Immediately after my piece, Go After Criminals, Don’t Label Herders, appeared in Daily Trust of 25/2/21, I had many reactions from a number of readers prominent among whom was Mohammed Abba Gana, the former FCT Minister, who normally keeps a very close eye on this page. He told me that he had prepared a piece on the subject and he sent me a copy thereafter. I found a lot of wisdom in the write-up and decided to pick excerpts to share with the readers:
“As the population of the world continues to increase every year in most countries there is a lot of pressure on available land and also on freshwater sources. Land is needed for housing, schools, hospitals, industries, farmlands, livestock production etc., and also water for domestic use, agricultural crops production, livestock production as well as industrial and commercial use. It is said that land and water will be the new sources of tension and war among countries and communities.”
“The Northern States and the FCT sit on about 75 per cent of Nigeria’s landmass and the 17 states of the southern part live on the 25 per cent or so of the landmass of Nigeria. The 25 per cent is threatened by oil exploration, oil spills, ocean surge or rising sea levels because of climate change and also gully erosion diminishes a lot of available land. Also in the northern part as a result of misplaced priorities and absence of good governance for a long time some of the northern states could not stop the devastating desert encroachment in good time. As we in the north live on the greater landmass it’s unreasonable to insist on using the diminishing 25 per cent of the land in the south, which they are now resisting.
“The Fulani cattle-rearing group is a classic case of blaming the victims. Many of them are stateless and the majority within the country are not benefitting from our security or welfare. Even the nomadic education, started a long time ago by the then minister, Professor Jibrin Aminu, didn’t have the required impact because it’s impossible to have mobile schools, mobile teachers and without most of the basic amenities/utilities available in normal townships and villages. What we have now is the consequence of abandoning people to live in an exclusive and ancient culture for so long. It’s unkind and costly to allow such culture to continue in the 21st century and become a source of political instability.
“Because they are always on the move and mostly in the forests they are missing the opportunity in getting education, scholarship, science, technology, the arts etc. and so cannot contribute to human progress and civilization unlike their settled cousins who are highly integrated/assimilated through long periods of inter-ethnic marriages, commerce, trade and education and cultural diversification.”
“In this 21st century, all the member countries of the African Union must resolve to end this ancient and static nomadic way of life. It’s unkind and even costly for the rest of human civilization to leave the Fulani herders behind. Particularly in our country Nigeria, recent happenings show that this nomadic vocation has already become a serious source of political instability. Ending this ancient nomadic practice is a win-win game for all concerned – good for the Fulani nomads and their cattle and good for the rest of the country.
“In this 21st century with an increasing population putting pressure on available land and water resources we must create cattle/livestock production systems, which are efficient, and already being used in many countries of the world. Already Nigerian population is one of the fastest growing in the world needing land for housing, agricultural crops production, schools, hospitals, offices, industries, markets. With an increasing population and decreasing available land and water resources, it’s said that there will be increasing tension and even war among communities and countries for the control of available land and water resources.”
“Banditry and kidnapping are criminal acts under the law. And in all ethnic groups and religious groups, some miscreants exist. It is the duty of security agencies to fish them out and prosecute them. In the same vein, they should go after the Fulani bandits and kidnappers, arrest and prosecute them without any exception. There is no doubt that some herders who have lost their cattle or employment due to cattle rustling including millions of unemployed youths from other ethnic groups under the influence of hard drugs have created the current kidnapping and banditry industry. The idle mind, they say is the devil’s workshop. We must restructure our economy and run it such that not many people are left behind. As things are now, there are just too many people left behind for comfort. Government all over the world exists for the primary purpose of providing security and welfare for the vast majority of the people. The benchmark given by Stuart Mill British philosopher and social reformer should be applied henceforth in Nigeria. He said, ‘the goodness of an action (or policy) is measured by the amount of happiness it produces in the vast majority of the people within a given jurisdiction.
“The time has come for all the settled Fulanis of distinction to join other patriots of distinction, the federal and state governments to give support to the National Assembly’s ban on this ancient nomadic culture, which has now generated so much base sentiments causing political instability.” Mohammed Abba Gana, former FCT Minister.