Why we back plan to settle Fulani herders, by governement, ACF
While the controversy rages over its plan to settle herders, the presidency has reeled off reasons why this move has become inevitable. The defence of the scheme, also referred to as Ruga, came from Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
He explained: “The Federal Government is planning this in order to curb open grazing of animals that continue to pose security threats to farmers as well as herders.
The overall benefits to the nation include a drastic reduction in conflicts between herders and farmers, a boost in animal protection complete with a value chain that will increase the quality and hygiene of livestock in terms of beef and milk production, increased quality of feeding and access to animal care and private sector participation in commercial pasture production by way of investments. Other gains are job creation, access to credit facilities, security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling.
“Stripped of the politics and howling that has attended the recent comments, there is no government plan to seize state land, colonise territory or impose Ruga on any part of the federation. Government has made it clear time and again that the programme is voluntary.”
Similarly, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday supported plan of the Federal Government. Nigerians cannot kick against open grazing and at the same time oppose ideas that would bring about ranches, the political and cultural association of leaders in the north stated.
“What the government wishes to encourage is the settlements of nomads in a manner that they can have permanent and bigger settlements preparatory to embracing the concept of ranches, which are currently beyond the economic profile and professional expertise of individual nomads,” ACF Secretary General, Elder Anthony Sani, told The Guardian in an exclusive interview.
He maintained there is nothing wrong with the timing of Ruga, which is a name for colonies of herdsmen or nomads, asking: “Why should any policy and programme designed to encourage sedentary settlements of nomads, leading to the practice of modern ranching, stoke suspicion?”
He also insisted that it “is simply not possible” that the Federal Government is stoking a Fulanisation or Islamisation agenda. He said: “When people talk of Fulanisation by insurgents, it is laughable in the sense that Boko Haram comprises over 90 per cent of Kanuri ethnic extraction, which belongs to the El Kanemi Empire that was never part and parcel of the Sokoto Caliphate sired by the Fulani.
“It is therefore unthinking of anybody to imagine that the Kanuri in Boko Haram would toil with their blood and sweat, day and night, with all the attendant risks inherent in insurgency in order to bring about Fulanisation for the Fulani.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had recently raised the alarm over the alleged agenda. But Sani insisted: “The fear spawned by Obasanjo is not justified because he actually said nothing new about the aims of Osama Bin Laden who founded Alqaeda which has multiplied into so many outfits. It is very important to remember what Osama Bin Laden said, to wit, that he was all out to Islamise the infidels of America and the West, and if possible, the whole world.
“He went further to say that Alqaeda was the most decentralised organisation that has been very effective and efficient in the history of the world; and that if he died, he would leave thousands of Osama Bin Ladens behind to continue with the campaigns. Hence, the emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan; Alshabab in Somalia; IS in Iraq and Syria; Boko Haram in Nigeria; and ISWAP in West Africa.
“I am telling you that the fear of Fulanisation and Islamisation is not well founded. Let us be fair in our assessment. Much of the insecurity we talk about is in the form of guerrilla warfare, which is not conventional warfare. And so, the arrest of those who commit such heinous crimes is not easy and has to do with the capacity of our intelligence community, which is not well developed.
“It is that weak intelligence community that has not made it possible for the arrest of the killers of Chief Bola Ige and the killers of many other high-profile politicians on the watch of President Obasanjo over 10 years after the events.”
Sani further faulted calls for restructuring of the country. “We started with three regions, which became four regions with a weak centre. We have gone from 12 through 19, 21, 30 and now 36 states. We experimented with a parliamentary form of government through military dictatorship and now presidential system. We also tried confederate arrangement with a weak centre, then a unitary system with a strong centre. And now, we have a federal system with the national government that is balanced by appropriate state level power.”
Nigeria has already undergone several restructurings, he said, warning that any fresh attempt will not solve the nation’s extremely complex problems.
Unconvinced by Sani’s arguments however, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) described the Ruga initiative as “repugnant, repulsive and provocative as it seeks to colonise the rest of Nigeria under the guise of promoting cattle rearing ,which is a private business that should not have the involvement of any responsible government.”
According to the group, “Lining the might of the Federal Government behind the business of one ethnic group in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria can only come from a government that is not interested in its unity.”
In a statement by SMBLF spokesman, Yinka Odumakin (Afenifere), Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South South) and Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (South East), the Forum warned all governors of the region “not to succumb to any pressure to cede an inch of our land for this awful project as any governor who does so would be seen as an enemy of the people he governs.”
It added: “Our people will defend their land against colonisation under the conquest policy the Federal Government is mindlessly pushing.”
Similarly, the leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and Aare Onakankanfo of Yoruba Land, Otunba Gani Adams, warned that history would not forgive any southwest governor who cedes any land for the settlement.
His criticism was reechoed by the president of Yoruba Ronu, Akin Malaolu, who called on the Federal Government to back down on the idea. “The arrangement is totally against the constitution and it will not work,” he said.
Meanwhile, at a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the chairman of OnTiv group, Engr. Benjamin Nyior, expressed concern over the inclusion of Benue State in the scheme.
“The families and property of our people have been threatened by Fulani herdsmen, who over the years have invaded, killed, displaced and attempted to take over our homes and farmlands,” he complained.