Ganduje’s Livestock Reform Conference

Ganduje’s Livestock Reform Conference


Last week, the governor of Kano State took his long-standing and consistent talk about a lasting solution to herder/farmer conflicts in Nigeria to new heights. His government organized a well-planned and well-executed two-day National Conference on Livestock Reforms, with Prof Attahiru Jega as Chairman. The issues taken up in the various sessions were so detailed, and so comprehensive, that it would require a peculiar type of blindness and unfair analysis not to see the fervent desire for lasting solutions behind the initiative. The frankness of both speakers and commentators was palpable; and it was all focused on solutions – practical, implementable and realistic solutions, that is.

This Conference was coming five years after the Governor’s initial Salvo on the subject of livestock reforms. After his previous, repeated, interventions on the matter, he has now taken up the business of driving very elaborate national conversation on how to end farmer/herder conflict in Nigeria. Is it all just a wild fervour for open Advocacy? I think not.

Governor Ganduje has successfully executed impressive ranching and related projects in his state. Others, especially his fellow northern Governors with vast lands, should go, see, and emulate, his bold initiatives. They will find a viable, and tested, template for the much-needed economic progress, social harmony and sound community relations that are missing in their domains at the moment. They will find a tried and tested case of sustainable inclusivity.

As the Conference was going on last week, I thought back to an article that appeared on this page on may 17, 2021, titled “Northern Governors, Listen to Ganduje, Maisari”, It was said therein that governor Ganduje “first made the call to his fellow northerners, but he was ignored. Then he tried, via Third Parties with media reach, to persuade herders to stop taking their cattle to the Middle Belt and the more southerly parts of the country for grazing. The conversation did not even begin. Then years rolled by.”

The article continued thus: “More than four years since Ganduje began his campaign for sanity in livestock management in Nigeria, events are coming to a head. He had explained, back then, that his state had enough room and water resources to carter for the needs of all herders in Nigeria. He repeated this appeal some two years ago, detailing the availability of ideal natural resources for animal husbandry, and giving good reasons why this should be taken advantage of”.

The video clips of the governor’s call to all and sundry was trending in the social media for weeks. It was well reported in the ‘regular press as well. But those who should look into, and take decisions on, such matters were not paying attention. They had more urgent matters to attend to. These urgent matters revolved around short term political conspiracies, procurement contracts and everything except the things that matter the most, for them to even remain in office without being shooed out by unrest and insecurity. While they were thus busy, feigning a plethora of excuses, the roof was caving in on us from all sides.

That is why it can happen that the very same issues governor Ganduje has been harping on were on the table last week. He flagged off the event and did not leave after the opening ceremony, no! He did not just strut off after the usual post-opening photographs and tea break, as people in government usually do, no! Instead, the governor sat through the entire two-day event. And he was personally taking copious notes while it lasted. His general aspect, as he hunched over his jotter was as engaging as it was sobering in its seriousness.

The overriding air in the conference auditorium was one of commitment to creating a living, and liveable, space wherein unrealistic demands and expectations, especially the unfair stereotyping of various sections of the country, are reigned in. The subject matter of the various plenary sessions brought out most of the issues that would be critical success factors for anyone who would like to find lasting solutions to the problems. 

Much of the points raised at the conference have been in the news for a long time, though. They have, however, also been so muddled up over time that the extreme subjectivity of most of the concerned parties has made honest conversation near-impossible. It is either some are speaking of long past, and often distorted events, or of narratives that were caught up in hearsay, unfounded claims and presumptive certainty. It was established at the conference that silo conversations, historical stereotypes, and language-induced stigmatizations have all combined to undermine national discourse in very fundamental ways.

