By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA—THE Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate in last year’s governorship election in Anambra State and former Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Mr. Oseloka Obaze has said that policy makers in both the federal and state governments have failed woefully in addressing the proliferation of dangerous automatic weapons within the ranks of pastoral herdsmen in many parts of the country.
Obaze, who spoke on “The Political Economy of Cattle Colony in Nigeria” at this year’s annual lecture organised by the Department of Economics of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, described the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers as a national disaster in the making, regretting that there had been incremental militarisation of Nigeria’s domestic and geopolitical space.
Obaze said: “The Federal and State governments have failed woefully to address this issue. I believe that solving the herdsmen-farmers conflict, requires Nigerians rising above the battle space and seeking solutions that serve common cause.
“It is perhaps, the knowledge and awareness of the wanton violence and killings associated with the cattle herdsmen that have triggered the prevailing fears. One may add to such concerns, the seeming inability of the federal government of Nigeria to live up to its statutory responsibility to protect Nigerian citizens in their homesteads.
“In the hue and cry of the visceral violence and loss of lives and property resulting from herdsmen-farmers clashes, we have as a nation, allowed emotions and fear to drown out proper debate, assessments and evaluation of the cattle economy – a critical component of our national economy, wealth, income generation and employment.
“If the cattle colony policy has created national dissonance, the sources of such dissonance should be obvious. First, cattle rearing are predominantly private businesses and those engaged in it are no different from Nigerians who engage in yam cultivation or motor spare parts trade.
“We must also ask if in the frenzy of rising violence and killings, we have overlooked the added value which cattle colonies might bring to our economy, and any contributions it might make to wealth creation and tackling our burgeoning youth unemployment.
“The proposal to establish cattle colonies instead of ranches has been rightly or wrongly interpreted in some quarters as an insidious attempt to transplant a high rate of herders along with their families to states where they would otherwise, not be naturally domiciled.
“The national pushback against the policy is indicative of deep-seated dissonance occasioned by past grazing reserve failings and prevailing security concerns.
“If there is stiff resistance to policies aimed at reintroducing formal grazing reserves or cattle colonies – and we know there is— it is perhaps, because policymakers did not diligently study the challenges and pitfalls of previous attempts.”
“It is assumed that the cattle industry and indeed ranching, if well-articulated and domiciled will be the exclusive preserve of pastoral Fulani herdsmen. This is hardly so.
“Lest we forget, the famous Obudu Cattle Ranch in South-South Nigeria at the outset of its establishment had a cattle ranching component, complete with fresh milk and butter production.
“The cattle-human paradox confronting Nigeria does not end there. What is even more perplexing is that nations that have more cattle than people do not face the problems confronting Nigeria.”