Cattle Ranches or Prisons for Herdsmen?, By Sale Bayari
By the way, why are Nigerian herdsmen expected to modernise and rear their cattle in ranches as practised in Europe and America, amongst others, while the Nigerian farmers are left to practise non-commercial, traditional, cultural and historical farming which has no land conservation and improvement management?… it is completely and entirely impracticable, and impossible to even dream of implementing in Nigeria any cattle ranch breeding, no matter how beautifully it has been crafted in the Conference that excluded the herdsmen.
It appears the Nigerian Constitution is under an unprecedented attack and assault by farmers, their academic and media sons and daughters. Not only is the Nigerian Constitution under an aggressive, brutal and savage affront but also the government and all those law abiding citizens that seek to protect the country and its constitution. These fiendish and scurrilous attacks are all geared towards the herdsmen’s freedom or its curtailment in an effort to make their lives worthless. As much as Nigerians love freedom, both local, national and international, when it comes to the rights and privileges of the Nigerian herdsmen, constitutional freedoms and rights can go to hell.
Doesn’t the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria say under Chapter IV, Section 41 (1), “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry or exit there from”? Section 42 (1) adds that, “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person – (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subjects…”
With all these constitutional provisions, how come we have these multitudes of protests and demonstrations against herdsmen and cattle grazing in Nigeria? The most recent are those carried out in Makurdi, Benue State; Okada, Edo State; Ugwuleshi, Enugu State; Ogbomoso, Oke Ogun, Oyo State etc. All the reports are those of ‘chase the herdsmen out, through any means necessary’, out of the so-called Middle Belt of North, the South-East, the South-South and the South-West. The patterns and the peculiarities of these southern zones’ ethno-religious and socio-economic intolerance of, gang-up against the Fulani herdsmen are glaring to any discerning observer.
Going through the mercenary, inflammatory, one-sided, unbalanced and felonious Southern media reports of the so-called farmers-herdsmen crises leaves one with a sense of national outrage at how things have degenerated to this point, through the agency of the media. They have completely sided their parents/farmers or their kith and kin against other Nigerians in a sectional ethno-religious and socio-economic bigotry. From news stories, features, editorials, advertorials etc, the southern press is awash with screaming headlines that betray the Southern/Middle Belt ethno-religious war against the Fulani herdsmen through such headlines as “The Impunity of Fulani Herdsmen”, “Grazing Fields of Blood”, “Terror Nomads”, “Patrons of Fulani Herdsmen” etc, etc!
Might is right against us and it will always be justified through hate, propaganda, blackmail and malice, based on ethno religious gang-ups against us. Otherwise, how could you use the Conference that you completely and entirely excluded us from, to make laws or decisions against us?
I wish to recall what a Tiv, Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, Executive Director, African Leadership Institute, Dayton, Ohio USA said that, “Recent happenings in Nigeria have unfortunately given the impression that top ranking Fulani elite have already taken sides with the Fulani herdsmen, in agenda to partition Tiv farm lands into Fulani cattle grazing reserves and resources are being garnered to actualise this agenda through the acquiescence of the Jonathan Administration.” He went on, “A national grazing bill is being introduced at the NASS to give legality to this conspiracy of land dispossession and usurpation”, and concluded that, “Worse still, since the Muslims seem to be tacitly taking sides with the Fulani as was the case in Plateau State, this may be the incendiary point where the Christians in the South may come to support the Tiv farmers and Nigeria could go in flames.”
When the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue visited Jos on October 21, 2013, in continuation of its North-Central “Meet the People Consultative Tour”, the leadership of the herdsmen, which I led, was there to officially support the convocation of the Conference in a letter dated October 21, 2013. We made fundamental and far-reaching contributions to why we felt there was need for this Conference or dialogue. Yet, when the Conference modalities were worked out the “Socio-Political/Cultural and Ethnic National Groups” were allocated 90 seats, yet none was allocated to the entire Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria, despite our pleadings and official applications to the Conference and government officials. We have since remained the most populously affected ethnic group denied any form of participation at this otherwise very important national assignment. The bigotry, partiality, narrow-mindedness and intolerance that led to our being treated this way have remained in our minds as being highly repugnant, offensive, unpatriotic and odious.
