As a Yoruba woman, I understand my people’s love for meat!
We can’t have any meal without meat, lailai!
We won’t serve anything at our parties without meat being a major part; try this – fried stew with meat, peppered meat, suya, diced fried meat…we know and love meat. The different parts, and we know what to do with tripe, gut, liver…hummn, we do meat right.
With Fulani herders and farmers clashing nationwide; I didn’t think boycotting beef was going to be the solution. I mean, what’s a Lagos party without peppered meat and orisirisi?
What’s an amala joint without bokoto and ponmo?
What of suya joints? Is suya just for our norther brethren? Iro ni.
Anyway, like many who paused to consider the options, I voted for a more peaceful resolution, then when the northern farmers withheld produce from coming south, I knew this was tough meat to chew on.
They lost, we lost!
With all our shakara, we need one another, truth be told; let’s not even go into the industries and oil fields and houses and whatnot all located in the South but belong to northerners and southern businesses thriving and upholding the northern economy, lets just talk about this tough beef we have been chewing and threatening to choke us.
We are all meat eaters, yes we have goats down south but let’s not kid ourselves, nama and rago are the king of meats.
So, this meat issue was on my mind when I went to Abuja and spent some six weeks there; I stayed in Utako and in all of these six weeks, seven days a week, morning and evening, I watched fascinated as herders moved their cattle in front of the house. They religiously drove their cattle of about 300, to graze every single day of the week; there was no rest day, even on Sallah day, the cattle had to graze.
I had never thought of cattle rearing to be this intense. On my first morning, when I heard the moving cattle moo, I was immediately scared. I had never heard a cow moo, up close. The guttural sound made me nervous and I almost spilled my tea.
“Go and see them from the window,” my friend told me.
What I saw may look ordinary, I was totally fascinated.
Unfailingly, come rain or sunshine; I would watch three sets of cattle move past the window where I stayed in Abuja…and it was, normal to people around, no body skipped out of the way to avoid them, no driver honked to shoo them off the road… they were like…part of the environment, like the trees and houses and people and keke and cars that exist there.
I overcame my initial panic when I saw no one was upset by their presence; I was the only one showing fear. I wondered, what if these animals suddenly went crazy on passersby like you see some dogs do to strangers? What If we look threatening to them? So on a few occasions when I had reason to be on the road while they slowly mooed pass, I would go hide once I sighted them from afar, my Lagos sense has thought me that ‘malu’ is the king of the road.
I preferred to watch from the window but my friend told me, “Don’t worry, you will soon get used to them…” I never did, I would always rush to the window to watch them every morning and evening like they were something new. Their huge horns and massive humps fascinated me…
I soon began to wait for their mooing every day usually at 10am to about 11am and in the evenings, from 6pm to 7pm; they came in a set of three batches. Most of these cattle are white, something I haven’t actually noticed down south where there are often black or brown or spotted, so I wondered, were white cows sold mainly up north and the spotted brought down south? Is the meat different?
I have no idea; I know meat is quite expensive in Abuja compared to Lagos, maybe the herders know that down south is where the real market is, down south is where meat is dished into several delicacies, it is where meat is consumed with the same passion as the cattle are bred.
I have also come to understand the attachment the Fulani has to his cattle; they are like family. The Fulani herder trains his sons from boyhood to herd. I saw boys as young as five wielding sticks and trotting after the cattle, many times talking to the cattle; a whisper, a sharp retort, a gentle word and the cattle obey.
What appears like a simple life isn’t so simple; if a family dedicates every single day of their existence to raising cattle, then perhaps, there’s no reasoning for them not to do it the way their forefathers had always done it, we need more concerted effort, more education of these people to get them to understand rest from their itinerant herding.