FEATURE ARTICLE

Tuesday, July 24, 2018
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IBARAPA, OYO STATE, AND THE GREEK GIFT OF CATTLE RANCH

n recent times, nothing has indicated the way Governor Abiola Ajimobi and his administration in Oyo State perceive Ibarapa zone more than the proposed location of a 5,000 hectares cattle ranch in the territory. He was happy to enlist Oyo state among the 10 states proposed for 94 cattle ranches by the Federal Government. The Federal Government has reportedly released N170 billion for the project through the Central Bank. Other states involved are: Adamawa, Benue, Eboyin, Edo, Plateau, Taraba, Zamfara, Kaduna and Nassarawa. Various news media have reported Oyo State government's intention to cede and locate a 5,000 hectares cattle ranch along Okolo/ Temidire axis of Ibarapa East Local Government. The government thought of locating this in Ibarapa land after it was rejected in Oke Ogun zone and the administration expected the "daft people of Ibarapa land" to start celebrating the Greek gift.

Ordinarily, the announcement should not be given any attention because either good or bad, Ajimobi's administration has not executed any project in Ibarapa land in the last seven years. But since this land is to be acquired for execution by the Federal Government and knowing President Muhamadu Buhari's interest in acquiring more lands for the expansionist interest of Fulani pastoralist, premium attention rejecting this must be given to this announcement by Ibarapas.

The land being proposed for the ranch was there when Ajimobi's administration started Oyo State Technical University, It was there when the administration proposed Free Trade Zone in Ibadan, It was there when it started grain silos in Oyo, and part of the land was proposed by the same administration for Oyo State Agric Initiative which the government wasted our local government funds on and later aborted. In the same Ibarapa East local government, the government acquired land four years ago for Oyo State Model High School which has been jettisoned. Within the same area, there is a piece of land proposed for the permanent site of the Ibarapa Polytechnic; this government has not developed it. When the governor visited Shonghai farms in the Republic of Benin last year and promised to establish its replica in Oyo state, Ibarapa was not on his considered sites. But why does he want a ranch to be sited here?

Any of the above listed projects will contribute positively to the commercial, industrial, social and economic development of its host community. Rapid development will be brought to the location if executed. Although with the exemption of the Technical University which has partially taken off with the funding by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) facilitated by Chief Bayo Adelabu, all the projects are moribund. Given the nature of Fulani pastoralists in the West African region a ranch for their livestock is bound to have negative effects on its host community and that is the only reason why the governor thinks it should be sited in Ibarapa land. The zone he hates with intent and actions.

Once our land is acquired for a ranch, the ownership of such land is permanently lost to the nomadic Fulani herdsmen who will now occupy the territory. The Eleruwa of Eruwa or any of his Baale or Chiefs will lose their rights on the land to the Emir or Seriki to be installed immediately by the new occupants. This is the same way the Fulani hegemony was imposed and made to dominate the Hausas and the Kanuris who were the original owners of Northern Nigeria before the Othman Dan Fodio jihad of 1804 to 1808. Within the four years of his Jihad, Fodio had defeated and conquer Katsina, Gobir, Kano , Daura, Gombe, Adamawa and other Hausa speaking lands and install his Fulani hegemony, religion and culture that we see in the present day Northern Nigeria. Giving the natural nomadic instinct of a typical Fulani man who has expansionist tendency of acquiring lands violently, more and more territories will be lost just as Yoruba land lost Ilorin to Fulani leader, Shehu Alimi who had conspired with Afonja to wage war on Yorubaland. Afonja (the host of Fulanis) was later assassinated by the Fulani Army Commander's son, Abdulsalam Alimi in 1824. Fulanis have continued to rule Ilorin till today. If not for the strong army from Ibadan that stop Alimi's soldiers, they would have taken over the entire Yoruba land by the middle of 1830s. This insatiable need for lands and territories to conquer will make them expand beyond the government assigned ranch lands. Before you know it, the entire Ibarapa land will be under the siege of war. Robbery on the highways will be at the peak, burglary will heighten up, farms will be destroyed, women raped, people maimed, genocide will start and lives terminated prematurely. Is this what Ibarapa deserve from this government?

Within the short time I had the opportunity of serving as Chairman, Caretaker Committee of Ibarapa Central Local Government i had the privilege of knowing that majority of crimes committed on our highways from Igboora to Abeokuta, Igboora to Igangan, Igboora to Iseyin and in fact Eruwa to Ibadan roads were committed by the Bororos and the nomadic Fulanis. This was at a time the government has not given them a ranch. This will become worse once their stay within the zone is given legitimacy in form of a ranch by the government. Apart from the above, the unending genocide or ethnic cleansing in Benue, Plateau, Borno, Bauchi and many other states are instructive, frightening and unwanted in Ibarapa land.

