While the Federal Government has proposed cattle colonies as the sustainable solution to the continuous Farmers and Herdsmen clashes, Professor Danladi Atu, Director General of the APUDI Institute for Peace Studies and Social Rehabilitation (APIS) explains to Seyi Anjorin and Opeyemi Ologun of The News Chronicle why he thinks there is a better alternative.
As a two-time former chairman in Plateau State; how would you describe the recent massacre between farmers and herdsmen?
Peace and conflicts have dimensions. Peace building is a continuous process and conflicts can come from different perspectives. The perspective of conflict in 2001 in Jos, was purely a product of ethno-religious conflicts; it was more or less anchored on indigene and settler’s tussle; but basically the conflict centre was Jos North Local Government. Between 2010 upwards it emanated from different perspectives.
By and large, it took a different form and this one was basically between farmers and herders. This is a departure from the one in 2001. The areas under the conflict zone are the indigenous farmers and the Fulanis who have mingled with them. The conflicts have grown, although, we may have drivers of these crises, which may be the principal factor; these drivers might be internal or external, but we are still grappling with it at the moment.
Is this crisis not fast becoming genocide?
It may have an external dimension to it, but I will not be quick to draw that conclusion because I have not carried out that research. Sometimes, we need to know the in-depth analysis of the situation, and that we have not done. This is because the figures and statistical data are not there and partly, we have not had prosecution cases, if we have had prosecution cases we will be able trace where they come from and invariably the origin of the crisis.
That is the major lacuna in the whole conflict analysis of the situation. Unless you are able to prosecute AYZ and under cross examination we find out they come from AYZ places, then we will be able to come up with concrete analysis. At the moment, everything is still shroud and we cannot rule out the postulation that some marauders are taking advantage of it. Even in common peaceful protests, some people take advantage of it and of course, some could hijack it.
We have seen isolated cases where some of the acclaimed herdsmen may not be herdsmen, but that is not sufficient to draw conclusions.
Do you feel inability to identify these perpetrators have contributed to the unabated crisis and this could lead to grave security challenges?
Partly, yes! The reason is this; when you identify the perpetrators and prosecute them, at one end, it will serve as a deterrent to others and it will help you have an in-depth investigation into the whole scenario. But beyond that, we do know in Nigeria, the issue of herders-farmers conflict has a lot of issues that cannot be waved because of the contemporary environment that we are in. In the 50s and 60s when the nomadic life was in the offing, urbanization was limited. In fact, we had what we called Government Forest Reserves; these reserves were expanse of land reserved by the government for forestry activities. These herders moved freely then because they were government reserves. They moved with their cattle because there were no farms there, and within the space of these forest reserves, there are cattle routes. Today, these forest reserves have been taken over by urbanization and large farm plantations.
You will find out that the space the farmers had have been occupied either by urbanization and/or farm cultivation. The other dimension we need to bear in mind is the climatic factors. Do not forget that both the farmers and herders have to survive, this desertification pushes them southwards and the safest place for them is the middle belt, because far north; there is a problem of water on account of desertification. The government policies have not helped matters, too. You will recall years back, there was this forestation programme where shelter bed were to be cultivated around Sokoto, Geshua and Yobe areas, that project has not exceeded 30 percent implementation, whereas the whole idea was to wage war against desertification. Billions of Naira was sunk into that project with no results. That is the price of poor policies implementation that we are paying for today. These are the factors we should bear in mind when analyzing farmers-herdsmen crisis in Nigeria and some other parts of Africa.
Cattle Colonies were proposed but you opposed it; what are your reasons?
For us in the Social Sciences, when you say ‘colony’, it means you want to take charge of the areas, so I try to run away from that word colony. In those days when we had British Colony, it means that the British took charge of the place. That word is an aberration of the liberty we have as Nigerians. As such, it will contradict the Constitution which allows for freedom of movement from one place to another. What happens if I am not in the business of Cattle herding? Cattle business is like any other business, now; are you going to create cassava colony, piggery colony and so on? What if another group comes today and says our business is pigeon create colony for us; what will happen? This will run us into more problems.
What are the alternatives to Cattle Colonies?
I will proffer ranching which is a more subtle word to that. Let there be a policy to have controlled grazing. Ranching is such that, government would have a policy that controls grazing. It will be a regulated grazing that encourages people to have grazing reserves.
Are there plans by APIS to look into this farmers and herdsmen crisis for better statistical data?
Yes. One of our Postgraduate researches for this year is Interdependence in West Africa: Perspective to Farmers-Herders Relationship in Nigeria. All our students before they graduate are mandated to write research papers on the topic. Now, the idea is for us to begin to look at local solutions to the problems. Some of our students have come up with very insightful and good solutions. I do know some students who worked on traditional alternative dispute resolutions to farmers-herders conflict and came up with a very good result. They said in areas like Sokoto and Katsina where traditional institutions are very viable and strong, they have been able to control the conflict. They postulate that these crises have been minimized on the account of strong resistance of traditional institutions.
Even in Jos, there is somebody who did a local research between Jos North and Jos East. They said the highest conflict that has gone beyond them was resolved by the Mai-Anguwa not even the village head. The reason is because of the strong traditional institutions there. So we believe that local solutions to some of the challenges will suffice instead of importing solutions from the West.
Will these findings be pushed further to the Federal Government for policy implementation?
Yes. There is what is called Intellectual Policy Makers Dichotomy; this involves providing data base for policy makers. Due to the personal and political interests of some policy makers, very few policy makers find out what these research institutes are up to, because before go ahead, we inform the policy makers and the relevant agencies. More so, these institutions are incapacitated by funding, and to carry out in-depth research work becomes difficult, we request that agencies should support these institutions. Some of the local findings we made, if done on large scale will give us solutions to some of the problems we are grappling with.
Some the focal groups have allude to the fact that what is happening now is land grabbing. They claim they have lost well over 54 village areas. When they come, they sack the villages and occupy the areas. It is not about grazing this time around. In all of these, we need in-depth findings to unravel the actual causes of the crisis.
What are the other projects we should expect from APIS this year?
We intend to go into post trauma healing processes among these communities, that is, post conflict management. But we are cash trapped and we need to be supported. If we don’t address the situation, it becomes difficult to fully overcome these crises, remember a traumatic society is a weak society. The trauma rate needs to be reduced. We must work on the psycho-social aspect. We need to train locals from the communities who will go back and engage those who need this healing process. We need partners on this project.