How to handle the Ruga debate




In recent times the social media has been awash with messages on the proposed plan by the federal government to establish Ruga settlements in Nigeria. From what I’ve read, the majority seriously kicked against it. Even recently while listening to Wazobia radio, the same topic was discussed, and like the postings on social media, virtually all callers criticised the government on this plan and condemned it because they perceived it as clandestine moves by PMB to colonise people in favour of the Fulani.

Though the plan is said have been suspended for now, the erroneous conclusion of colonising the people in favour of the Fulani is probably because Buhari is also a Fulani man from Daura who has cows. Ruga means settlement, and I still remember while growing up as a teenager in my village, we had Rugas surrounding us. I vividly remember going to Kiruwas Ruga in Lemu to collect fresh cow milk, watch how the milk was collected and the preparation of cheese. The Ruga debate just like the Shariah debate of 2001 has been exaggerated to the extent that critics are not willing to listen to explanations on the desirability of the settlements.

My desire to write this piece was borne out of the responses I heard on Wazobia radio, Abuja. I heaved a deep sigh that we have serious problem in Nigeria. It’s all about tolerance and understanding. Though, over time we have been living with Fulani with little skirmishes attributed to the destruction of farm lands or crops by cows, recently, the problem reached an alarming proportion where the Fulaniman is now an endangered species in a country he calls his.

Yes, Fulani have their problem which is borne out of their low level of exposure. We have regrettably read about farmer/herders clashes in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and even Adamawa, a state known to be home of Fulani. Even the traditional ruler of Adamawa is known as Lamido, a Fulani name or title. Now, it’s a common knowledge that a problem known is half solved. Fulani freely enter our farms and destroy our crops. Let’s solve the problem by allocating lands to them for their trade like we did to spare parts dealers as free trade zone, building material markets or industrial parks and industrial areas to avoid dangerous emissions from industries.

 I fully support the idea of establishing Ruga, and I opined this position last year on a Prestige Radio 91.7 FM Minna programme that let’s identify areas for Fulani so that we can check their likely excesses with rebuke or punishment. At the moment, it’s a free grazing for the Fulani. Unfortunately, most lands have been taken over by structures due to population explosion or farm lands due to the back to farm policy of government. If we appreciate the fact that the Fulaniman is a Nigerian and we benefit from the trade, it’s thus fair to create conducive environment for their business to flourish.

This Ruga policy will create more jobs, because the vet doctors will concentrate on many ruga, they will be able to attend schools thereby exposing them to the dynamics of this world. They won’t behave in a detestable manner again. It’s all about empowerment. I am of the opinion that the Sambisa forest can be reclaimed and allocated to them because I understand it’s good for grazing. The large expanse of forest from Kaduna, through Niger to Zamfara is another place that will help us resolve these incessant herdsmen’s clashes. The Fadama programme is in the third phase now and most states have imbibed it. There are many countries that derive or boost their economy from ranching and milk factory. I beg, lets embrace this policy so that we could have more peace in Nigeria. Finally, I urge our political leaders to stop politicising this for the future of Nigeria. It’s a place we can collectively develop.

Danlami Alhaji Wushishi,

Minna.

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