Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s Cow Diplomacy: Rationes Decidendi and Implications for True Federalism

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INTERNATIoNAL BY Bola A. Akinterinwa

If there is anyone truly struggling for a true federal system in Nigeria of today, it is undoubtedly Arakunrin Rotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, the Executive Governor of the Sunshine State, Ondo. He reportedly, on Monday, January 10, 2022, advised the South-west to stop eating beef, which is meat from cattle, because the region is losing about N2.5 bn to the consumption of beef.

The advice was given through his Special Adviser on Agriculture, Mr. Akin Olotu, during a meeting with some stakeholders in Akure. As explained by Mr. Olotu, ‘the President said grow what you eat and eat what you grow. I have been a serious advocate and I am re-emphasizing it, please let us use chicken for our ceremonies.’ More important, Mr. has it that ‘there is a N2.5bn beef market in the southwest every day. It means every day in the southwest, we send the sum of N2.5bn out of the Southwest. That is the bedrock of poverty in the region.’ And perhaps most significantly, Mr. Olotu warned that ‘we have a region that is not retaining money. Don’t let any politician tell you any abracadabra, if we don’t reverse that trend, we will continue to remain on the same spot.’

From the foregoing, there are five apparent reasons for the advice. The Ondo Governor has considered that the logic of eating what you grow as espoused by President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), was not only good, but should also be applicable in the Southwest region, and particularly in Ondo State.

This is the first rationale. Secondly, Governor Akeredolu believes that eating white meat, broilers, is quite healthier than eating cattle meat. Put differently, emphasis is placed on living a healthier life. The third reason is the economic consideration: how to retain the N2.5 bn that is being exported outside of the region on daily basis. Fourthly, there is the need to avoid staying on the same spot, living in poverty for no good reasons. Fifthly, not eating cattle beef has the potential to enhance increased productivity in chicken farming.

Without any whiff of doubt, Governor Akeredolu could not have been more correct. The policy is economically poverty alleviating in conception, politically self-protecting in design, strategically patriotic in the quest for true federalism, and very thought-provoking in outcome. Consequently, contrary to the belief of Dr. Reuben Abati that only ‘non-serious’ people can support the policy (vide the Arise News TV Morning Show of last Monday 10th January), I do support the policy and from a perspective of seriousness of purpose, I posit that the policy has the potential to help enthrone true federalism in Nigeria, and by so doing, also sustaining national unity. Thus, Governor Akeredolu is another true federalism activist, using the tool of cow diplomacy to achieve it.

Understanding the Rationes Decidendi

Rationes Decidendi, a Latin word, is a resultant from ratiocination which is an act of or process of reasoning. Ratione (or ratio) decidendi is simple the reason for taking a decision. Interrogatively put, what informed the advice on promoting chicken farming in the southwestern region of Nigeria to the detriment of importation of cattle beef? Let us ratiocinate a bit here and the see the great extent to which Governor Akeredolu’s cow diplomacy can solve the many problems of national insecurity, galloping corruption and enthroning a vibrant economy.

First, Akeredolu’s advice is an indirect, if not a direct, response to PMB’s alleged agenda of Fulanisation and Islamisation. From various perspectives, PMB has not shown much interest in addressing the concerns of people who complain about the criminal mistreatment of farmers whose farms and produce are destroyed by the Fulani herders and their cattle. Law enforcement agents are always reported to be fearful of arresting or prosecuting any erring Fulani herders who reportedly rape, maim and even kill their victims.

In this regard, it is important to note that the Ondo State government is not opposed to cattle rearing or to Fulani herdsmen per se. Its position is that Fulani herdsmen need not live in the forests where it is rightly believed to be a terra cognita for kidnapping and other anti-society activities. The sponsors of the herdsmen argue that forests, bushes, etc., belong to the Federal Government, and therefore to all people of Nigeria. In other words, they believe that there is terra nullius (land not belonging to anyone) in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

And true enough, PMB has not helped matters in any good way. He came up with different policy directives that divide, rather than uniting. The May 2019 Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) Settlement policy is one case in point. As told by Mallam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to PMB on Media and

Publicity, the policy is ‘to curb open grazing of animals that continue to pose security threats to farmers and herders. The overall benefit to the nation includes a drastic reduction in conflicts between herders and farmers, a boost in animal protection complete with a value chain that will increase the quality and hygiene of livestock in terms of beef and milk production, increased quality of feeding and access to animal care and private sector participation in commercial pasture production by way of investments.

Other gains are job creation, access to credit facilities, security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling.’

For this purpose, the Federal Government gazetted lands in all the 36 States of the country. Some States, 12, accepted to give land for the purpose. The Federal Government is reportedly thinking of establishing cattle markets, have animal farmers and cattle herders live in the RUGA settlements, which are to have adequate basic amenities (schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets, and manufacturing entities), 2000 jobs are to be provided. However, some states, particularly the southern States, kicked against it, believing that the policy implies the forceful acquisition of state land for private businesses.

In the words of Rotimi Akeredolu, for example, ‘a lot of our land is already earmarked for forest reserves. The Federal Government must understand why we need to be strategic in our decision making.

We implore the Federal Government to revisit the proposal based on feedback from the different States and act accordingly.’ Governor Akeredolu is the Chairman of the Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum.

When the RUGA agenda appears to be strongly resisted in the south of the country, PMB came up with another strategy of the colonial grazing routes, which has been overtaken by the 1978 Land Use Act.

This fresh attempt also generated another heated controversy. In the eyes of the public, the whole exercise is nothing more than to grab land for the Fulani who are believed, rightly or wrongly, not to own land.

They came to settle in Nigeria where all lands were already titled.

Indeed, many opponents truly saw the RUGA policy as an instrument of Fulanisation, but PMB’s response to the opposition was very political and subjective as evidenced in the evaluation of government’s arguments of the opponents of the policy: ‘mostly, these are state leaders that have no explanation to offer their people for continued non-payment of workers’ salaries.’ Why should the non- payment of salaries be raised by PMB when the state governments are complaining about the brutalities of the Fulani herdsmen?

When the southern Governors decided not to concede any land based on the subsisting Land Use Act and federalism, the issue became a south versus north problem. The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam El Rufai, said in a press interview that Governor Akeredolu made a law that he would not be able to implement and that he was only politicizing the question of open grazing for nothing. Governor Akeredolu responded that it was not politics but a policy of not allowing the destruction of his people and their farmlands. He made it clear that enforcement of the law on non-open grazing was already a thing of the past and that whoever dares to destroy any farmland would be appropriately dealt with, made to pay fine. And if another offence is committed thereafter, the offender would go to jail.

The North-South controversy over cattle open-grazing became complex with the revelation by Governor El Rufai that he would be constructing a mega ranch at a cost of about N10bn and that N7.5 bn of the amount would be provided by the CBN as assistance. The response of Governor Akeredolu was swift: good development. But he asked: how many States have that opportunity of assistance? This raises the general suspicion of favouring some people to the neglect of others. Governor Akeredolu’s insistence was and still is the need for fairness, equity, and justice as basis of political governance and national unity. In this regard, he suggested the need to fund development projects from the Sovereign Wealth Fund rather than from the NNPC which is the making of the Federal Government and over which the Federal Government has enormous influence.

The essence of the foregoing is the allegation of a Fulanisation agenda by the PMB. This allegation has been made by many notable Nigerian leaders, including Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria. General Theophilus Danjuma accused the Nigerian military of aiding and abetting the insurgents. PMB himself is on record to have asked foreigners residing in Nigeria illegally to regularize their stay within six months. The expectation of the people of Nigeria is sanction. The people’s belief is to enable the inflow of Fulanis from the West and Central Africa regions into Nigeria.

Apart from the issue of Fulanisation, there is the problematic of federalism and non-negotiability and indissolubility of Nigeria within the framework of Islamisation. The frequent sermon of PMB is that national unity is not negotiable because the 1999 Constitution as amended so provides. The opponents of the Constitution argue that the Constitution is, at best, a fraud, saying that it is nothing more than a military constitution. But true enough, PMB is not on record to be doing anything concrete and convincing about nation-building and unity. In fact, his mantra by way of action, is promotion of nepotism. He promotes it flagrantly without regrets, thus strengthening the people’s belief in a Fulanisation agenda.

More disturbingly is the belief in the belief in an Islamisation agenda. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya made it crystal clear before he was killed that there would not be peace and enduring security in Nigeria unless Nigeria is partitioned into Muslim North and Christian South. The PMB administration only complained about the suggestion, invited the Libyan plenipotentiary to Nigeria to clarify, but Government has not made any attempt to investigate why such suggestion was made. Implications for True Federalism Against the foregoing ratio decidendi, the need for any constitutive State of Nigeria to seek self- survival, self-projection, self-confidence, and seek economic vibrancy cannot but be natural. It is a desideratum and should be commended considering the country’s apparent system of injustice, unfairness, inequity and conscious nepotistic PMB administration. Akeredolu’s cow diplomacy is necessary to serve as a catalytic agent of self-improvement, employment creation and increased revenue generation, but the strategy also has its implications, especially for the source of the cattle beef, the North.

The quest for true federalism became more pronounced in 1996 with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s intervention (vide Bola A. Akinterinwa, ed., Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Struggle for True Federalism, Ibadan, Vantage Publishers, 2000, 320 pp.), and particularly as from 1999, when the country returned to civilian rule. When most African countries acceded to national and international sovereignty in the 1960s, they adopted federalism in their national Constitutions, but later began to dismantle their federal systems, contrary to Lord Acton who has argued that federalism is the most efficacious and congenial of all checks on democracy.

