RUGA GETS THE LUGER
By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi
A yoruba proverb says, “there is no one who appreciates a person that doesn’t finish the work he started than the one who completes it”. PMB’s works are replete with projects that were started by the Jonathan administration and abandoned or not completed. These include the Azikiwe library despite the claims by igbos that Jonathan is an Azikiwe. We know that the Jonathan administration released 100 billion naira for ranching, as panacea to the farmers/ herders clashes but we did not witness any development with regards to that initiative – just funds down the drain. Government recently put a stop to the RUGA (Rural Grazing Reserves Area) initiative due to public uproar. On one hand it is a good sign that the government listens, on the other hand, it is a pity such a noble initiative has been stopped due to religious and ethnic colorations; the islamisation agenda once again coming to the fore of public opinion. A lot of damage has been done by the islamisation campaign and it will be a herculean task to upturn or disabuse the mind of the Nigerian public as to its farceness, and to undress it as a politically laced campaign borne by selfish interests.
We become shamelessly disgruntled by the wrong things, and when we stand up against issues and initiatives, it is always a sham and a mockery of our Nigerianness. To us, everything we do is a mish-mash of religious bigotry and ethnic sentiments that becloud our judgement and robs us of developments that define the way forward for us as a nation. The American Ambassador to Nigeria W. Stuart Symington recently said that the United States of America was hoping to achieve what Nigeria has achieved in terms of diversity. He asked how we do it with over 400 languages and tribes and remain together ‘harmoniously’ as a nation. What he doesn’t know or was perhaps politely ignoring is the fact that its daily upheaval in public debate, social interactions, business transactions and official interactions in terms of religious and tribal differences. One wonders how we have continued to hold it as a nation and remain together as one. Clearly, it’s not the 2 horses and an eagle that are keeping us together. My pick is it’s something divine.
The RUGA was initiated by the FG on the 21st of May 2019 and was promptly suspended barely a month after. Ohaneze, Afenifere, and a host of Governors stood against the initiative. Gov. Umahi of Ebonyi State explained that the RUGA is not consistent with the National Livestock Transformation plan. The salient point raised was that it did not contain a plan for IDPs. But couldn’t there be a different programme for the IDPs? Wasnt the RUGA supposed to be a voluntary programme especially with just 13 states to optionally key in and participate? Ranching, livestock plan, RUGA, are all designed to relegate the marauding herders to designated locations and curb their trespass on private property, cities and farms which have been the bane of every government’s efforts in stymying the killings arising from conflicts.
Prof. Wole Soyinka lent his voice against the RUGA initiative. He even said PMB should have lost his re-election because of the initiative. It was a somersault considering he said he would never support Atiku. But how is the RUGA making cows more important than humans is what I cannot fathom from the Professor’s outcry. There was a lot of outcry too from Benue and Plateau states, most significantly Plateau state, where the Beroms that demonstrated against the plan are herders and have herds of cattle with young Berom boys herding them.
Economically, the cattle business is a multi billion Naira industry with Lagos alone doing a minimum of 2 billion naira in a day, considering that a cow costs 150,000 naira and atleast 10,000 cattle are slaughtered in Lagos daily. The consumption of cow meat and skin popularly called ‘Kpomo’ in Yoruba is largely southern. Northerners dont really like cow meat that much and prefer meat from rams. The cow industry is a money spinner and the people in it are quietly enjoying its proceeds while others choose to use it as spin for communal crises. For example, Femi Kayode is spewing that northerners have sex with cows and so southerners should stop eating cow meat, while another bogus northern youth group is threatening mayhem over the suspension of the RUGA plan. These are snippets of agents of mischief who are sponsored and bent on causing crises out of the matter. There was a video that went viral showing fulani and their cattle being chased out of Nnewi which was later debunked by the elders of the town. So there are miscreants that are creeping around to mix the gun powder and the box of matches to ignite the flames of ethnic discord.
The way the FG flipflopped over the RUGA matter did not help it and maybe the plan was not thoroughly discussed with all the stakeholders consulted before its announcement. The governors from the south may have felt shortchanged and if they couldn’t be part of the programme due to sentiments from their states, an alternative should have been provided for them for traders peculiar to their states. Government intervenes in every sector of the economy especially in private businesses that can help build the economy. There was a recent 30 billion naira intervention for oil palm trees’ farmers, Importers have billions in forex subsidies and banks have been bailed out countlessly. Monies earmarked for the RUGA are aimed at resolving the farmers/ herders crises and not as favoritism to herders or fulanis and its pitiful that we cant see that objectively. PMB should restart the discussion with all the 36 states’ governors to see how the RUGA can be amicably implemented with palliatives to other states that are not keying into the plan.
Heroically, the Gombe state governor, Alh. Inuwa Yahaya has stated that his state is providing about 200,000 hectares of land for the supposed RUGA programme and said that Gombe is not abandoning the initiative as the herders problem has been inimical to the development of his state. Gombe will soon see a boost in cattle and livestock farming as he hopes to partner with the Federal Government for the initiative in his state. Bayelsa state government had in 2016 provided 13,000 hectares of land as grazing reserves for herders. Positioning the herders and their cattle in such a way that restricts their movement is not such a bad idea if we truly want to eliminate the clashes with farmers. Herding the world over is evolving and our people need to understand and embrace that. Roaming animals all over the place is no longer feasible and acceptable. There must be an improvement on the process of rearing these tasty animals with their sumptuous milk and Kpomo. They mustn’t be made the source of killings and banditry for they have no idea what all the ‘feast’ is all about. If the term RUGA has been uncomfortable and sounded islamic or fulani, then my guess is that the Livestock Transformation Plan should be revised to accommodate the RUGA initiative for peace and harmony to reign. I can vouch and swear on my father’s grave that PMB does not have any Islamic or Fulanisation agenda with this RUGA plan, and it has just been twisted and blown out of shape. My hope is that he will try harder on the approach and not relent. God willing he can succeed in solving this age old crises, just as he is succeeding with the completion of the 2nd River Niger Bridge, the Railways, the Abuja Light Rail, the International Airport and the Zik Library to mention a few
RUGA GETS THE LUGER