We didn’t envisage how much high voltage emotion and politicking this issue has generated. It is one of our characteristics as a country that we live with.” Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In two sentences, the Minister has exposed how we have ended up in this murderous crisis tending to draw us apart as a nation. The first test of a good or excellent decision making body – public or private – is to demonstrate the ability to anticipate the likely consequences of the decisions being made. Audu Ogbeh and Buhari, according to the Minister’s own admission, failed to anticipate what would be the reaction to the proposal to establish colonies for herdsmen. He even said that “the government is not seizing the land of any Nigerian to give to Fulani herdsmen to colonise.” To call that statement double-talk is being polite. Calling it high voltage drivel is more like it.
Ogbeh introduced the word “Colony” into the national debate on the issue of herdsmen/farmers clashes. Throughout history, colonization has always meant that people not indigenous to a geographical space – USA, Australia, South Africa — enter it and claim possession of all or parts of it. As a practical example, who will make use of cattle colony established in Imo State, Cross River, Lagos? Certainly not the people of Imo, Bayelsa or Lagos, but herdsmen who are mostly Fulanis. Thus, when Ogbeh in his infinite wisdom announced the colony policy he obviously failed to ask himself a question which should have occurred to a bright seventeen year old kid. Who will give up the land and who will use it? Then, the lie he announced when trying to give us assurances would have been revealed even to him. So, who is emotional?
Furthermore, state lands being held in trust by the Governors, on behalf of their people are valuable assets which Ogbeh wants transferred to the Federal Government. Let us leave untouched the question of where in each state the colonies will be established, how long the colonies will exist as FG properties because those are legal and constitutional issues which Ogbeh has not addressed and ask some of the economic questions he has also failed to consider.
Anybody who has ever been privileged to work on a strategic plan knows that the place to start is to obtain some credible figures. Right now, the first is the number of cattle to be put in those colonies – 5, 7, 10 or 20 million. Right now we are not sure. The second is the average number of cattle, rams and goats to be accommodated in each colony. For instance, 10 million livestock with each colony holding 5000 animals will call for 2000 colonies; with 500 beasts in each place the number of colonies jumps to 20,000. The average state will have to establish 55 colonies if 5000 animals are housed; 550 if only 500 animals are housed.
Where will Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Ekiti Ebonyi, Nasararwa states find the land to donate for 55 — not to talk of 550 – colonies? If the request for land is not based on the equality of states, then what will be the basis for deciding which states will give up more land for more colonies and what will be the incentive for the Governors of the states to persuade their people to give up large chunks of land for this project?
The size of a typical colony and its location are also economic matters? Ogbeh has failed to provide an idea of the size of a colony and the facilities and investment needed to get it started and to make sustainable. At the moment, cattle roam all over the country, feed, drink and defecate freely. Once placed in colonies, food and water must be provided daily in large quantities and somebody must remove the mountain of cow dung that will be deposited daily and dispose of them. Granted, eventually, the animal waste will eventually be processed into natural manure; but, it is doubtful if most colonies can handle that task right from the start and it will create environmental problems if tons of animal waste enters into the nation’s waterways from which people still draw their water supply.
What is the point of these questions and observations? That is very simple to explain. Ogbeh repeated that “we need to educate the herdsmen; educate everyone of us on the need to move away from what we were doing before that is bringing these conflicts.” Ogbeh himself needs educatin. Ogbeh is completely right about the need to change our policy. But, his approach will do more damage if the FG insists on implementing it as it is. On the face of it, the policy is poorly conceptualized. At the moment we have no figures to enable us decide the fundamental aspects of the policy. He is asking us to leave the familiar territory with its monumental problems to go off into the wilderness without a map. Enormous problems await us. Here is one.
Virtually all the Southern Governors, irrespective of whether APC, APGA or PDP are dead set against it. The first to send a bill to his State House of Assembly will be impeached. That, on the face of it will suggest that Northern states will support it. Count two out – Benue and Taraba.
Even the sixteen states which the FG claims are in favour of it will recoil when they are asked to provide land for 200, 500 colonies…
To be continued..