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A modest proposal on grazing and ranching

By Dele Sobowale

“It requires wisdom to understand wisdom; the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.” Walter Lippmann, 1899-1974.


It was not too long ago when the nation appeared to be on the verge of a total break-up on account of the activities of herdsmen and the atrocities they have allegedly perpetrated countrywide. Governor Fayose, who speaks first and thinks later (if he thinks at all) had pronounced that grazing was no longer allowed in any part of Ekiti State and became an instant hero to people who would not ordinarily consider him a sage.


Similar noises have been raised in other places including on the pages of newspapers by respected columnists. One of them after allowing his own opinion to become “the voice of the people” had ordered Buhari to pack all the cattle to Northern ranches immediately. His position found resonance in editorials and articles written by Southerners. Well, while elections are decided by majority vote, wisdom is not a matter of numbers. The majority can be wrong.

That was why good old Alcuin, 735-804 A.D, warned leaders in words cast on stone. “Nor should we listen to those who say ‘The voice of the people is the voice of God’, for the turbulence of the mob is always close to insanity”. The mob demanding immediate ranching included elder statesmen, governors, columnists, agitators for secession, clergy, sages, professors, and dimwits. Remember “a group without a leader is a mob.” (VBQ p 82).  Because the agitation lacked focused leadership, it had ended up as just a lot of noise and the management of Nigerian livestock had continued as usual. There has been no change and there might never be unless we try a different approach to solving the problem which will remain with us for ever.  Buhari has rightly ignored all the noisemakers because they made no sense.

First, just as there is no reliable census of Nigerians, there is no credible data on the population of Nigerian livestock which would be placed in ranches if that becomes the national policy. One expected “eggheads” in our ivory towers and established columnists to at least understand that little bit. Policy formulation without data is a waste of time especially since it will entail trillions of naira worth of investment to make it work. That is commonsense. Unfortunately, commonsense is not common. Estimates of Nigeria’s cattle population range from fifteen million to thirty million.

Just as we learnt back in the 1990s that “Housing for ALL by 2000” was an illusion, because we had no information regarding the number of homeless people, the current “turbulence of the mob” on ranching will come to nothing until we develop the basic data. Those clapping for Fayose for his pronouncement have simply demonstrated that they are not better thinkers than the Governor of Ekiti State. Anybody expecting ranching immediately is living in a fools’ paradise of his own making.

Second, cattle from many countries roam all over the ECOWAS region. At any one point in time, not all the cattle in Nigeria are owned by Nigerians and there might be cattle owned by Nigerians in Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Republic of Benin. A national ranching policy, prohibiting grazing totally, once established, would call for sealing Nigeria’s borders against encroachment from neigbouring countries, and restricting the free movement of people from other countries in Nigeria. Without claiming to be an expert on the ECOWAS Treaty, there is every possibility that such a policy would violate some aspects of the agreements binding all of us in West Africa.

That will also cause delay – which could mean months or even years before the details are worked out. In none of the announcements by proponents of ranching have the complexities of the international dimensions been addressed. From the utterances, one would think that Nigeria is an island instead of a nation hemmed in on three sides by other nations which have a stake in the policy decision.

Ignorant Nigerians across the country have relied on the Land Use Act of 1978, which, in the main, made  governors custodians of the land in their states. From that they have jumped to the erroneous conclusion that a state governor can absolutely prevent grazing in his state. A quick look at our history should disabuse them of such notions.

When Alhaji Shehu Shagari became President in 1979, he appointed late Dr Wahab Dosumu as Minister for Housing who immediately embarked on building Shagari Low Income Housing Estates nationwide. Most states readily granted land requests by the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, government’s except one. Late Chief Bola Ige was the governor of Oyo (then including Osun) State – elected on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.

Ige sensing that the NPN might use the housing scheme to attract voters in subsequent elections refused to allocate land to the Federal Government until he was told bluntly by Dosumu that “The Federal Government has the power to acquire land in any part of Nigeria for public purposes and only has to pay compensation. We can even acquire the Governor’s Mansion and we only need to pay compensation.” Ige got the message and quickly granted land at Ikire – which is now in Osun State. Buhari’s government can acquire the Ekiti Governor’s Mansion and turn it to grazing land and the sky will not fall – once compensation is paid. Those playing to the gallery should stop and think about that…..


When those in office regard the power vested in them as personal prerogative, they inevitably enrich themselves, promote their families, favour their friends…Lee Kuan Yew. (VBQ p2).

I spent at least ten years working and living in the North including residences in at least seven states. As a senior Manager of a large company, I was a member of all the elite Clubs and got to know various families in many states. That was the reason I first became apprehensive about the appointments Buhari was making.  Granted, I did not possess the depth of knowledge demonstrated by Dr Junaid Mohammed who listed several relatives and friends, I was aware of a few including those who were involved in the clandestine recruitment into the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. I had prayed that the President would put a stop to it. The appointment of Mrs Hadiza Bala-Usman as Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, has proved to me conclusively that nepotism is not inadvertent, as previously assumed. It is delibrate and Buhari doesn’t give a damn what other Nigerians think.Watch out for my next book; APC: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED. The faith in Buhari is gone..


“I am worried that the expectation of the  public is yet to be met by the judiciary…President Buhari, PUNCH, July 20, 2016, back page.

Who has the President not castigated? Ministers, before their appointments were called “noisemakers who only want to help their friends. National Assembly, Civil servants and even the media had been verbally whipped by our self-righteous leader. Even those who sacked him from office in 1985 have come under the hammer.

I just hope Buhari is aware that finger-pointing is perilous business. As you point one at others, four are pointing back. After Mohammed’s disclosure, which nobody had disclaimed, our national leader is risking adding hypocrisy to his list of known faults.  We are also worried that all we are getting are excuses for the poor performance so far.



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