Before cows colonize our airports

Cows prevent plane from landing at Akure airport

By Ace Omozuwa

Animals will always be animals. Even domesticated and well-bred animals do not entirely rise above their animalistic nature. Anyone with fleeting interest in ethology would have noticed how some species defend their socio-graphical areas against conspecifics. I am aware that cows are not territorial, yet, they could be tyrannical. Many Nigerians can tell stories about the tyranny of cows, particularly, since, as a society we have failed to clearly delineate the socio-graphical home range of cows. Their home range unfortunately overlaps with ours. Yet, their omnipotent herders seek to colonize our airports, and advance a poly-territoriality agenda.

While struggling to get up from bed on Sunday morning, I read news report of the delayed landing of flight P4 7002 from Lagos to Akure Airport.  According to the report, at about 12: 15p.m.on Saturday,the pilot-in-command saw cows on the runway. When the control tower informed aviation security operatives of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), they promptly intervened and cleared the runway. As I read the news report I kept asking myself,“Whyare we celebrating the tyranny of cows like India?”

In India, the line of distinction between animal world and airport are indistinct. If this claim sounds alarmingly absurd, kindly, read the editorial of Hindustan Times of June 17, 2008. It was captioned; “International airport or animal world?”  According to the editorial: “Jackals, Neelgais, Monitor Lizards, Peacocks, Porcupines, Snakes, Monkeys, Foxes, Dogs and birds of prey – the diversity of wildlife at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) can give any small town zoo a run for its money. Despite measures taken by the airport operator, bird and animal activity keeps disturbing flight operations regularly.”

The scourge of animal invasion of Indian airports is beyond description.  Citing some specific examples may lend more credence to this claim. In July 2009, an aircraft of Kingfisher Airlines smashed a stray pig on the runway of Dr. BabasahebAmbedkar International Airport.In March 2010, when a stray dog was noticed in one of the runways at ChhatrapatiShivaji International Airport in Mumbai, the runway was closed for 20 minutes.  The same incident recurred at ChhatrapatiShivaji International Airport in Mumbai in January 2016. As a dog took over the runway, a domestic flight aborted take-off, andfour other airplanes hovered in the air for about 16 minutes.

Frequently, cows extend their sacred rights and act as lords of runways.   On Jan 12, 2018, the Times of India had a long-winded headline:  “Cow on runway, 2 planes abort landing at Ahmedabad and head to Mumbai.” Let us ignore the prolixity of the headline. The point to buttress is that headlines like this are norm in India.  In 2017, a Spice Jet aircraft incurred “substantial damages” when it ran into a water buffalo which ambled into a runway in Surat.

Nigeria is aping India.  In India, cows are sacred.  They have unimaginable right(s) that mocking transcends the rights of the poorest of the poor.  We have inadvertently elevated cows to the class of gods.  Gods do not only dwell in sacred places, they are untouchable, above blame, and are approached with awe. Airports are one of the most sacred places in secular spheres.  They are citadel of safety, order, and utmost decorum. They epitomize the beauty and marvels of this age of scientific and technological innovations. But because we have inadvertently solemnized the tyranny of cows our runway has become their grazing field. Soon, it may become their colony.

Security breaches in our airports can deter foreign investors from coming to do business in Nigeria. The genuine efforts of the federal government geared at revamping our ailing economy may not yield impressive fruits, if commensurate efforts are not made to guarantee the security of lives and properties everywhere.  Nothing ridicules our noble aspirations for economic prosperity and national cohesion like our tendency to politicize security matters.

This sad incident at Akure Airport should be investigated objectively. The immediate and remote causes should be ascertained.  It is safe to assume that it was easy for the cows to stray into the runway because the airport is not well hedged.  To forestall reoccurrences, government should quickly work on the fence.

Herdsmen and cows have become a multi-source of security threat to Nigeria. Nigeria cannot overcome the danger they to pose to national oneness and wholesomeness without educating herders on the imperatives of avoiding certain areas. Recent mayhems tellingly affirm that indiscriminate grazing is a recipe for national chaos and economic retrogression.

Historically, Fulani herdsmen are peaceful and law abiding nomads. They eschew primitive violence and civil chaos like every wise economic actor. This presupposes that when duly engaged by host communities, civil societies, and government, they can promote the ideals of national integration, and cease to align their operations withthe template of parasitic disruptors of national order. This template is alien to their native mode of operation. It is a construct, malevolent supremacist cults have foisted on them. This elite cult gain from chaos, and readily exploit the ignorance of any people group.

In 1989, the Nigerian National Commission for Nomadic Education was established. It aimed at providing learning opportunities for about 9.3 million nomads living in Nigeria at that time. If this commission had developed the literacy skills of pastoral nomads and migrant fishermen, perhaps, they would have known that cows at airport almost equate to senseless mass murder. Anything done to improve herders-farmers relations is cosmetic as long as we fail to provide basic education to Nigeria’s nomadic populations.

In the age of information technology, when fun and learning can happen at any time and anywhere, there is nothing stopping us from revamping our system of educational delivery. Systems of low cost mobile learning should be developed for nomadic herders. Radios and mobile phones should be turned to vehicles of knowledge and ethical value transmission.  This is imperative because as long the knowledge gap is not bridged, the delinquent elite will easily sway them to execute their whims.

Education for peace and security is the responsibility of everyone.  It is time for every patriotic Nigeria to start spreading the gospel of peace and mutual cohabitation.  It is time for us to mount civil pressure on authorities to make Nigeria safe again.  It is time for security agencies to shun partisan politics and change their rhetoric. They should know that when lives and properties are destroyed in a place, it is not the governor that is a drowning man, but everyone.  For, nobody is secured as long as one citizen is not secured.

In conclusion, permit me to copiously quote UNESCO: “Education is both a human right in itself and indispensable means of realising other human rights. As an empowerment right, education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities. Education has a vital role in empowering women, street working children from exploitative and hazardous labour and sexual exploitation, promoting human rights and democracy, protecting the environment, and controlling population growth.”

Education is a cure-all.  If herders become functional literates they will not imperialistically extend the home ranges of their cows and domiciled them around airports, or “sacred” public places. To educate a herder today is to promote tomorrow’s peace and prosperity. 

Copyright 2017 Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to as the source.