FEATURE ARTICLE

Sunday, July 21, 2019
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SOLUTION TO COMPLEX NATIONAL PROBLEMS: PRIVATELY FUNDED RANCHES INSTEAD OF RUGA

his article is meant to compliment a lateralised view of our Nationhood, the Nigeria project, appreciate all the laudable projects of the past, current and future government while also reviewing some of the drawbacks to our national development. No doubt, there are lots of challenges facing our nation; none the least is our diversity; which if properly harnessed becomes a huge asset. The myriads of problems facing our nation include the teaming youthful population with a pyramidal skewed population to the extent that 42.54 % of our masses is between 0-14 years of age. This youth spend extra 5-10 years more than their counterparts in developed countries before they graduate from tertiary institutions and then face the odd life of getting gainful employments for years after graduation. Albeit, countries where they originated from had long abandoned the knowledge-based educational philosophy, which make our graduates to be inherently non-competitive. Skills-acquisition complimented by sound knowledge and practice, with the ability to display such have replaced the old educational narratives. These challenges coupled with virtually-taught facilities never seen during training of our students no doubt has exposed them to significant stress; which when poorly managed makes the vulnerable subjects to turn to‘a survive at all cost’ strategy often to the detriment of the individuals and the society.

Other problems include lack of facilities, poor capital and human development indexes, high dependency ratio, high unemployment index, low non governmental employers compared to many developed economy, high harvest wastage due to lack of second phase (post harvest) plans including processing and step-up cottage industries that could have created a sustainable development for the most vulnerable rural and urban centres. Basic amenities, road networks, poor railway transport commensurate with the growing population and finally discrepancy between the wages of the politicians or executives compared to the GDP, to the tune of 25% of the GDP (Emir Sanusi, former CBN governor) being expended on politicians’ take-home earnings. The insecurity resulting from poorly managed diversity is the current prevailing climate in Nigeria.

Permit me for the rest of this treatise, to look at simpler, less ambiguous and compromised solution to a national agricultural development than the proposed RUGA system. Other issues will be looked into at a more appropriate time. It is not unusual that complex calculus is often solved by simple ‘almighty formula’. It is on this note that I will like to propose that those complex national problems facing Nigeria can easily be solved by an ‘Almighty formula’ of simplicity, fairness, firmness and dignified approach. The approach of yesterday, while it might have helped, may not be sufficient to take care of today or challenges of tomorrow. The problems of growing unemployed youth, ageing and uncared-for population, skewed approach to derivation formula for politicians compared to the less privileged peers in the nation, vicious pain cycles of societal ills, communal raids, break down of laws, and lack of enough security infrastructure, poor human development index, ever widening gaps between the rich and the poor and breakdown of traditional fabrics across the societal strata are few of the intertwined problems facing our great nation.

It is no gain saying that myriads of problems faced by Nigeria like every growing nation can be solved through a robust vision for her future, dynamic leadership at the community, state, and national levels with an excellent articulation of where we are and where we are going. This will give hope to the weary.

The herdsmen problem is one such area that has polarized the ruled and the rulers. Often programs are proposed without 'testing the waters' or discussing with the people, lacking proper market survey which consequently lead to hasty conclusion of the implementation of such on national scale. The power play and dynamics are often misplaced leading to lost time, prolong down-time; since the initial conception were based on abbreviated benefits to a few, sectional vested interests instead of looking at the cost-benefits and global-regional impacts summating into misplaced priorities.

The confederation (federation) structure is often twisted along national, unitary, racial or religious biases to the escalation of unneeded tensions. If a State that has the know how or people or individual experts are not from our clan, culture, religion or geopolitical zones it becomes a taboo to reach out to such states. Take for example sponsorship for prayers in the ‘holy lands’ when they abound on both fronts with camps for retreat, prayers and strategic institutes in our country. For example, the non-use of the first MINT Company in West Africa preferring to mint outside the shores of our land with consequential and monumental waste. What of the abandonment of our refineries for refining our oil which is in turn sold back to us or our cocoa product sent back as chocolates, or our palm oil sent back as Turkey brand, bleached-oil or our cotton or clothing re-exported or imported as ‘foreign or overseas-made’ while they originate from here. Private interest should rather invest in these laudable but controversial and economically often wasteful ventures. Indeed, our sense of patriotism and nationalism, and national values need urgent reawakening.

Policy handlers often present a non-caring attitude towards what we ought to do or are expected of us, with the result that the caution of a team and espirit de corps is often thrown into the winds. Listening, which is part of the ethos of good leadership is therefore not fully utilized causing raucous and societal ills. The basic necessity of feeding the masses, provision of water, power, road, rail infrastructure, safe water transportation, good health and education of the masses are therefore no longer cardinals.