The idea of having ranches and cattle colonies is not all together a bad one. It exists in many countries and that is the modern and expedient way of rearing cattle world over. The biggest beef and milk producing countries in the world use ranches without constituting problems to their host communities. This is because the natural instincts and natural characters of the cattle rearer in the developed countries is different from the character of the nomadic Fulanis, the tribe predominantly engaging in the cattle breeding and live stocking business in Nigeria and the entire West African region. Nigeria is not among the top producers of beef or milk in the whole World. As a matter of fact 90% of milks consumed in Nigeria are imported. For the avoidance of doubt, major producers of beef in the world are: USA 20% of world consumption, Brazil 15.4%, European Union 13% China 11.4% India 7%. Only two African countries are among the two major beef producers in the world. These are South Africa 1.44% and Gabon producing less than 1%. South Africa the major and highest producer in Africa is in 13% position. Despite this, there is no hostility between the cattle breeders and the people.

My first idea of a ranch was in 1985 as an Accounting Assistant at Temperance Enterprises Ltd (now Obasanjo Farms Ltd). I was posted from Abeokuta to Aiyetoro, Ogun State to relieve my colleague on annual leave at the diary farm. The cattle ranch located then in Aiyetoro was a modern farm producing fresh milk, cheese and Yoghurt to the people. It was a privately owned investment. No government was involved in the investment or acquisition of land. In fact it was just like the ones I subsequently saw in Florida, USA and Europe later in my life. There is no earthly reason why government should acquire part of capitals or assets for a particular line of business without doing the same in other lines of businesses. By providing lands for these pastoralists, the government is making others pay for part of investments of the Fulanis.

As i write today, July 15th, 2018, all tertiary institutions in Ibarapa zone are on strike for non- payment of their salaries. This is coupled with the fact that the Oyo State government of the day has not constructed a single block in any of the three higher institutions since inception seven years ago. Workers at the College of Education, Lanlate are owed 24 months salaries, Employees at the College of Agric and Technology, Igboora are owe 18 months salaries and the Ibarapa Poly Eruwa owed 15 months salaries. Instead of paying up and strengthening these institutions, what we are hearing is ranching.

By virtue of land use decree of 1978 promulgated by the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo, power over lands is vested in the state governors. The federal government or any of its agencies cannot acquire any land without the consent of the state governor. The same decree also empowers the state governors to issue Certificate of Occupancy for lands within their jurisdiction. The imperative of this is that it is impossible for the federal government to forcefully take any land without the governor's approval. Although the decree was not explicit about it, it believes that the governors will put the culture and tradition of its people on land ownership into consideration before exercising this constitutional discretion. I will say governor Ajimobi should be extremely careful in exercising this right in Ibarapa in order to avoid the calamity that fell on the Aiyetoro farm mentioned earlier as well as untold hardship on Ibarapa that has been generous to him with votes on three occasions.

Just like any other ranch I have seen, the farm at Aiyetoro in the 1980s was an integrated farm with so many other farming activities and associated agro allied industries. The cows were imported from Cuba as well as the grass meant to feed the livestock. It was a specialized fast growing grass that used to make the livestock grow fast and produced bountiful milk and beef. By the time a section of the Aiyetoro community became disenchanted with the ranch and the compensation paid to the land owners, the grasses were poisoned and the promising farm is history today.

The government should see the cattle rearing business as the private business of the farmers. They should be made to stop grazing on farm lands and encourage pastoralists to set up their own grazing reserves after negotiating the lease or purchase of the lands from the owners. At the best, government can encourage the farmers to form cooperative societies and also make loans available to them for the establishment of their ranches. Private investors can also set up ranches and collect fees from the farmers who graze on them. In a similar manner, non-pastoral farmers and in fact people engaged in other forms of agricultural, industrial and commercial activities should also have access to the same type of loans and benefits. Giving the hostile nature of the tribe in pastoral farming in Nigeria and the examples of Othman Dan Fodio in the North as well as that of Alimi in Ilorin, I will vehemently say there should be no land for grazing reserve or cattle ranch in Ibarapa. Our leaders should make the "Constituted Authority" see reason to stop the avoidable future calamity. Our lives are more valuable to us than the private business of any tribe or individual


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