The crises of insecurity have opened a damning page in the life of Nigeria. From Borno to Badagry, citizens are sleeping with one eye open. The military and police are operating exclusively to protect the bosses and their anti-people policies. The only concern of the remaining carcasses of the armed forces is to prevent organized mass revolts. Bandits; Boko Haram; state looters; and such other armed actors are having free days in their businesses.
Herders and farmers’ clashes have turned into a national phenomenon as most herders desert war-torn North moving Southwards. From Ibarapa in Oyo state to the farms in Abraka, Delta state; farmers are clashing with herders. Most of the herders are Fulani and this has spun the issues into ethnic dimensions. As these go on, unemployment is skyrocketing, while Nigeria retained its inglorious award as the world headquarters of corruption and poverty.
Of course, the vacuum of resistance is never there. Various responses continue to bash the spate of insecurity wholly and sectorally. Except for the #RevolutionNow and #EndSARS agitations employing holistic approaches to tackling the issues headlong by calling for a total system on rainbow shapes, organized resistance has been ethnic, religious, and intra-class based. The loudest of this resistance today is a mishmash of odd activism reactions from within the top. Olusegun Obasanjo, under whose regime many of these insecurity issues were rooted and germinating, takes the lead amongst reactions from the top. This piece will thrust itself into understanding and explaining these issues of insecurity by focusing on the root causes which is consequent upon the politics and economic undergrowth and maldevelopment which has torn the fabrics of society into shreds.
HERDERS/FARMERS AND THE DEPLETED AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
Farmers in the south are now calling for the “evictions” of criminal herders who are operating in Fulani settlements. These settlements have been existing for donkey years without violence until recently. This is caused by the deadly activities of Boko Haram and bandits in the Northeast and Northwest. The farms have been mostly abandoned by these insurgents as peasants are tired of paying ransoms to their own lands.
So, many herders move down south to operate, just as they did moving to the North Central especially Benue and Plateau a few years back. And in these movements, the herders clash with farmers whose farms become prey. Already, most of these farms have been left solely in private hands to work on causing agelong neglects and poor outputs as the sector has been abandoned by the government in fulfillment of the dictates of the Structural Adjustment Program policies that abhor government intervention in business. No agricultural loans or regulations to farmers. Landgrabbers and kidnappers turn the farms and forests to their offices. And food prices turn to luxury daily!
The dried Lake Chad was a major cause of the movement to Benue and Plateau by the herders but the government refused to nip it in the bud. Instead, the Miyetti Allah got empowered to conduct open grazing without any forms of regulations. Many rulers are involved in the cattle business and this emboldens the herders to arm poor and illiterate herders whose inhuman working conditions are alarming to double as security for the cattle. The herders are also condemned to live in forests and intrude into people’s farms for the survival of the cattle.
In response to these ruinous activities of the herders, farmers put up resistance and violence ensues. The herders, having been more armed and with the habitual battles in the forests become the more violent and criminal. The government’s conscious irresponsibility allows open grazing instead of ranching with real control and regulations. Countries like Argentina and Switzerland take responsibility for herding through ranching and other safe and productive methods.
The attempt to force on RUGA by the Buhari government carried two k-legs. One is the fact that it is infamous to make states provide open lands for privately-owned herds. And the cattle business is wrongly seen as an ethnic business. The cattle in open grazing are owned by rich people who are scattered in many ethnic groups. But the herders who are mere workers are mostly Fulani. These cattle owners only care about their gains. They neither care about the social crises the business is inflicting on the populace, neither do they care about the burden of penury and protections the herders are facing.
RUGA too is a half-hearted idea that lacks ingenuity and clarity. The cattle business was once regulated and glowed. The Obudu Cattle Ranch (as it then was) shows the example of a regulated cattle business that is acceptable, safe, and productive. But the Buhari government, just like the Jonathan’s, Yar’adua’s, Obasanjo’s, and others before it till those rulers from the 80s are in bed with neo-liberal capitalism dictated by World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). They all impose an open, ridiculous, and barbaric lie that “the government has no business in business.” So, the welfare of farmers and herders are not the government’s concern. Yet, in the agricultural sector, loans are granted to very few rulers to grab lands and control large subsistence farms. These few farms, of course, cannot feed hundreds of millions. The result is food price hikes as importation becomes the order of the days.
To resolve the herders/farmers clashes and reduce the kidnappings and violence, the government must return to proper ranching as a form of renationalisation of the cattle business. Other forms of farming must follow such government planning, funding, and regulations. To reduce drastically the kidnappings and violence in the immediate, farming communities must raise their own communal security and avoid the interventions of Robin Hoods who would turn the case into inter-ethnic jingoism as can be seen in the South today. The lessons from the Gana case in the Tiv farmers versus the Fulani farmers are very copious!