It was a rich harvest. It reaffirmed much that should now be taken seriously and resolved, instead of being just talked about. The Conference brought out some point already made by Ganduje, years back point; wherein he “… took great pains to draw national attention to three things, namely: (1) The steady, and frightening, inflow of herders into our country, which he suggested should be taken up at the level of ECOWAS and stopped; (2) The fact that the presumed herders some northern governors are busy defending are also now more of gun smugglers and bandits than herdsmen and (3) The unwisdom of continued movement of cattle from the north southwards, especially because of its negative impact on the herds, the herders and farmers; in addition to the fact that it now posed a major threat to national security.”

Also, as observed back then, “The resolute deafness of Ganduje’s fellow governors from the north, who now routinely chorus a questionable defence of their cattle herding “brothers” whenever the latter seem to have issues with host communities anywhere in the country, is baffling at best. These governors were quick to protest the sacking of herders from a government forest reserves in a South Western state, which the latter occupied in defiance of the law. It certainly did not occur to the northern governors, while they were defending the deviant herders, that they were thereby actually supporting criminality. It also did not occur to them that they are also simultaneously suggesting that Fulani herders are criminals. Are they? …. To create the impression that herders, and especially Fulani herders, are by definition not law abiding is both unfair and unreasonable. It is really sad, no doubly tragic, that the very people elected to defend the people are engaged in a clearly unintended, stigmatization of Fulani herders as criminals in Nigeria today.”

The issues thrown up by last week’s conference included the fact of total insecurity for all Nigerians, irrespective of location, ethnic roots or religious affiliation. Hear this from the article of two years ago: “….those who are screaming from the rooftop about decimation of the Fulani have forgotten to ask themselves whether it is not these same Fulani “brothers” that are wiping out the north, either as bandits, herders or insurgents. This singular fact is the most compelling reason for us to stop fooling ourselves, across all geopolitical divides. Let us pause, think and then recalibrate our actions and choice of words. Why should herders come from all over West Africa, wreck whatever they meet in the north, as they match southwards, and still be defended by northern governors? Why? Homes, communities, livelihoods and values have been demolished all over northern Nigeria by the marauding bands. What, for instance, has Bauchi State in particular got to celebrate for its governor’s continued defense of rampaging herders? How has the north, or any Village Head in the north who has had his livestock rustled, gained anything?”

The above paragraph puts in bold relief the need for honest conversation, unbiased media reportage and sound policies that would aid our collective survival. It is no longer a matter of taking sides, when we are all in the line of fire. We repeat what was once said here, namely, “Initially, some could venture the view that herders were constrained to defend themselves against armed attacks by cattle rustlers. What now? Is that still the case? …. Impressive grandstanding, with little attention paid to the damage we are doing to national cohesion, is not leadership. It is alright to hold series of security meetings, all gearing towards getting the president to declare a state of emergency on national security. But this is not the solution many people think it is.”

Governor Ganduje’s National Conference on Livestock Reforms of last week, which participants said should be the last of such conference, was full of broad strokes and also great details for concrete action. Enough talking, everyone agreed! Away with the illusion that declaring a State of Emergency will make any difference! It is beyond declaring a state of emergency. The declaration of a state of emergency by the president will not end insecurity, or insurgency; or remove the fact that our military and security personnel are already overstretched. Let’s get real!

 Part of getting real is asking ourselves whether it would be as easy as it is now for herders to freely walk the more southerly parts of the country as they are doing now, once Buhari ceases to be president. Part of getting real is for us to ask ourselves whether it is not time to end the avoidable crisis around farming and livestock business. It does not matter which way things would turn out, in terms of the ability of farmers and herders to coexist. What matters is that they must coexists, as they separate environmental factors from the human factors fueling their subsisting conflict.

What matters now is for the nation to pull itself together, call itself to order and work towards better and more sustainable use of its human capital and natural resources than it is doing now. We have ample evidence, and still subsisting proof, of improved yields and milk from less itinerant cattle. The testimonies of large-scale entrepreneurs in animal husbandry at the Conference bore out the wisdom of Gnaduje’s long-lasting call for new, more rewarding and more sustainable methods and practices.  approach. Again, let us get real!

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