FEW hours after the Senate denied that there was ever a Grazing Bill before the National Assembly (with one senator actually calling to accuse me of peddling ‘untruth’ in my article of last week), the Order Paper of the House of Representatives, for Monday, March 14 – Friday, March 18, 2016, hit the Internet. It clearly stated that the lower house, on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, undertook the consolidation of
A Bill for an Act to Establish the National Grazing Route and Reserves Commission, to establish and control Grazing Routes and Reserves in all parts of Nigeria; and for Other Matters Thereto.
A Bill for an Act to create a Department of Cattle Ranches under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture or any such ministry overseeing the production and rearing of livestock, including cattle; and for other matters related thereto.
So, it’s either the House of Reps is not part of the National Assembly or the senators (informed, as usual, by selfish interests) are up to some mischief with the now vexatious Grazing Bill.
And while we are at it, the ‘herdsmen’ continue their bloodletting rampage through communities in southern and North Central Nigeria, Enugu State being the latest victim. And the President Muhammadu Buhari government continues to maintain an ominous silence – or at best, a lukewarm attitude to the menace.
Although Buhari’s APC never really supported the last National Conference convened by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, one decision that emerged from that confab was that issues relating to grazing and ranching should be handled at the level of either the state or the local government. It seemed a clairvoyant move to stop the federal government and its agencies going to grab land, allegedly on behalf of cattle rearers, in states where cattle rearing is not really a cultural or economic priority. And that is not saying anything about a migrant cattle rearing business model that has refused to adapt to the realities of the modern world.
But, come to think of it, how come it is only the poor Fulani man that is forced to roam the wild with his family and cattle? Don’t all the Fulani elite (both in and out of government) also have farms? How many of them, and their children, are roaming about with cattle? My suspicion is: The elite have grabbed all the ancestral lands of their poor and uneducated kinsmen, fenced off the land and forced their poor brothers to roam abroad – sometimes, to very unfriendly territories.
I’ll never buy this story of drought and desertification in the North, for in spite of desertification, Nigeria still relies for much of her food from the North. The same way we produce crops, we can also grow grass to graze our cattle.
But, if truth must be told, Nigerians in other parts of the country have never had, and still do not have, any problem with genuine Fulani herdsmen. The problem is with these machine gun-wielding terrorists, masquerading as herdsmen.
The Fulani herdsmen we’ve always known go about with sticks and occasional swords to ward off wild animals. They would peaceably sell their animals, milk and wara (local cheese) to the communities along their routes, and buy whatever wares they would need. It was a symbiotic relationship, rather than the present predatory oppression. Of course, there were occasional skirmishes with farmers, but they were soon resolved and did not assume the magnitude of the seemingly co-ordinated onslaught of today. We sure are grazing on trouble!
Ekweremadu’s call: Come, let’s reason together
By Ismail Omipidan
TODAY, Wednesday April 27, 2016, will go down in history, as a day eminent Nigerians from all walks of life gathered to unveil ideas on how to make the Nigeria of our dreams work. Nigeria doesn’t seem to be working. Or do you think it is working? Make no mistake; the non-workability did not just start today. E don teh, like some would say.
I know there are some who hold the extreme view that “there was a country” called Nigeria. But while not trying to dismiss the sentiments of those who hold such a belief, there are still majority of us who believe that there is a country, called Nigeria. The problem, however, is that even those of us in this category do not appear to love our country as much as we love our tribe, state, ethnicity and religion.
In other words, the sharp matchet has no handle, while the one that has a good handle is blunt. This is why the Deputy President of the Senate is asking “Who Will Love My Country?”
“Who Will Love My Country?” is the title of the latest book written by Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and it is due for public presentation this afternoon, in Abuja.
The book is his own modest attempt at analysing the challenges of the country, with a view to providing ideas capable of provoking the minds of Nigerian leaders, to pause and think of how best, a Nigeria of our dreams could be built.
Because Ekweremadu is a politician, there is the tendency for some little minds among us to begin to impute politics into the whole event. Far from it. The event, it was reliably gathered, was initially planned for 2015, shortly after the 2015 general elections. However, certain exigencies made it impossible for it to go on as planned.
Again, most of the views espoused in the book were long held views of the Deputy President of the Senate. For instance, everyone knows where he stands on fiscal federalism, just as his views on decentralised policing system, which some want to refer to as State Police, is unmistaken.
Each time, there is a drop in oil price, the country’s leaders and the rest of us panic, largely because oil is the country’s cash cow. But should this tradition continue? Thank God, the new song in town now is diversification. Apart from diversifying the economy, Ekweremadu believes strongly that the current 36 states system we run, is not viable. Instead he wants us to return to a six-region structure, along the six geo-political zones.
He said further that the act of “robbing Peter to pay Paul, which I term feeding bottle federalism, is at the heart of poor governance, underdevelopment, indolence and ineptitude in the Nigerian federation. It is the reason some state governors can afford to sleep for an entire month, knowing they will pick up some free money from Abuja at the end of it…
It is also the reason financial trepidation grips the land each time there is a hiccup in the flow of free money, usually occasioned in the crash in oil price. At such times, the whole nation tosses about, gasping for breath and survival like fish removed from water and flung on a hot, sandy beach.”
The book presentation is, therefore, not about APC or PDP, but about your children, my children and our unborn children. I pray that our leaders will have the courage and political will to do the right thing, all the time, so we can build the Nigeria of our dreams. As for Ekweremadu, he has played his own part. He loves his country. Over to you! Will you also love your country?
*Omipidan, is the Special Assistant (Media) to the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu