Without doubt, the ethnic Fulani cattle breeder, who has to move out of his original homestead in the arid Sahel region to seek greener pastures in the savannah and forest vegetative belts of Nigeria, where he is regarded as a settler, is perhaps the most disadvantaged when it comes to the economics of land distribution… For his failure to unite Nigerians, President Buhari is the problem of the Fulani and not those rejecting the Ruga settlement scheme.
Once again the Nigerian state was set on the edge when a lot of negative energy was dissipated on the federal government’s attempted introduction of a settlement scheme for nomadic cattle breeders. Mainly of the Fulani ethnic stock, nomadic cattle breeders – according to details of the more recent policy – are to be settled into a sedentary cultural economic lifestyle in areas designated as Ruga, a term believed to have been derived from Rugan Fulani, a Hausa expression descriptive of pre-existing traditional Fulani settlements across Nigeria. Complete with basic infrastructural amenities to encourage and sustain a transition from the nomadic to sedentary lifestyle, the Ruga scheme was proposed as having the ultimate objective of curtailing the many incidences of farmers/herders clashes across Nigeria.
Even though it was declared voluntary for participating states of the federation, the Ruga scheme was met with resoundingly loud voices of opposition from mostly non-Fulani Nigeria. From the West, East, South to Central Nigeria, the Ruga scheme was not only rejected but denounced in its entirety with unanimity. Much like throwing the baby and the bath water away, it came across as though the rest of Nigeria, in rejecting the Ruga scheme, is rejecting their ethnic Fulani compatriots along with it.
And not one to remain on the sidelines watching without taking advantage of this moment of national strain, to further stress Nigeria’s gaping ethno-geographic faultlines for selfish financial profits, a renegade group of weather-beaten elderly looking individuals operating under the phantom “Coalition of Northern Youths” has issued its usual notice of eviction. Like it did sometime to Nigerians of South-East origin, this time Nigerians from the entire Southern half of Nigeria have been given a 30-day ultimatum to leave Northern Nigeria for rejecting the Ruga scheme. As always, this intensely opportunistic group of monetary scavengers, acting as agent provocateurs of an imaginary battle between Fulani and non-Fulani Nigeria, has missed the target once again, like a stray bullet fired by a drunken gunner.
The Ruga controversy has brought to the fore the unresolved question of national identity with the sustaining of indigene/settler dichotomy, which limits the economic and political rights of citizens of Nigeria residing outside their places of origin. Whereas, citizenship guarantees every Nigerian, including the ethnic Fulani, political and economic rights in any part of the country they reside, in reality these rights are severely limited by the non-indigene statuses of such Nigerians. As a matter of fact, the unresolvable conflict between indigenship and citizenship, arising from the rigid ethno-geographic nature of the federating regions making up Nigeria, which were devoid of mechanisms of assimilation and integration of willing-to-adapt Nigerian citizens, and thereby substantially limiting their political and economic rights in their own country, was fundamentally responsible for the collapse of the First Republic in the sixth year of Independence by 1966.
By elevating his section of the country above others in a modified form of Apartheid, which favours or marginalises Nigerians on the basis of their ethno-geographic and religious backgrounds, President Buhari’s less than excellent leadership style has obliterated past efforts at making Nigeria an egalitarian society where justice, equality, equity and fairness were guaranteed…
To move Nigeria towards a more socio-economically inclusive nation, successive political leadership of Nigeria since the end the civil war in 1970, have made considerable efforts at national integration. Progressively, deliberate efforts have been made to create out of Nigeria an egalitarian nation of a united people under an atmosphere of peace, justice and equality. To this end, Nigerians demonstrated a willingness and capability to co-habit with one another in mutual accommodation, irrespective of varied ethno-geographic, as well as religious backgrounds. Lagos to Kaduna and Warri to Jos, as well many other places, emerged over time as centres of national management of plurality. These modest gains in national unity was to be sustained throughout the Fourth Republic, from 1999 up until 2015, when a not-fit-for-national-unity form of political leadership was elected into the highest level of government in Nigeria.
The rise to power of President Muhammadu Buhari has signalled a roll back on the modest gains of previous leadership at national unity. By recently elevating an unprecedented level of ethno-regional and religious sectionalism to a near state policy, President Buhari’s poor management of Nigeria’s plurality has deepened the fissures of the nation’s faultlines, taking these to their most divided form in our Independence history. President Buhari, an ethnic Fulani Muslim of Northern Nigerian origin, has demonstrated an unapologetic form of unbridled proclivity towards provincialism, to such an extent that it has triggered a wave of ethno-geographic and religious populism in his home region, which is aimed at coveting political power to advance a sectional supremacist advantage, as expressed through unashamed nepotism.