However, fat and mega wages which are non commensurate with the hours of work are doled out to our representatives while the people who are represented are forgotten to abject poverty. Besides paying these fat amount disproportionate to Nigeria GDP and far above the wages in countries with a 1000 times better GDPs, we feed the fat cows from the meagre amount left for the lean masses including non payment or delayed payment of authentic hard working people at various levels of government (from the presidency, vice presidency, national and state legislators, state governors, their deputies, State representatives, local government chairmen, councillors and often to the level of our traditional institutions). No wonder we cannot fulfil our national pledges to uphold the constitution and protect the masses from wars, malnutrition, lack of education, evolve agrarian revolution and provision of water, good health system, security, sporting and leisure. As suggested by anecdotal evidence and observers, the feeling is that if these basic needs are provided, crime and vices will decrease by 50% coupled with employment for all.

Going back to the RUGA (the question of the moment) issue, the fundamentals at stake in nomadism are neither understood, nor are the sale of a better alternative done effectively with the communities where the nomads will sojourn. Take for example, the issue of the Federal government proposed-solutions in a very biased, one-sided view without involving the stakeholders, including the nomads and to be-landlords. A patriarchal Myetti Allah answers for this group of exposed nomads who are to function in a 21 century Community structure still holding tenaciously to their traditional homelands where their forebears were buried, ‘forbidden forest’‘Igbo Irunmole (DO Fagunwa) where their founders 'are resting'. Who does not appreciate that whatever projects we propose for these grown up will be a ‘paper castle’ if we fail to carry them along.

We are all aware of the waste called nomadic education, where billions of naira was spent to build schools, etc, and to forcefully teach the fellows how to read and write. On a revisit in following weeks or month, the nomads and presumed school boys and girls have left as the ‘stars’ have asked them to move on. The only people enriched were the patriarchs who catch on the lack of foresight of the leadership of the time.

When people are critically sick, it has been found that they recover faster by being cared for in their natural habitat or around their families. Nomadism as it is practiced now in Nigeria lead to scars of abuse, neglect, survival of the fittest, abuse of humans, children and animals. Such PTSD has left indelible marks on these survivors who are often left to wild life and belligerent behaviour that ensue. I propose that grazing land should be obtained in their natural habitats of northern part of Nigeria where they will be closer home.

A pertinent question is, how healthy are the animals that have been grazed moving over thousands of kilometres in the sub region in search of food, water, good weather and ‘star'-directed by astrology (Saa) and where the team is somewhere today, and tomorrow they leave for another terrain (from Sudan, Chad, CAR, to Lagos Enugu; etc..

Pilot studies should be done in places like Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa with a public-private partnership. Cottage industries can then be pioneered from home to provide gainful employment for the masses. How many 'Universities of Suya’will ensue in other parts of the country rather than Ikeja alone benefiting from the current arrangement.

The ‘government of the people for the people’ has no business to sponsor a culture that will engender strive, envy and unhealthy competition. Rather, the government should provide a platform to ensure a link of such communities to tap into international ‘budget loans’ provided by WHO, UNO, FAO, AfC Bank etc from where soft loans could be obtained. The government has no business to fund but provide enable environment starting with few pilot sites funded partly by Myetti Allah, and the above organizations. This will help to facilitate the ownership, accountability, efficiency, mentorship, and monitoring by international agencies and prevent colossal waste and capital flight.

In the first place, the identity of the-would be beneficiaries hitherto unknown will be better secured through Community, State policing and Interpol (where necessary). No direct money should be invested; rather the investment for grazing should be on the land. We should ask ourselves the question of what became of the 'Expatriate Farm Projects’ in Shongai, Kwara State and other States like Nasarawa?

The money so devoted for RUGA could be ploughed into building mass railway infrastructure and roads transport development to link all States and LGAs. This will enable easy movement of proceeds of this laudable agrarian revolution, so that the fruit of such projects and others could be moved to areas where they are needed, with 'ripple effect' mechanisms along the travel route.for positive development and activation of sleeping communities. We do not need ‘cow boys’ all over the country disturbing the peace of the land, far away from the ‘Daase dances’, picking up of their brides at the right time, evolving from the bush rusted, punished and with losses and subsequently melting their anger for animal losses on whoever they meet, no elderly counsellors being available for instructions, and cattle rustication resulting as they have to account for every loss and compensate for the losses.

