By Odeh Ageh
Basket is synonymous with farming especially when the type is the locally woven one. It was quite popular in those days and still being used today, though not so pronounced.
It was impossible to see five women and sometimes men too, coming back from farm without three of them carrying it, precariously set, on their heads. Even though the headpad is needed for such venture but it was not always compulsory to have it if the container is the basket.
Benue state being an agrarian state and one that prides itself as the food basket of the nation adopts the basket with all manners of farm produce and implement contained in it as its logo.
One can really not fault the state for arrogating to itself such a status among comity of states that are equally agrarian in nature. This is because there is virtually nothing that is not produced in large quantities in the state be it tubers, cereals, fruits, or others.
That status of the state is however under a very serious threat now due to the marauding herdsmen and their highly lethal weapons which they unleash constantly on the hapless farmers.
Tiers are still rolling down the cheeks of many relatives and friends of victims of these heinous crimes meted out to Nigerians across the land. Even though this ugly practice has taken a national dimension, some places are most hit than others and Benue state is one such if not the most hard hit of all.
At the last count, there is no senatorial zone in the state that has not tested this dastardly acts of the herdsmen. Tarka, Logo, Buruku, Oju and Agatu amongst others are still counting their losses in terms of human and material resources.
This is not to forget the psychological effect on the people as a result of their forceful dislocation. Men and women that hitherto enjoyed distinct life are now lumped together. The aged and elderly are subjected to rigorous and disorganized life reserved only for the young and strong which their grand children fall under.
This ugly event that started sometimes back, one thought would come to an end before the rains which would usher in farming season. But, alas, that was a wishful thinking as the rains and the blood of the innocent souls spilled in the killing fields of Fulani invaders now mix freely. Blood stench is oozing out all over and along with it will come high growls from empty stomachs occasioned by shortage of food.
The scenario now captures a song, ‘double wahala for dead body,’ rendered in Nigerian music scene. Whereas the people are mourning the loss of loved ones and material resources, they are also subjected to impending hunger in the coming year due to absence of farming activities as the fear of Fulani herdsmen is now the beginning of wisdom.
When next year comes, the people would remember that the rain came appropriately in the preceding year, that the sun shone brightly and they had enough seedlings as well as arable land but, were deprived of carrying out their vocation because some Fulani men came and robbed them of the opportunity of engaging in their age lone trade.
Benue and I dare say, Nigerians generally like ‘food’ and by food here I mean the likes of pounded yam, akpu, amala, eba, etc. When this is absent for a day, no matter what they take, they feel inadequate. Unfortunately, that is going to be the lot of Benue people in the coming year. The only source of their food would be fruits because those need little tendering before they produce.
How can you make people become light weights over night not for their own choosing? That is what the people will all become; light weights, featherweights and all but not anything near heavy weight. Nobody bargained for that, Benue people always like to be heavy weights, that suits them well.
The only succour for the people would be their inclusion in whatever rebuilding exercise that is carried out in the North East. Extend that programme to the state, rebuild the burnt houses, the razed farmlands, barns of yams and get a secure future for their young ones by ensuring that books, uniforms and raw food are provided for them in the interim.
That is the only way that people can regain their robust nature otherwise nobody should ask them if they are suffering from whatever type of disease. Hunger is a sure disease in itself unless it is appeased with food.
Ageh is Benue State Commissioner for Information and Orietation