In one of my article on this medium and my blog I wrote and cautioned that there would be no winner in the fight between the sedentary communities and pastoralist.
If we are still thinking in the past we better wake up. The Fulani man is no longer carrying just his Radio and Stick, the equation has changed.
Apart from the AK47 he is now carrying, he also has the economic power to purchase whatever he needs more than the sedentary farmer whose income dwindled over the years to less than dollar a day.
The Herdsmen also knows the terrain more than anyone of us. The former Governor General of Nigeria in his portrait of a Fulani gave an insight the Herdsmen are made up of.
As a people he said,
“They are ascetic, kind and generous, BUT Never fight a war (hot or cold) with the Fulani because they have:-
1. No rules of engagement (they just hit again and again)
2. No POW’s (they don’t take prisoners)
3. No mercy (once they pick you out as the enemy)
4. No fighting fatigue (they are forever fit and prepared, due to their lifestyle)
5. No need for adequate provisions and permanent abode (they live on very little and sleep in the wilderness)
6. No end to hostilities (they fight to finish)
7. No ignorance of terrain and location ( their lifestyle makes everyone of them a human GPS )
8. No deterrence due to casualties (they are strategically distributed all over West and Central Africa, and highly mobile)
9. No need for tranquillity (they have no permanent settlements which need peace to thrive).”
10. No fear of consequences.
I am not a Fulani man but in the 60+ years I have lived on this planet have seen and lived to know the dangers of engagements with a Fulani man.
In my contributions to public discourse I tried to avoid being on the side of tribe, religion, regionalism, politics or all those things that divides the society. I hate and stand against all types of injustice, doubles standard and other vices that pull us down as a people
In this century at this time I am disappointed by some of the comments going round accredited our leaders and people of good conscience on the establishment of Ruga Plan.
I am particularly disappointed because issues that demand caution and retrospect are trivialised and politicised for personal gain and self actualization.
This conflict had been with us for generations. It has been in the front burner of our national conversations for ages, all that one needs to know about the conflict are there on the shelves in our Universities, Research centres, Government Vaults and Libraries across the country. The problem is we just don’t read.
Here we are the same people who lived for hundreds of years together sharing the same geographical space, culture, religion, identity and ancestral background speaking in discordant voices in our attempt to settle a national issue that we ought to collectively come together and solve.
Several lives and properties over the years have been lost due pastoralist and sedentary communities conflict on land, a resource that each and every one of us has a stake. The fact that some of us are sedentary while others are pastoralist does give any one of us special privilege on the natural resource we all have a right to own.
While conducting my research for this article I came across a piece written by Albert Oladapo Ogunwusi, a former editor of Nigerian Tribune now a lawyer based in the UK that gave an in sight on land ownership in the country. It also exposes the double standard of our leaders. The author started by giving an in sight how the land use Act came into being and how it was entrenched in the Nigerian constitution. In the narratives he explained that the whole issue began at the UN World Habitat Forum that held in Vancouver, Canada in 1976.
According to him the principal outcome of the conference was a resolve that governments should as much as possible provide land for citizens to build homes.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo then Head of state and his deputy, Brigadier Shehu Yaradua decided to implement that decision by seizing land from its traditional owners and vesting it in the state.
They approached the Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research, NISER, to give them a formula for seizing private property. NISER in its report advised against it.
The government rejected the advise of NISER went ahead and set up a seven-man panel to formulate a land policy to actualise the out come of the conference. Six of the members of the panel advised against it. Obasanjo invited the remaining member to write a minority report which later became the Land Use Decree that was later entrenched in subsequent constitutions as the Land Use Act.
Thereof the land administration was vested in the state governors. The citizen owner became a mere occupant holding a lease signed by the governor allowing his occupancy for a tenure of years.
The Fulani Man are traditionally itinerant herdsmen who rear cows all year round from the Gambia to the Cameroons. They have no attachment to land.
He explained that when Usman Dan Fodio lead his Jihad in 1804 and had established Fulani reign in several Hausa and non-Hausa states north of the Niger, it was easy to impose a land tenure system similar to what we have in the Land Use Act. It was easy to implement in the North because land matter was vested in the community.
The situation was a different story in the South. In the South West, land was vested in private ownership through purchase, war, settlement etcetera.
In many Yoruba families, the father is buried within a few meters of the son. Ownership devolved through the generations as private property. The major traditional occupations were land based farming, hunting and war.
In the East it is even worse. Land is a prized possession and a major mark of progeny.
In the South-south, it is pure gold. The Atlantic shelf is in constant competition for the little land available-12,000 square kilometres of the region is mangrove, useful only for fishing.
The attitude to land is justifiably different in various parts of the country.
Every one knows the life of the Fulani man revolves around his cattle. He moves around the country seeking for pastures depending on the times of the year. He does not care to own a land.
The climate change in last decade has affected most of the regions of the world and this has some significant consequences in our global life pattern.
