The national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has lamented on the incessant herder-farmer dispute in Nigeria, saying it has taken on acute and violent dimensions.
The former governor of Lagos, in a press statement he personally signed and made available to newsmen, said that herder-farmer clashes have cost too many innocent lives while destroying the property and livelihoods of many others.
He noted that despite the efforts of some of those in positions of high responsibility and public trust, the crisis has not significantly abated. He stated further that it has also aggravated ethnic sentiment and political tension.
“Sadly, others who should know better have incited matters by tossing about hate-tainted statements that fall dangerously short of the leadership these people claim to provide. We all must get hold of our better selves to treat this matter with the sobriety it requires”.
“Both innocent and law-abiding farmer and herder need to be recompensed for the losses they have suffered. Both need further assistance to break the current cycle of violence and poverty”.
“In short, the continued progressive reform of many of our rural socio-economic relationships is called for. Based on these strategic observations, I recommend the federal government convene a meeting of state governors, senior security officials, herder and farmer representatives, along with traditional rulers and religious leaders”.
“The purpose of this meeting would be to hammer out a set of working principles to resolve the crisis. After this meeting, governors of each state should convene follow-up meetings in their states to refine and add flesh to the universal principles by adjusting them to the particular circumstances of their states”.
“In addition to religious and traditional leaders and local farmer and herder representatives, these meetings shall include the state’s best security minds along with experts in livestock and farming, land use & water management to draw specific plans for their states”.
“We must get hold of our better selves to treat this matter with the sobriety it requires. Until the violence is rolled back, we cannot resolve the deep problems that underlie this conflict”.
“We will neither be able to uplift the farmer from his impoverished toil nor move the herder toward the historic transformation which he must make. Yet, as vital as security is to the resolution of this matter, we must realize security measures alone will not suffice. Enhanced security may be the necessary first step, but not the only step. Nor do we resolve this by hitching ourselves to emotional,one-dimensional answers”.
“To accomplish this goal, wise policy must include the following elements:
1. Maintain reasonable and effective law enforcement presence in affected areas. The proposed reform of the Nigerian law enforcement apparatus towards state & community policing can help in this regard
2. Help the herders’ transition to more sedentary but more profitable methods of cattle-rearing. Unoccupied public land can be fenced into grazing areas or ranches and leased to herders on a very low-cost, nominal basis. The leasing is not intended to penalize herders.
3. Assist farmers increase productivity by supporting or providing subvention for their acquisition of fertilizer, equipment and machinery and, also, by establishing commodity boards to guarantee minimum prices for important crops.
4. Establish a permanent panel in each state as a forum for farmers, herders, security officials and senior state officials to discuss their concerns, mitigate contention and identify trouble and douse it before it erupts.
“We are a populous nation of diverse ethnic groups. We are a people of potential richness, yet to escape present poverty. We have resources but not wealth. Often, our words speak of hope and fear in the same breath”.
“In such a situation, harsh competition and contest are fated to occur. In the unfolding of this social dynamic, one group of actors has been pitted against another over dwindling water and fertile ground”.
“The confrontation has resulted in the needless loss of life and destruction of property. If left to itself, this situation may spread and threaten the progress of the nation”
“It could call into proximate question the utility of the social compact that holds government and governed in positive bond, one to the other. We have a decision to make”.
“Do we attempt the hard things that decency requires of us to right the situation? Or do we allow ourselves to be slave to short term motives that appeal to base instinct that run afoul of the democratic principles upon which this republic is founded and for which so many have already sacrificed so much? In the question itself, lies the answer”.