The nomadic Fulani and the rest of us (5)

Having tried to pose questions with a view to stimulating some thought aimed at getting citizens involved in the process of finding lasting solution to the problem in question, I, in this last installment of the discourse, look at what I consider some practical possibilities.

As it is obvious, at the heart of Fulani problem is economics. The cattle are livelihood for the Fulani, but so also are the crops for settled populations. While the Fulani need to graze their cattle, the farmers also need to grow their crops. If harm to the cattle is threatening to the Fulani, so is harm to the farmers’ crops. But the question to ask is this: in the 21st century, how effective and efficient are the practices, in Nigeria, of the pastoralists and the farmers in their respective economic endeavours when compared with elsewhere in the world? Clearly, with all the land resources in Nigeria, we are far behind in terms of yield per hectare which is why we keep importing all our food needs: livestock and crop.

While government has generally tried to boost agriculture lately, it is doubtful that enough is being made in the area of livestock, particularly cattle breeding which affects the Fulani directly. If one considers the fact that a higher percentage of the beef needs of this country is met from abroad, then it begins to dawn that the present pastoralist practice, cheap as it appears, is no longer tenable and therefore the need for government to make bold policy decisions and back same with purposeful action. Apart from the drying up of pastures, which makes the practice frustrating by the day, crises are erupting everywhere which are proving costly to the Nigerian society and intractable. The Americans saw this over a century ago and boldly went for the practice of ranching which has proven very effective in solving crises between farmers and pastoralists while ensuring higher livestock yield. Beef, dairy and other livestock needs of the United States have long been settled locally, with so much more than enough to spare abroad.

Some quarters have argued, rather insistently, that the problem with ranching in Nigeria arises from the breed of cattle that thrives in Nigeria, known as the “‘Yan Kanaji”. They claim that this breed cannot be successfully ranched. Interestingly, proponents of this position are of northern extraction, some of whom are infact academics in the field of livestock. This raises questionsas to the seriousness or sincerity in the quest for a solution to this problem from this particular perspective, as one would expect that by now, such professionals would have immersed themselves in researches aimed at evolving breeds that will do well in ranches in our clime. By the way, this same ‘Yan Kanaji breed of cattle has successfully been ranched and with fantastic yield in Brazil, a country which has the same climatic conditions as Nigeria, therefore felling such arguments flat on the face.

It therefore appears that, apart from the political-economic gains this present entropic status-quo affords some quarters, the real problem is about getting the Fulani to adopt a new way of life and living. This is a people used to moving from place to place and now, due to prevailing realities, will be required to be settled in one. It is understandably not easy. But if that is the only option left for the common good, should the Nigerian state not be bold enough to work with the Fulani nation toward achieving it? Holding on to the status quo for the Fulani as it today only amounts to a rather vain and costly romanticism.

Also, communities that have found themselves in conflicts with the Fulani must be courageous enough to lay their hurts aside and be a part of more productive measures aimed at bringing the problem to an end. A critical step is to seek a better understanding of the situation and finding ways of better engaging the state to play its role. Critical in the process is the role of legislators at different levels, and such communities must task their representatives.
A final point to make here is the place of rule of law in the whole works. In as far as the Nigerian state keeps toying with the entrenchment of the rule of law, ours will continue its descent into lawlessness. Vandals and criminals must be made to face the full weight of the law; that is the only way to ensure that people don’t continue to take laws into their hands, hence the anarchy. Nigeria must work for Nigerians.

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