Gov­er­nor Bello and pol­i­tics of cat­tle colony in Kogi

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - POLITICS - From John Akubo, Lokoja

By ac­cept­ing to es­tab­lish cat­tle colonies in kogi state and in­cor­po­rat­ing the lead­er­ship of fu­lani herds­men into the govern­ment struc­ture as panacea to end­ing in­ces­sant clashes with lo­cal farmers, gov­er­nor ya hay a bel lois court­ing the anger of op­po­si­tion el­e­ments who have al­leged that his aim is to in­fil­trate the vot­ing pop­u­la­tion to ma­nip­u­late next year’s elec­tions.

BE­CAUSE of mis­giv­ings about the pro­posal to es­tab­lish cat­tle colonies as so­lu­tion to in­ces­sant vi­o­lent clashes be­tween Fu­lani herds­men and farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties across Nige­ria, the idea is at­tract­ing stiff op­po­si­tion es­pe­cially in the Mid­dle Belt and south­ern part of the coun­try.

While it seems that the Fed­eral Govern­ment is de­ter­mined to have its way in ex­e­cut­ing the pro­posal and a siz­able num­ber of the states in the north ap­pear to be co­op­er­at­ing in that re­gard, the is­sue has be­come con­tro­ver­sial in Kogi State, which ge­o­graph­i­cally is lo­cated on the cat­tle route be­tween the north­ern and south­ern parts of Nige­ria.

Be­cause of this, a web of pol­i­tics is be­ing wo­ven around the pro­posal as the state gov­er­nor, Ya­haya Bello, who is not only sup­port­ive of the colony pro­posal but also seek­ing res­i­dency for no­madic herds­men in the state, is al­ready fac­ing op­po­si­tion from many stake­hold­ers.

In ac­cept­ing the pro­posal, which was ini­tially prop­a­gated by the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture, Audu Ogbe, as the only panacea to curb the cri­sis, which came to a head early this month when 73 per­sons were mas­sa­cred in Benue State, Bello said Kogi would be ready to host the pi­lot scheme of the cat­tle colony be­fore it is spread to other states.

But the gov­er­nor’s po­si­tion is be­ing met with stiff re­sis­tance from the Igala-speak­ing Kogi East and Yoruba Okun-speak­ing Kogi West. Ma­jor stake­hold­ers in the two sen­a­to­rial dis­tricts said they would not cede any of their lands to cre­ate the pro­posed colony. Cu­ri­ously, even many Fu­lani herds­men, the sup­posed ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the pol­icy, are also averse to it.

Other in­ter­est groups have been ex­press­ing their re­jec­tion of the pro­posal es­pe­cially with the al­leged con­tin­u­ing at­tacks on Benue and Taraba com­mu­ni­ties, which have not abated since it started early this month.

Com­ing on the heels of that ter­ri­fy­ing episode, many in­di­genes are skep­ti­cal about the in­ten­tion and what the colony is meant to achieve for state and its econ­omy giv­ing the fact that cat­tle rear­ing is per­sonal busi­ness that will ben­e­fit only the own­ers.

Their op­po­si­tion may not also be un­con­nected with their own ex­pe­ri­ences of the men­ace of the vi­o­lent at­tacks from the Fu­lani ban­dits in many com­mu­ni­ties of the state that had led to deaths in the past.

Their skep­ti­cism was also by the back­ground in­for­ma­tion that most of the is­sues of in­se­cu­rity in the state in kid­nap­pings and armed rob­beries were be­ing linked to the ac­tiv­i­ties of Fu­lani herds­men.

Those op­posed to the pro­posal were also con­cerned that de­spite the pas­sage of Anti-Open Graz­ing Law, which is meant to re­duce fric­tion be­tween herders and farmers in Benue and se­cu­rity mea­sures be­ing put in place in Taraba, the car­nage by the herds­men con­tin­ued un­abated.

But the Kogi gov­er­nor, who has been hav­ing an up­hill task in con­vinc­ing the peo­ple of his good in­ten­tions, is look­ing at the is­sue from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of in­te­grat­ing the Fu­lani lead­ers into the state’s crit­i­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing or­gans at the tra­di­tional, lo­cal and state lev­els.

For him it is bet­ter to bring the herds­men closer to make it eas­ier to track and trace their ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties through their own lead­ers who would have been in­cor­po­rated in to the gov­er­nance struc­ture of the state.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, the gov­er­nor is also look­ing at the eco­nomic ben­e­fits in terms of the rev­enue the state can gen­er­ate in from the cat­tle econ­omy through in­vest­ment in beef and dairy.

Bello’s ap­proach may not be far from that of his pre­de­ces­sor, Cap­tain Idris Wada who did a pi­lot project where some mis­sion­ar­ies in Ajaokuta lo­cal coun­cil part­nered with his ad­min­is­tra­tion to es­tab­lish a school with elec­tric­ity and bore­hole and a piece of land that was di­vided into five seg­ments for graz­ing.

Wada while prof­fer­ing so­lu­tion to the Fu­lani herders/farmers clashes re­cently re­called that dur­ing his ten­ure, “A large plot for graz­ing land was pro­vided, so that as the cows were in one sec­tion graz­ing, an­other sec­tion was be­ing wa­tered for the grass to grow.

“After a month or two the cat­tle were moved to the next sec­tion, while wet­ting is ap­plied to the first por­tion they just grazed.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, “My govern­ment spear­headed the project with these mis­sion­ar­ies and it trans­formed the lives of the Fu­lani set­tlers in Emi­woro. The Fu­lani girls and boys were trans­formed to mod­ern­ized, ed­u­cated and in­tel­li­gent chil­dren. I think it is a so­lu­tion that can be repli­cated across the coun­try where the Fu­lani can be set­tled and be part of the so­ci­ety and then carry out their oc­cu­pa­tion of an­i­mal rear­ing with­out de­stroy­ing any­body’s farm land.”

