By Casmir Igbokwe
The Ruga fire, which the Federal Government recently ignited in Nigeria, is still raging. Many Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when the central government suspended the project last week. But little did they know that even the announced suspension will in itself become very unsettling.
Ruga, by the way, is a project whereby the Federal Government secures parcels of land from the states with a view to settling nomadic herdsmen. The settlement will be complete with schools, hospitals, vet clinics, road networks, markets, electricity, and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meat and animal products.
The Presidency said the scheme, which was to commence in 12 pilot states, would curb open grazing, ensure a drastic reduction in conflict between herders and farmers, boost animal protection and increase the quality and hygiene of livestock, among other presumed goodies. It said though it’s true that the Federal Government had gazetted lands in all states for the project, the programme was voluntary. Strident opposition to the project forced the Federal Government to suspend it last week.
This suspension has raised some suspicions. Many Nigerians wonder why it was not cancelled outright. The fear is that the project will be re-introduced after the noise about its establishment has died down. They reason that, if it is voluntary, as the Presidency would have us believe, why suspend it in the first place?
Last week, a group known as the Coalition of Northern Groups issued a disturbing statement. It gave the Federal Government a 30-day ultimatum to rescind its decision to suspend Ruga. According to the spokesman of the group, Abdul Azeez Suleman, if government fails to heed its warning, it would expel southerners resident in the North.
Some southern groups responded in kind. Ohanaeze Ndigbo, for instance, noted that the threat to evict law-abiding Nigerians from their places of abode in northern Nigeria was treasonable. The president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, said Ohanaeze had no objections to all Igbo in the North returning home so long as all northerners in the East left the East as well.
He fumed, “The nepotism exhibited by this federal government, her duplicity of standards in law enforcement, her undisguised Fulanisation policy is repugnant to rule of law and good governance. We will no longer tolerate any further threats from these northern war mongers.”
Nwodo called on Ndigbo to be ready to defend themselves, adding, “The millipede that has been marched is whimpering, but the person that marched it is complaining that his foot has been soiled.”
Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, made similar acerbic statements against the threats by the northern group. Afenifere had warned that no inch of Yorubaland would be given for Ruga, describing it as a plan to colonise the country.
Prior to the suspension, similar threats and verbal warfare had polluted our atmosphere. Some threatened to deal with their governors if they ever gave any inch of their land to Fulani herdsmen. Some threatened and urged people to boycott eating cow meat. Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, said Ruga could cause explosion in the country and warned the government to tread carefully. Almost all the states in the South rejected Ruga. The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum described the project as a “mission to settle criminal terrorist herdsmen.”
The danger in what is happening now is that people are freely interpreting the situation to suit their purpose and political interests. I shuddered when I read the submission of a respected Nigerian on this issue. Writing on a WhatsApp group platform, the man said the “opposition to Ruga is an open war against Islam by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Christian-dominated Nigerian media.”
The man who is a Muslim from the South-West even threatened that Muslims in Yorubaland were watching with keen interest and that they were not cowards. According to him, the Yoruba and Igbo have colonies all over northern Nigeria just as the Hausa have in some southern states. The Oba Yoruba in Sokoto, he said, is from Iwo, his hometown.
Similarly, he noted, the Igbo have Eze Ndigbo all over Yoruba and northern towns. There is also Seriki Hausawa all over Yorubaland. He then wondered what the hullabaloo was about Fulani and fumed, “Why do Christians want to set the nation ablaze over nothing? Are there no Christian Fulani? What is really the objective of media wars against Hausa/Fulani by the southern media?”
I decided to quote this man extensively to show the dangerous dimension the Ruga project debate is assuming. Nigeria is too fragile to start another war. It will be catastrophic. The truth of the matter is that the Federal Government wanted to illegally take states’ land that it has no control over. It planned to give undue advantage to a particular ethnic group over others.
The issue has nothing to do with religion, although some people have expressed fears about Islamisation. There are also fears that even the herdsmen who have been raping, abducting and killing innocent Nigerians may have entered our country from neighbouring countries like Niger, Chad, Mali and some others.
The Presidency should take the blame for the unnecessary tension this issue has engendered in the country. This is because it has shamelessly instituted questionable programmes to favour the nomadic Fulani herdsmen over others. It started with the idea of reopening the grazing routes. Later, it explored the option of cattle colony. The other day, the same FG had a brainwave about establishing Fulani radio. The idea behind this is to have a medium that will communicate to the Fulani anywhere in the world. Part of the claim is that it would help to curb incessant clashes between herders and farmers.
The question is, why are the interests of farmers not taken into consideration? How many settlements, for instance, has the government established for Tiv farmers? How many Ijaw fishermen has it settled? Why has it not established free parks, motor spare parts and electronics markets for Igbo transporters and businessmen? Will this not help in creating jobs and diversifying the economy?
How many villages in Nigeria have electricity, pipe-borne water, clinics, and vet doctors? Why should Fulani nomads get this preferential treatment from government for what happens to be their private business?
The tragedy of it all is that the central government appears too insensitive to the feelings of other Nigerians. Some have already branded it the Fulani Government of Nigeria (FGN).
In all, eternal vigilance should be our watchword. The Presidency should look for ways to evacuate this Ruga shit before the smell kills all of us. Modern animal husbandry is about ranching, not Ruga. Modern civilisation demands that each group in a federating unit gets equal opportunities to develop and engage in healthy competition. The time to discuss and negotiate how we can continue to stay together as a country or go our separate ways is now.
At this point, President Muhammadu Buhari must rise above nepotism and save this country from any conflagration. He should momentarily forget that he is a Muslim and Fulani and wear the dress of a statesman. If he fails, Chinua Achebe would have been right to have said, “There was a country.”
Re: Buhari’s assets and fight against corruption
Cabals in the corridor of power are behind the diminishing integrity of our President because of their selfish interest. Many are in power to enrich themselves, not minding the suffering of Nigerians or how they will find solution to end the sufferings of Nigerians. We need new breed people as ministers and other appointments. If it is possible, the President should bring people from moon to work with him. l believe Nigerians are in high expectation about the type of people the president will assemble as ministers and other appointments to move Nigeria forward under their new slogan called Next Level.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
Since Buhari has the courage to drive a Mercedes Benz, which is worth up to N280m, whereas the majority of Nigerians are dying in hunger, it stands to reason that his self-acclaimed war against corruption is mere rhetoric. Worse still, Adams Oshiomhole has made it clear that Buhari’s fight against corruption is selective. It is instructive to make Buhari’s assets declaration public. This is because he is a public figure, hence we will be able to know whether he made false declaration of assets. It will also enable us to know whether the value of his assets exceeds his income.
– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, 08063730644
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 8, 2019.