or a long time now, we have witnessed violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of Nigeria resulting in internecine bloodletting and maiming, let alone wanton destruction and unprecedented burning of houses. The inestimable consequences on the economy of this great country can only be imagined than described; shortage of food, environmental degradation, ethnic disharmony, religious intolerance, and so on. In all of this, it is very clear we are the ones shooting ourselves in the leg.
Cattle rearing plays a critical role in the development of human civilization globally, adding extensively to the growth of the respective country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Nigeria is not the only country in cattle breeding.
India, for example, from available records, has the largest cattle inventory in the world put at 305.5 million head of cattle in 2021, larger than the entire population of Nigeria of about 200 million people. It is closely followed by Brazil and China. In Africa, Ethiopia tops the list with the largest number of cattle, according to the latest livestock census statistics conducted on the African continent. In the United States of America, Texas has the most cattle followed by Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. So, there is no gainsaying that cattle rearing contributes immensely to increase the amount of food available to the people; provides a rich source of protein, fertilizer as well as raw materials for leather and clothing industries; and above all, a source of employment to millions of Nigerians.
However, given the present trend of globalization, the open grazing system of cattle rearing is not only archaic but also, to say the least, quite retrogressive. This is like doing the right thing in the wrong way. It is a common sight to see roaming cows feeding around school farms and playgrounds, golf courses, street shoulders, railway sidings both at night and during the day. They obstruct traffic flow thus endangering human lives and, more often than not, cause fatal accidents. They mess up the ground and bring flies and stench. And, more importantly, generate conflicts and tension between herdsmen and local farmers over cattle rustling, damaging farmlands, and pollute village streams that serve as the only source of water to the indigenes. A keen observer will glaringly notice food supply insecurity, dwarf economic growth, and deformed national integration as offshoots of open grazing system of cattle rearing.
The Fulani practise herding of cattle – their major preoccupation both at commercial and subsistence levels. From available records, they own over 90% of the country’s cattle population, about one-third of GDP in the agricultural sector, and 3.2% of the country’s GDP, and so, undoubtedly, their contribution to the national food chain cannot be overemphasized.
A typical Fulani herdsman keeps and sustains his herd intensively through open grazing while their women engage in culinary services – cook and sell animal products in the market; by their culture, tradition, and occupation, never own lands nor have any permanent abode. They are only concerned about their cattle and always on the move to wherever there is an abundance of fodder and the absence of tsetse fly which is why they are less concerned about ownership of land.
Sometimes, they travel very long distances from one point to the other and infringe into lands long claimed by settled farmers, creating problems between them and the indigenous farmers. They suffer material losses when the crop farmers inflict physical injuries on their cattle by using machetes, spears, or guns or by outright poisoning the cattle. The farmers, on the other hand, argue that the ‘AK-47’ wielding herdsmen scare them from going to their farms – their farmlands and crop yields are being destroyed by their cattle. Indeed, an ill wind affects both parties tremendously.
Little wonder that the northern and southern governors vehemently and unanimously banned open grazing, adjudging it uncivilized and primitive and completely at variance with international best practices.
That President Muhammadu Buhari, GCON, is taking a contrary stance on the decision of the governors, is a serious issue of concern to passionate Nigerians who believe for the country to move forward, open grazing of cattle rearing with its attendant problems, should be abolished. The President’s position is not so much in doubt because he, being a Fulani himself, would not be working against the dictates of his Fulani oligarchy.
The big question is, which interest is more important here – Fulani interest or the interest of the generality of Nigerians? That is why we strongly believe the Presidency should have a rethink on its position on that issue.
On Arise Television interview recently, the President was quoted as saying he sent back two serving Governors, who came pleading for assistance against insecurity arising from clashes between herdsmen and farmers in their states, that they should go and solve their problems. In another development, he was also quoted as saying people should rise up to the occasion by defending themselves from any attack, possibly from herdsmen, when ostensibly these herdsmen with their sophisticated AK-47 are well-armed, more than the local farmers.
It is ironic, and perhaps, laughable over a serious issue that the President is instructing the Police and the Army to kill whoever they catch with an AK-47 rifle while the Governors are directing the citizens to defend themselves – what weapon of defense will the hapless citizens acquire to wade off these attacks? Empty hands?
That the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice should fine-tune arrangements to map out grazing routes “on the already existent routes” for the herdsmen for open grazing is another wonder of the 21st century.
These, and perhaps many more, beg the question as to whether the President is still fully on top of his constitutional responsibilities, notably the security of lives and properties of his people.
As a matter of urgency, the Presidency should review its position on open grazing for peace to reign.
God bless Nigeria!!!