By Enyeribe Ejiogu
Former Lagos State governor and national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has urged political leaders and the elite to pursue a genuine, fair, just and equitable solution to the herders-farmers’ crisis, which has assumed frightening violent dimensions, resulting in loss of lives.
To abate the violence and decisively end the spiral of death and destruction, he recommended that the Federal Government should “convene a meeting of state governors, senior security officials, herders and farmers representatives, along with traditional rulers and religious leaders,” adding that the purpose of the meeting “would be to hammer out a set of working principles to resolve the crisis.”
In a statement he issued yesterday, Tinubu said: “Until the violence is rolled back, we cannot resolve the deep problems that underlie this conflict. We will neither be able to uplift the farmer from his impoverished toil nor move the herder toward the historic transformation, which he must make.”
He expressed displeasure that some leaders who should be more knowledgeable “have incited matters by tossing about hate-tainted statements that fall dangerously short of the leadership” they claim to provide, stressing, “we all must get hold of our better selves to treat this matter with the sobriety it requires.”
Noting that farmers have a right to farm their land unmolested, he said that herders also have a right to raise their livestock without undue interference, stating that the time had come when the leadership class “must set forth clear principles and policies to remove the tension caused by the recurring conflicts, in order to allow both to the farmers and herders achieve their goals and to live in harmony, according to their respective rights.”
Elaborating on the realities that should be part of the desired solution, Tinubu stated: “First, the situation of the herders is becoming untenable. Their nomadic ways fall increasingly in conflict with the dictates of modern society. This way of life is centuries old and steeped in tradition. We can never condone or accept violence as a valid response to any hardship. However, we all must recognise and understand the sense of dislocation caused by the sudden passing of such a long-standing social institution.
“I mention their dislocation not to excuse violence and other excesses. I raise it to underscore that we must realise the true complexity of this crisis. What is happening has been terrible, but it is not due to any intrinsic evil in either the herder or the farmer. The calamity now being faced is borne of situational exigencies.
It is but the tragic outcome when often desperate, alienated people are left too long unattended and when their understanding of the modern socio-economic and environmental forces affecting the very terms of their existence is incomplete. An ethnically fuelled response will be to vociferously defend the nomadic way believing this tack will somehow protect the herder and cast the speaker as an ethnic champion. However, careless words cannot shield the herder from relentless reality. Such talk will only delude him into believing that he can somehow escape the inevitable. We do both herder and farmer grave injustice by allowing the herder to continue as he is – fighting a losing battle against modernity and climate change. In that fight, desperation causes him to flail and fight the farmer, who too is a victim of these impersonal forces.
“Second, to help the herder and leave the farmer unattended is unfair and will only trigger a resentment that tracks already heated ethnic fault lines. The times have also been perilous for the hardscrabble farmer. He needs help to survive and to be more productive in ways that increases national food security. Farm productivity and incomes must be enhanced. Soil enrichment, better irrigation and water retention as well as provision of better rural roads, equipment and access to modern machinery are required to lift him above bare subsistence.
“Both innocent and law-abiding farmer and herder need to be recompensed for the losses they have suffered. Both need further assistance to break the current cycle of violence and poverty. In short, the continued progressive reform of many of our rural socio-economic relationships is called for.”
He urged that wise policy initiatives must be quickly put in place. Such policies must include the following elements: “The government must maintain reasonable and effective law enforcement presence in affected areas. Governments need to employ new technology and equipment to enhance the information gathering/surveillance and response capabilities of law enforcement.”
Government must “help the herders’ transition to more sedentary but more profitable methods of cattle rearing. Unoccupied public land can be fenced into grazing areas or ranches and leased to herders on a very low-cost, nominal basis. The leasing is not intended to penalise herders.”
We have to “assist farmers increase productivity by supporting or providing subvention for their acquisition of fertilizer, equipment and machinery and, also, by establishing commodity boards to guarantee minimum prices for important crops.”