By Sufuyan Ojeifo
The ballyhoo over “ruga settlements”, which the Ministry of Agriculture wanted to mischievously deploy in supplanting the original and scripted National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), was a measure of Nigerians’ edification, intelligence, patriotism and resilient contempt for and passionate disapprobation of the policy.
Tension had dramatically dissipated following President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to terminate the policy on account of its conceptual fraud and puckish push by the confederates of masterminds and implementers whose motivation has yet to be located within any patriotic rationale and essential goodness of the Nigerian nation-state.
But at least, the “ruga settlements” policy has been upended and President Buhari must be commended for that decision in a moment of extreme national anxiety. Prominent Nigerians must also be commended for promptly speaking up and warning against the inherent tendentiousness and danger in the implementation of the policy.
More significantly, the president has proved to critics that he has the capacity to listen and commit to the highest idea of national unity and peace. Therefore, he must continue on that path as his administration searches for a good-natured and lasting solution to the Fulani herders and farmers’ crises.
The context of the search must be reflective of our national diversity and be ethnically phlegmatic in its ramifications. Stakeholders, both at the federal and state levels, must be clear-headed in the appreciation of the issues involved and responsive to the sensibilities of ethnic nationalities in reviewing and tweaking the idea of NLTP.
To be sure, the NLTP, to which the president has now directed national attention as an alternative trajectory in addressing the elephant in the room, was originally recommended by the National Economic Council (NEC) under the chair of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as a panacea, by and large, to the obdurate herders-farmers’ crises.
This is important in order to prevent the old animus that galvanised ethnic opposition to the first idea of grazing reserves, then cattle colonies and lastly “ruga settlements”. The conceptual framework of the NLTP transcends the narrow idea of Fulani herders’ settlements and this perception must be sustained.
And, peradventure, it was deficient in its conceptual framework, this is an opportunity to tweak and shear it of such deficiency, including the evident garb ofFulanisation. All hands must be on deck to ensure that the zeitgeist of the NLTP approximates national consensus and produces a passionate sense of appropriation by Nigerians.
Even though the implementation of NLTP remains voluntary as only interested states can sign up to it, yet operationalizing and actualizing the plan must be pan-Nigeria to the extent that all Nigerians would be treated equally in any state or states that signs or sign up for the plan. The point I make here is that the idea must not be hinged on the platform of Fulani herders’ protectionism.
In this context, President Buhari has a whole lot of work to do to reassure and build confidence in Nigerians that his administration will henceforth be catholic rather ethnocentric in the management of the political economy. The NLTP provides him a historic opportunity.
Significantly, in the pursuit of the agenda to transform livestock management in Nigeria, every Nigerian who is interested in cattle rearing must be considered and factored into the plan. It must be clear that pseudo-empires and ethnic fiefdoms are not being created by some ingenious designs and official or administrative fraud. The entire process must by undergirded by sincerity of purpose and transparency of implementation.
It thus stands to reason that beyond the expansive and extensive proposal to ensure access to all basic amenities in areas to be designated for livestock management, there must be legal and administrative mechanisms that ensure circumscription and regulation by the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and laws of the respective states.
Put simplistically, ethnic superiority and religious supremacy must not burgeon. They must not enjoy official recognition whether in the north or in the south (if any state voluntarily signs up for it). Appropriate legislations must be enacted to rein in inhabitants of the designated areas from promoting values that polarize our humanity.
The overreaching goal of the NLTP should be the imperative to deal with an existential problem that afflicts us as nation. The Fulani herders-farmers’ problem is more real and pernicious in its genocidal dimensions than all other problems that confront us as a people. That they are increasingly divisive and destructive, the herders-farmers’ crises project a quirky narrative about our country as a contraption of dubious federal nature; whereas, we have the capacity to be our brothers’ keeper.
The reality is that Nigeria as a nation of multi-ethnic nationalities is at a crossroads of decision-making to begin to bunch together through productive and prolific national conversations and compromises that centre on and promote national interests as the core and circumference of decisions and actions.
How President Buhari galvanizes a nationalistic resolution of the herders-farmers’ crises will also determine the kind of legacy that he leaves for posterity. The president would have defined his eon by the magnitude of his pan-Nigeria accomplishment if at the end of the day the crises are resolved in such a way that all Nigerians begin to see ourselves as Nigerians and not as Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Edo, Esan, Berom, Jukun, Tiv, Ebira, Ibibio, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, et al.
The herders-farmers’ crises represent the critical intersection that challenges the patriotism of the president. This is the time for pragmatic actions and not mere verbal exhortations about those highfalutin ideals that only blow in the winds. Since President Buhari respects his vice president, Professor Osinbajo, who oversees the NLTP, and vice versa, he should expect that he will benefit from a body of well-considered action-plans.
In rounding off, I would like to state that I am in pari materia with the six pillars of the NLTP, to wit: economic investment, conflict resolution, law and order, humanitarian relief, information, education, as well as education and strategic communication and cross-cutting issues. I am also in consensus ad idem with the proposed N91 billion to be spent on the 10-year NLTP.
If the estimated direct and indirect funds are judiciously expended on the plan without the bulk of the funding component sauntering into private pockets, I can imagine the revolutionary infrastructure development that the designated areas will experience. Nigerians will be the beneficiaries. They could even become exemplars to state and local governments on how to keep fidelity to the social contract of good governance through the provisions of effective and efficient social amenities and basic infrastructure.
I believe that the decision to use seven states in the north-Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Zamfara, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba as pilots was strategic because, apart from recognizing the sensibilities of the southern region about the issue of livestock management enjoying federal government’s priority attention, they understandably represent the herders-farmers’ flashpoints, spawning both centripetal and centrifugal forces that have been pulling our country apart in different directions in the northern region.
The Vice President, stakeholders, and indeed representatives of all other ethnic nationalities must also be extra-vigilant to ensure that when the framework and other structures for the NLTP have been put in place, fifth columnists, waiting in the wings, do not hijack the project and execute a primordial agenda other Nigerians are opposed to.
Now that President Buhari has told Nigerians that the NLTP is the real McCoy and not the infamous “ruga settlements” policy, the Vice President must become surefooted in the driver’s seat and ensure that as he drives with the assistance of his conductors in the NEC, the NLTP approximates a historic and revolutionary panacea to the perennial menace of herders-farmers’ crises and their concomitant episodic near genocides.
▪ Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, contributed this piece email@example.com