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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Farmers-Herdsmen clashes: Gani Adams identifies economic and political solutions.


Being The Text of Speech delivered by Otunba  (Dr) Gani Adams, The National Coordinator of Oodua People's Congress, Global Convener, Oodua Progressive Union, at 2016  Ondo State NUJ Democracy Day Lecture, held at NUJ Secretariat, Akure. Ondo State.

Theme: Farmers/herdsmen’s clashes: What implications for Nigeria?

Protocol

It is indeed a great pleasure to address this distinguished gathering on this occasion to mark our nation's Democracy Day. Suffice it to say therefore, that  Democracy is, after all, the reason we are all here. I would like to salute the organisers of this event for counting me worthy to deliver this lecture on an issue that threatens the very basis of our unity as we speak.

The political side of the issue

There are many sides to the farmers/herdsmen’s crisis but let us just consider two, namely the political and the economic.

Now, Nigeria, for many of its ethnic over 250 ethnic groups, is obviously not a nation in the sense that we regard France, United Kingdom or South Africa as a nation. That is why, as recently pointed out by Mr Dan Nwayanwu, former chairman of the Labour Party (LP) during a programme organised by the Ondo State government in Akure: given an option, many of the ethnic groups in Nigeria would prefer to be opt out of Nigeria. Already, groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Niger Delta Avengers, among others, have more or less shattered whatever illusions we may retain regarding the Nigeria that we are living in. While Nigeria would obviously be better off remaining a nation, it is also true that a surgical operation is required to take out the cancer of disintegration currently ravaging the country on every side.

And this is quite simply because Nigeria, as it is presently operated, is not sustainable. Nigeria is supposed to be a federal republic but it operates a unitary constitution where the states, like children, simply go to Abuja at the end of every month to collect food. They cannot even feed themselves. Is it not an utter shame that the descendants of the Oyo empire, Kanem-Bornu empire, Benin empire, and so on, have to go cap in hand to Abuja, collecting allocation that cannot even pay workers’ salaries when the traditional system which guaranteed full employment and a decent standard of living can be recreated through proper federalism like we had in the First Republic?
In the USA, it was the states that came together to form the central/federal government currently headed by Barrack Obama. In Nigeria, it was the Centre or Federal Government that created the states for political reasons and to achieve what the eminent Igbo scholar, Chinweizu, refers to as Caliphate Colonialism a system whereby some people are born to rule.

This is quite simply an aberration, and our consideration of farmers/herdsmen’s clashes must thus begin from this context. If we have a federal republic that is nothing but a sham, a big fraud, why then are we surprised that a group of Boko Haram members masquerading as herdsmen have been terrorising innocent farmers across the country? If, for instance, there is state police, would the herdsmen have found it easy to attack farmers, rape women and slaughter them afterwards, burn down entire villages, and even carry out major robberies on major highways while the security agencies look the other way? For how long shall we have Chief Security Officers (governors) of states who do not even have the police under their control? By the way, what manner of security officer does not even have a gun in his possession? Can a person who cannot organise his own security protect others?
Before you think that I am exaggerating, consider this: between 2010 and 2013, according to a report, Fulani herdsmen killed about 80 people. However, by 2014, they had slaughtered 1,229 people. When you consider the Global Terrorism Index, you discover that Fulani herdsmen are not Number Four on the list of the deadliest terror groups in the world. Boko Haram, of course, takes the first position. As noted by a recent report, over 2,000 people were killed in conflicts between the herdsmen and different host communities in 2015 alone. In comparison, the regular Boko Haram kills 2,500 people annually. In a situation where a group of supposed herdsmen carry sophisticated weapons and wipe out entire communities, the unity of the Nigerian nation is indeed threatened.

The argument has been advanced that the herdsmen have become so bold in recent times because the current president happens to be Fulani. There may be some truth in that, because the history of bloodshed during elections in Nigeria proves clearly that Nigeria is a very divided country, with people being prepared to shed blood in order for their kinsman to win. A lot of people celebrate former President Goodluck Jonathan for his  exemplary conduct during the 2015 general election. However, we need to ask: for how long can we continue to live in a country where some people must either have their way, or blood will flow?

I ask this question because the farmers/herdsmen’s clashes in Nigeria has its roots in the sharp divisions among the ethnic groups in the country. If we were all united and put Nigeria first, we would have risen as one man and condemned the genocide in Agatu land in Benue State. Did we? Did the nation rise as one man or woman to condemn the atrocities of the Fulani herdsmen who always undermine the kindness of their hosts and unleash violence on them?

In Brazil, South Africa, USA, etc, cattle are not allowed to roam freely in town, neither do herdsmen carry out genocide because there is a truly federal system with city governance, state governance and federal governance and their related security systems in place. It is time, therefore, to drop the nomadic way of life. It is simply unsustainable.

The economic side

Dr Bukola Saraki, while serving as governor of Kwara State, introduced the Shongai farms where foreign investors carried out modern animal husbandry. The cattle were, and still are, being produced in a ranch, and they are far better than the ones raised through the nomadic system. I have been informed that while cattle reared through the nomadic system may not be more than 250 kg in weight, cattle raised in Shongai and other ranches often weigh as much as 750 kg. Cattle ranching therefore brings more profit. It is even cheaper in the long run than the nomadic system which is operated through the blood and sweat of farmers across the country.

Ranches provide cattle with a decent environment in which to thrive, with water, doctors, etc, all available. On the other hand, the nomadic system simply puts the cattle through stress, and is a form of animal abuse, or disregard for animal life and welfare. On another level, how do we attain food security and sufficiency when farmers are under threat? How can we attain the Sustainable Development Goals when food production is under threat? Nomadic cattle rearing creates ethnic divisions and tensions, and is a criminal system which allows terrorists to commit murder and genocide as their lordship pleases.

Conclusion

Those of us who attended the 2014 National Conference know that Nigeria cannot make any progress without implementing the report of that conference. For instance, the report deals extensively with how to eradicate the herdsmen/farmers’ clashes. Other recommendations of the Confab that require urgent implementation include the introduction of State Police, control of Solid Mineral by states where they are domicile, control of the Supreme Court by States, adoption of the French Presidential system of government , voluntary merger of states that so desire, Creation of Zonal Constitution, creation of more local government by states , federating units to participate in resource  extraction and reduction of items on exclusive list.  More fundamentally, it points the way forward for Nigeria. And that way forward is federalism. Let us go back to what we had in the First Republic, a system whereby the component units of this country would control their own resources and determine how to live their lives and what form of government to operate. If we do this, we will have a decisive framework for dealing with issues such as the one addressed in this brief lecture.

 Until the report is implemented, we will just be going round in circles and life in Nigeria will continue to be nasty, short and brutish. The time to change our path is NOW.

Thanks for listening.

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