• Monday, March 04, 2024
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BusinessDay

Rage against RUGA: Any lessons learnt?

Herdsmen Attacks: Ondo farmers cry out, seek govt, police interventions

The compelling urge to personalise political power remains one of the endemic evils and aberrations of the odious brand of democracy we currently run here in Nigeria. But while such could be understandable, or even glossed over under the crushing jackboots of military dictatorship, that once produced the Idi Dada Amin of Uganda, Francois Moussa Traore of Mali, Jean-Baptiste Bagaza of Burundi, Nguema Mbasogo of Equitorial Guinea and of course, the late  General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, it runs against the dictates of democracy. And should therefore, not be embraced or tolerated. Or else, we find ourselves sliding back into the dark abyss of autocracy.

From the critical platform of highly contentious elections, through lope-sided and clearly nepotistic political appointments, running the apparatus of government via gross violations of constitutional provisions personalisation of power rears its ugly head again and again! So it does right to some government policies, programmes and projects, skewed in favour of one part of the country to the detriment of others.

But take note, that this anomaly is not peculiar to the executive arm of government alone, or consigned to only one of the three tiers of government. No! It runs through the entire gamut down to the local government level.

It is against this dark backdrop and more so, given the multi-ethnic nature of the Nigerian nation that one condemns the idea of the recently suspended RUGA Settlements of the Buhari-led government. Indeed, Audu Ogbeh, the former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, through who parts of the killing fields of his own Benue State had been earmarked for the programme without the consent of his state government  had disclosed in May that President Buhari approved the plan just a few weeks to the end of his first term.

While the policy was being sold to Nigerians as the lasting solution to the frequent farmers-herders clash, discerning Nigerians could read the motive of an expansionist agenda by an ethnic nationality. Some informed Nigerians recalled some sad moments in African history and did not want a repeat.

This situation has triggered off a lot of flaming questions. Coming at a time Nigerians were meant to believe that the demonic brains behind the wanton wasting of some 2,000 priceless human lives in Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, down south to Enugu states, over just one year were some Libyans, why do we have to settle their counterparts right here in Nigeria? Who has been arming the marauding herdsmen remains an unanswered question.

Furthermore, what business has the federal government got to with a private business such as cattle rearing? Especially going  to the extent of  expansive settlement that would grant the beneficiaries access to land, quality  hospitals, good access roads, dairy processes and power supply that have been long-denied the suffering masses?

Also coming on the heels of the recently established all Fulani Radio, surreptitiously through the National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE) and the fiscal autonomy granted the local government councils, patriots began to smell a rat! In fact, the traducers of the famed OBJ who recently touched tellingly on what he termed the Fulanisation agenda started to swallow their words. Perhaps, there could be more to the RUGA Settlement scheme than met the eye. So, those who once blinked began to ‘open their eyes’ even wider.

Worsening the combustible scenario are the government officials literally speaking from both sides of the mouth. While the Chairman of the National Committee on Food Security/Herders/Farmers Conflicts and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi explained that the controversial Ruga policy was not consistent with the National Livestock Transformation Plan(NLTP), Garba Shehu, one of the presidential spokespersons said the difference was that between six and half a dozen!

Another  troubling dimension to the matter was the approval of lands by governors of Sokoto, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Taraba, Katsina, Plateau, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger for the programme without the express approval from the traditional land owners. That brings us to the lessons we, as Nigerians should learn from ancient Greece, from where democracy took its roots.

According to H. A Clement, in his well-researched book, entitled: ‘The Story of the Ancient World’ the Greek tribes who formed the city- states and were ruled by powerful kings expelled them in 700 B.C. The people wanted both their say and their way in government. Monarchy gave way to Aristocracy which metamorphosed into Democracy. “Their cities were small enough to enable all the citizens to meet together to make decisions, and they did not need to elect representatives as we do.”Of course, they had to have in place officials who ran their daily affairs but “whenever anything important was to be decided they all met together”.

 The point made by the author is that decisions evolved from the people, rather than our so called representatives of this day who foist their wishes, ambitions, whims and caprices down the throats of the largely marginalised populace.

Thanks to Nigeria’s vibrant Media, including the social arm that ventilated the views of several concerned Nigerians that expressed a vehement, “no!”. To them since they could not be given plots of land up North to rear their chicken, dogs and pigs, with massive federal government funds  doing so for the cattle rearers was both an affront on their sensibilities and an unpatriotic decision with serious implications on our fragile unity.

Perhaps, we can learn one or two things from India, Brazil and China that have the largest cattle inventory in the world as at 2018. According to Serap Goncu and Cahit Gungor in their  research work, ‘The Innovative Techniques in Animal Husbandry’  breeds in animal husbandry has changed a lot with the use of breeding and gene technology. New techniques such as artificial insemination and more specific selection techniques are being applied.

Recent attempts have been made to develop rapid and inexpensive methods for the assessment of the nutritive value of forage, especially in programmes. Agricultural extension workers have carried the primary responsibility for the task of making dairymen aware of, encouraging them to try and adopt new practices on their farms.

Also, there are dairy specialists in feed industry research and sales departments, and the larger group of sales-service representatives who are daily calling directly on dairymen, assisting them to increase net profits from their dairy enterprises.

In all of these laudable attempts, government is not directly involved in funding but provides the enabling environment for a workable synergy between the private sector and research institutes. This does the magic. RUGA settlement should not only be suspended but government should hands off its processes. Instead, it should   concentrate on tightening security; dealing with those arming them,  bringing the killers amongst them to speedy justice, plugging our porous borders, so that no one would be accused of  personalising political power.

 

Ayo Oyoze Baje