Newspapers are not merchants of fiction and illusion. They endeavor to mirror society by purveying factual, fair, balanced, and objective narratives of actual incidences.
However, people who are not acquainted with the tyranny of cows in Nigeria will most likely confine the following excerpts culled from some national newspapers to the ambit of urban myth: “Motorists stop in Abuja as cows, herders take over roads. Motorists were forced to either stop or slow down on some Abuja roads on Sunday as cows and their herders marched majestically on the roads exclusively marked for vehicular traffic”; “On the front page of a national newspaper last week was a photograph which painted a pathetic picture of the level to which the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has degenerated. In the photograph, herds of cattle could be seen grazing within the precincts of the multibillion naira National Stadium”; “A fortnight ago, the unthinkable happened. The National Assembly, located at the Three Arms Zone, Abuja, had some unfriendly visitors —cows. The visitors, numbering over 100, strolled into the well-fortified premises with unquestionable audacity”.
It is sad that in the 21st century, everyday life in Nigeria is redolent of the defining elements of urban folklores. When we hear about mythical constructs of “divine sky-cow” we tend to scoff at the fecundity of unscientific imaginations. Yet, we inadvertently treat mere cows like urban deities.
The invasion of FCT by cows suggests we are experiencing a throwback to primitive times. In nonreligious context, we are reenacting rituals of ancient people who lived in places like Egypt, Greece, Rome, Germany where their belief systems extoled the sacredness of cows. Though the number of people in Nigeria that practice religions ike Jainism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism that venerate cows are statistically irrelevant compared to India, peace loving and law abiding Abuja residents and motorists are compelled to treat cows like the Egyptian goddess Hathor. It looks like herdsmen want us to elevate cows to the level Krishna did. They seemingly want us to start playing flute to a sacred cow stock like Krishna.
Under the auspices of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, cows have usurped the kingship of pedestrians. They have conferred on them rights and privileges superior to those of citizens. Ever since their “coronation”, the new norm in Abuja is that road users perform forced rituals of obeisance whenever cows are lazily crossing highways, otherwise, their safety is endangered.
These “kingly” city-dwelling beasts have turned the streets and roads of Abuja to the theater of the absurd; a theater where the greater bows before the lesser. Due to the reign of absurdity, rational people stop their automobiles, allow cows to cross the road, and move on with equanimity of mind. Pragmatism seemingly says to Abuja road users ignore your rights, since oddity has become a norm, endure the affront, otherwise, your dignity will be shredded.
Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association is very aware that the rule of law seems to be an airy-fairy concept in Nigeria. They are aware that our laws are like cobwebs that entangle and strangle flies, but are shattered by birds. The breeders know that the strong do as they wish without facing the consequences of their actions or inactions. In their own estimation, they are strong too, hence, they have instituted the rule of cows. Cows are now above the law in Abuja. So, even though, they are prohibited by law from grazing in the streets of FCT, they openly do so.
The adverse impacts of climate change, ecological challenges, exponential population increase, desertification, cattle rustling, terrorism, etc. are not the main reason why cows have invaded Abuja. Rather, it could be attributed to the primordial sentiments that have conditioned the way our minds work.
If you want to understand why a nation is great study the workings of their mindset, social habits, and civil postures. The cow invasion of FCT demonstrates the truism that awe-striking edifices, bridges, roads, hospitals, schools, and other public facilities on their own do not spell the greatness of a nation. It is often said that if you send all Nigerians to America and all Americans to Nigeria, within a short time, Nigerians will turn America to a hellhole and Americans will turn Nigeria to an earthly Eden.
The implication of the foregoing is that cows will keep tyrannizing us until we sufficiently upgrade our mindsets and stop engaging history through the prism of revisionists who speak of ancient grazing routes as if they are modern incarnates of the laws of the Medes and Persians. In simple terms, the insistence that grazing routes that predate Nigeria’s independence must be respected is retrograde and a recipe for socioeconomic and environmental chaos.
The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) should do more to end this menace. This is urgent and pertinent, in view of the fact that; “The AEPB Act 1997 Act No. 10 of 1997 Statutory Legislation Applicable Area of the Federal Capital Territory stipulates that the board has the mandate to regulate all infractions including keeping of animals and pets.”
It seems needful to remind AEPB that lawlessness hinders social cohesiveness, economic progress, and political stability. No nation can advance and become great in the comity of nations, if lawlessness is its second nature. One unpunished act of lawlessness encourages the consolidation of other forms of lawlessness. Anarchy brews where and when laws become respecters of persons, associations, political affiliations, and statistical strength. The lawlessness that underpins primitivism will inevitably be reintroduced when undomesticated animals begin to coexist with humans.
As long as we have herds of cattle roaming the streets of Abuja freely, we are eloquently telling the world that disorderliness is our culture. Investors, innovators, producers and other agents of economic development in the globalized economy of the 21st century, consider anywhere the spirit of the jungle reigns as their graveyard. So, they avoid such places. In other words, the way we are condoning the tyranny of cows constitutes a red flag to nation builders and developers of local and national economies that may be think of doing business in Nigeria.
With cows roaming our streets we are saying to potential tourists and foreign investors that their safety is not our primary concern. In fact, we are indirectly telling the citizens of this great nation that their safety is a luxury government cannot afford. Or should we assume that the appropriate authorities do not know that the safety of humans and cows is endangered where cows are treated as privileged road users? Let us assume they do not know. What about the citizenry?
Citizens are change drivers. They use the legitimate instruments of dialogue, representations, and peaceful protest to end the reign of tyranny and/or create a more humane social order. Unfortunately, we undermine the power of dialogue with power. Hence, this is not on the front burner of public discourse. In the same way, we undermine the dynamic ability of street protest in bring about social change. This help to explain why concerned road users are not using the potent language of civil protest to draw the attention of government and compel it to act against the growing menace of cows grazing in the FCT.
It seems important to remind ourselves of the uniqueness of the FCT, which was created to outshine Lagos and exude the quintessential Nigerian character. The FCT was deliberately planned to enflame the glory, pride and spirit of the peoples of Africa by being an embodiment of indescribable beauty.
Indeed, once the city aspired to make the metropolitan magnificence of some first world cities look like caricature in comparison to its beauty. Then the sanitation was excellent, public transportation systems were efficient, public buildings were sacrosanct, charmingly lush green areas dotted the city, roadside flowers and trees were well maintained, and adherence to law and order was the norm.
But now Abuja has acquired the characteristics of backwoods. It is dirty, chaotic, so much so that herders and cows muster the audacity to invade the hallowed grounds of the National Assembly and make the University of Abuja to evince similitudes of a cattle colony.
The fading glory of Abuja can be renewed if residents engage public institutions more meaningfully and “take ownership” of the city. One way to begin this process is for them to chorus in unison their abhorrence to sharing public amenities with cows. Residents and residents associations have a duty to ensure that Abuja keeps exuding the ethos of a modern city.