By elevating his section of the country above others in a modified form of Apartheid, which favours or marginalises Nigerians on the basis of their ethno-geographic and religious backgrounds, President Buhari’s less than excellent leadership style has obliterated past efforts at making Nigeria an egalitarian society where justice, equality, equity and fairness were guaranteed to all without discrimination.
By far the biggest failure of leadership is President Buhari’s glaring inability to maintain neutrality in communal disputes between members of his Fulani ethnic stock and other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Where former President Olusegun Obasanjo demonstrated leadership by reigning in on the terrorism of the Yoruba militant organisation, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), operating out of his home region of South-West Nigeria, President Buhari has failed in his duties as commander-in-chief, to crack down on killer Fulani herdsmen unleashing terror on farming communities across Nigeria. Rather than take proactive actions to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians against armed criminal non state actors, President Buhari did not only watch along in a deliberately self-induced helplessness, he also made all manners of excuses for the killers, while ultimately making a plea to victims of the terror to learn to live in peace with the perpetrators of the horror. The often resort to narrowing down serious issues of the total breakdown of law and order, resulting in human fatalities as farmers and herders clashed, by the Buhari administration, has been regarded as rather simplistic and generally perceived as insensitive.
In rejecting the Ruga settlement scheme, Nigerians didn’t spurn their co-suffering ethnic Fulani cattle breeder compatriots but the heightened Fulani ethno-geographic supremacist tendencies of President Buhari. The solution to incessant mass killings of Nigerians is not the establishment of Ruga settlements but the impartial enforcement of law and order by the president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The fragile peace and unity of Nigeria had been cultivated by a skilful plurality management by Nigeria’s political leadership over the years through mechanisms of negotiation, concession and reconciliation. To this end, former President Olusegun Obasanjo maintained a nationalistic government structure, wherein no section of the country was left out or unduly favoured. Although, from the South-West, President Obasanjo established the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as a federal government intervention to bridge the development gap of the oil rich region of the South-South. His successor, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, from the North-West sustained the tradition of the equitable reflection of all sections of Nigeria in the composition and business of government. He also established the Niger Delta Ministry to further compliment the NDDC in bridging the developmental gaps in the long neglected region.
To ensure a legacy of economic justice, President Yar’Adua equally launched a massive youth empowerment scheme in the Niger Delta, through a well-structured amnesty programme, which has rehabilitated and positively transformed the socio-economic lives of thousands. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, former President Goodluck Jonathan, from the South-South of Nigeria, made the most impactful effort since the era of the late premier of the northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, to uplift the region educationally, when he established a federal university in almost all the nine states of Northern Nigeria and about 165 Almajiri model secondary schools all over Nigeria, in an attempt to solve the problem of out-of-school children. Before coming up with the Ruga settlement scheme, which is clearly to the cultural economic advantage of President Buhari’s ethnic Fulani kinsmen, he had not, in his first four years, conceded any such socio-economic intervention scheme to any other section of Nigeria, like his predecessors did.
That for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, was evident when the Buhari administration unveiled the Ruga scheme initiative as a final solution to what it believes to be frequent incidences of farmer/herder clashes. This was expectedly met with widespread condemnation and outright rejection, as it was perceived as a subtle blackmail of land owners to cede portions of their land as ransom for a life of peace and security. In rejecting the Ruga settlement scheme, Nigerians didn’t spurn their co-suffering ethnic Fulani cattle breeder compatriots but the heightened Fulani ethno-geographic supremacist tendencies of President Buhari. The solution to incessant mass killings of Nigerians is not the establishment of Ruga settlements but the impartial enforcement of law and order by the president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Without doubt, the ethnic Fulani cattle breeder, who has to move out of his original homestead in the arid Sahel region to seek greener pastures in the savannah and forest vegetative belts of Nigeria, where he is regarded as a settler, is perhaps the most disadvantaged when it comes to the economics of land distribution. This disadvantage can only be overcome, not by pulling the trigger of the gun, but by the evolution of Nigeria from a country of indigenes where land ownership is a tribal birthright, to a country of citizens where land ownership is a matter of economic right. The economic interest of the ethnic Fulani cattle breeder is best served in a united Nigeria. For his failure to unite Nigerians, President Buhari is the problem of the Fulani and not those rejecting the Ruga settlement scheme.