What would you say if I told you that between last year and this year an estimated 11,000 people have been killed in Plateau State, mainly in Berom communities?
What if I told you that over 40 villages have been sacked and some wiped out completely in Berom communities alone? If you were Nigerian you would try to correct me and say that I am probably talking about North East and not the North Central. You would be wrong.
What if I told you that 11,000 is a conservative number?
What if I asked you to station yourself at any mortuary and count the number of corpses that come in every single day from gun and machete injuries from the hands of armed Fulani men sometimes in cohorts with security agencies? Even if you were able to count the victims, I would ask you of the ones that are missing. I would ask of the bodies thrown in the wells. I would ask of hastily prepared same day burials because it is easier to bury the people today than to keep them and add the corpses of the next day to them.
You would then ask me why?
I would ask you what you have heard.
You would tell me that you heard that the Berom people are cattle rustlers.
I would ask you how an 18 month old baby could rustle cattle.
I would ask you how a 6 month old foetus even knew about cattle.
I would ask you how whole communities collide and steal cattle.
I will ask you how many cows are worth 11,000 lives.
I would ask you how hundreds of thousands of people have had to flee their ancestral lands, farms and houses because they have been condemned to die for allegedly rustling cattle.
I would ask you whether the wages of cattle rustling is death.
Then you would wonder with me why cows only get rustled in Plateau. When places like Bauchi and Southern Kaduna and even in some parts of Gana Wuri in Plateau have more cattle than Berom land but have not witnessed the pogrom on the scale that Beroms have witnessed.
Then you would be puzzled and ask me what was so special about the rustling in Berom land.
I would laugh and ask you to sit down.
I will tell you of land rich from the top to the bottom.
I will tell you of the unmined lands of tin rich Kuru.
I would tell you of the columbite in Bisichi.
I would tell you about Gasish, Rim, Foron, Vat and so many other mineral rich areas.
I would tell you about the Chinese with bags of money and determination to evade tax.
I will tell you about the Hausas that sell minerals to the Chinese men.
I will tell you about the Beroms that have been terrorized out of their land.
I will tell you of exaggerated tales of rustling.
I will tell you of isolated Berom youths in collision with Fulani youth.
I will tell you of Fulani who have discovered that mining makes faster and easier money than herding.
I will tell you of Fulani women who no longer carry calabashes with Fura da nono on their heads.
I will tell of Fulani women that carry large pans filled with earth.
Berom earth that is full of Tin, Columbite, Tantalite, Wolframite.
You would need to sell hundreds of calabashes to buy a gun.
But a pan filled with earth, keeps the men armed.
I will tell you of a decline in cattle rearing that started since the 80s with education and when Fulanis started embracing dry season farming.
I will tell you of hectares and hectares of land lying fallow.
For their husband men are missing, fleeing, dying or dead.
I will tell you about empty huts and houses.
I will tell you about burnt settlements.
I will tell you about the new owners.
You would then ask me about government protection.
I will tell you of a politics that looks away from the plight of dying people.
I will tell you of compromised lawmakers, chiefs and kings.
I will tell you of the rich that have shut their ears because the harrowing cries of the raped interrupt them as they count their gold coins.
I will tell you about angry Berom youths who avenged senselessly the senseless deaths they have witnessed.
You could ask me why the media keeps quiet.
I would tell you the rat dances to the tune of the piper
You will see reason with me and then you will cry with me.
You will agree with me that it is not just a war.It is genocide.
And the spoils are beneath our feet.