It’s a good thing that some Southerners are suggesting that we begin to boycott beef towards ending the controversy over allocating unfair as well as illegal resources and opportunities to Fulani cattle herders in the country.
At least, we’re beginning to think out practical solutions and strategies to end the avoidable conflicts and mindless bloodletting we continue to witness around the country arising from this issue.
But maybe we should ask ourselves some questions first:
1. Who eats more beef between the indigenes of the North-west and North-east combined, home to the Nigerian Fulani population (Fulani, Hausa, Kanuri, and several others), and those of the North Central and the three Southern regions combined (Yoruba, Ibo, Ijaw, Ibibio, Igala, Tiv, Idoma, Igbira and countless others)? Think about it. Think of all the pomo (cow skin), cow leg and cow head that is consumed in Lagos and Ibadan alone, to begin with…
2. Is there anything in our Constitution conferring sole right and responsibility for rearing cattle on the Fulani tribe? And forbidding you and I from doing the same?
3. Is it Fulani people who rear all the cattle used for food and other things in every single one of about 200 countries on this planet? How do human beings outside Nigeria get their supply of beef, bacon, milk, hides and skin, without Fulani herdsmen?
4. Is there anything about the vegetation or climate in the South that hinders cattle rearing? If so, why are cattle being reared successfully in other countries and regions which share the same vegetation and climate with Southern Nigeria? And closer home, why are the Fulani (who should know better) doing all in their power to be allowed to extend their cattle grazing down South?
5. Has any one (especially us in the South who are under threat) bothered to research statistics to find out how many head of cows we currently have in circulation in Nigeria on average, and what the actual volume of our demand is? How many head of cattle can a hectare of land support on average? And how many hectares of land do we require to fill the current shortfall to meet up with the demand for food and other by-products of cows in Nigeria? In other words, does this administration have a target amount of land they’re searching for to fill a specific agricultural gap, or are they just out to grab as much land as they can around the country under the guise of cattle rearing, without recourse to any form of metrics whatsoever?
6. In all fairness, even where government or anyone else was to have numbers on actual land shortage or requirements; between the North and the South (even adding the Middle Belt which has been suspiciously and strategically named North Central), where would we easily expect to find this land, especially without displacing other people? Do we realise that it’s only in the far North of Nigeria that you can drive for about 150km or more without finding any meaningful form of human settlement? If we’re genuinely looking for land for grazing, can we in all sincerity say that we wouldn’t find enough land in just 3 or 4 States in the far North that could support all the cattle we require to meet the needs of the whole country, and even the same number or more for export?
7. As an extension to this, and considering that cows are raised as commercial products, and not as pets, what stops the Fulani as principal, if not sole, operators in the sector (for now), from finding land in States where they’re indigenes? With all the advantages advertised for the failed (or suspended) Ruga Project (investments, infrastructure, educational and health facilities, etc), would you not expect any rational group of persons to try to domicile such enticingly beneficial settlements within their own communities or States alone? One would have expected that they’d even go a step further to insist on funding these investment by themselves as individuals, cooperatives, communities or States so as to have sole rights to the resulting products and benefits. What exactly is behind this generosity of insisting on spreading the benefits of this BUSINESS to other communities and States, even where those States stoutly reject them? Did we all watch the threat Press Statement by a certain Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, purportedly on behalf of Northern groups last week, issuing a 30-day ultimatum to both the Federal Government and uncooperative State Governments to accept and implement the obnoxious Ruga Project? If, on the other hand, the nomadic Fulani herdsmen, or at least majority of them claim not to have communities to which they belong as indigenes in the country, is the Federal Government suggesting we surrender our ancestral lands to non-Nigerians as assets for their business, while we still pay them in full to buy the products of that business?
8. As I said before, boycotting beef is one option. The trending illustration on the historical boycott of segregated buses in the United States following the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to surrender her seat to a younger white man in 1955 is actually quite instructive. But don’t forget that the blacks who boycotted buses to protest the arrest of Rosa Parks did not stop going to work, to church and to other places they had to go to. They still went to those places by trekking or by ALTERNATIVE means of transport. Considering that we consume more beef than those who rear them (for us), what stops us from adopting the alternative of beginning to rear cattle by ourselves to meet our needs and even to export to other countries? What stops our States in the South and the Middle Belt from coming together to draw up an accelerated programme for cattle breeding, using the highest yield species available worldwide; the most modern techniques and technology; and in partnership with experts from around the globe? Why must we choose the self-defeatist option of removing beef from our diet simply because we don’t wish to eat Fulani beef? Is kolanut not planted more in the South and consumed more in the North?
