Community Politics and Policy

Could We Boycott Beef to Protest Herdsmen Attacks?

There has probably never been a more nauseating show of entitlement than what has been spewed by some members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders, a so-called Fulani socio-cultural organisation, over the carnage – genocide, if you like – that has continued unhindered in Benue state.

At least 44 persons have been brutally killed and many others left without their limbs, in attacks since New Year’s Day that have more than qualified to be labeled as acts of terror. The audacity of the Miyetti (a sect of it, we are made to believe) to issue directives at the Benue state government to desist from implementing the anti-grazing bill it passed into law last year has evoked anger and much frustration around the country. Yet, there has been no semblance of direct action from the Buhari government towards decisively clamping down and terminating the gory fantasies of the perpetrators of the evil acts.

Not a few persons have shed the resistance to put the blame of these attacks squarely on president Buhari himself, even as his media assistant, Femi Adesina describes it as “unfair”. What seems rather more unfair is that the President has hardly reacted to the present situation in the manner he has approached other far less openly violent and recalcitrant groups such as the Ipob. There is the terrible feeling that the people of Benue are without sufficient support to handle the sore disaster that has been rekindled in their communities.

The culture of being in solidarity with a particular group facing peculiar security challenges is anything but part of the mainstream way of life in Nigeria, but the continued menace of the Fulani herdsmen cannot possibly be ignored to proceed unabated because it is outside one’s ethnic territory. As long as it is a ‘Benue’ issue, it may never receive the sufficient attention and decisive action requisite to put it to a definite stop. As unfortunate as it sounds, the Fulani herdsmen menace must assume a national dimension before it can strike a nerve on the consciousness of the Buhari administration, which, it can be said with a reasonable measure of objective supposition, has sympathies for the cause of the cattle breeders given the president’s occupation as an owner of cattle herds himself.

There have always been health benefits for boycotting – or at least – eating less meat, for adults especially. There are humanitarian and environmental arguments too. To take up the shunning of cow meat (beef) as a temporary instrument of demonstration – a dinner table placard – at this time is not beyond the bounds of rationality or feasibility.

Imagine if certain fast food chains around the country were to put out signs saying they would be serving less meat or no meat on certain days of the week, or some ‘celebrity’ posting, on Instagram, a meatless meal, in solidarity with Benue. #PrayforBenue could do with such visible action-based campaign.

This will have its negative effects on the economy, vis-à-vis the possible rise to the already bewildering unemployment numbers released by the National Bureau of Statistics. The celebrity or restaurant that leads or joins the campaign could be in danger of alienating certain customers or come under some security threat.

But nearly every means of public demonstration and show of discontent with the state of affairs will have its opportunity cost, which should be seen in light of the greater good. When less meat leave abattoirs to dinner tables, perhaps herdsmen and the true big-men owners of the herds of cattle will understand that they and their stock in trade are not as indispensable as they have assumed.

For a week? Maybe two?

The message will be that Nigerians value human lives over those of cows. With this should be the federal and state governments (of Benue and neighboring states, particularly Nasarawa) going beyond rhetoric and Aso Villa optics towards taking decisive actions that convince Nigerians that cattle breeders are not sacred cows.

There is only so much meat one can avoid against one’s will while protesting the herdsmen carnage without indubitably affirming that something is terribly fishy with the security architecture and entire structure of the Nigerian state.


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