Jonathan) loves to maximise Federal power and might, in order to stay in power for as long as is possible. Obasanjo and Jonathan Stoutly rejected the idea of the states having their own police forces because they wished to use the Army and the Federal Police exclusively to rig and win elections.

The south-eastern state, where the Fulani carnage has just occurred, were the loudest in the south in the opposition against state police, simply because Jonathan, their mentor, didn’t want state police the states of the south-west, except, perhaps Ekiti State, were loudest in the demand for their own police forces. At that time, as always, I had learned not to blame other people for any uncomfortable experience I encountered. Rather, I ask myself about how I got into it, extricate myself from the equation and discover that the equation collapses.

Had the eastern states joined the demand for state police and had their police forces, would they need to go to president Buhari, like chicken beaten by rain, to complain that neither the Nigeria police nor the Army gave their people cover in their hour of need? The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is for Federal agenda. If the Federal body language backs the Fulani herdsmen right or wrong, so will the NPF and the Army respond. When the debate over state Police Force came up about two years ago, this column suggested that the question be seen only in the light in which Mother Nature would have wanted the security of the human society organised.

After all, Nature is our guide and teacher. The human body presents a wonderful example of this guidance and teaching. There are about 100 trillion cells in the average adult human body. These cells are organised into homogenous tissue, organs and systems. Each cell is capable of its own defence. So are the tissue, organ and system. There are, in addition, body-wide defence system. In the human society, this suggests a need for several layers of defence systems as well. If one fails, the next level drops. Many countries adopt this defence scenario. Nigeria is still archaic, leaving every matter of security in Federal hands. Thus although the governor is the chief security officer of his state constitutionally, this is only a borrowed legal role. He is impotent, as the south-eastern governors have discovered. To kill the idea of Police Forces in the 36 States, northern governors sold the idea that they would be abused, citing the examples of Local Government Police abuse by State governments in the First Republic. They even threaten to walk out of the conference which discuss this matter if State Police was approved. This column asked them if the Federal Police at that time wasn’t abused as well. Now, too, hasn’t it shown potential for abused?

Would it not have been better if the baby had not been thrown out with the bath water? Couldn’t a Police service complaints courts of sort have been set up, composed of respectable men and women to hear cases of Police misuse and promptly and judiciously decide such cases? What is happening today reminds me of the three groupings mankind is said to fall into… those who live in the past, those who live in the present and those who live in the future. Those who live in the past do not understand present events. They understand them only when these events have become “past tense” and hits them flat on the face. Such is the case with the need and demand for state Police. The natural people are people who experience on-going events and understand the messages they are bringing to them. So, personally, I do not blame Buhari for the crime his kinsmen are committing all over the country. I blame the lack of State Police Forces for them. Had the governors their own Police commands, they would easily get the herdsmen arrested and arraigned in court for armed robbery, ingress into another man’s property, or for murder. And surely they would be jailed or executed if found guilty under the law. So, to the drawing tables, let us all return. And in the interim, what do we do?

ANOTHER WAY OUT?

Must we eat cow (red) meat? The Hindus do not, and are alive and healthy. Adherents of the Seventh Day Adventist Mission, like other vegetarians, to be among the earth’s healthiest and longest living people. Many Scientific Studies have shown that eating red meat increases blood cholesterol level, damages the arteries and the heart, raises hormone levels and causes hormonal imbalance, impedes digestion, causes colon cancer and shortens lifespan among many of its’ health hazards. If we can give up red meat on these account, the market for cows in the south of Nigeria will diminish and the nomadic Fulani will return home with all his troubles. He will not ask for a portion of your land for a cattle ranch that someday in the future may create an Zagon – Kataf in your state.

