By Vincent Akanmode
From the governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, came the cheering news during the week that governors in the northern part of the country had declared open grazing an obsolete practice that must come to an end in the country. Instead, they said, Nigerian herdsmen must embrace ranching, which is the vogue all over the world. A communiqué issued by Lalong as the Chairman of Northern Nigeria Governors’ Forum after its virtual meeting on Tuesday stated that the current system of herding conducted mainly through open grazing is no longer sustainable in view of growing urbanization and the geometric rise in the nation’s population. The forum stated the need to sensitise Nigerian herdsmen in this regard and appealed to the Federal Government to support states with grants with which they can undertake pilot projects of modern livestock production.
In recent years, the nation has been goaded almost inexorably on the path of ethno-religious war as a result of clashes between herdsmen and farmers whose crops are often destroyed by the former’s cattle. The development has in recent times pushed the nation to the edge of the precipice with drumbeats of war getting louder and louder in different parts of the country. From Benue, Taraba and Kogi to Enugu, Edo, Delta, Oyo and Ogun states, bloody clashes are reported between herdsmen and farmers almost on a daily basis, farmers almost always at the receiving end as they find themselves perpetually at the mercy of AK-47 wielding herders who kill or maim them and rape their wives and daughters after destroying their farms.
In Benue State, for instance, residents of many communities in the state have become refugees in other lands, having been displaced by herders who invaded their communities and took over their lands. On a particular day in January 2018, the government had to conduct mass burial for 72 of its citizens after the violence provoked by the enforcement of a new anti-grazing law in the state. “They had threatened to wipe out the whole state if we did not repeal the law and allow their cattle to graze wherever they liked. The rule of law should be respected and punishment should be meted out to those who violate it,” a sobbing governor of the state, Samuel Ortom, told reporters afterwards.
Lately, world’s attention has been on the Ibarapa axis of Oyo State where herdsmen were said to have turned the killing and maiming of the inhabitants of the area as well as the rape of their wives and daughters into a past time. For decades, the hapless indigenes endured the reign of terror until a messiah arose in the person of Sunday Adeyemo, an indigene of the area, popularly called Sunday Igboho.
Worrying as the situation has been for well-meaning Nigerians, the shock of it all is the dead silence maintained by President Muhammadu Buhari on the matter. The President, who himself is a member of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, the umbrella body of herdsmen in the country, has not as much as called the leadership of the association to order, even in moments when they made inflammatory remarks to further inflame passion and rub salt into the wounds of the people at the receiving end of the wicked deeds of killer herders. Rather, the President is either admonishing the people whose loved ones are killed to learn to live in peace with the invaders or even defend the herders by holding the remnants of the army of former Libyan leader, Moammar Ghadaffi, responsible for the evil deeds.
Not surprisingly, Buhari’s loud silence on the sordid activities of herdsmen has given rise to all manner of postulations, including the one by the leader of the outlawed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) that the man that steers the affairs of the country from the Aso Rock Presidential Villa is no longer the Buhari Nigerians voted for but a certain Jibrin from Sudan redesigned by some arcane devices to look like him. Others are of the opinion that Buhari’s decision to keep sealed lips on the matter was deliberate—a way of harassing the inhabitants of the different parts of the country that have caught the fancies of herdsmen to accept to host ruga in their domains as the only way out of the crisis that threatens to claim more lives than the civil war. It is all borne out by the Yoruba adage that says Bi nani nani ba n nani, ti eni to tonii gba ko ba so fun nani nani ki o ma nani mo, a je wipe oun lo ni ki nani nani maa nani (when a strong man bullies a weaker one and the third man endowed with strength to stop the bully chooses to stand aloof, he is definitely an accomplice).
Mercifully, the voice of North’s governors combined is almost as strong as the voice of the President as far as the matter in question is concerned. An adage says if a man sights a snake and a woman kills it, what matters is that the snake dies. A python hitherto pampered by Mr. President is about to be eliminated by North’s governors. They deserve nothing but commendation.