It is an indisputable fact that the most urgent security issue that the country faces today is the murderous rampage of herdsmen across the country. From the Middle Belt to the south of the country, the nomadic herdsmen have unleashed terror in the land in the name of cattle rearing. They have sacked whole communities, killed many and destroyed property worth billions of naira. They do this with impunity. They own up to it and, sometimes, threaten to return with more heinous acts.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, under President Muhammadu Buhari, has condoned the excesses of herdsmen to the chagrin and amazement of Nigerians. Under the Buhari order, the killer herdsman is a special and untouchable breed who can kill and maim at will. The law does not go after him. He seems to be above the law. Because he is, so to speak, licensed by whoever to kill, he plies his trade in the crudest of fashions. His cattle is a special animal that can feed on people’s rice farms. In fact, all farm crops are planted by farmers for the grazing pleasure of the herdsman’s cattle. The farm owner dares not complain. To do so would be an invitation to anarchy. The herdsman who goes about with sophisticated weapons ensures that no one stops his cattle from grazing on farmlands. In his reckless reign of conquest, hundreds of lives have been lost. Women and girls have been raped. He has occupied forests in the South, using them as operational bases. This situation has tasked the country to no end.
Regrettably, the government of the day has not been able to take charge of the situation. Rather, it has acted in ways and manners that suggest that it tacitly supports the impunity of herdsmen. Even soldiers from military barracks have demonstrated open bias in this matter. Where the herder cannot go the whole hog, the soldier helps him to do the rest. The result of all this is that the herder has grown wings. He is the new terror that is holding the country by the jugular.
A lot of hair has been split over this. Solutions have been proffered. Yet, the country remains in the woods. Everybody seems to be beating about the bush. The situation is so serious that two governors of the North-Central region, namely, Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Darius Ishaku of Taraba State, have asked the Federal Government to give all Nigerians the license to carry AK47 rifles. They consider this measure the only thing that can rein in the murderous herder. The suggestion from the two governors may be extreme. But it is a measure of the frustration that Nigerians feel over the audacity of the herdsman.
Like Ortom and Ishaku, some other Nigerians have proffered a number of radical measures to stop the activities of herdsmen. But none seems to have caught the attention of Nigerians as much as the solution that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State has come up with. The man has advocated the banning of the movement of cattle, be it by road transportation or through trekking, from the North to the Middle Belt and south of the country. He wants the relevant authorities to come up with a legislation to back up this measure. In the view of the governor, this is the most effective way to bring an end to the clashes and loss of lives that have had to occur as a result of the confrontation between herdsmen and farmers.
Ganduje’s suggestion has since received wide acclaim from a number of individuals and bodies. Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum, Pan-Niger Delta Forum and some others have thrown their weight behind the governor. They want the Federal Government to heed the wise counsel from the governor.
There is no doubt that Ganduje spoke from the heart. He spoke out of conviction. He was not talking politics. The governor, as a matter of fact, is not given to frivolities. He is one of the few public office holders who weigh their positions on national issues before going public with them. That is why he did not mince words. He is aware that politics has taken the better part of us in this matter. For that reason, he divested the matter of the corrosive effect of politics. The governor’s position is well considered. It was borne out of reason. His thought process was guided by patriotism. He is interested in measures that will work. To demonstrate that he means what he is saying, the governor has already established a Ruga settlement in Kano State, complete with all the facilities that a cattle ranch can boast of. He wants the other northern states to borrow a leaf from the Kano arrangement. If they do, they will be saving the country from the crisis that is threatening its unity.
Ganduje’s position should be well understood. It does not, as some people erroneously think, go against the Constitution, which guarantees free movement of people. In fact, the governor has not said that people should not move from one part of the country to another. He only talked about movement of cattle. The idea is that any herder that wants to do his business in the South or Middle Belt is free to do so. All he needs do is to go into ranching. Those who want to buy your products will find you wherever you are. You do not need to roam about at the expense of others.
Government should reflect on Ganduje’s position and begin the process of implementation. It should not be treated like just another suggestion. There is a whole lot of sense in it. There is so much in it that will settle the vexed issue of herder-farmer confrontation. In fact, the Ganduje solution should get some Nigerians to start thinking Nigeria. It is only those who want the country to stay united such as Ganduje that can come up with sensible suggestions. As a patriot, Ganduje is against an arrangement that will trample upon the rights of the people. His love for justice transcends ethnic bias. There are northerners who know that what the herders are doing in the South and Middle Belt is not right. But they blindly support it on account of ethnic and regional biases. Ganduje has demonstrated that we can keep tribe and tongue apart in our search for solutions that can make Nigeria work. I commend his forthrightness.
The governor’s unbiased position is a clarion call to those who pay lip service to issues of nationhood. We can only be a nation in an atmosphere of justice. We can only hang together as a nation when the component units are at ease with the union. No entity ever survives in a situation where someone sees himself as the big brother whose preferences and choices must be imposed on all.
The government of the day should be sobered by the interventions of the likes of Ganduje. Government has a responsibility to minister to all. It should not be seen to be biased as the present government is. The Kano State governor is teaching the Buhari government and others that have its disposition how to have a large heart. It is such large-heartedness, such inclusiveness, that will make Nigeria work.