THE last time we heard about food blockade in Nigeria was over 50 years ago at the height of the Nigerian Civil War. The Federal side adopted hunger as a legitimate strategy to win the war by instituting the blockade of Biafra’s access to the outside world for arms, food, medical and other crucial supplies.
That another food blockade would be put in place from the North to the South shows how badly our national cohesion has deteriorated in recent times.
What it means is that a part of the country would have starved another part to submission if it had the capacity to implement that antisocial objective.
Tension over food supply in Nigeria has been simmering since herdsmen, who had operated unmolested in the South since time immemorial, started to carry assault rifles, killing farmers and other innocent citizens at will, raping women, grazing on people’s farms, kidnapping for ransom and attacking communities on trumped-up pretexts.
The Federal Government which had the constitutional authority and mandate to maintain law and order failed to act.
Armed herdsmen have set up thousands of illegal camps and settlements in forests in the Middle Belt and Southern states without the consent of the landowners.
Miyetti Allah, the umbrella Fulani livestock breeders’ organisation, has brazenly made the inciting claims that Nigeria belongs to their ethnic group and they do not need anyone’s consent to occupy any part of Nigeria.
It was these disturbing developments that led to moves by state and community groups in the affected areas to resort to self-help.
In the South West, the Amotekun outfit was floated, while the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, set up the Eastern Security Network, ESN, to flush out occupants of 350 illegal settlements in the South East.
It was the clashes between the indigenes and Northern settlers in Shasha, Oyo State, that finally sparked off the food blockades ordered by the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria, AUFCDN. Its members demanded N4.75 billion compensation for their losses.
Fortunately, the blockade became unsustainable after just three days. This incident is a reminder that for over one hundred years, Nigerians have cohabited and depended on one another for their mutual economic well-being despite their differences. Any misguided effort to disrupt this symbiosis will fail.
Our differences are our strength. Secondly, as we enjoy our constitutional right to settle in any part of the country, we must remain law-abiding and respect the rights and natural patrimonies of the indigenes. We must refrain from making claims that could lead to conflict.
It is also a wake-up call on all Nigerians to return to the farms, not only to ensure food security, but grow enough so that we have surplus for export. We hope this does not happen again.