On May 14th 2020, a Press Statement was issued by the Government of Imo State to the effect that the Governor, Hope Uzodinma had settled the claims of the Fulani herders who invaded some communities in Ezinihitte LGA in April, 2020. The Press Statement was signed by the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor of Imo State, Mr Oguwike Nwachukwu. The photograph of the Governor and that of the head of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), taken during the occasion, was published alongside the statement.

On the same day, May 14th 2020, the Chairman of the Interim Management Committee of Ezinihitte LGA., Chief Sir F. S. Onyeberechi went on air (Darling FM 107.3) to confirm the payment and went further to issue a Press Statement signed by himself confirming the payment to the Fulani herders by the Government of Governor Hope Uzodinma. That Press Statement was profuse in eulogizing the Governor’s magnanimity.

Dramatically on the same day, another Press Statement was issued by the same Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor of Imo State, Mr Oguwike Nwachukwu stating that no payment was made to the Fulani herdsmen by the Governor.

Indeed, people became justifiably embarrassed, confused and were asking what is happening over this Double-speak or Double-talk from the Government.

It does appear to me that this embarrassment was caused, perhaps, on purpose, by the Governor’s men at the State House including the Chairman of the Ezinihitte Interim Management Committee. It has nothing to do with Ezinihitte people.

The whole incident arising from the trespass of the Fulani herders into Ezinihitte Local Government Area was indeed badly handled from the very beginning and needed a great circumspection in its remedy. When the Governor decided to make the payment for whatever political expediency there was, it should have been done with some sense of statecraft!

The Governor would have called all the parties to the State House to hear from the two parties since he had already been involved. He should have talked straight to them and sued for peace. He should have used his Executive Authority to caution the Fulani herders for their trespass and for violating –

i. the LOCKDOWN ORDERS of his Government
ii. the Customs of the people of Ezinihitte that prohibit Open Grazing in their area, and the
iii. Imo State Law No. 9 of 2006 which prohibits Open Grazing in Imo State.
Whatever else, including compensation to both parties—the Fulani Herders for their alleged lost cows, and the Ezinihitte Farmers for their crops which the cows may have damaged in the course of their illegal roaming, all these would have been done without so much GUSTO!

The resort to Media Hype of the incident was absolutely counter-productive and may have led to the embarrassing and unnecessary double-speak on the part the Government.

All these have little to do with the stance of Ezinihitte people.

Ezinihitte People – What Is Our Own?

The Cows have been paid for. We have nothing to do with the mishandling of the matter neither from the Public Relations aspect nor from the Purely Political aspect; all those are the headache of the Imo State Government and its Advisers.

For Ezinihitte, the Cows have been paid for. That headache has been removed from our people. There is therefore, every good sense in our thanking the Governor for it. That is the exactly what we have done in the LETTER OF APPRECIATION addressed to the Governor.

As for the crops destroyed, I am one of those that advised that we should not pursue the matter. Why did I do that?

My dear people, it is because the issue of the missing cows is becoming dangerously DIVERSIONARY. My People, don’t you see the danger in the whole episode—OUR SECURITY? That is the signal—the Fulani herders were not just grazing and passing by. They came to stay! Their target is the Imo River Basin Area that includes Ezinihitte. What happens if they do?

We would lose our Ancestral Land and Farms; our People would become the victims of kidnapping and murder; our wives and daughters, victims of rape and murder that will accompany that! The herders will easily legitimize their takeover of our ancestral land, for they believe that there will always be hungry and unpatriotic Traditional Rulers and Politicians to sell our lands to them!

If all these happen in our life-time, our ancestors would curse us, our children (born and unborn) would spit on our graves, NDI EZINIHITTE NWEM, MBANU!

What Is to Be Done!

The People of Ezinihitte should now focus on the main challenges staring us in the face—namely how best to protect our farms and our ancestral land, our men and women from the invaders. We must focus on how best to apply our Customary Laws and rely on the enabling Anti-Open Grazing law 9 (2006) of Imo State to protect our farmlands as well as our lives, if we must learn from the experiences of other communities within and outside Alaigbo.

What lies ahead of the Ezinihitte People is now how best to ensure their security working in collaboration with dedicated Law-Enforcement agents in our area.

It is of course hoped that the Fulani herders have leant that Ezinihitte people do not have land for Open Grazing and are determined to protect their crops and their land to avoid famine and starvation of their citizens.

As for NDI OJI AKPA ELI OZU, na Ndi RATU RATU in our midst, please allow us to consolidate Aladinma Ezinihitte and other similar organizations in Mbaise for the sake of the SECURITY and DEVELOPMENT of Ezinihitte as well as the WELFARE of our people!

May God Bless Us All!

Your dear Brother,