9. This administration claims that all the forms of interventions they’ve tried to impose on us are aimed at ending the mindless blood letting arising from conflicts between Fulani herdsmen (or bandits or immigrants or terrorists or whatever we wish to call them) and communities where they try to settle or graze. These proposed interventions have metamorphosed from Cattle Routes to Cattle Colonies, to Ruga, and to the next one which is sure to come (possibly secretly smuggled into the recently approved National Livestock Plan). The question is, what led to letting blood in any community in the first place over claiming settlement or grazing rights, when it is not your community? Why did you leave your own community where you’ve lived and grazed for years to another one in the first place? If desertification is encroaching and the Chad Lake is shrinking, what have your leaders done to prevent it in all the years they’ve controlled government at the centre in the country, both directly and indirectly? What happened to all the large scale reforestation success stories we read everyday from around the world, from such diverse locations as South Korea, Mexico, and our African neighbour Kenya, and what stops us from replicating same in the far North of our country? When all the vegetation in the South is similarly consumed by cattle, where would these herdsmen relocate to with their cattle, the Atlantic Ocean? Please check out some reforestation success stories at https://insteading.com/blog/reforestation-projects/.
10. If we solve this (man-made) “problem” of rights to grazing land or routes, what else would the Fulani (and specifically those promoting this cattle land agenda, and their non-Fulani foot soldiers, by the way) offer as excuse for this sense of entitlement and the ceaseless agitation for land around the country to rear cattle to “satisfy us”, and all the attendant blood letting which has virtually always gone on without arrest, prosecution, punishment or any other form of deterrent measures by this administration? When they realise that others have begun to rear their own cattle (if our own brothers and sisters don’t connive with them to thwart our efforts as they usually do, in the name of personal gain or party loyalty), what will be their new excuse for wiping out entire communities purportedly in defence of their cattle or as retribution for the murder or theft of their cows? What will they be left with to make them feel that you owe it to them to share your father’s land in two, and give one half to them to raise cows for you to consume? Which brings me to my last two questions or points…
11. Is this administration really simply looking for access to land and waterways around the 36 States of our country for innocent livestock (business) development, or is it just a veil for a less noble agenda to give uncommon, illegal and unjustifiable global access and advantage to one out of almost 500 tribes and ethnic nationalities in our country?
12. The Government of Akwa Ibom State under its present visionary leadership is on good record to be making effort to establish a modern ranch for cattle in partnership with experts from Mexico for both local consumption and export. Kudos. Beyond such a commendable move, and beyond all our activity on social media, what are we as a larger region comprising the Middle Belt and the entire South doing, as individuals, as State Governments and as a regional entity, to address this festering issue which has obviously grim, if not catastrophic, potentials to cause chaos and degenerate into a crisis which would engulf our entire nation and subregion if not managed properly and speedily?
Long and short, I think it’s a good idea to consider boycotting beef in protest of all the controversy and crisis arising from the process of raising the cows that produce that beef by a single ethnic group in the country.
However, as we all know, expecting all non-Fulanis resident in Nigeria to comply with such a demand is a pipe dream. Secondly, it would be an act of cowardice and surrender, and an admission of failure by all other ethnic groups, that the Fulani truly deserve the virtual monopoly they presently enjoy in cattle breeding in the country. Consequently, they deserve for all their demands to be met in order for them to continue to meet this exclusive, if not sacred, responsibility. Note that such demand would include the right to trespass and destroy any farmland anywhere in the country, and to ransack the host communities, kill or rape every living thing they find there, and forcefully take over their land for grazing or settlement for as long as they wish.
In the alternative, we could consider “relieving” these “innocent and overworked” nomadic Fulani herdsmen of this national responsibility and onerous “burden” of meeting our cow protein needs by creating alternative sources. That way, we would no longer need to be called upon (or blackmailed) to provide to them, free of charge, resources and opportunities for their business within our respective domains, which other business promoters are paying for without complaining.
More importantly, it would give us the only real opportunity to determine whether all the agitation and struggle has arisen from a simple quest for opportunities to graze cattle, or whether that demand has only been a cover for a less honourable, self serving and possibly sinister colonialist agenda of this administration in favour of the ethnic group of our current Head of State.
It may also help us to be mindful that this issue is a time bomb. The clock is ticking. Promoters and their agents are planning and working hard on both sides of the divide, and time is not our friend on this matter.
A stitch in time will save several others.
May the good Lord guide us accordingly.
A Globally Concerned Nigerian.