The Rural Area Grazing policy (RUGA) introduced by the President Mohammadu Buhari administration may have been suspended but the controversy it generate among ethnic and religion groups in Nigeria has made the initiative, one of the most contentious proposals of any government in Nigeria.
The RUGA controversy virtually polarized Nigeria’s federating units. Each group interpreted RUGA in various contexts, taking irreconcilable positions which evidently portrayed the deep differences existing among ethnic and religious groups. It also tended to epitomize how any government in the country can palpably throw the nation into crises if it failed to take cognizance of the facts of issues that are germane to good governance and national unity.
To some northern states and their elite, the RUGA project is in the right direction and should be supported to allow the herdsmen the right to carry out their business of cow rearing wherever they desire; in line with the freedom of movement provisions of the Nigerian constitution.
The southern states however out-rightly rejected the policy purporting that the initiative portends danger. The crises generated by the policy among the component states and regions in the country cannot be far-fetched in view of the activities of herdsmen, who have become quiet fastidious in unleashing violence and killings on the people in various communities of the country.
In the last four years, the Mohammadu Buhari administration have pursued policies and inactions that seem to give the fulani ethnic and the herdsmen leverage over other groups and business in the country. This is why the states in south view the initiatives of RUGA or rugalisation as a suspicions plan by the administration to fulanize and Islamize the entire country.
Many Nigerians have in the circumstance become quiet agitated and have questioned the interest with which the Buhari government tended to promote what ordinarily is the private business of cow owners and its employees (the herdsmen). The Buhari Administration mooted the idea of setting up and creating what it termed cattle routes in all states of the federation and when this initiative failed, it proposed the establishment of cattle colonies and then ranches, with over N2.5billion already budgeted. These cattle routes were designed to give herdsmen unfettered access and movement along established routes to be designated all over the country.
To many Nigerians cattle ranches and cattle colonies are a subject which only the proponents of the initiatives will have to explain to Nigerians.
What is however worrisome is why the federal government under the present administration would want to elevate the welfare and protection of herdsmen and Fulani interests against other sectional and national interests.
The last four years has seen the administration pursue the project which seeks to ensure that herdsmen and their cattle get unfettered visibility in all communities in the country inspite of the reported mass of violence and other atrocities which has been associated with their presence in many parts of the country.
Does RUGA represent part of the purported strategy towards the fulanization project in Nigeria, for which many Southern and some Middle Belt States have expressed trepidations? It may not therefore be out of place to assume that the stiff opposition to the project by states, ethnic and religious groupings may have been borne out of the apprehension that the government led by President Buhari, a Fulani, may be deliberately and unwittingly adopting these proposals as a means to entrench the herdsmen into all communities and as a ploy to extend fulani and Islamic influence all over Nigeria.
With the antecedents of the fulani in their aggressive and conquest-minded nature, it will be impossible for any community to openly accept them as neighbors judging from reported cases of kidnaps, violence, rapes and unwarranted slaughtering of innocent citizens allegedly linked to them.
The ugly event over the murder of Afemfere Leader, Rubben Fasoranti’s daughter showed the angst of many prominent Nigerians on the menace of the herdsmen and the helplessness the nation has found itself.
The much more disturbing is the report that the herdsmen have formed armed vigilantes groups in some communities in brazen disregard for constituted authorities in the states.
Unfortunately, the present administration in the country do not view these issues and allegations as a threat to the unity and cohesive existence of the nation and have not taken decisive action against perpetrators of these crimes. The cries by Nigerians that the heinous and killer-herdsmen be classified by the government as terrorist groups have fallen on deaf ears.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently highlighted the consequences and likely implications of the violent activities of herdsmen and bandits to the nation’s unity; when in his popular letter to President Buhari, he stated that the herdsmen and famers clash had festered because the government had treated issues of violence by the herdsmen with cuddling gloves instead of using the hammer.
In his words, “today the menace has developed into banditry, kidnapping armed robbery and killings all over the country”.
The former President also expressed dismay that the unfortunate situation indicates that the criminality by the herdsmen is being perceived as a “Fulani menace unleashed by Fulani elites in different parts of the country’, stressing that many Nigerians and foreigners have continued to attach vicarious responsibility to the President Buhari who is a Fulani elite and of course, the captain of the ship of Nigerian state!
Without doubt the former President is a living legend of the Nigerian state and it is important that issues raised in the documents be not glossed over no matter the perception the government may hold about the author.
Fulanization and Islamization of the country is an ominous time-bomb waiting to possibly dismember the nation, if urgent steps are not taken.
Like the former President stated virtually all sections of the country have voiced their opposition to the promotion of divisive and anti-people policies which have the potentials for national upheavals. RUGA is a disaster and unless those promoting the nepotic and prebendalistie invectives stopped totally, the Rwanda experience may not be far from us.
These killer herdsmen we are told, migrated from the Sahel region and to interestingly turn around to plant them in communities in Nigeria especially in the southern states speaks volunces. It should not matter to any Nigerian, if as it is that President Buhari is the Grand Pation of Myetti Allah or MACBAN, what should be important to all Nigerians is that national interest and the unity of Nigeria must not be subsumed under any form of parochial, ethnic, religious or business interest. Nigerians should not be portrayed to the would as a country of cattle rearers. All businesses and professionals must enjoy equal opportunity of peace as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.