Since the Governors of the 17 states of Southern Nigeria banned open grazing of livestock in their respective states, there has been a groundswell of support.
Members of the National Assembly as well as the Speakers of the State Assemblies from three geopolitical zones have also thrown their support. The implication is that the elected political class has converged on the same page with the leaders of thought and the general public on this issue. The question is: what next?
The Governors intend to meet President Muhammadu Buhari when he returns from his official trip to France. The obvious intention is to ask him to roll out the armed forces, police and the military in support of the implementation of the open grazing ban. Judging from the regime’s attitude to this issue, this expectation needs to be re-assessed.
Several governments in the South, including the Northern States of Benue and Taraba, have since banned open grazing but are crippled from implementing it by the Federal Government.
Governor Samuel Ortom, who acted in line with the yearnings of Benue people, had to leave the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. He won his second term on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. His farms have been burnt and his hometown repeatedly attacked. He has escaped assassination attempts. His people have been repeatedly massacred, and even when a former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris was sent to Benue to arrest the situation, he disobeyed, and nothing happened to the IGP.
One of the president’s aides even told Nigerians to yield their ancestral lands to pastoralists to avoid being killed. It is a matter of “your land or your life”. The armed herdsmen militias are the only terrorist groups that government has refused to recognise as terrorists, despite that they have been so declared for over five years by the Global Terrorism Index, GTI.
The Governors must now think outside the proverbial box if they are serious about banning open grazing in their states. The armed forces, police and security agencies may never respond positively to this agenda. If anything, there are countless reports indicative of their staunch protectiveness and support for the perpetrators of open grazing.
The violent attacks, kidnappings for ransom, raping and prevention of farmers from accessing their farms perpetrated by the armed herdsmen are sowing fear and putting the cost of food out of the reach of the citizenry.
The Governors need to explore the Kokori option: mobilising the youth of their respective states to drive away farm and forest trespassers. If the Federal Government would not do its job of protecting the people, the Governors, as State Chief Security Officers, must act!