Today I conclude this article, aimed and considering the hard policy issues around the clash between herders and farmers, and the incursion of deadly bandits all over Nigeria.
Whereas it is easy to interpret alternative opinions on this matter as ethnic profiling, it is important to remember that these bandits are merciless and have killed far more innocent people up north than down south. I also make a point to distinguish herders from bandits, but most people may not have enough patience for that distinction. In all, our president has been silent and the government in general seems to look on as the nation disintegrates.
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I believe these events as dastardly as they are, are all about the 2023 elections. Very unfortunate the extent politicians will go, for power.
Last week I discussed four policy issues, namely autochtony, management of our forests, land clearing and agriculture and the eternal clashes between farmers and herders, which dates back to Cain and Abel.
As much as some people look down on herders (farmers inclusive), I wager that the herding business model is far more profitable than farming and this is part of what we are seeing. I discuss a few more issues and round up today. Read on:
5. Pervese Incentive – Piggybacking on point four above, is what I recognised as perverse incentive in the cattle-owning business. About five years ago, at Chido Onumah’s book launch (We are all Biafrans), at the Yaradua Centre in Abuja, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, being the chairman had explained to us the economics of cattle ownership. He said a self-respecting Fulani man knows that he is not judged at death by the number of houses he owns, but by the heads of cattle. He said he owned -1,000 or 10,000, I cannot remember exactly, and that some were rustled. He went as far as Congo Republic to retrieve them. I think it was a rare moment of honesty for I have not heard any prominent Fulani man admit to this clear sociological phenomenon before or since then. Many are busy fighting wars with angry southerners on social media while offering no truths.
The fluidity of the cattle herding business may have given a certain stock of Fulani the confidence to embark on these dastardly acts intra-continentally after all we are talking of Mali, DR Congo and whatnot in one article here. Anyway, I saw what we call in Economics a perverse incentive in Atiku’s statement. This is because cattle are not held by a Fulani person, for the profit accruable from sale. Rather, they are being bred for the ego and the culture and the honour and the prestige and the reputation and the respect. The larger the herd, the more accomplished a Fulani person is.
The population of cows in Nigeria is anything between 30 million and 40 million. Multiplied at an average price of N200,000, this is a N6 trillion to N8 trillion capital business. Could be more. At a growth rate of say five per cent annually even after old stock are sold, this value will have increased exponentially to double the figures in a few years.
Where are those who thought Adamu Garba was talking nonsense? What is the value of all the farm products that our smallholder farmers own in the south of Nigeria? Also note that majority of our food comes from up north where they own 75 per cent of the land mass. We keep mocking them at our own risk. These are strategists.
I also read one of the interview articles of Mahmud Jega recently wherein he spoke of his interview with Admiral Murtala Nyako. What jumped at me was the statement by Nyako that no one is more evil than a Fulani that loses his cattle. I think this underlines the attachment of Fulanis to their cattle, beyond pecuniary reasons.
6. Religion as Differentiator – A friend, Majeed Dahiru pointed out to us in a recent discussion on the Premium Times WhatsApp group that the issue of residency versus indigeneship had since been settled in the core north. I had pushed that one of the solutions to these problems was to institutionalise the idea of “state of residence” in Nigeria and forget this indigeneship matter. When Majeed mentioned what should have been obvious to all, I remember reading from Alhaji Tanko Yakasai’s autobiography that he is a Jukun man, from Taraba State. I also know that the Abachas are Kanuris. These are just two prominent families already fully absorbed into Kano. So also are many Yorubas and others from different parts of Nigeria. I however noticed that religion is a differentiator. A Christian family who lives in the North may not be as fully integrated as a Muslim family. Or put differently, maybe such families continue to see themselves as outsiders – even Northern Christians complain seriously of oppression and neglect. This also reminds me that someone insisted recently that a Southern Muslim presidential candidate cannot pick a Northern Christian as his vice. I think religion is a knotty issue that only the most open-minded and highly cerebral president can help defuse.
7. Returning the functions of Traditional Rulers – Before the white man got here, we governed ourselves under monarchical systems in the main. At least some sort of leaders existed who held their territories together. The clash between these traditional systems and what the colonialists brought was obvious from the beginning. In some instances, they worked through the structures they met on the ground, and at other times, they disrupted the structures. Our traditional rulers were brought under local government chairmen – and of late, mere administrators appointed by the governors. They have all lost value. Part of the trajectory to this point will include the experience that Obafemi Awolowo had with some Yoruba Obas when he had to assert himself as the recognised authority. Why is this important in this discussion? When traditional rulers were powerful, territories were sacred. And you cannot have two traditional rulers in one town or village. Today, we have multiple. Not only the Seriki Fulani that are now in contention, but we have Oba Yoruba of Kano, of Jos, of Sokoto and elsewhere. Even Oba Yoruba of London. In Yoruba traditional culture, all these Obas are jokers. An Oba is something, because he owns the land. Whereas land has been reverted to the state government since the Land Use Act of 1979, still the traditional reverence of our traditional leaders remain, but for the watering down that we have seen with money-miss-roads coming to make themselves traditional rulers of ‘their own people’ in other people’s lands. All the three major, arrogant tribes of Nigeria now practice this abomination. The Igbos got particularly good at having the Eze Ndigbos of everywhere. In my ancestral town, Akure, this practice almost caused a tribal war a few years back when Deji Aladetoyinbo became alarmed that some guy had built a palace and appointed his own titled chiefs, asking that all Igbos must see him as their traditional ruler and not anyone else.
These are just the few policy issues around the metastasising problem of herders and kidnappers. The whole of Nigeria has always been friendly with cattle owners and herders from time immemorial, but something different emerged. It is unfortunate that the government keep burying its head in the sand while this cancer grows. We have not seen any action whatsoever on the part of government, to have a clean sweep and clear any miscreant from our land. This is about territorial integrity and if the federal and state governments will not do this basic job, Sunday Igboho and many of his kind are ready for this sacrificial but routinely administrative task. While the sweep of our territory is going on, we on the intellectual front will position these hard issues in the hope that they get dealt with.