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Herdsmen’s menace and a rare panacea

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Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan Ali. PHOTO: NAN


John Keane is a professor of politics at the University of Westminster and the WZB (Berlin).The aforementioned scholar, who is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, is the author of a best seller politics book called The Life and Death of Democracy.As a student of political philosophy, Professor Keane has won my undying admiration for writing frankly on and about the vicissitudes and concupisciences of politics as the world knows the trade now.

Since buying this beautiful piece of intellectual work during my previous visit to London a couple of years ago, I have come to the inevitable conclusion that the mountains of self-inflicted afflictions in the Nigerian polity can be ameliorated if only the framers of political policies can pick up a copy and digest through the philosophically deep contents.
 
In the wise words of T.S. Eliot “what we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”Yours faithfully was therefore attracted to begin this reflection on the fundamental conundrum that the erudite Keane posed in the book which seeks to unravel the ‘whyness’ of democracy.
 


He said that democracy as we know it ruined in fits and starts by contempt for parties, politicians and parliaments, anti-American sentiments, nationalism, fake democrats, perhaps also by fear and violence, unimpeachable cross-border institutions, market failures deepening social inequality, fatalism and disgust for the hypocrisy of whatever remained of democratic ideals and institutions.”He then posed additional sub-questions as follows: “If our muse was right to foresee in these trends the sabotage of monitory democracy, what, if anything would be lost? Who would care? Why should anybody care? In plain words: would it really matter if democracy died a fitful death?
   
These syllogistic arguments can be referred to whilst extrapolating on our existential man-made problems that politicians have imposed on the larger society by their crass incompetence and deliberate unwillingness to play the game of politics by the rules.Of all the monumental crises of political underdevelopment, the one that now poses grave threat to our continuous existence as a nation are the deliberately unabated bouts of violent attacks of farming communities by armed Fulani herdsmen. Cacophony discordant tunes have emanated from different layers of the political class on why these attacks have perjured. The tolls in human costs are rising by the day and millions of Nigerians are questioning the essence of the democracy that is orchestrated not to be able to provide the primary purpose of constitutional government which is the protection of lives and property of Nigerians effectively.
 
In the last three years especially, Nigeria has witnessed an unfortunate proliferation of blood cuddling violence unleashed by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen who from available body of empirical date, may have the active support of some politically connected persons in the current Federal Government.Take for instance, the statement by the Defence Minister who blamed Benue and Taraba states for passing the anti-open grazing laws as the immediate cause of the killings of farmers masterminded by armed Fulani herdsmen.
 
Take also the irresponsible statement credited to the Inspector General of Police supporting the insensitive position of the Defence Minister in blaming the victims of the attacks for the bloody violence unleashed on them.
   
Again, take a look at the careless statement that emanated from both the Defence Headquarters and the Department of State Services on this same vexed matter of well-coordinated violence and pogroms by armed Fulani herdsmen targeting innocent farmers.
   
These cocktails of irrational sentiments expressed by the occupants of otherwise very strategic national Defence agencies depicts an administration that lacks the political will to tackle the menace the mass killers who are suspected to be armed Fulani herdsmen have become. These matters are danger signals that are capable of killing Nigeria’s democracy.A pro-democracy group that I head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, had blamed the imbalance in the composition of the National Defence Council for the pro-killer herdsmen comments made by the Minister of Defence, Brig.-Gen. Munir Dan-Ali (rtd.).
   
HURIWA was reacting to Dan-Ali’s comments about the immediate and remote causes of attacks on farming communities by suspected armed herdsmen.Dan-Ali was quoted as saying: “You see, whenever a crisis happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Since the nation’s independence, we know there used to be routes whereby the cattle rearers took because they are all over the nation.
   
“You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen? These people are Nigerians. It is just like going to block the shoreline; does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law.”
   
HURIWA’s disappointment with the minister’s position which he said was akin to providing subtle justification for the criminal attacks by suspected armed herdsmen on farming communities still rankles the consciences of good spirited Nigerians.
 
The association noted that Dan-Ali’s simplistic assessment which reduced the problem to the proliferation of anti-open grazing laws in different states of the federation and blockade of grazing routes were responsible for the killings by herdsmen  was to say the least “unpatriotic and unbecoming of a statesman.HURIWA equally noted that it appeared that those at the helm of affairs were pampering the suspected armed herdsmen because of some ethno-religious affiliations with heads of internal security agencies under President Muhammadu Buhari.
   
The group urged Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, respect the provisions of the Nigerian constitution with regards to the federal character principle by immediately reconstituting the national security team to reflect Nigeria’s diversity.Specifically, the group quoted Section 42 (1) (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to buttress its point.“HURIWA insists that the lopsided domination of the security forces by Hausa/Fulani ethnicity is a grave breach of the extant provision as cited above even as the selective appointments of persons from one section of Nigeria amounted to discrimination which is absolutely illegal and unconstitutional.

“Nigerians expect the holder of the high office of Defence minister to be patriotic enough to denounce blood-cuddling terror attacks orchestrated  by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen, but what has come out from the meeting of President Buhari’s security council as relayed by the Defence minister shows that the current administration has no intention to arrest, prosecute and where possible punish the perpetrators of the killings in Benue, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa and Enugu states.”

   
The group urged the Buhari-led administration to rise up to its responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians irrespective of ethno-religious bias or political affiliation.But the Bishop of Sokoto puts it much more succinctly when he simply described politics in Nigeria as a criminalized enterprise.
 