This time is not a period where national leaders are targeted; abusing each other or exposing each other but it should be a time of sober reflection (on how we got here and consider the way out of messes of insecurity etc), facilitate constructive engagement in order to address insecurity. Insecurity will continue until we account for strangers at others’ backyards without any formal traditional homage to the custodians of the land, increase the police - population ratio, ensure appropriate education of herders, limit the pilot of settlement or ranches to few of the 36 states and in areas where traditionally these herdsmen are well known, ensure private NGOs and international agency sponsorship, mentoring, investment and monitoring of ranch building.

Moreover, cattle farming as well as other form of viable farm projects should not be limited to Myetti Allah but Ohanaze, OPC, Agbe koya and other groups should be encouraged to come up with farm settlements where cattle, poultry, fishery, fruit, grains, goat and piggery are encouraged to lift up the economy and population moral, in a most civil manner. All states and communities have 50% or more of unemployed or inadequately employed youth who are vulnerable and can be used by selfish humans to cause havoc.

I foresee if we do these, we can build youth facilities around these communities, villages, townships and cities including gym, swimming pool, indoor-sports to compete with one another in healthy manners, unlike these days where the ones who have a less beneficial objectives are the ones who talk more.

SUGGESTIONS and RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. To this end, I commend all to 'sheath their sword'; it is not how wide the landmass we are given that denotes how successful we could be. The state of Israel, and Netherlands are examples in this regard. The government cannot force policies on traditional homelands and on individual communities and expect rain from heaven over the projects. Enough of government wasted efforts. Rather we should encourage individuals such as Dangote, Otedola, others on Forbes list, and International agencies to engage with these farmers as they have the mechanisms to monitor and mentor whatever they start. Let us continue to reflect on mistakes of the past asking ourselves on what have become of laudable projects including Aladja, Refineries, and Stadia, Political Houses (SDP/NRC) built by the government?.

  2. Many individuals in and outside government will like to push the government into projects that the government has no means or wherewithal to sustain for their selfish aims. Enough is enough. Let the rich learn from OBJ who went to Benue to purchase land at his old age for fruit farming. I challenge our rich men to do this in order to engage our future generation.

  3. It is not too late to correct the ills we inflict on each other and the community. We should start with community negotiation or peace treaty between nomads and their landlords by ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ where the damages done on each other will be nibbled at the bud ensuring damage-control.

  4. Let sojourners in the land be identified, carry identity document, have leaders with integrity who will meet from time to time and pay their ‘Isakole,’ for the community development wherever they are given a home. Security should be beefed by disarming the cattle handlers, ensure local ‘vigilante,’ and Community Policing especially in flashpoints and ensure education of the community and herdsmen.

  5. The leaders who have laid their lives for this great Nation should stop insulting each other publicly as it leads to more confusion in the nation. They can identify issues, discuss issues but should stop insulting each other as this leads to heightening of the tension in the nation. Traditional rulers should speak out against injustice and proffer solutions. They should not shy away from their responsibilities and where the culprits are of their stock, they should be ready to recall them home, discipline them and deliver the renegade to a national legal disciplinary team.

Since herding is not a birth right, it should be encouraged across and by all zones and indigenes with an aim for private partnership-driven ranches with a NO to RUGA, Such entities should rise up where we left them in the 1950s and 1960s as farm settlements, for fishery, piggery, Ostrich, grass-cutter farming. There should be a return of Cocoa, coffee, tea plantation, and groundnut pyramids. Grains and other food reserves should be encouraged with the strength and glory of our youth being redirected to land, facilitating reversed urban-rural migration.

We are a great country, let us devote our energy to things that make us great, and not allow divisive issues and elements to pull us apart.

We need to stop the abuse that come with nomadism, attendant post traumatic distress syndrome, offer applicable and appropriate education, appropriate technology, liaise with and get permission of movement behind others’bbackyard, and stop the’ boast.’ I urge the presidency to ride on with the authentic ‘Next Level’ where the progress of Nigeria is not sacrificed over bait to a sectional interest, but for the ordained plan of God for Nigeria without the current distraction.

In case there is obvious ungodly agenda behind schemes proposed, I pray that all the counsel of ‘Ahitophel shall fail’, I pray for an air of fresh breath over Nigeria. I desire and pray and compel the wind of commotion, trouble, filth, retrogression blowing from the North, South, East and West to cease from now. We open the door to peace, progress, safety, and a national rebirth.

Peace! Peace!! Peace!!! Long life Federal Republic of Nigeria

Wishing all our leaders and the Presidency the needed wisdom and strength.

Aliens will not sabotage the greatness to which Nigeria is destined for.

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