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Buhari and his obsession for grazing routes

Adeze Ojukwu

President Muhammadu Buhari is unlike, so many other leaders before him.

His administration has continued to score poorly in national and media discourses, for incompetence, economic recession, inflation, unemployment and widespread insecurity among others.

Sadly his recent media commentaries offered little or no relief, for many people, who believe that this injury time, provides a veritable platform to mend fences, improve infrastructure and initiate viable financial channels, that will boost manufacturing, productivity and  provide employment opportunities, especially for jobless youths and establish himself as a true democrat.

For most people, Buhari is still a military general despite his democratic garb.

What an irony that, after close to eight years of his administration, he has continued to appall the nation and its hapless citizens, with odious policies, nepotistic tendencies and skewed appointments.

The discriminatory citing of federal projects, deliberate exclusion of South East from the  security high command and gagging of critics, particularly the media, are all part of the ugly bargain.

Perhaps the high praises, hurled at him by his teeming army of aides, political acolytes and security personnel may have dulled his senses, as he remains unperturbed about the suffering, anguish and despair of the common man, who voted for a change.

For instance, under his watch, the economy has dwindled dangerously, inflation remains high, while many citizens are gripped by internationally unacceptable poverty brackets, and are subsisting on less than one dollar a day.

Another vexatious issue, according to the opposition and most critics, is Buhari’s uncanny fixation about  restoring  the old cattle routes.

He has maintained this uncanny position, since he took office in 2015 and reiterated same odd views at a recent television interview.

Buhari said, ‘one of the issues, I discussed with the ministers of agriculture, from Audu Ogbeh to Mahmud now, is to go and get the gazettes of past republics, especially of northern states.’

‘There are cattle routes and grazing grounds, and herders are confined to those areas. Those that go outside it were arrested. So we said we have to go back to that system again to make sure that we prepare the grazing areas, windmills and even veterinary departments so the herders won’t veer into farms.’

‘We have to go back to that again and make sure that we prepare those grazing areas and put the veterinary in place. We are working towards achieving that. We have to bring back cattle grazing routes as a way of resolving clashes between herders and farmers.’

‘There are cattle routes and grazing grounds and cattle rearers are confined to those areas. Those that go outside those areas are arrested and farmers are asked to come make their claims. If they don’t have the money their cattle are sold and farmers are settled.’

To Mr. President, this position is the only panacea for peace between crop farmers and nomadic herdsmen.

This bearing is not only fraught with risks, but is dead on arrival.

He blatantly refused to promote ranching and other options offered by Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, experts and eminent Nigerians.

It is sad and depressing that in the 21st century, the only strategy Nigeria’s President is bringing to the table, as a lasting solution to this crisis is a return to the days of grazing routes.

This is retrogressive, considering that most world leaders, are making hefty investments in cutting-edge technologies and precision innovations, in order to raise the bar in governance, development and economic prosperity for their citizens.

For Nigeria, the scenario is one of retardation, corruption, systematic rot despair and bad governance across all sectors, offering no hope to the impoverished masses.

Cheerily, Buhari’s unpopular standing on grazing rights was thrashed last year by many leaders and stakeholders.

The entire Southern and Middle Belt regions rose in unison and rejected open grazing, in all its ramifications, as inimical to the lives and security of the people.

They also established regional and state security agencies, to thwart these criminals.

But Mr. president is adamant, and continues to pursue, what is viewed as ‘an evil agenda that can only harm this fledgling union.’

Mind you, most farmers particularly those from the South and Middle Belt, bear a disproportionate brunt of these relentless offensives, massacres, and unprecedented destruction of farmlands and properties.

Police and media reports provide gory reports of the mayhem unleashed on many rural villages, with eyewitness accounts all indicating heavy losses and casualties by innocent villagers.

This is largely because the criminals carry out their heinous attacks mainly at night, when most villagers are asleep.  Also many communities lack  electricity, thus making it easier for the raiders to operate freely.

Nevertheless, there is no justification for this brutality and it is time to end the carnage.

Out of sheer mischief or mere ignorance, some commentators, sometimes, dismiss these killings as ‘a mere herders and farmers clash, an ancient battle or communal fights.’

No it is not. Truth be told, these infractions are premeditated murders, against innocent Nigerians, carrying out their legitimate businesses.

Fulani herdsmen are businessmen with the right to carry out their trade, but it must been undertaken within the purview of the laws of the land.

Mr. President has watched idly at the massive blood shed, allegedly being perpetrated by these armed cattle rearers, who are mainly of Fulani stock, hence his kith and kin.

Government should jettison its current position, and set up legislative and legal mechanisms to tackle this sore issue.

Perpetrators of these crimes must be punished to serve as deterrent as its commitment to the entire nation.

The regime will continue to receive knocks, should it fail to squash  the conflagrations and  punish the offenders or treat them as terrorists.

Many stakeholders and affected communities are not only angry by government inertia, but are querying, why herdsmen should bear dangerous weapons.

Some respondents generally believe that Buhari and his lieutenants can stop this mess by first of all disarming the herders.

But they won’t for obvious factors. Another argument by many farmers is this.

‘Pastoralism, is a personal business, therefore, those involved in animal husbandry should be made to raise their cattle in ranches.’

They may also choose  to establish cooperatives or bank facilities for crowd funding and business development, according to experts.

Some farmers told this writer that most survivors remain traumatized and live in trepidation after the encounters in their villages.

A yam farmer from Anam community in Anambra State, Mr Dimgba Okam expressed serious dismay at their ordeal and appealed to the authorities to end the debacle.

‘Government should come to our aid. Many of us have died and lost all our farmlands because of these frequent attacks,’ he lamented.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) will remain a mirage, if this evil trend is not halted.

The economic consequences are equally very worrisome, as the vicious raids, escalate food shortages, hike in prices of farm products, unemployment, insecurity and disunity among the citizenry.

Ruination and wreckage can best describe the state of many farmlands and plantations.

This is, as thousands of innocent citizens keep dying daily, across the country, due to this intractable battle for natural resources for man and beast, particularly, in states such as Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Enugu, Cross River, Anambra, Oyo and Edo.

Today the nation’s agricultural-rich states have degenerated into theaters of war, as the assailants continue to grab new territories and expand existing hot-spots.

Thousands of people, not just farmers including some herders, keep dying in huge numbers, as a result of these preventable hostilities, which portend nothing but danger and death for the people.

However, the fixation to protect these nomadic cattle rearers, irrespective of the weighty allegations of violence, murder, rape and robbery levelled against them, is simply preposterous.

Such a bent, is not only anomalous with modern trends, but  incongruous, with fundamental principles of democracy, leadership and human rights.

Hence the fiery agitations and campaigns against these marauders, masquerading as killer pastoralists and their banditry, will continue to resonate across the land, until this harrowing bloodbath and decimation of Nigerian people stops.

This is the brazen demand of the people and it must be acceded to and urgently too.

.Ojukwu is a Fellow of Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship, a USA Fulbright scholarship, USA and a multiple award-winning journalist. As a development-focussed journalist, she published this article, as part of the global campaign on human rights and protection of indigenous communities across nations. Kindly send your feedback to [email protected]

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