The calls for the banning of beef and rearing of cattle in the South West and South-Eastern parts of the country are neither baffling nor surprising.
First, the calls came from expected quarters; the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu.
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Had they come from unexpected quarters, then that would have seriously surprised many people.
But those two making the call have been long-time advocates of a paradigm shift which to them will serve a political purpose no matter how short-lived.
Their target is not the cow or its beef. It is a call for the economic boycott of an old enterprise which, unfortunately, is deliberately tied to the activities of some criminal elements among Fulani herders whose main occupation was cattle rearing as a way of life and for sustenance.
In a wider perspective, their calls for a ban on the northern or Fulani cows or their meat in the East and South West is an attempt at economic sabotage which will affect millions of Nigerians, the states and federal governments which at each step of the “cow” value chain rake in billions of naira in incomes and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
They both forget that a cow is more than just a four-legged animal meant only for our pots and pallets but a value chain that provides sustenance for millions of families in Nigeria and beyond.
To say the least, the cow is part of our economy just like any other commodity and has more derivatives in its value chain than most of the commodities produced locally or imported.
To set the records straight, cattle since colonial times has been a revenue generation channel for the northern regional government in the form of Jangali (cattle tax).
Trade in hides and skin mostly of cattle slaughtered was a major export business for the colonial government just like groundnut (peanut) exported to England and other European nations.
While nobody will condone the criminality being perpetrated by some herdsmen, the uninformed advocates of banning cattle and its products from their regions should be reminded of the benefits they have been and still are a part of their lives and economies.
A popular adage is Hausa refers to the cow as “Nagge dadi goma” which could literally be translated as “cattle have 10-fold value”.
This indeed is the reality if one looks at the many things derivable from a cow that are of economic value and benefits.
In the North, there are popular cattle markets in almost every state that provide livelihoods to the people which was replicated in the Southern part where most of the cattle end up as meat, including its hide, which is a sought after delicacy in most Southern dishes.
The people advocating for the ban should be reminded that the truckloads of cows being transported to the South were not manufactured in a factory.
They are products of the toil and sweat of people in far-flung areas who spend years to raise and take them to their markets to sell.
They are brought to the markets in twos, threes and fours to make the population of what they see on the highways in trucks.
These trucks and their loads pay billions as revenue to all the states they passed through on their way down south, apart from the menace of touts who exploit and impose unofficial levies on them.
They ended up in slaughterhouses where they are processed for meat and other byproducts that translate into and generate money.
Nothing derived from a cow is wasted, everything from its meat, hide, blood and waste products are used as either food, feed for animals (chicken, fish) or as manure on farms.
So, to see a cow as only meat is myopic and narrow thinking whether from a hideous element or “learned” political office holder who once advocated for pig or “pork” as a replacement for cow and “beef” in the South West.
If one may ask: Do these people calling for a ban know how many truckloads of cattle come to their states or how much their state governments and their “touts” collect from cattle traders, truck drivers, butchers and other people as revenue on this money yielding value chain?
Does IPOB ever contemplate how the leather from cows reared and killed in the North are sustaining the Aba shoe factory?
If they are serious in their agitation to oppose anything that has to do with the cow, they should have forced the Aba shoemakers to boycott cow leather and work with synthetic leather or ban kponmo in the entire South East.
The call for banning of beef by Governor Akeredolu should have been extended to kponmo, shaki, roundabout etc in Ondo State and replaced by the pig’s he was touting.
A ban on kponmo in the South West can cost many a politician his seat because the electorate will surely retaliate and do away with him for doing just that.
If we should all reason like Governor Akerodolu, eating kponmo, a large percentage of which is in the two regions, will be adjudged as economic sabotage.
In economic terms, the cow hide being processed and eaten as kponmo in the country instead of being exported as leather is costing the country billions of dollars.
The cow hide and skins of other animals reared in the North have been providing raw materials to the leather, food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries over the years.
It is also one of the most important non-oil export products in Nigeria which is generating more than $75.3 million in revenue.
According to reports, Nigerians consume about 1 million metric tons of cow meat annually with 30% being kponmo.
Kponmo business is in itself part of the extensive value chain which advocates of cow meat ban ignore.
The delicacy derivable from the cow is also exported to Europe and America for Nigerians in those countries to satisfy their appetite for local Nigerian dishes with kponmo as a major part.
In an interview with Channels Television on Sunrise Daily last year, Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Abisola Olusanya, disclosed that 1.8 million heads of cattle are being consumed in Lagos annually.
She however did not say that Lagos State government will ban the trade, but will find ways to establish ranches and expand its agricultural potential frontiers.
According to the commissioner, since the state is the largest market for meat, it would be more economically important if it sets up ranches.
She said: “We would like to expand on what we can do in the red meat sector. Lagos consumes well over 1.8 million heads of cattle on an annual basis. We consume over 6,000 heads of cattle on a daily basis.
“When you consider the transactional value for cattle alone for Lagos, it’s over ₦328 billion but we are producing nothing.”
She said Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was working on the plan and will involve investors who may have interest in the venture.
This was the thinking of a forward-looking governor who while thinking about how to take advantage of an enterprise, did not impose a ban on something which he knows has been contributing to the economic development of his state.
On the other hand, the other advocates were blinded in their judgement, that they forgot the fact that the people they want to bar from eating beef or cow are also engaged in economic activities provided by its value chain. It is unbridled sentiment taking over our positive thinking ability to our own detriment.