It seems to me that, for reasons of his actions and comments in his quest to become governor of Kaduna State, many Nigerians still see Nasir El-Rufai as a politician that ought not to be taken seriously. But a man cannot be perpetually wrong. And, as they say, even a malfunctioning clock is twice correct within a 24-hour cycle. That is why sometimes I sieve through El-Rufai’s comments and make do with what makes meaning.
For instance, I read his recent argument in support of cattle ranching and against the rush to ban open grazing across the southern divide of the country. I was happy that the southern governors have been able, through the ban on open grazing, to force their northern counterparts to think outside the box. The action of southern governors in leading their state assemblies to enact laws that outlawed open grazing has made some thinking governors of the northern divide to come to terms with the reality of the fact that the times have changed and a new model must be worked out to accommodate cattle rearing (animal husbandry) in the face of rapid urbanization.
This is where El-Rufai got me. Kaduna, the state he governs, is always in the news for security breaches leading to either abductions, mindless killings and cattle rustling. As governor, it is his assignment to think out workable solutions to these problems, which some people attribute to the practice of open grazing that has led to several fatal clashes between farmers and herdsmen. So, what is El-Rufai preaching this time? His new position is that the governors of the northern divide “want to solve a problem.”
They want to do this because, as one of them, he agrees that ranching is a viable solution to open grazing and its attendant problems. He agrees that it is possible to ranch cattle. He agrees that there is a chain value attached to ranching, which may help lift the economy of a state and its people. He also agrees that open grazing has become archaic and no longer sustainable and, for this, he is ready to invest N10 billion towards creating ranches in Kaduna State.
Hear him: “In my state, for instance, we are developing a huge ranch to centralize the herders. And this is the solution a long time. But can it be done overnight: No! This project we are doing will cost us about N10 billion. The CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) is supporting us with about N7.5 billion and it will take about two years to do.”
El-Rufai agrees that “moving towards ranching cannot be done overnight.” I agree too! He says, “We have to have a plan, we have to have resources and we have to implement it sensibly. We have taken a position as northern governors and we are implementing that…I hope the Fulani herdsmen will see that there are alternative ways of producing livestock, instead of running up and down with cattle going into people’s farms to cause all kinds of problems.”
It could only take a smart leader to think through the ban on open grazing in the southern states to see the opportunity that it provides. The ranch that he is developing will cost Kaduna State government N10 billion. Out of this sum, the CBN will inject N7.5 billion. That’s huge. Now, multiply that by the 19 northern states and image the investment push that southern governors have forced on the northern states. Also, imagine the CBN injects N7.5 billion for development of every cattle ranch in each of the 19 northern states (El-Rufai projects 14 ranches in Kaduna State alone. Multiply that by N10 billion). That is one effect of creative leadership and thinking outside the box. However, it is not my headache how he raises the funds to complement the CBN injection. It is his.
Implication of this development is the change that it brings to cattle farming in the North and, possibly, across Nigeria. The value chain will also impact hugely on the lives of the people and the economy of the states. It will lead to the creation of allied businesses that will help mop up youths that have been unconsciously donated to criminality by absence of jobs, and I see a lot of folks from southern Nigeria taking advantage of the opportunities to create and grow big businesses. But there is a snag. El-Rufai says the snag is about the Fulani herder (Miyetti Allah) and accepting the new reality. Secondly, this new approach cannot be rushed. The governor’s projection is two years for complete development of ranches in Kaduna State. But the ban on open grazing in the southern states is with immediate effect. This is where the possibility of a clash arises.
Personally, I have been an advocate of ranching. It makes no sense to see cows roaming motorways in urban centres. For this reason, I support the decision of southern governors to outlaw open grazing with or without immediate effect. It just has to stop anyhow. However, given that the northern governors have, as stated by El-Rufai, agreed to develop ranches over a 24-month period, there may be need to seek a political solution to what could become an impasse that may erode the positive benefits of the anti-open grazing laws in the southern part of the country and the decision of the northern governors to create ranches.
I believe that any such solution must include Miyetti Allah coming to terms with the reality of a new order of doing business and ending its regime of recklessness, and arrogance in seeking to forcefully implement its archaic mode of personal trade on all Nigerians. Somehow, what had aggravated the anger of southern Nigeria against open grazing was the arrogance of leaders of Miyetti Allah and their patrons who, by action and words, suggest that life and property of non-herders are nothing compared to the life of an animal.
For now, El-Rufai gets a thumbs up from me for seeking to creatively solve a problem that has pitted Nigerians against one another and led to the death of many. That is what leadership is about, finding solutions to problems, not making excuses and blaming others. That is the major reason people elect who leads them. Those who understand this fact, become successful leaders. Those who don’t, tend to believe that leadership is about opulence of office and the power that they are given to mismanage state resources, including human life, while making excuses and hoping that, somehow, magically, they become successful.