After about five years of complaints about hostile relations between farmers and herders in the country, efforts by herdsmen to dispossess farmers of their land is getting worse by the day. This came to a head when the governor of Ondo State issued an order to herdsmen without registration and permit to be in the state’s forest reserves, to leave within seven days. This announcement drove the country apart with the consequence that ethnic leaders and organizations went into frenzy, in issuing threats against each other.
Shortly after the onset of the crisis still awaiting solution, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State called for a federal law to ban the movement of cattle from the core North to other parts of the country: “My advocacy is that we should abolish the transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the northern part of Nigeria to the Middle Belt and to the southern part of Nigeria … There should be a law that will ban open grazing; otherwise, we cannot control the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers; and cannot control the cattle rustling, which is affecting us greatly.”
As it is expected in a democracy, there have been quick reactions to the governor’s call. For example, some PDP members of the Senate have endorsed the Kano governor’s suggestion. Biodun Olujimi, PDP, Ekiti South, and Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP, Taraba South, expressed agreement with the governor.
On the governor’s proposal, Senator Olujimi said: “If enacted into law, it resolves what we are facing at the moment across the country, though it may look discriminatory, as it is not good enough for us as a country because we ought to live together as one. But happenings at the moment are scary, frightening, disgusting, disheartening and damning.”
While the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central, said: “If a law was made as proposed by the governor, it would not only be unconstitutional, but also go contrary to the part of the constitution which stipulates that Nigerians, irrespective of state of birth or nativity, had right to freedom of movement.”
Although Ganduje’s suggestion may not be perfect, just like the country’s Constitution or any other constitution, the proposal from the Kano governor ought to be viewed as a problem-solving approach to what seems to have become a crisis of confidence, between people and governments of farming communities in southern Nigeria and the Middle-Belt states, and herding communities in northern states.
Undoubtedly, insecurity has deteriorated across the country to the point that it should be of concern to every citizen. And one of the manifestations of a failed or failing state is the lack of capacity by government to sustain safety and security of citizens’ lives and property.
We, therefore, consider that this is a good time for leaders of thought and patriots, across the land, to search for solutions to the ongoing crisis over insecurity, especially the intermittent violence between herding and farming communities. If farmers in the South and herders from the North had lived in relative harmony most of the post-independence years, the deterioration in the relations between two communities, critical to food security in the country, need to be frontally addressed, before the problem festers any further.
We, therefore, find it commendable for citizens, across political divides, to search for solutions to threats to the country’s peace and prosperity, if not to its territorial integrity. We see the suggestion of Governor Ganduje as one of many suggestions deserving of attention from national leaders.
We exhort cultural and political leaders to pay attention to suggestions that can de-polarize the polity and society. Ganduje’s proposal is an opportunity to search for solution to the farmer-herdsmen crisis and other allied security problems facing the country at present.
Ganduje’s call for commitment to establishment of modern ranches (otherwise known as Ruga in the country), to make open grazing superfluous to nomadic herdsmen; and the call for immediate ban on cross-country grazing of cattle, to induce governments to invest in ranching, could not have come at a better time.
This is especially so, as the governor has demonstrated the power of example, from his own government, to support his proposal. Ganduje’s call for a successful implementation of the ranch model, or Ruga in cattle-producing states, has a huge potential to address some of the problems of insecurity in the country, especially from herders from foreign countries.
As no crisis disappears without intervention, we believe that the time is ripe for sincere and deep consultations across the country, towards finding solutions to the ongoing crisis between farmers and herdsmen. Reducing the present tension in the country calls for sincere reflections on the part of cultural and political leaders including the president, the lawmakers, cultural leaders, and political party members.
This is not a right moment for political grandstanding by political leaders. A country with a history of a civil war, of which President Buhari himself was a hero, should not take chances when its fault lines seem to be experiencing irresponsible aggravation.
Given that peace and harmony are indispensable to achievement of peace and harmony in a diverse federation, we urge all patriotic citizens, including the president, political party leaders, and traditional rulers, to consider Ganduje’s recommendation as a kernel for formulating solutions to the current attempts at self-paralysis.