ALTERNATIVE TO RED MEAT

We cannot eat fish all the time, otherwise meal times will become boring times. So, fish, oily fish in particular, is suggested only as a part of the mix of alternatives to red meat. Since I began to withdraw from red meat, I have found the good old snail and rabbit meat to be good options. Going by pilot projects at Umudike and Ile-Ife in the 1980s and 1990s, it is rabbit meatpossible to produce snail in millions every year. At that time, was involved in a rabbit farming project named FARM NIGERIA, which was the brain child of one gentleman from Edo State whose interest was rabbit farming throughout Nigeria. Brigadier Samuel Ogbemudia (rtd) was our chairman, former President Shehun Shagari, the National Patron. The idea was to set up a pilot project in every Local Government Area in Nigeria. That meant 774 Pilot projects supported by extension workers from agriculture departments in Universities and Polytechnics nearby. If 1,000 rabbits are supplied to one pilot project and one female rabbit produces about 40 offspring every year that means, Nationwide, 3,096,000 or about 31 million rabbits from the foundation stock alone, nor to mention their offspring as they mature. If about five projects surface in every Local Government Area that may yield almost 200 million rabbits in one year.

In south-western Nigeria where red meat is served at wedding and funeral banquets, rabbits may easily replace red meat. A cow which costs about N150, 000 cannot serve more than 200 guests. At about N2, 000 per mature rabbit in Nigeria, N150, 000 should procure 75 rabbits. A half rabbit on every plate will yield 150 plates served. Imagine a half rabbit on your plate of rice!

In rise and shine rabbitry, we are offered 10 reasons why we should eat rabbit meat. It says:

It is one of the best white meat available on the market today. The meat has a high percentage of easily digestible protein. It contains the least amount of fat among all the other available meat. Rabbit meat contains less calorie value than other meats. Rabbit meat is also cholesterol free and, therefore, is heart-patients friendly. The sodium content of rabbit meat is comparatively less than other meats. The calcium and phosphorus content of this meat are more than any other meat. The ratio of meat to bone is high, meaning there is more edible meat on the carcas than even the chicken.

Conversely, Jan Ann Igan, in Demand Media, speaks of “Adverse effects of Red Meat”:

“Red meat can increase your risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Red meat includes fresh beef, pork, lanil, muton and veal as well as processed milk that comes from these animal sources. These foods can add value to your diet as they are rich in protein, iron, vitamin B and Zinc. However, their saturated fats and cholesterol content can adversely affect your health and the manner in which red meat is produced, processed and cooked can also impact your wellbeing.  For these reasons, limiting your intake of this type of meat can improve your overall health and limit your risk of developing disease.

Animal – based dietary fat such as the ones found in red meat can contribute to risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke. They add cholesterol and saturated diet, which can increase the accumulation of a fatty substance called plaque to the walls lining your arteries. In this condition known as arterosclerosis, your heart works harder to pump blood through the named blood vessels, increasing your chance of heart attack. The fat in red meat can also cause you to put on extra weight, a risk factor for developing high blood pressure which is also a risk factor for cardio vascular disease. Red meat can increase your livelihood for developing cancer in several ways. For example the iron in red meat is contained in a protein called heme and this protein can easily undergo a chemical change in your guts to form carcinogenic heme – nitrosome, compound associated with, for instance, colorectal cancer. The fat content of red meat may be a contributory factor in the incidence of estrogen and progesterone sensitive breast cancer, and, in addition, hormones used in the production of red meat can exhibit estrogenic activity and might also boost your breast cancer risk.

The greater the amount of red meat you consume, of processed red meat in particular, the greater your risk can be of developing type 2 diabetes. Processed red meats can contain preservatives such as nitrosamines that are toxic to the pancreatic cells that produce in addition”.

So, do we really need red meat the way we consume it and the skin (ponmo – Yoruba)? The wise will discover he or she doesn’t. if majority of the population is well advised to minimise or keep off red meat, demand for it will decline, the Fulani herdsmen will find the southern market less lucrative, will cause less human mayhem in this region and every – one will live happily with one another ever after.

For now, the Fulani herdsmen are believed to be mere agents of army generals and emirs who supply them cows to nurture and sell in southern markets, and, for their protection and the protection of the animals, AK 47 riffles to bully their way through grazing farms. Thus, the Fulani herdsmen value the cow more than human life. In the south, human life ranks higher than animal life. These are two opposing worlds in collision the earlier they are separated the better for the country, the better for the Buhari Administration. Territorial Fulani expansion is not what Buhari became President for. Many of us saw him as one of the rarest Nigerian… Incompatible and imbued with love for the Nigerian project.