As explained by Professor Ben Nwabueze, a leading constitutional lawyer, a true federal system cannot be well operated because of four factors: African rulers’ ambition for centralized and personalized power; victimization and oppression of political opponents; alleged undermining effect of federalism on national unity and development; and structural defects (vide his Constitutional Democracy in Africa, Volume 4, Ibadan, Spectrum Books Ltd., 2004, p. 218). In this regard, Nigeria is not an exception. This is one major rationale for the struggle for true federalism, especially following the end of Nigeria’s 1967- 1970 war. Additionally, with the oppression of political opponents and peaceful protesters, yet to be thrown into the garbage of history, there is no way every effort at fighting for the enthronement of a true federal system will not be made. It is in this context that Governor Akeredolu’s cow diplomacy should be explained and understood, and that the implications should also be investigated.

By cow diplomacy, we simply mean the use of diplomatic tact to contain, on the one hand, the RUGA-driven Fulanisation agenda, as well as contain the nepotism-driven Islamisation dream in reaction to Libya’s suggestion of a needed partitioning of Nigeria as the solution for enduring peace in Nigeria, on the other. Cow diplomacy therefore has the potential to compel an alternative thinking at the level of not only the herders, but also their sponsors.

First, any governmental encouragement of eating what one produces is logical as it enhances productivity and self-reliance at the domestic level, even though the right of a potential eater of beef may be infringed upon. In fact, discouraging people from patronizing the eating of cow in the Southwest is also very consistent with the Southwest’s pursuit of true federalism. In this regard, the notion of federalism may not be confused with that of a federation even though both terms may involve the same actors in the conduct and management of state affairs.

Federalism, though variously defined, is about the devolution of powers among the constituents of a State. As explained by Professor Kenneth Wheare in 1963, it is the method of dividing powers so that the general and regional governments are each, within a sphere co-ordinate and independent.’ The notion of being independent does not exclude collaboration or interdependence. Unlike federalism, a federation is a state in which there is a central government and constitutive states ruling over the same territory and

people, and taking decisions independently of the other.

Put differently, a federation has many layers of government that operate based on constitutional

division of powers between the central government and the constituent States. The point to note here is

that a federation may not truly practice federalism. Nigeria is nothing more than a true federation but does

not operate a true federal system. The agitation for a true federal system is a quest for movement from

being a federation to a true federal state as provided for in Nigeria’s 1954 Constitution. The truth is that

power is over centralized in Nigeria and a growing number of people is asking for decentralization

through devolution of more powers to the constitutive States of Nigeria.

One current controversial and critical issue is the deepening insecurity in Nigeria. Popular opinion

is that there should be State Police and Community Police as a better means of containing threats to

national security. PMB does not believe in it and has not even shown any preparedness in giving it a trial.

In the thinking of the Federal Government, State Governors are most likely to abuse it, but most

unfortunately, however, the same Federal Government is on record not to be better than the Governors in

terms of behavioural disposition towards the law enforcement agencies. The PMB administration only

complies with court orders when convenient. Private citizens are still aggressed by armed agents of

government, destroying houses illegally, and killing people in their homes without lawful justification.

The case of Sunday Igboho is a reference point that is quite appalling. His offence is the agitation for self-

determination for the people of the Southwest. Whereas agitation for self-determination is internationally

lawful.

Secondly, Governor Akeredolu’s cow diplomacy has the potential to create greater awareness

among the people on the need for and importance of true federalism. Federalism is an issue of concern for

the educated elite, but not necessarily a big deal for peasants and farmers. When there is a change in the

culture of eating chicken at social parties, questions cannot but be raised and when answers are provided,

the people will acquire new knowledge and they will be better for it.

Thirdly, Akeredolu’s cow diplomacy lays a foundation for true federalism. Southwest Nigeria

initially considers true federalism to mean power shift from the centre or making the centre weak and

the constituent States strong. This requires political restructuring. For the Southeast, true federalism is

putting an end to politico-economic marginalization of the Igbo people who complain about the

lopsidedness in the allocation of national resources and their non-integration in the country’s

mainstream politics since 1970, a consideration that has prompted the establishment of anti-Nigeria

movements. As for the South-south region, true federalism is about resource control. It is argued that

every constitutive State of Nigeria has the absolute right of control over its resources and the

responsibility of paying taxes to fund federal development projects. Whether the North believes in true

federalism is arguable. What is evident is that it does not currently support it. It supports the principles

of Federal Character, the Quota System in political governance as a way of balancing the conflicting

interests. Thus, the suggestion of Dr. Dele Babalola of the Baze University, Abuja, that ‘Nigeria’s

fiscal federalism should emphasize revenue generation rather than revenue distribution, as this would

ensure fiscal viability of the States’ is apt. Akeredolu’s cow diplomacy is about revenue generation

aimed at fiscal viability and therefore cannot be rightly faulted.