Bishop Matthew Kukah said this at the launch of a book titled, “The Shadow List’’ written by Dr. Todd Moss and organized by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy in Abuja.“I have said it severally; let Nigerians keep saying they want a God-fearing leader. Nigeria does not need a God-fearing leader, because God-fearing has become an excuse to appeal to Nigerians and win elections, “ he remarked.He hit the nail on the head thus: “Governance in Nigeria is a criminalized enterprise and a criminalized state cannot progress; so we must come to terms as to why it is that this country is in such low portion. Fixing this country requires much more than that; national cohesion, holding our country together is the most fundamental project if we are to fix this nation”.
 
However, the pertinent question to ask so as to save Nigeria’s democracy from imminent death is why the President has failed to exercise his constitutional powers to save Nigerians from the barrage of violent attacks by armed Fulani Herdsmen.Dr. Tunji Abayomi wrote a seminal book in which he reeled out the constitutional powers of the President, He, in fact, titled his book as “Constitutional powers and duties of the President.”
 
“The President shall be the Head of State, the Chief Executive of the Federation and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces of the Federation”. Section 130(2) is copied verbatim from the First Presidential Constitution Decree of 1979.”He wrote further: “Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution Decree invests in the President, the executive powers of the Federation, but does not define what the President is. What the section defines is what the President can do. He shall execute and maintain the Constitution and laws. But Section 130 of the Constitution Decree defines what it means to be President. He is the Chief; that is, one who is principal leader, and the eminent power of paramount important in the entire nation.
   
“The President is also Executive; that is, he possesses the authority to carry the affairs of the state into effect by securing due observance to the laws as enacted by the legislature and interpreted by the courts”. So why has the President failed to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians effectively? This reminds me of a story which started with a poser thus: Ever wondered the possibility of someone being inside the ocean and yet soap enters your eyes frustratingly?
 
That seems to be the situation that Nigeria has found herself with the ever widening threats of violence by armed Fulani herdsmen all across diverse farming communities in Nigeria over the last couple of years. But there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel with the rare solution proffered by G Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar which I believe is a masterstroke. Alhaji Ganduje reportedly called on all Fulani herdsmen resident in other parts of the country, especially Benue and Taraba states, to relocate to Kano state since the state has vast grazing land to accommodate them and their cattle.
 
Dr. Ganduje, who stated this while inspecting the vaccination of over one million cattle and other small animals’ free-of-charge at Kadawa artificial insemination centre in Garum Malam Local Government Area of the state, as part of activities to mark the 2017/2018 livestock vaccination programme, condemned the recent killings emanating from clashes between farmers and herdsmen describing it as unacceptable.
 
Speaking further during the occasion tagged “Towards Conservation of Livestock Resource and Animal Protein for Citizens of Kano,” Ganduje said the exercise was made to keep the animals healthy and improve the economy of the state.Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).According to him, the over one million cattle and small animals vaccinated for free will be free of animal diseases, adding that his administration is committed to the welfare and economic wellbeing of the Fulani herdsmen.He further stated that as part of the government’s commitment to encourage herdsmen in the state, Kano state government has continued to provide facilities that will contain the herdsmen and their cattle so as to prevent them from travelling to other states in search of grazing lands.
 
Ganduje also stated that Fulani herdsmen of Kano origin do not move out of Kano to other states, “because we have enough grazing land, ranches and traditional stock route. So, they don’t have any reason to move out of the state. We take care of them and we accord them the respect and dignity they deserve.”According to him, “I am inviting herdsmen from all parts of Nigeria to relocate to Kano because we have enough facilities to accommodate them. We have grazing lands in Rogo, Gaya, Kura, Tudun Wada, Ungogo and other reserved places where facilities are in place to accommodate the herdsmen and their cattle.”The governor also disclosed that already, his administration is in collaboration with the Federal Government and foreign agencies to convert the Falgore Game Reserve into a modern grazing land.
 
According to him: “Falgore Game Reserve can take care of millions of herdsmen and their cattle in Nigeria. The place has been designed to contain schools, human and animal clinics, markets, recreational centres and other social amenities that can give the herdsmen enough comfort to take care of their animals and do their business without hindrance.
 

“These killings must stop. We cannot afford to continue to witness these senseless killings in the name of Fulani herdsmen and farmers clash over lack of grazing land while we have a place like the Falgore Game Reserve underutilized. There is no longer fear of cattle rustling in Kano. Cattle rustling are now history because we fought the menace headlong. In Falgore right now, we have enough security there. Those rustlers have relocated elsewhere, while some of them who repented from their evil ways were given amnesty and rehabilitated.”
 
Ganduje also said that his administration has embarked on the registration of herdsmen and the numbers of their cattle to enable government take care of them through free vaccination and other incentives that will add value to their business.“A Cattle Intervention centre has been established to address the challenges associated with rumination of herdsmen within Kano. Just recently, we sponsored the training of over 61Fulani who were sent to Turkey to learn artificial insemination.
 
“They are back to Kano and I must tell you that they are doing well in various places to have been assigned to do their job,” he stated.Rather than stoking embers of inter-ethnic recriminations and mutual suspicions by the shadow chasing by minister of agriculture in planning to set up what he calls cattle colonies, the Ganduje’s panacea is a masterstroke that should be adopted. The Federal Government should support Kano State in this heroic effort to stop the mass killings attributed to armed Fulani herdsmen.
Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


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