Yet without any feelings of pathos, moral, ethical and righteous clemency, the decisions and actions of that Conference are to become the binding laws and rules that govern us as Nigerians! Its decisions shall be the laws that we shall abide by or be treated as outlaws. We shall not have the freedom, like all Nigerians, to move from one part of Nigeria to another and if we break the law, would we be tried like other Nigerians? No. We will be mobbed, massacred, driven out like mice and be called all kinds of names – rapists, jihadists, insurgents, kidnappers, Boko Haram, armed robbers, murderers etc, without proving it in any court of law. Might is right against us and it will always be justified through hate, propaganda, blackmail and malice, based on ethno religious gang-ups against us. Otherwise, how could you use the Conference that you completely and entirely excluded us from, to make laws or decisions against us?
If we were at this so-called Conference, we should have told you that there is no African country that has totally banned traditional pastoralism and herd management because of its attendant unpleasant social, psychological and physiological adjustments and huge financial requirements, and the traditional, cultural and historical ecosystem difficulties. Traditional, cultural and commercial livestock grazing and breeding subsist side by side.
If we had participated, we should have told you the difference between the types of animals that we have which cannot survive in ranches, may be only in grazing reserves or through traditional grazing only. We should have told you the difference between our ancestral and traditional pastoralism, which is a culture, and commercial, mechanised agricultural cattle breeding done in ranches in Western countries. We should have told you the difference between our traditional, local cattle (Zebu) which can only survive on transhumance as against Western exotic breed that can only survive in ranches. Even there, they have the ranges which are manned by the rangers’ migratory cowboys who move the lighter cattle breed across five to seven states – from Arizona, to California, San Joaquin, and Sacramento Valleys, and back again seasonally. We would have told you that one of the Angus, Dexter, Brahman, Cracker, Simmental exotic ranch breeds sell for $1,159 dollars (N425,000.00) in Europe and America, which we cannot afford to buy and breed in Nigerian ranches, that you exclusively decreed for us in your Conference.
If we were at this so-called Conference, we should have told you that there is no African country that has totally banned traditional pastoralism and herd management because of its attendant unpleasant social, psychological and physiological adjustments and huge financial requirements, and the traditional, cultural and historical ecosystem difficulties. Traditional, cultural and commercial livestock grazing and breeding subsist side by side. The cattle genetics of the Nigerian herdsmen are not meant for ranches as they are poor, local small-sized breeds, not the exotic types. Let the Nigerian poultry farmers feed their exotic layers and broilers with the local chicken feeds and let’s see the eggs and meat quality they would get. The herdsmen extended family sizes and ties cannot be accommodated by the small size mono-agric business ranches that people and some state governments are talking about. The entire Nigerian landmass will not accommodate the Nigerian herdsmen cattle in ranches. In the traditional, cultural non-commercial African pastoralist cattle rearing, it is the quantity and not the quality that count due to lack of good quality exotic breeds. The quantity makes up for the poor quality to take care of massive needs.
By the way, why are Nigerian herdsmen expected to modernise and rear their cattle in ranches as practised in Europe and America, amongst others, while the Nigerian farmers are left to practise non-commercial, traditional, cultural and historical farming which has no land conservation and improvement management? The Nigerian farmers should also modernise into industrial and commercial farming with sophisticated machines such as ploughs, planters, harvesters, tractors, trucks etc. so that they would provide grasses, forages, feedlots of cattle feeds for the herdsmen to buy and feed their ranch cattle. Until then, it is completely and entirely impracticable, and impossible to even dream of implementing in Nigeria any cattle ranch breeding, no matter how beautifully it has been crafted in the Conference that excluded the herdsmen.
Sale Bayari, is the National Secretary-General, Gan Allah Fulani Development Association (GAFDAN).