Chief Emma Nwosu
Not a few observers would agree that the Federal Government – which controls the Judiciary, the Armed Forces and the Police-has been unwilling to curb the Fulani herdsmen, their principals and collaborating immigrant terrorists, despite unceasing gory incidents of arson, kidnapping, murder, massacre, rape and sacking and occupation of communities by them. The incidents are concentrated on the, mainly, Christian Middle-Belt and Southern territories and have the pattern of a sponsored mission.
Lawless people are supposed to be fished out, arraigned and sentenced to jail or death. That has been the case with other offenders- from Oyenusi, the robber, to Evans, the kidnapper. Why is the case of the deadly herdsmen, who operate openly, largely different?
Did the government also expect the people to fold their hands, to be assaulted forever and displaced from ancestral land? There is a yield point at which it is more noble to resist to death than be permanently enslaved- contrary to the cowardly advice of Femi Adesina of the Presidency, to flee rather than die. Southern Kaduna, for example, would have been overrun if the people would not resist to death!
Thus, the emergence of the Eastern Security Network (E. S. N) and Sunday Adeyemo, among others, is the least that should have been expected in the unmitigated terror of herdsmen and the neglect. And it could herald disintegration – if not handled with circumspection. Hopefully, the government has learnt from its hasty and unimaginative approach to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other protesters.
Inaction and muscle flexing (instead of dialogue) by our leaders (except YarAdua and Jonathan) since, 1962, have been the undoing of Nigeria. Yet they would not learn. Imagine that President YarAdua had confronted Niger Delta militants with the Armed Forces in 2007, in place of dialogue!
After failing to halt the carnage, the government should not add insult to injury, nor throw away the baby with the bathwater, nor conflagrate the country by precipitously moving against the E. S. N or Sunday Adeyemo who have the overwhelming support of the distressed and abandoned people.
First, the herdsmen must be quickly disarmed. Facing the E. S. N or Sunday Adeyemo, instead, would amount to a vindication of those who accuse the government of complicity. It would amount to crossing the Rubicon and declaring war on both the East and the West, unto the disintegration of Nigeria.
Second, herdsmen must be made to resettle in the dominant cattle states of the North(which controls more than 75 per cent of Nigerian landmass) in ranges (quasi ranches)as a matter of emergency, from where it would be easier to transit to industrial type ranches – the ultimate destination.
Something is ominous about insisting that cattle must graze in the South and Middle-Belt. Sambisa forest would be larger than the combined forests of the South-West and there are others like that. The entire South-East is barely one-third of Niger State (or the typical Northern state) in landmass. Furthermore, pasture could be boosted in the North by irrigation systems already popular with the farmers.
Despite the sentiment of Freedom of Movement and gazetted grazing reserves and routes, the reality is that there is no more land for wild grazing or, even, mega ranching, in the traumatized territories – looking into the future – due to population growth and density and the pressure of staples farming, housing and infrastructure, which should take precedence over cattle grazing in resource allocation.
Third, ranching remains the ultimate destination. The degree of its failure in the country is due to cultural and managerial challenges of a Nigerian nature. It is obligatory on state governments and entrepreneurs to check these challenges, to transform the cattle value chain and the life of herders. Every responsible society has embraced ranching. Why should we be swimming against the tide? Promoters of nomadic herding, in the 21st Century, are looking for something else and do not mean well for Nigeria.
Fourth, the Federal Government must drop the Water Resources Bill and the idea of serviced cattle colonies or RUGA (Rural Grazing Areas) throughout the country, with tax-payers money. The herds are owned by people with the capacity to raise funds, at corporate and at individual levels.
The cattle business is dominated by the Fulani and the RUGA would equally be exclusive. Nigerians do not have access to the quality schools, roads, electricity, water and so on which the Federal Government would provide in the RUGA. It is discriminatory and contravenes the Federal Character principle.
Given the evolution of Fulani colonies in Southern Kaduna and the Middle-Belt, the domineering RUGA settlers would soon trespass for territory in the bid for electoral constituencies and, eventually, local governments and emirates, thereby exacerbating the problem it was intended to solve.
Fifth, government should not borrow to build a railway to Niger Republic. It amounts to consolidating the North-West and North-East with the Sahel region despite the infiltration of terrorists from that axis.
One could go on and on. There is more than meets the eye in the pampering of Fulani herdsmen and their principals – which would be extended by RUGA, the Water Resources Bill and the consolidation of the far North with the Sahel region by rail, among other measures. It is from this pampering and the conquest and enslavement of most of the North by their forefathers, by the 19th Century Jihad, that the sense of entitlement, suzerainty and supremacy, derive. The government must not only disarm them now but must also repent of this pampering while the people must resist further conquest, before it is too late.
Governors may not rely on the centralized Army and Police to halt the invasion of their people. From inception, the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Police have more been slaves of the Federal Government than defenders of the people. As long as the President condones the atrocities of herdsmen – expressly or by body language – they will never move against them strictly, regardless of platitudes. In addition to the syndrome, they are already overstretched.
The naïve South-East governors, in particular, had better harness the God-given E. S. N as bulwark against the marauders. It is also by collaboration that the E. S. N could be restrained from operating at large.
Only those who cannot read the writing on the wall would resist the eviction of deadly herdsmen, at this stage. Once the raging occupation program is entrenched, it would be impossible. Those touting Freedom of Movement should note that only law-abiding people are welcome to be anywhere in the country.