IT is not true that Nigeria is better now than six years ago when the present regime came on board as many of its ardent supporters are claiming. It is also not true that Nigeria is more secure now than where we were six years ago as some people want us to believe. Today, it is not in doubt that the Boko Haram insurgency is rife in the North East, kidnapping for ransom has become a new business in all parts of the country especially in Ondo State where their forest reserves have become sites for kidnapping, rape, murder and other heinous crimes by killer herdsmen.
The North West has been gripped by banditry and kidnapping as well. The case of the abduction of schoolboys from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State is still fresh in mind. Hunger and massive poverty have become part of our daily lives and youth unemployment is very high while inflation has hit the rooftops. The price of rice has jumped from N18,000 before Buhari to over N30,000 in a country where many state governors are struggling to pay the national minimum wage of N30,000. A bag of cement has risen from N2,000 to about N4,000.
Life has become unbearable for many Nigerians. We witnessed the desperation for the scramble for COVID-19 palliatives hidden in some warehouses by uncaring Nigerians where many Nigerians were suffering from the pangs of
economic lockdown. The recent ultimatum issued to unregistered Fulani herders not to graze in forest reserves illegally occupied by them in Ondo State by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, which many wrongly interpreted as quit notice to Fulani herders living in the state, has once again opened the sore issue of open grazing and its consequences across the country.
It was based on the threatening insecurity posed by the killer herdsmen that made a Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo, alias Igboho, to issue eviction notice to Fulani herders in some parts of Oyo State. Quit notice among ethnic nationalities that make up the country has become part of our existence. It is still a mark of our underdevelopment and our inability to form a nation out of the many ethnic groups that Brit- ain cobbled together without due consultations with those involved as one country in 2014.
While some Nigerians regard that political decision as the mistake of 2014, others regard it as a divine act. Regardless of which group is right or wrong, the urgent task before all of us is how to build the nation and not how to grab the national cake. Building a nation is not an easy task. The only snag here is that it has taken us so long a time to build one. In fact, quit notice which is a stranger to our constitution has been overtly abused. Imagine the recent one issued to the Bishop of Sokoto Archdiocese, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah by some northern group to leave the state over his Christmas homily, which was twisted out of proportion.
There is no doubt that open grazing has been a major cause of friction between farmers and herders in the Middle Belt region, the South West, South East and South South regions. Such clashes between herders and farmers have led to avoidable loss of lives, rape and the looming national hunger due to food scarcity because many farmers, especially women could no longer farm because of the menace of killer herdsmen, whether they are indigenous or foreign does not matter. A criminal must be treated like a criminal no matter where he comes from. We know full well that the 1999 Nigerian constitution allows every Nigerian to reside in any part
of the country yet the issuing of quit notice has not stopped. Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) clearly states that “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.” The constitution does not permit the issuing of any form of quit notice to any Nigerian citizen from any part of the country.
Also, Section 39 (1) of the constitution states that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.” Despite this provision, some northerners still want Bishop Kukah to leave Sokoto state for expressing his views on the pulpit. These are some of the issues facing the country. These issues and others must be tackled through an urgent meeting of the ethnic nationalities to decide the future of Nigeria before the situation gets worse.
The killer herders menace, kidnapping, banditry, insurgency, self-determination groups are symptoms of a bigger national issue which has not been addressed for long. The coming of Amotekun and others with similar motives are all symptoms of a failing national security. The recent agreement between the herdsmen and South West governors, though a good develop- ment, can only offer tentative relief as witnessed in the past. It is never going to fundamentally solve the problem of the killer herdsmen now or in future.
The best way to approach the issue of open grazing, which has become a national problem, is to embrace cattle ranching. There must be a general ban of open grazing throughout the country if we want to take cattle farming as a big business. Throughout the world, cattle farming are better done in ranches or what some people regard as colonies. Some countries in Europe and America have demonstrated this assertion with ranching. Nigerians are afraid of the word colony based on their colonial experience. There- fore, they prefer cattle ranching than colony. We do not blame them.
Countries that produce better beef and cow milk are those where ranching is practised. As we approach the 2023 general election, let the owners of Nigeria and compatriots spare a deep thought on how best we can resolve some of our national questions before it is too late. Whether some peo- ple believe in restructuring or not, it is one of the best ways we can start resolving our national prob- lems. The Federal Government has no business with all the 68 items on the exclusive legislative list. Some of these items are better handled by the state governments.
As the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. At- tahiru Jega, recently observed there are aspects of restructuring that can take place before the 2023 election and devolution of powers from the fed- eral to the federating units is one of them. Jega also believed that this is not a matter that should be handled by the National Assembly alone. There is need to set up a small representative committee to look at the recommendations of past political conferences including the one of 2014 and start the process of restructuring the country before the 2023 polls.
We must legalize the power rotation between the North and South and not just leave it as a gen- tleman’s agreement which can be breached at will. With the recent university teachers’ strike that lasted for almost one academic year, the Federal Government has proved that it has no business running university education. The future of uni- versity education belongs to state governments, religious bodies and private individuals. The pri- vate universities have proved that individuals can do well in that sector.
It is also daily becoming clearer that educa- tion, health, water, roads, housing, agriculture and some other sectors are better handled by the states. States should play a greater role in policing and securing the country that they are presently doing. The present centralized police force is not working and cannot work. The earlier we resolve to build a nation out of Nigeria where we shall see ourselves as Nigerians and not as members of our ethnic groups, the better for all of us, Africa