ONWUASOANYA FCC JONES
Nigeria’s President and Commander in chief, Muhammadu Buhari has come out through his spokesman, Garba Shehu to condemn the moves by Southern Governors, banning open grazing across all Southern States. The President argues, like his Attorney-General, that the ban on open grazing is illegal, as the policy infringes on the rights of the herdsmen to freedom of movement.
This statement by the “presidency” follows the same pattern as many other unwarranted solicitousness on behalf of cattlemen by the Buhari presidency. The President, a herdsman, has become so protective of the herdsmen that he doesn’t mind standing against the entire Nigerian populace and even majority of the ruling class, to protect, a group of private businessmen and their employees whom some people see as overindulged irritants on the affairs of other private citizens.
The President’s stance on this issue, especially, on the grounds of constitutionality leaves no one in doubt about the President’s idea about every Nigerian not being more important than a cow. This could explain why the President never lifts a finger when these rogue herdsmen maim innocent farmers for resisting an encroachment into their farms to graze their flock. In the President’s mind, every cow on Nigerian soil is a Nigerian citizen, hence should enjoy the right to freedom of movement guaranteed in the Constitution.
That the President could be fast to react to what is undoubtedly a peaceful, well thought-out, overdue and preventive measure by the Southern governor’s, yet, has not deemed it fit to comment on the ongoing killings by hoodlums, herdsmen, terrorists, unknown gunmen or whatever alias the elements running over our country are christened, should leave us in no doubt that for the President, the welfare of cows is a topper priority than the security of human citizens of this country. Hundreds of people die on weekly basis, billions of Naira of investments are lost to violence and many Nigerians are left at the mercy of miscreants, yet, what our President considers most important is speaking out in defense of cows!
This becomes disturbing when one considers that Nigeria makes pretences to practicing federalism where States are supposed to be semi-autonomous entities and their governors at liberty to determine measures to govern their States to guarantee the protection, prosperity and comfort of their citizens. The attempt to impose his will on governors is in itself an abuse of the Federal Constitution which cannot be excused on an apparent ignorance by his retinue of nescient aides.
Over the last six years, cattle business has gradually taken the prominence of a State business, even when there is not a single cattle known to be collectively owned by Nigerians, nor is there a nationalized cattle ranch anywhere in the country. There is also no evidence anywhere that the average cattle farmer pays more tax to the Federal or State government than, say, the filmmaker. I will personally want to be educated on the special relevance of cattle business to Nigeria, that it has continued to dominate debates across all levels of government. I do not think that cattle business contributes more to the Nigerian economy than the entertainment sector or any other sector for that matter, yet, these other sectors attract very little attention from government. Is there something about the cattle that we are yet to be enlightened about?
By condemning the Southern Governor’s for banning open grazing and always standing against every measure to curtail the excesses of herdsmen, President Buhari’s administration exhibits a most pathetic apathy to the plight of millions of crop farmers across Nigeria whose farms are regularly destroyed by grazing cattle, thereby causing tension between these farmers and the herders, which has severally led to full-blown crisis and loss of thousands of lives. The President tends to prove those who argue that he places more value on the lives of cattle than those of humans, right.
In order of preference or relevance, one can logically argue that food crop farmers are more useful to our economy than cattle farmers, because while the citizenry can survive without eating beef, the entire nation will go into unimaginable crisis should there grain, cassava and other crop farmers be thrown out of business as a result of the unrestrained activities of cattle farmers and their cattle.
The measure proposed or already being implemented by these Southern governors is meant to prevent further clashes between herdsmen and farmers and members of the farming communities. Arguing that banning open grazing is illegal is tantamount to suggesting that banning of clandestine associations is illegal. Because, while the Constitution guarantees the freedom of citizens to freely associate, this freedom of association does not validate an association that is aimed at commiting crime or disturbing the peace of others, just like the guarantee to freedom of movement cannot confer immunity on a trespasser.
The President should concentrate on providing enabling business environment for all business owners and citizens of this country. The cattle owner is as much a business person as the rice farmer, and everyone of them is important to the economy of the country. The ban on open grazing ensures that one man’s business does not become a problem to the business of another man, and this will go a long way in eschewing conflict among communities and promote peace and harmony. The President no doubt would want a peaceful country and the proposal by Southern governors will go a long way in making that possible.