As the farmers-herdsmen crisis rages on amidst growing suspicion of Fulanisation, the federal government seems to have discarded several solutions proposed to the crisis and rather settle for the establishment of what it termed “Ruga settlements”; a colony for the herdsmen. Funny enough, the federal government never really gave a framework of how such a settlement will work and operate. These settlements have been massively rejected in the south and middle belt as it gives credence to the growing fears of Fulanization.
To start with, the federal government has been unfair to indigenous farmers whose farmlands and means of livelihood are being destroyed by rampaging herdsmen and their cattle, who proceed to kill and maim if the farmers try to resist the destruction. The federal government despite the lip service to agricultural development have turned farmers to an endangered species with the failure of the government to safeguard their farmlands and crops.
In contrast, the Fulani herdsmen represented by Miyetti Allah have continued to wax strong as they seem to be enjoying a sort of immunity as the government has continually taken them with kid gloves. Numerous crimes of genocide have been committed by these herdsmen yet no arrests have been made talk less of the perpetrators of the crime being brought to justice. Instead, they've continued to confidently make hate speeches.
The proposed solution of the federal government is a victory for the herdsmen and a defeat for indigenous farmers. The problem we are facing is the challenges of nomadic farming in 21st-century society and the establishment of Ruga does not solve the problem. All that is proposed by the government is an attempt to foist and legalize the encroachment of the Fulani on indigenous populations. The northern part of Nigeria is larger than the south and the population density is quite lower in the North, hence, any attempt of settlement should be done in the North using 21st-century methods of ranching.
Furthermore, the Ruga settlement doesn't really provide a framework of how to stop nomadic cattle rearing which is the real cause of the problem. What kind of punishment is to be given to herdsmen who trespasses? These are vital things left undone by the government. This effectively reduces Ruga to a legalized means of hijacking lands from indigenous populations.
The attempt to foist this callous policy on the people through the state governors is condemnable and will only degenerate to an endless war of attrition. Therefore, any attempt to allocate land to the herders should be subjected to a referendum where the people of each state will decide whether they want Ruga in their communities. Any governor that strikes any deal with Abuja without the consent of his people gotten through a referendum is a betrayer of the mandate of his people.
It is my belief that the solution to the farmers/herdsmen crisis is the outlaw of nomadic cattle rearing itself. The government must outlaw nomadic herding and instead make ranching compulsory. The governors of southern states must set the pace by encouraging and providing an enabling environment for their citizens to go into cattle ranching. Furthermore, the mass of education of the Fulani ethnic group is needed to make them go into other spheres of the economy and contribute meaningfully to the economic development of the country.
Bright Ogundare is a social commentator and he can be contacted via [email protected]