the Presidency said Igboho had no right to give that order, that all Nigerians have the constitutional right to live in any part of the nation they wished such that Sunday lacked the power to ask them to leave.
The Inspector-General of Police was
so miffed that he gave orders for Igboho’s arrest. But the order was not even worth the paper on which it was written. The arrest has not been effected, and attempts to effect the arrest would only touch on raw nerves and force a people to express the physical form of their anger.
The Federal Government is thoughtful in not insisting on effecting that order. As the case of Igboho’s order raged in Oyo, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, of Ondo State ordered herdsmen out of reserved forests in the state, given that their continued operation was in disobedience of a law of the state that prohibits such actions. His order also set tongues wagging, and the association
of cattle breeders said he had infringed on their right to live and operate in any part of the nation. But many lawyers, including Jiti Ogunye, said they were wrong in their assertion, insisting that the constitutional right to live where you pleased did not imply that you could act how you pleased.
Some people have given the example of Hisbah in Kano, whose operations to stop the sale of alcoholic beverages, prostitution and the likes is also backed by law, which can be equated with moves to curtail the constitutional freedom of citizens. It would, therefore, be wrong for the cattle breeders to insist that they could carry out their trade wherever they wished. The governors in
the South-West were literally hurried into a meeting in Ondo, where cattle breeders came to the table. After the meeting, it was
announced that Akeredolu’s order was ‘misunderstood’, but the governors insisted that they had since placed a ban on open grazing, and the ban was still effective. It was a political way of saying what Akeredlu said more pointedly. South-West has come to terms with an experience that has become
a perpetual pain for people in the Middle Belt. I dare say that they acted in anticipation when they set up the regional security outfit, named Amotekun. The outfit’s effectiveness is another kettle of fish.
Experts have examined the matter and come to the conclusion that the world
has long left open grazing and embraced ranching. They have recommended that ranching is the way to go. The modalities of setting them up is a matter for another day. Should they be set up in a particular part
of the country or in every part, especially since consumption takes place everywhere? I read a report that about 12,000 cows are slaughtered every day in Lagos State, an indication that, in my estimation, going by that figure, no less than 50,000 cows are slaughtered every day across the country. It is a multimillion-naira business, providing jobs for thousands of people. But it should not be done to the detriment of farmers and other people whose sources of livelihood are diminished or even obliterated.
The added elements of kidnapping, killings, assault and rape have taken the matter beyond the realm of cattle rearing. The criminal element is the bone of contention, more so because few or no persons have been prosecuted and punished on account of such heinous crimes. The impression, which may be erroneous, is that the people are dancing to the drumbeats of music from the powers that be. If security forces
turn a blind eye to the matter and have perpetrators go scot-free, there would be no alternative than for those who hold the view that the crime has official backing to hold tenaciously to their view.
The cattle breeders’ challenge seems to have touched at the centre of coexistence among the various nationalities that make up Nigeria. While the predominant occupation of Fulani people, exemplified by President Muhammadu Buhari, is cattle rearing, all Fulani people are not involved in the trade. But the action of breeders, some of whom are not Fulani, has smeared all
of them. They are all now viewed from the prism of people who have constituted themselves into a menace to society. It is poetic justice of sorts.
The historical antecedents of the Nigeria civil war has it that Igbo people were killed on the streets for crimes allegedly commit- ted by their kinsmen who were soldiers. Barracks politics, resulting in coups and counter-coups, was taken to the streets and people who knew nothing about the barracks politics were slaughtered on the streets because of the perception in the polity. Today, the Fulani in Nigeria have come to face a perception that may not represent them. The crimes of criminal elements have soiled their fingers like the proverbial oil picked by one finger that soiled all other fingers.
The President must save his people from this perception by distancing himself from the menace, and not looking the other way when security agencies act in protection of the criminal elements. He should be more creative in solving the problem, and show that herdsmen are not criminals who invade farmlands in forcible search of pasture for their cattle.