‘My dad feigned death to avoid being killed by herdsmen’

Pa Aina in hospital bed. Inset: Pa Aina’s burnt plantain farm

THE menace of Fulani herdsmen has continued to reverberate across many states, including the South-West part of the country. In Oyo State, clashes between farmers and herdsmen, which have led to many tragic occurrences, are well documented, ditto the agrarian Ibarapa area of the state where, as usual, the herdsmen are often pitted against the local farmers.

One of those who had tasted the bitter pills of the herdsmen attacks is a farmer in Atakan, near Eruwa in Ibarapa area of the state. The herdsmen, ironically, have settled down and are living in the area. The farmer, Olayinka Aina, popularly known as Pa Opeoluwa, who lives at Ilugun, Ogun State, but has his farm at Atakan, was on his farm that fateful day when the herdsmen came visiting.

The elderly man was a thriving food and crop farmer, with a big maize and cassava farm, but was forced to stop because the herdsmen were disturbing him and rendering all his efforts useless, leaving him with no harvests after much toiling. Back then, the herdsmen often invaded his farm, uprooting his cassava for their cattle to feed on, while also leaving the cultivated maize at the mercy of the cattle. Most of the time, after the herdsmen’s unwanted visits, the farm was often left in ruins with the farmer’s efforts at a bountiful harvest totally frustrated.

So, Pa Opeoluwa changed tactics and started plantain farming in order to reduce his losses, and not waste too much energy working on the farm only to have his efforts wasted at the end of the day. Just when he began to heave a sigh of relief from the constant invasion of his farm, the herdsmen visited again. This time, his plantain farm was completely burnt down by the herdsmen.

Pa Opeoluwa reported the matter at Ilugun police station where he lives, but nothing really came forth. In March and April this year, the herdsmen were on his farm again. This time, the farmer was able to “arrest” one cow which was put in police custody.

On getting to know about the situation, the local Serikin Fulani, head of the Fulani at Alabata, a nearby village, intervened on behalf of his kinsmen and came to the police station to effect the release of the cow to the owner.

In May, again the herdsmen came to invade his farm. This time, one of the herdsmen was arrested and made to make an undertaking that the herdsmen will not invade Pa Opeoluwa’s farm again. The herdsmen were asked to pay N60,000 to Pa Opeoluwa. Reluctantly the elderly farmer took the money, refusing initially because, according to him, the losses he had incurred since the herdsmen had been invading his farm were more than the amount offered.

“Since the beginning of the year, the herdsmen have been coming to disturb Baba on his farm. It has become so worrisome that they almost ruined Baba and stop him from farming again. I have never seen this kind of problem before. The herdsmen kept going back again and again to the same farm despite our complaints and police intervention,” Mr Owoyemi, Pa Opeoluwa’s nephew, told Sunday Tribune.

As if the herdsmen were not through with Pa Opeoluwa, eight days later, they came calling again. This time, they were well-prepared to deal with the farmer as they came to lay siege to his farm where he was working. On that fateful day, they hid somewhere on the farm where they watched him closely to ascertain that he was the only one there. At the appropriate time, they attacked him, hitting him with various objects, including machetes and inflicted deep cuts on his head, his cheeks and hands.

Inside a particular bag which Pa Opeoluwa brought to the farm were some bullets meant for his dane gun and a sum of N290,000, which was meant for a survey job somebody had done for him. The herdsmen took away the man’s money and gun after leaving him for dead.

“Baba took the money to the farm because he did not want to leave it at home in the village. He was afraid that it was not safe to do so. They (the herdsmen) took away everything they could lay their hands on, including the money. After beating Baba to a stupor, they thought he was dead, so they left him. They now took the gun to the police station to go and report. Can you imagine? The accused persons now went to the police to report that somebody had attacked them with a gun, showing Baba’s gun as evidence of the attack. Where in the world is somebody with a machete attacked by another person holding a gun and the person holding a machete prevailed?

They went to make a false accusation so that Baba could be arrested,” Tope, Pa Opeoluwa’s son, told Sunday Tribune.

Asked where Pa Opeoluwa is at present, Tope said his father is receiving treatment at a secret location in order to ensure his safety, adding that as an elderly man, it might take a longer time for him to return to his farm. “It was God that saved him because those Fulani herdsmen nearly killed him,” he said.

From one police station to the other in that axis, Tope and another relation went in order to get justice. At the end of the day, the case was transferred to Oyo State police command headquarters at Eleyele, Ibadan, where the monitoring division is still carrying out investigation into the matter.