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FG’s cattle colony proposal repugnant, says Falae

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Olu Falae

On September 21, 2015, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and presidential candidate during the 1999 elections, Chief Oluyemisi Falae, was abducted and released after four days by suspected Fulani herdsmen who have created a route through his vast farmland in Ilado, Akure North local council of Ondo State. It was on his 77th birthday. Falae, who is also a chieftain of Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural and political group, has since been under attacks by armed herdsmen who last Sunday, allegedly set a portion of the farm ablaze. In this interview with Oluwaseun Akingboye, the elder statesman lamented the state of insecurity in Nigeria and urged the Federal Government to intervene immediately.

When did these attacks on your farm start?
At first they will come in the night to fetch water and we were tolerant because they did not touch or destroy anything but we did not allow them to stay here. It later it took a different turn all over Nigeria. They will come in the night, eat our maize and in three years, I have reported to the police over ten times.

Do you see any connection between these attackers and those who kidnapped you in 2015?
Elements of the same people kidnapped me. When people said they were Fulani herdsmen, they tried to say they don’t know they are Fulani; but everybody knows a Fulani man in Nigeria. I have been at the receiving end for some long time even after I was kidnapped, they came back and killed one of my guards and the case remains an unsolved murder case.

Do you think there were any ulterior motives to the incessant attacks? 
Every year they set fire to my farm and do you know why, there are two elements to their actions. First is economic, they burn this farm because the grass is already dry and cows don’t like that. So they burn the grass, and in two weeks time, fresh grasses will grow and their cattle will have fresh grasses to eat. In order words, they are already treating my farm as if it was their colony. They do this every year.

But to burn palm trees amounts to act of malice and hatred and I believe they have malice against me and they hate me. That is why they will burn my palm trees, uproot the palm trees I planted and throw the seedlings away. That does not help the cattle in anyway; I believe if they saw me in person, it is me they would hurt.

On the arson of yesterday (Sunday), they started the fire at the centre area hoping that it will spread to the whole area but the early action of our people here prevented the fire from spreading and doing more damage to the farm.

I condemn the action but what is more important is that I will take some actions and government should take steps to make sure they don’t do it again and if they don’t take step to prevent it, it means that government supports what they are doing, they are not offended by what they are doing.

Are you putting the blame on the government?
Government at all levels, especially the Federal Government should be a government for all of us regardless of how many votes we cast at election time, we are all entitled to the protection of the Federal Government.

Do you support those blaming President Muhammadu Buhari for these?
It is only President Buhari who can answer the question why he is silent over these Fulani herdsmen atrocities. I have expected him for over two years to take an initiative and make a national broadcast to his people in Nigeria assuring us that he will handle the matter by announcing effective measures that could control the rapacity of the herdsmen and assure that both the herdsmen and us can live together in peace without one side damaging the other.

I am disappointed I have not heard this from him. If I were President, I would have taken the initiative because this is not a problem that cannot be solved. Many nations have gone through this. This mode of cattle rearing is universal but in the last hundred years, most nations have solved the problem by adopting ranching.

Ranching is cattle farming and a legitimate and very profitable business run by private business men but they are trying to make my crops to feed their cattle to subsidise their own business because they are forcing me, by invading my farm in the night, to supply free food to their cattle. And when they sell the cattle, they don’t give me part of the money.

This is a system that cannot survive and I expected the government to have stopped it. We are not saying cattle rearing should be stopped but the cattle herders should be assisted to set up or do their business without hurting anybody. Hurting farmers is not acceptable.

Could the cattle colony proposed by the federal Government be the solution?
The proposal that colony should be established and rangers will accompany cattle moving from one colony to another is a very provocative and repugnant proposal. The word colony is a repugnant political word because it means one group people dominating another.

The British came to Nigeria and by force, colonised us and made us their possession. A colonial arrangement regards other human beings as possession of others. An adult educated Nigerian will use that word colony to describe any part of his country that you want to bring back to colonial status. It is almost treason. It is repugnant, provocative and should be withdrawn, and the person who coined it should apologize to Nigerians.

What if the concept is reframed in another way?
Looking at the proposal itself, assuming other terms has been used; it is unsound and makes no sense. The proposal said government would acquire an area in a state and plant grasses there for the cattle to feed on. The question I want to ask is that why must the cattle travel from their ranch to another colony?

The ranch across the world is self-contained, because there is water there, there are processing facilities and you don’t have to match your cattle from one colony to another colony. There is no justification for this, except you want to perpetuate Fulani herdsmen burning around our territory, we want to know the reason.

The idea that we will train rangers to accompany cows moving from one colony to another is a huge unnecessary financial burden on the Federal Government because there is no need for cattle to march from colony to colony. If we train rangers it should be to maintain peace generally not listed to cows that are now being given special status like our governors or head of state. It is absolute nonsense. They have insulted the intelligence of Nigerians.

What lasting solution would you proffer?
I proposed a solution because I spent four days with my kidnappers in the bush and I am in sympathy with their conditions. The comfort that we take for granted, they never have. They need special assistance. My suggestions that day was that there are states that are home to cows, so it is those relevant state governments that should carry the burden and not the Federal government.

I am not saying the Federal Government should not assist but the primary responsibility for animal husbandry belongs to the state government. The state government should be made to accept their responsibility by looking at their people and the farmers too should be the responsibility of the state government.

Let them carve out areas for cattle farmers in those states and assist them to set up ranches. Ranches are private things and not government responsibility, but government can help them to prepare water and make the ranch self-sufficient.

Government can even give them subsidised loans to establish and become viable and profitable ranches. That is the solution and not this nonsense of cattle roaming from one colony to another colony.


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