We live in a country where we don’t plan at all despite signs of the changing times and when change abruptly faces us we are confused. That’s the dilemma we find ourselves on this farmers and Fulani herdsmen conflict which the Fulanis have resolved to get what they want through mass murder or whatever means. People have been divided over what to do and not to do, some suggesting an overhauling of the grazing culture and suggesting ranching, others proposing grazing routes. Now which one is more realistic?
As population grows so the demand for land. Nigeria’s population is almost 200 million today and in the next 30 years there is the projection that this population would increase by fifty percent. It means more people would need more lands. Lands doesn’t increase/expand, it is static, in fact with global warming, even the land changes, and some of the nutritional lands would become waste if we don’t do anything about anything in a country where nothing is done about anything. As demand for land increases by the natives who own such land, it is crystal that the proposal of grazing routes wouldn’t work in the long run. So what are we supposed to do? Find a solution that would be win-win for all of us in a long run. These things are not rocket science. We have waited for too long and not see this conflict coming, or ignore it hoping one side would win and business would go on as usual, or don’t even care but just blindly support one side because we perceive them as our people. The reality we are facing is today is that it can no longer be ignore. Since it can no longer be ignore we must find solution to it.
In my opinion grazing routes cannot be the solution or killing your way into forcing everyone to agree with you. It is not going to be possible. What is possible today is ranching, that is in the long run, for Nigerian herdsmen. We don’t owe foreign herdsmen anything. We owe Nigerians everything. It is not the duty of the Nigerian government to protect foreign Fulani herdsmen and even make excuses for them when they kill Nigerians inside Nigeria.
The Nigerian government must learn how developed nations were able to keep their cows in ranches and they produce more milk and meat than ours. It is time to train our herdsmen in this trade. It is time to keep these herdsmen in one place so that they can become educated and not roaming around. The change is now staring at us face to face and the change is ranching.
In the short run however, the Nigerian government must devise ways to see how these Fulani herdsmen would survive with the farmers. There must be something like five years plan to stop open grazing. We must look at the future.
We, however, don’t owe foreign Fulani herdsmen anything. In fact we need national identity card or some form of identification for our herdsmen. Anyone caught who is not a Nigerian should be arrested and prosecuted. We need to change the West African law on grazing and bother crossing to protect our people.
Meanwhile the government must ensure they arrest all the militias, those responsible for massacres all over Nigeria in the name of herdsmen or reprisal attacks, and bring them to book. This must be done. The Nigerian government must show everyone that people cannot just commit crime and get away with it.
George Onmonya Daniel, Abuja.