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The herdsmen, tribesmen and statesmen: Discordant cord of three strands

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The herdsmen, tribesmen and statesmen: Discordant cord of three strands
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By Mayowa Olaniyan

We are living in perilous times. A time of ultimatums, threats and evictions. A time of the herdsmen. A time where tribal fanatics have risen to become leaders of thought. A time where genuine statesmen are urgently needed to stem the tide of of mistrust, suspicion and deceit.

We didn’t just get here suddenly. It is an accumulation of unsolved perennial conflicts. In fact, we have our history to thank for reminding us we once trod this path. Where it led us and it is leading us now remain a painful experience that we dare not wish our enemies. History moves in circle.

We must, therefore, learn from what came before us in order to carve a path for what to come because those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If truly we have really learnt our lessons from that horrible experience is a question that needs to be answered by everyone of us.

In recent times the southwestern part of the country have been engulfed with stories of conflict in the state of Ondo and most recently Oyo State, between normadic pastoralists otherwise known as Fulani herdsmen and indigenes of some communities in the states.

In the case of Ondo State, the bone of contention was the forest reserve which had been reportedly identified as an hideout for killer herdsmen and has become an operational base for kidnapping killing and extortion. Just as the saying goes “desperate times calls for desperate measures.”

The governor who by law is the chief security officer of the state rose to the occasion, like a raging lion stamping his authority in the jungle, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu roared a seven-day ultimatum to the herdsmen in the forest to vacate the place immediately. In the same vein outlawed open grazing in the state. He further ordered a proper registration of all herdsmen within the state.

As expected, the media launched on the governor’s order sensationalised it and amplified it beyond boundaries. I couldn’t look in few days became an icon of eviction and alternator no thanks to the media, the reports the governor against the presidency.

This statement of Garba Shehu, the spokesman to the president tells it all. Akeredolu a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), suddenly became a student of law in the hands of the president image-makers.

As usual, Akeredolu’s kinsmen came to his rescue. They praised the Governor to high heavens for summoning the courage to speak up. Like the slang of the #EndSars protest, ‘Akeredolu SoroSoke.’ Before we could make meaning of what was happening, the situation degenerated to a war of words between tribal elites of Northern and Southern extraction. The tribesmen took over.

The case of Oyo State, a neighbouring state happens to be different. In this case, it was more specific. The major victims here were the people of Ibarapa East, Ibarapa North and the whole of Oke-Ogun. Unlike the Governor of Ondo State, who stood his ground in the face of perceived intimidation, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, deviced a much softer approach. In the face of wanton killings, destruction, kidnapping and extortions, Governor Makinde chose to adopt a very soft approach that is least expected of a leader that ought to lead from the front.

Whether the decision of the Governor was influenced by the politics of a second term ambition remains a question to be answered by the Governor himself. Rather than taking sides with his people, Governor Makinde took a more official stance. He went on to issue a directive to law enforcement agents to arrest anyone who takes law into his hands to salvage the plight of the people of this troubled part of Oyo State.

This particular approach gives rise to another situational hero: Sunday Igboho, who emerged from nowhere. The people of Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun suddenly found solace in Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho, a self-acclaimed Yoruba rights activist and a well known Yoruba political enforcer as well as a son of the soil. Not only did Sunday Igboho take laws into his hands by issuing an ultimatum to the so-called “killer” herdsmen, he also went ahead to enforce its ultimatum.

In a state that has functional and established governance apparatus, the people lost confidence in the state “constituted authority” (God bless Senator Ajimobi’s soul). Sunday Igboho suddenly became a rallying point for professional tribesmen, who are really not interested in ameliorating the plight of their people but to spin the situation to favour their own political agenda. People of questionable characters became tribal champions (names won’t be mentioned here). War of words again began between the Northern and Southern tribalists. Again just like in Ondo State, the tribesmen took over.

As if Southwest brouhaha isn’t enough, another tribal jingoist and secessionist, Nnamdi Kanu, through his Eastern security network of militia is engaging the Nigerian military in the Southeastern part of the country, hiding under the guise of evicting “killer” Fulani herdsmen, and stylishly waging a war against the Nigerian state.

Truth be told, the absence of leadership in most states of the federation as exemplified in the case of Oyo State is giving rise to this tribesmen who are disguising like folk heroes to their kinsmen. Politicians must for once stop being politicians and rise to the occasion like statesmen to solve this lingering crisis. The solution is right here staring at us all.

The National Economic Council (NEC) led by the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had, as far back as 18th January 2019, presented a lasting solution to the herdsmen and farmers’ crisis in the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP). Professor Osinbajo had been “statemanly” enough to have led the 36 state governors to come up with this document.

While it is pertinent to state clearly that the states are not to be forced to participate in this programme, but it would be wise for any state government to adopt the plan so as not only stop the incessant clashes between nomadic herdsmen and indigenous farmers, but to also commercialise livestock production as a way of increasing the Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) in their states.

We are living in times where livestock production has gone scientific and commercial. Cattle breeding shouldn’t be left to a particular ethnic group neither should we profile a tribe as ‘Cattle Breeders.’ The last time I checked, there are no Fulani herdsmen in Botswana, neither do we have killer herdsmen in The Netherlands, yet these nations are maximizing the humongous opportunity in cattle breeding.

Nigeria can be the next big thing in Africa, we can be bold enough to break from the old norm of nomadic farming and adopt the modern 21st century ranching of cattle and other livestock. We can’t continue to kill ourselves because of an alleged odd notion of some herders that believe cows have more rights than humans.

Our politicians should for once save this nation from this mess. This carnage needs to stop. The political class needs to stop thinking about the next election and think about the Next Generation. Politicians only play political games but statemen build a nation. That’s what Nigeria needs now. There is no other solution at hand than to adopt National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) now!

Olaniyan is a political analyst

Vanguard News Nigeria 

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