While fol­low­ing his pre­de­ces­sor to of­fer the olive branch to the herders, Bello who had ear­lier re­jected calls for the en­act­ment of Anti Open-graz­ing Law, went fur­ther by putting the bur­den of main­tain­ing peace on the shoul­ders of tra­di­tional rulers and coun­cil chiefs, threatening them with de­throne­ment should a clash with the herds­men oc­curred in their do­mains.

The ma­jor hud­dle for the gov­er­nor how­ever, has been the neg­a­tive per­cep­tion by his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents who read po­lit­i­cal mean­ing into these ac­tions. Their mis­giv­ings are not un­con­nected with the forth­com­ing 2019 elec­tions as they be­lieve his open in­vi­ta­tion for the Fu­lani herders is to bet­ter his po­lit­i­cal lot.

They al­leged that most of the new Fu­lani ar­rivals are be­ing made to regis­ter to get vot­ers’ cards in view of the to vote dur­ing the elec­tions stress­ing that Bello’s mo­tives were hid­den in the belly of pa­tri­o­tism.

But the state’s Di­rec­tor-gen­eral, Bureau for In­for­ma­tion, Ab­dulka­rim Ab­dul­ma­lik, ex­plained that those op­posed to the pol­icy mis­un­der­stood the real in­tent adding that cat­tle colonies will check crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties as well as the in­ces­sant Fu­lani herds­men/farmers clashes.

He in­di­cated that the es­tab­lish­ment of cat­tle colonies in the state will help re­strict move­ment of herds to a par­tic­u­lar lo­ca­tion that can help to check their ac­tiv­i­ties and that it would en­hance se­cu­rity of lives and prop­erty across the coun­try.

Ab­dul­ma­lik noted that the mi­gra­tion of no­madic herds­men from one place to an­other with their cat­tle caus­ing hos­til­i­ties and de­vour­ing farm pro­duce with im­punity was now a ma­jor source of con­cern to the peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ties.

“The time had come to curb the men­ace aris­ing from the in­dis­crim­i­nate move­ment of the herders and their cat­tle and the govern­ment felt it was bet­ter to cur­tail their move­ment. Govern­ment says let them have a des­ig­nated place where they would be re­stricted with their an­i­mals if they dis­obey and any­thing hap­pens they would be li­able.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, those op­posed to the cre­ation of cat­tle colonies mis­con­strued the po­si­tion of the govern­ment to in­te­grate the no­mads in a tra­di­tional struc­ture in col­lab­o­ra­tion with their lead­ers at com­mu­nity and state lev­els.

“Hence­forth, if there is any prob­lem there is a line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion through which they could be re­solved. If we don’t in­te­grate them, they are still pass­ing by and they are de­stroy­ing your prod­ucts, it be­comes more dif­fi­cult for us to do any­thing.

“So, we have to be broad-minded and look at the is­sues ra­tio­nally with open mind de­void of po­lit­i­cal mis­chief. We need them, they need us and they are of some eco­nomic ben­e­fit to us just as we are to them. All that is needed is for us to look at the nag­ging prob­lem ar­eas,” he em­pha­sized.

How­ever the op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) in the state is not swayed by the ex­pla­na­tions of the govern­ment ex­press­ing dis­may “at the ac­tion of a govern­ment that has of­fered the land and peo­ple as a lab­o­ra­tory to test an ill-con­ceived lethal pol­icy.”

In a state­ment signed by the party’s Pub­lic­ity Sec­re­tary, Bode Ogun­mola, the PDP said it has “been fol­low­ing the de­bate on cat­tle colony since the un­for­tu­nate new year mas­sacre of over 70 vil­lagers in Benue State by sus­pected herds­men.

“Not sur­pris­ingly, most states, gov­erned by the All Pro­gres­sive Congress (APC) re­jected the idea. But, with­out con­sul­ta­tion, Gov­er­nor Ya­haya Bello ea­gerly and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally wel­comed it. As we speak, truck loads of the herds­men have started ar­riv­ing our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Ogun­mola said by last week­end, three trailer loads of herds­men ar­rived Aghara, a small com­mu­nity in Kabba-bunu lo­cal coun­cil and that “they ar­rived with a let­ter di­rect­ing the tra­di­tional ruler of the vil­lage to sub­mit to them with­out com­plaints. We have re­ceived sim­i­lar re­ports from other parts of the state. With­out doubts, our state is un­der siege.”

He al­leged that the im­me­di­ate plan of the govern­ment is to man­date the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion, (INEC), to regis­ter the mostly for­eign herds­men so that they can be used to rig the fourth com­ing 2019 elec­tions.

Ogun­mola who de­cried the high se­cu­rity risks and the long-term neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions of the pol­icy said, “God for­bid that aliens should be the peo­ple elect­ing lead­ers over us in Nige­ria. We do not know of other pe­cu­niary gains Bello and his Abuja co­horts hope to har­vest from the evil scheme.

“We re­ject the evil scheme in to­tal­ity and there­fore de­mand its im­me­di­ate re­ver­sal. Farm­ing is the main­stay of our econ­omy. We can­not sub­mit our col­lec­tive pat­ri­mony or do­nate our God-given land to herds­men, who at best are pri­vate busi­ness­men. We say it loud and clear, cat­tle colony is a sa­tanic pol­icy, Kogi peo­ple re­ject it.”

Bello

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