Ban on open grazing: victory for the south

The 1804 Jihad spearheaded by Usman Dan Fodio made the Fulani tribe the overlords of the Hausas. Dan Fodio departed from the norm in imposing Fulfulde as the new language of the court. Instead, he did the unthinkable by ensuring an adoption of the Hausa language as the lingua franca of the conquered territory. This linguistic affinity spread throughout the north which ensured that they spoke with one voice and were united despite their tribal differences.

The British found this useful in their policy of indirect rule which made the northerners have a general apathy towards nationalistic activities that was largely a southern affair. As a reward, the departing colonialists ensured that they had the majority seats in the House of Representatives which was the more powerful of the bicameral legislature at the time as the senate was ceremonial. This action by the British has haunted us more than sixty years after the Union Jack was lowered. At the moment, the north has 19 governors while the south has 17 and far more seats in the National Assembly than the south which has ensured that they are always in charge no matter who sits in Aso Rock.

The south has always been politically divided which has been its undoing. Historians and political pundits recall the ugly bickering between Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo after the December 12, 1959 general elections. Awolowo pledged his loyalty to Azikiwe and was willing to serve under him as Finance Minister with him as the Prime Minister. Azikiwe however distrusted Awolowo so much that he preferred to be a ceremonial Governor-General and later President and have a northerner who didn’t participate in the independence struggle as the Prime Minister.

The meeting in Asaba of fifteen southern governors with the exemption of Prof Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State and Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State who was away on the Hajj in Mecca was a master stroke for southern unity as the governors spoke with one voice on the need to ban open grazing which has turned the south into a killing field by Fulani herdsmen.

Southerners can no longer go to their farms for fear of being killed, maimed and raped by murderous Fulani herdsmen who carry dangerous weapons including AK 47 guns.

The cost of insecurity has created a concomitant ripple effect on food prices as it has hit the roof because many farmers can no longer go to their farms in peace.

Culture is dynamic and change is the only thing that is permanent in life. It is anachronistic for the herdsmen to still be accompanying cattle on long trips from the north to the south and there is the need for ranching so as to put a permanent stop to the needless conflicts between them and southern farmers. Ranching is the practice in the West and South America. Brazil and The Netherlands export beef worth billions of dollars as a result of ranching. Why can’t the Fulani herdsmen move with the modern times? How much blood will they spill because they want to be stuck in their archaic ways?

Once upon a time it was normal in Igbo land and Calabar to kill twins until the Scottish Missionary, Mary Slessor put a stop to it. Once upon a time Kings were seen as divine in Yorubaland and could take people’ wives without being questioned. Today, monarchs are deposed. Who could have believed that a former Deji of Akure, Oba Adesida could have been deposed for beating up his wife in public? It is high time that the herdsmen adopt modern day methods of cattle breeding which will even increase the yield of their cattle.

It is tragic that the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami in an interview with Channels TV anchor, Seun Okinbaloye criticized the position of the southern governors and compared them with peaceful spare parts traders in the north whose activities develop their host communities and don’t cause any form of damage to their hosts. Worse still is the position of President Muhammadu Buhari on the resolution of the southern governors. He picked holes in their position and said their action is one of questionable legality given the constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT)-regardless of the state of their birth or residence.”

President Buhari by his statement has proven to be a biased leader who is condoning the atrocities committed by his kinsmen and negates his 2015 inaugural speech when he said he belonged to nobody. He is supposed to be the father of all and an unbiased arbiter but unfortunately he has allowed primordial politics get the better of him.

There has been the clamour for restructuring which is largely anchored by southern politicians as the lopsided nature of the current political structure has made even development elusive especially in the south. What has been President Buhari’s response to this loud cry which has brewed secessionist threats and agitations? He has told the apologists to take their cry to the National Assembly. Who controls the National Assembly? Your guess is as good as mine as it is a rhetorical question.

Nobody is against the Fulani herdsmen choosing to reside in the south as they have the right to do so constitutionally but your right stops where mine commences. Their activities have brought sorrow, tears and blood in the south apologies to the late immortal Afrobeat Maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. We cannot continue to harbor murderers in the south simply because they have the constitutional right to reside there. The right to life is sacred and is the most sacrosanct of all rights as dead men tell no tales.

The common position of the southern governors is a step in the right direction and the south should close ranks and be more united especially on issues that will greatly advance their interests. The south must resist the divide and conquer strategy which was used by the British and deployed by the north to keep the south fiercely divided for their selfish interests.

The ban on open grazing is the way to go and should be backed by all Nigerians desirous of peace and prosperity in the highly troubled nation. It is in the economic interest of the north for ranching to be done as their herdsmen will make more money since people need to be alive and financially stable to constitute a market for their goods. Ranching can also lead to the exportation of beef as a foreign exchange revenue earner as crude oil is fast becoming a relic and will be globally irrelevant in less than two decades from now.

A word is enough for the wise!

Tony Ademiluyi is the Co Founder of The Vent Republic Media – and wrote from Lagos.


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