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HERDER/FARMER CLASHES AND ITS DIRE CONSEQUENCES – IN SEARCH OF PRACTICAL AND ENDURING SOLUTIONS.

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HERDER/FARMER CLASHES AND ITS DIRE CONSEQUENCES – IN SEARCH OF PRACTICAL AND ENDURING SOLUTIONS.

By, Dr Uche Diala 

Let me start by commending the dialogue between the Nigeria Governors’ Forum led by its Chairman, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Security Agencies and other Stakeholders on 25th January, 2021 at Alagbaka, Akure, Ondo State geared towards finding lasting solutions to the incessant killings, kidnapping and crises between herdsmen and farmers in the Southwest geo-political zone of the country.

 

Amongst others, it was agreed that:

 

(i) Night grazing should be banned henceforth.

 

(ii) Under age herding is inimical to security and hence be banned.

 

(iii) Occupation of State Forest Reserves illegally is condemned.

 

It was also agreed that a standing committee comprising of Farmers, MACBAN and the Government should be set up in each state (where they don’t exist) to ensure synergy and result.

 

This is such a simple but practical and pragmatic proposition that one wonders why it took a couple of skirmishes and deaths and a threat by a former political thug for the stakeholders to come to that position.

 

I have continued to wonder why we as a nation are unable to take the bull by the horn and do the needful to address problems that have been with us for ages. Is it the lack of political will, incompetence or insincerity on the part of all and sundry?

 

Herder/Farmer clashes and their attendant unsavory and often times fatal consequences have been with us for ages and I daresay it will continue if nothing definitive and practical is done about it. Why?
So long as people continue to eat meat and relish their bokoto, shaki and cow tail; As long cattle breeders and rearers have to seek a means of livelihood and farmers must farm to feed themselves and the nation and earn a living, cattle must move. The question is how efficiently so as not to come in contact with farmers and other individuals which usually spark conflicts and occasionally deaths.
Unfortunately it does seem that many of us are more obsessed with playing politics with the problem than facing the obvious realities and finding lasting solutions to the menace and by extension the security issues occasioned by it.

 

Over the decades, efforts have been made to address this seemingly intractable problem. Most of those efforts hit the wall for sundry reasons Including lack of political will and corruption. At least they did not achieve the aims because the problem is still with us.

 

Which is why, I continue to feel disappointed that the solution of RUGA proposed by the current Administration was shouted down without people even making effort to objectively and sincerely interrogate it. Thus the baby was thrown away with the bath water. I am not convinced that the government sold it effectively either. I continue to feel disappointed with the government for throwing in the towel and giving up easily, most likely succumbing to widespread emotional blackmail at the time. The National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) on its part seems to have gone cold in the cooler. One wonders why.

 

It is clear that the only thing we have that one can call a plan are the pre or post colonial Grazing Routes which sought to create a corridor for Herders and cattle in an effort to keep them apart from Farmers and other citizens and thus avoid conflicts. However every informed person knows that those routes are no longer possible or practicable with population increase, infrastructural development, modernization etc. As a matter of fact those routes only exist on paper now and not on ground.

 

In the absence of a bold and ambitious plan to replace that, how does anyone expect the problem to go away? Of course it is no longer feasible and acceptable today that cattle should graze or be bred openly and be transported by foot across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Such a practice is not healthy for the breeders, Herders, Farmers, the cattle themselves and surely not healthy for our national security.

 

It is as curious as it is unfortunate that some of the people who make the loudest noise over herdsmen and insecurity were the most vocal opponents of both the RUGA Plan and the NTLP. One really wonders why. Yet none of them has provided any practical and viable alternatives. Your guess is as good as mine as to the real motive of such people.

 

It is no rocket science to decode that the way to go is to stop Open Grazing. Absolutely.  So how do we go about that? Beyond the talk. Was that not what those two plans – RUGA and NTLP ultimately sought to achieve? I once argued in one of my defence of the RUGA plan, in spite of the hullabaloo then that if we are able to restrict most cattle and herders, then any errant herders or cattle would be treated accordingly. Thus we would be able to start separating the wheat from the chaff. At least we would have started from somewhere. If we started then, surely by now, lapses or shortcomings in the plan(s) would have been detected and addressed as we perfect the plan(s). Unfortunately, morbid suspicion, absolute mistrust of one another and caustic politics in addition to fake news and evil propaganda have blinded many of us.

 

Sadly, we are a nation content with much noise and little action; Motion and little movement; Complaining and finger pointing and not problem solving. We seem to love talking points and hardly willing to walk the talk.

 

It is my fervent hope and prayer that at some point, sooner than later, we must confront our devils head on. Not by too much talk, passing the buck or by casting and binding but by doing the practical work that is needed to address our numerous challenges so as to move forward as a nation.

 

Lastly, I detest any form of tribal, ethnic or religious chauvinism. I see anyone who seeks to drag ethnicity into purely security issues as an enemy of the state and all of us.

 

No form of ethnic profiling is acceptable or productive. No matter under what guise. There is nothing like Fulani killer herdsmen or Yoruba gang of kidnappers or Igbo 419ers.

 

A criminal is a criminal and should he treated as such. Period!!!

 

We must deliberately and painstakingly alter our mindsets and approach to nationalism and nationhood if we are to have any real hope and chance of building a sustainable and enduring nation.

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