Second Republic governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, has said that the Federal Government was careless in trying to impose RUGA on the South, arguing that it should have been left for the Fulani and their host communities to agree on how it should be done. Although, he also frowned on the free grazing of cattle, he insisted that the National Livestock Programme of the Federal Government is not the same thing as the suspended RUGA policy, and urged Nigerians to critically look at the policy in details before condemning it.
In this interview with Daily Sun, he spoke on a number of issues, including the recent victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, the two percent increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT), and why Igbo should be allowed to produce the next president in 2023 among others.
The victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the just concluded Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has been generating mixed reactions from Nigerians within and outside the country. What is your take on the tribunal’s judgement?
The judgement is judicial and not moral. In other words, it is a judicial judgement which has nothing to do with morality. This is because the judges have passed their verdict but the people see everything wrong with the election, therefore, as far as they are concerned, the judgement has no moral standing. It could have a judicial standing but definitely not a moral standing because people see exactly what happened. What people saw was massive electoral malpractices that do not justify the tribunal’s decision as to who won the election. The right thing would have been to cancel the election, but maybe, Atiku did not even pray for that at the tribunal.
The xenophobic attacks in South Africa has led to the death of a couple of Nigerians in that country; a situation that has forced the FG to evacuate Nigerians back home with the first batch touching the Murtala Mohammed Airport last Wednesday. Do you think the FG has lived up to its responsibility in the circumstance?
It is difficult to say that the Federal Government has lived up to its responsibility in this instance because we have on our hands a serious problem of criminals – both South African and Nigerian criminals, making it difficult for the two country’s government to take decisive decision. The only thing we should do is to be cautious; both countries about the current situation where we are in the hands of criminals in their countries. Both countries have everything to lose by allowing misunderstanding between the two countries to fester and Nigeria is likely to suffer more because both the economy and politics of Nigeria are less organised than that of the South Africa. Under this circumstance, Nigeria is likely to lose. So, diplomacy should be employed by the two countries and they should also involve other African countries for the sake of Africa because there are neighbouring African countries that are involved. Now, you must realise that Nigeria and SA have the largest concentration of criminals, and this dates back to apartheid days. There are more criminals in Nigeria and South Africa (SA) than in any other African country. So, the two countries have very serious problems in their hands. So, they should use diplomacy and they should also be seen to be protecting humanity in their countries because they are great countries in Africa. Nigeria has at least 800,000 of her citizens in SA but only about 30,000 South Africans are in Nigeria. It is something we should critically look at. Again, South Africans should also remember what sacrifice Nigeria made for their freedom. We know that Nigeria did all that for the sake of humanity and South Africa, but it was also for the sake of protection. If colonialism and apartheid had continued up till today in SA, it would have affected Nigeria. That is why the two countries have to be diplomatic and involve other African countries.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Buhari has just approved a two percent increase in VAT at a time Nigerians are facing very hard economic situation. What is your take on such an economic policy?
It is very bad and immoral, because definitely I think they want to use that means to balance the budget. It will make life more difficult because government is just exploiting Nigerians to balance the budget. So, it is very wrong for government to have done that.
Insecurity has assumed a frightening dimension, with kidnapping, banditry, farmer/herder clashes, as well as Boko Haram insurgency, ravaging the country. Many people have called for the sack of the country’s security chiefs and their replacement with new hands in order to inject fresh ideas to tackle the problem because they think it all amounts to security lapses. Do you agree with them?
It has everything to do with the security lapses, which clearly is blamed on the security chiefs, because if they are able to do their work without interference and in sufficient manner, the country will be safe. So, definitely the security agents are doing their work within this difficult situation.
Few Northerners are insisting that power should remain in the North beyond 2013? What do you have to say about that?
People who are clamouring for that are doing so for their own selfish interest. They are unreasonable and they are equally disuniting the country the more, because this power shift between the North and the South is, first and foremost, to take care of North-South dichotomy. And power should rotate at least among the four basic zones – the North, South-South, South East and South West. Now, the North has had it so many times; the South West had it twice, the South-South had it once and South East is yet to have it. So, for the sake of justice, and giving them a sense of belonging, the South East should have its time. There is no sentiment attached to that. Let the South East have it so that Nigerians can compare what the South East will do with what the North, South West and South-South have done. We have great people that Nigeria can be proud of from the South East. As far as I am concerned, for the sake of justice, national unity, peace and progressive development in the country, the South East should have the presidency in 2023. Anybody who is preventing the South East from having it is definitely unpatriotic and is endangering the unity of the country.
Some Nigerians are insisting that the National Livestock Programme of the Federal Government is the same thing as the suspended RUGA programme. They accuse the FG of reintroducing RUGA through the back door. Do you agree with such thinking?
No, we should not say so until we examine the livestock proramme very well. Let us examine it in details to understand what it means. In the case of RUGA, I don’t even see any problem with it. There is no problem with the venture. There is no problem with even the cattle colony in the North because we have been having RUGA in the North and nobody has felt threatened about it in the North. But, in the South, it is an issue because of the level of misinformation in Nigeria. Let me state here that RUGA can be in existence even in the South but it must be based on community cohesion. The communities in the South South, South East and South West must have a common agreement with the herdsmen. Some of the Southerners have commended the herdsmen in their places because they are there and some of them have been there for many years. Some of them even claim that they were born there. So, even in the South West, RUGA is not a threat; it is only the problem of the herdsmen that has made RUGA a threat to the South West. So, government was careless in trying to impose RUGA on the South; it shouldn’t have been so. It should have been left to the communities. Let the Fulani and their host communities agree on how it should be done.
Honestly, there should not be free grazing. It should not be allowed even in the North. Free grazing means that herdsmen can drive their cattle into people’s farm without any qualms; no, there shouldn’t be free grazing.
If government is really serious about solving the problem of herdsmen in Nigeria, government should do what obtains in other places, particularly in Europe. To prevent free grazing and its problems in Europe, pastures for animals have been made so easily available and at a reasonable price. People have their animals in restricted areas; no free grazing, and pastures are made easily available; government should do that here. Before 1970, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) has introduced the policy of manufacturing pasture for animals. If government had encouraged ABU to continue with that programme, this problem of free grazing wouldn’t have arisen. The problem of the incessant clashes between herders and farmers wouldn’t have arisen because the herdsman himself doesn’t even like roaming about, suffering himself and his animals. By this method, the animals are not even as productive as they should be. So, it is the government that should solve this problem and make sure that it helps the communities and herdsmen to avoid friction. Government is not doing that. And the interventions on that are pseudo because, for an instance, I have studied the culture of the herdsmen, and as a farmer, I am involved with the herdsmen. Not only that, I am also affected by the activities of cattle hustlers because I have lost about 200 cattle. So, I know this problem because I have been following discussions on it; the intervention is closed on it. I have only found one person who has discussed this problem intelligently. I read the discussion either in the Daily Sun or Daily Trust of last week.