The Fulani whose life revolves around his cattle, is in a constant move locating greener pastures and arguably the most affected by the climate change.
For those of them that are within the shores of Nigeria, the shrinking of the Lake Chad, the seasonal drying of rivers and other sources of water, the growing threat of desertification in the Sahel Savannah, and the activities of the Boko Haram in the North East Region has forced the herdsmen to look for better grazing area in the inter land, where the vagaries of the climate change is lesser.
The south with it’s vociferous press chose to ignore the real issues causing the discomfort but rather amplified the threat to land grab by the Fulani whose son is today the President of Nigeria.
Their fears were emboldened by some northern minorities who for decades jump on to anything that could cause confusion in their pursuit for personal clan demands. They claim that by creating the Ruga settlements in some parts of the country is an attempt to ‘Fulanise’ the country.
Asake, a leader of the Middle Belt Forum in support of this assertion in an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday said, “the term ‘Ruga’ was a Fulani word and it was thus hypocritical of anyone to say when it is implemented across the nation, it would not be exclusive to Fulani.
He also alluded to fact that in 1987, the then government of Kaduna State approved Ruga settlements in the old Kachia Local Government Area which now comprises Zangon Kataf, Chikun, Kajuru, and Kachia Local Government Areas. the Fulani began to expand these settlements and today, some of them are being converted to Emirates. His argument is similar to those who are constructing the thesis of ‘Fulanization’ of Nigeria and ‘Islamization’ of West Africa,
The second group argue by creating the ruga it is an attempt of grabbing other people’s land to create fiefdoms that will come to consume their community.
The third group are those who believe this matter should be handled with caution because it has potential to implored. Professor Ango Abdullahi, the leader of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF). In response to a question during an interview, with MOSES ALAO, when asked on the threat by “a group known as the Coalition of Northern Groups, issued a threat to the Federal Government to see to the implementation of the policy, while leading ethnic associations like the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and others replied with counter-threats.
He summarised by saying the issue is a very simple matter, “but if Nigerians decide that they will politicise it the way they have politicised it now, so be it”.
“It is politics; there is nothing except politics in the whole issue. The government is indecisive because of politics and people are playing politics with the issue. If this is the way they will go about playing with the issue, so be it”, Look, “I have told you that the herdsmen have been living side by side with farmers for over three to four hundred years before the British came here. Why is it now and not before that we are having this level of crisis? This thing has been going on. But people have politicised it and if they have decided that is the way it will be, so let it be.
The other side of the debate is the way government is handling the issue. The government is talking from both sides of it’s mouth. The National Economic Council NEC headed by the Vice President is saying that the Ruga Programme is not consistent with “the National Livestock Transformation Plan.” It is on this premise the President suspended the whole program.
Taking a closer at the two programmes they seem to be one and the same thing only that the other is claiming participation in the NLTP is voluntary. The intended targets are the same and processes are not significantly different
The most puzzling about all this, why is government not following the process of policy formulation. The core matter under consideration fell within the preview of the Federal Ministry Agriculture, it ought to therefore drive the policy in conjunction with the National Council on Agriculture, where all states commissioners of Agriculture are members. Such policies must always start from the bottom and move up the ladder.
The matter should have first started at Ministerial level from where the Minister seeks for a Federal Executive Council approval before other layers of higher decision making processes such the National Council of State and National Economic Council could be involved.
Ordinarily Since the policy seems to be contentious, the President would have consulted widely and thereafter refer the matter to the National Economic Council and National Council of State for buying in and possible advice. It is evident the process have not been followed that was why the President had to intervene in the manner he did.
When I set out writing this article the Obasanjo letter has not came to the public domain. The letter succeeded in telling us that due process and broader consultations is a necessary aspect of governance, once pushed to the back burner for whatever reason government is likely to falter resulting in a serious policy disconnect with the yearnings of the people, that is why we are where we are today.
Nigeria recently invited the President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kigali to teach us about how we can fight corruption. What actually we should have asked him do is to talk to us about how his country overcome the issues of tribalism that resulted in one of the worst genocide on the Africa continent that claimed over one million lives.
Rwanda has since closed that dark chapter in their national history. They have moved on and have become the envy of all.
Nigeria has passed through a civil war that claimed almost the lives of the same number of people. We have survived it. We must not allow issues that we can easily handle push the country to the precipice again.
This country belongs to all of us, the choices to remain one people, one indivisible country is in our hands. Elections have come and gone, we must not before the next circle destroy what we have built over the years. We must learn to be magnanimous in victory and promote inclusiveness in governance.
The world is full of such examples, we have seen what happened in the former Yugoslavia, Dafur, Rwanda and what is currently going on in Somalia.
Caution and broader consultations not blame game is what is required. We must learn from other people’s mistakes.
We must tread on the path of caution and wisdom, in order to deal with the explosive situations hanging on us as a nation. May reason to prevail.