Recent Rise In Ranching Endorsement In Nigeria

In recent events, there has been a deluge of surprising endorsements of ranching as the pleasant form of animal husbandry instead of open grazing with its attendant terrible penalties for the normal well-being of Nigeria as a nation.

Ordinarily, these latest endorsements have to be considered as commendable and celebratory additional voices to the previous calls, appeals, and prayers by much greater far-sighted leaders that ranching need to be made a state policy, because of its inherent benefits and value additions.

Incidentally, the brand new endorsements are emanating from sources that were hitherto both champion of open grazing or non-committal fence-sitters in the entire open grazing-ranching imbroglio.

During its twenty-fifth Virtual Meeting, the Nigerian Governors Forum arrived at the consensus that the nation has to transit into modern systems of animal husbandry that will substitute open, night, and underage grazing in the country. In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, signed by the Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi, the Governors claimed they reached the consensus to tackle the rising insecurity in the nation which has to a large extent been linked to armed herdsmen allegedly working as bandits.

Before the position of the Governors Forum, the Northern Governors Forum had met on Monday of the same week and concluded that the current system of cattle-rearing, generally through open grazing, will no longer sustainable in view of the developing urbanization in the country. The Virtual Meeting presided over by its Chairman and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong resolved to amongst different matters sensitize herdsmen on the need to undertake new methods of cattle rearing such as ranching.

Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, called on the Federal Government to enact a regulation proscribing the movement of cattle from the Northern region to other parts of the country, to get to the bottom of the incessant incidences of clashes between herders and local farmers. In an interview with newsmen after a special lunch the APC Governors had with President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State late last month, Governor Ganduje argued that a ban on the movement of cattle would also address the problem of cattle rustling.

Adding his voice to the call for ranching as a national policy, the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, agreed that ranching is the best form of animal husbandry that would stop conflicts between herdsmen and farmers. Addressing newsmen shortly after meeting with his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom last Thursday in Abuja, he argued that apart from prohibiting the movement of cattle from one point to another and improving security in the process, ranching was beneficial to both herdsmen and their cattle due to the fact it would encourage healthy and profitable productivity.

While debating the general principle of insecurity challenges in the nation, the National Assembly did not only recommend ranching but also charged security forces to flush out overseas herders in the country.

Ordinarily, it needs to be a component of joy that the scale in the eyes of these newfound apostles of ranching appears to have fallen off at last, and they can now see truly that open grazing is outdated, anachronistic to modern animal husbandry and an invitation to the countless crisis in the country. However, one cannot help but wonder whether or not these new endorsements of ranching are coming from sincere hearts who have indeed bowed to the voice of reason or mere resort to subterfuge to preserve the age-long victims of herdsmen attacks off guard so that further mayhem can be perpetrated against them.

This situation is informed by the fact that none of the new champions of ranching has as yet stated anything about what needs to take place to some of the herdsmen who strut about openly with sophisticated weapons which they effortlessly set up against real or perceived enemies.

None of them has uttered even a single word of empathy to states and households who have lost loved ones and property to seasons of attacks from armed herdsmen, let alone appeal to the federal government to grant them some succor through realistic compensation. None of them has demanded justice for all who were/are directly or indirectly complicit in the audacious killings and destruction of property across the country, specifically Benue State, by the criminals who go about in whatever name

It is instructive to also be aware that these new converts to ranching were in this nation when the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, was the only voice in the wilderness, crying, begging, lobbying and praying for Nigerian leaders to acknowledge the evil open grazing portended and take pre-emptive action to tackle it. Instead of reasoning with and assisting him, Governor Ortom was abandoned, insulted, vilified, and brushed aside with a wave of the hand to carry his cross as he helplessly watched his people slaughtered for no just reason other than that they insisted on defending their ancestral lands.

Even when the Governor signed into law, the legitimate, win-win, Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Legislation passed unanimously by the State House of Assembly to address the herder-farmer conflict in the State, he was scorned and threatened with all manner of sanctions. Many of his fellow governors who ought to have stood by him, knowing that his action was on the right side of justice and equity, chose to rather be on the side of political correctness, deserted him, and treated him as a pariah.

Many other political leaders across the board who should have appreciated the all-inclusive struggle the Governor had embarked upon for the well-being of his people and country, either ridiculed and condemned him or maintained an unholy silence in the hope of attracting political patronage from the powers that be. Only a few people with conscience and groups such as Afenefere, Middle Belt Forum, Ohaneze Ndigbo, and leaders such as the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka constantly condemned the rape of Benue and different parts of the country by armed herdsmen back then.

From 2016 to date, Governor Ortom has consistently alerted the country to the alarming general state of insecurity and particularly the oftentimes unprovoked assaults on helpless, hapless communities by armed herdsmen.

Today, the cookies have crumbled, and what the Nostradamus of our time, Samuel Ortom, foresaw and forewarned against, is staring the whole nation in the eyeballs. In the past, it was easier to say that the trouble of open grazing and the attendant attacks were the business of Benue and a few other states in the North Central, however today, the geography of the task has been reconfigured and extended in scope.

There is hardly ever any part of the country that has not tasted one form of crisis or the other between armed herdsmen and farmers where lives and property have been lost.

To worsen the situation, the distinction between indigenous Nigerian herdsmen, armed herdsmen, foreign herdsmen, bandits, and ‘Bokoharamists’, appears to be confusingly blurry, making it difficult to really know who is who, and who exactly is committing what crime.

Imagine that Governor Samuel Ortom had back then enjoyed the full support of all those clamoring for ranching now, particularly the body of fellow governors and the National Assembly, collective action would have been taken and the number of lives and property wasted in the last five years of intensive attacks on farming communities across the country by armed herdsmen would have been prevented.

For emphasis, animal husbandry is a legitimate and highly lucrative business that all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe or tongue, should feel free to engage in, and Government at all levels can find ways of encouraging them. What should however no longer be tolerated is open grazing where lives, property, and farmers’ sources of livelihood are destroyed that cows may live. Or, where some criminals, in the name of herdsmen, go about with sophisticated weapons, causing mayhem.

“Better late than never” is a popular saying among our people. We, therefore, commend those who have lately chosen to lend their voices to the call for ranching as a State policy. We however appeal to them to take their agitation further by impressing on the Federal Government the need to come up with a decisive action promoting ranching, banning open grazing, and carrying of sophisticated arms by herdsmen.

In all these, we must commend security and paramilitary forces, especially in Benue State, for their efforts to reduce the frequency and ferocity of the attacks on farming communities in the State. We appeal to them not to relent in their efforts even in the face of obvious challenges.

To Governor Ortom, we wish to remind him that though nobody might step forward now to honour him with garlands for his bravery and consistent position in favour of the security of the lives and property of his Benue people and indeed the entire nation, history has already taken a kind record of his efforts. He must therefore not relent in continuously pricking the conscience of the nation to do what is fair, just and equitable to all, especially where human lives and hard-earned property are involved.

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