By Samuel Nwite
“RUGA was a collective effort and collaboration to put an end to the unending clashes between our people and farmers, but was suspended unreasonably by the FG. We won’t take responsibility for any attack or honor any meeting concerning insecurity henceforth.”
This is how the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) responded to the suspension of Ruga settlement initiative by the Federal Government. The statement beams with fear, threat, arrogance and defiance of constituted authority. The fear that has been entertained by so many Nigerians in the wake of the Ruga initiative, that there is more to grazing in the Ruga initiative than people were told.
In support of this call, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has issued a 30 day ultimatum to the Governors who are opposed to the Ruga settlement initiative to reconsider their stance. The statement issued by the spokesman of the group, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, reads: “while we warn all state governments that stand against the implementation of the Ruga initiative to desist and give peace a chance, we place president Buhari and the Federal Government on notice that they must completely stop this raging madness within 30 days.” It started counting on Wednesday, 3rd of July.
We could recall that most Governors rejected Ruga because it does not represent the interest of all. Moreover, it’s not part of the National Livestock Initiative Programme (NLTP) championed by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC), as a practical means of curbing the unrelenting crisis issuing from grazing activities of Fulani herdsmen. Although the groups didn’t say what will happen at the end of the ultimatum, it rings a dangerous bell.
Miyetti Allah is a business group, and like every other business association shouldn’t dictate for the governments. Well, the antecedents started early enough for the government to quash it, just like it did to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the name of national security. In 2017, when the Benue state government introduced the anti-open grazing bill, the Miyetti Allah issued a confrontational statement opposing the bill. The president, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodojo, along with other leaders of the group issued a statement saying: “we want to state here that we reject that repressive and oppressive law and will deploy all the necessary legal means as enshrined in the constitution to challenge it.”
“We will mobilize our people to resist any attempt to enslave them through this wicked legislation ever contemplated in the history of our nation.” Miyetti Allah kept true to their words, they filed a suit against the Benue state government, one important detail they failed to give attention to is the legislative powers of the state, as enshrined in the constitution. The next few weeks, the killings intensified, 10 today, 16 tomorrow and 21 the day after tomorrow. On the new year’s day of 2018, the worst happened, 72 people were murdered in cold blood. The impunity was dripping with innocent blood.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state told CNN, “They have threatened to wipe out the whole state if we did not repeal the anti-grazing law, and allow their cattle to graze wherever they like. They say cattle are more precious than human beings.”
He added: “The rule of law should be respected and punishment should be meted out on those who violate it.”
Unfortunately, the federal government didn’t feel so. Reacting to the massacre, the then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Idris, urged the Benue state government to repeal the anti-grazing law in order to avoid further attacks. That didn’t go down well with Nigerians, but the outrage didn’t influence government’s insouciance in any way, not even to arrest the perpetrators. And that has been the biggest public endorsements received by Miyetti Allah. Emboldened by impunity, Bukola Saraki’s Senate leadership became another governance position they wanted to change. They joined the All Progressive Congress (APC) in calling for Saraki’s resignation. The Benue state coordinator, Alhaji Garus Galolo, was quoted as saying: “Saraki ought not to be in the office anymore as Senate president. Because has failed to coordinate and organize the National Assembly to offer quality legislation that Nigeria needs.”
The chronicles are suggesting one thing: Miyetti Allah is no longer seeing itself as a business association, but an arm of the government ready to achieve its aims at bloody costs. And the governments are playing along. In 2016, Governor Nasir El-Rufai paid herdsmen to stop the killings of southern Kaduna indigenes. A step considered outrageous by his political opponents and Nigeria at large. The killings did slow down but not for so long. It was believed that they used the money to augment their arsenal, and it didn’t take long before the crisis intensified once again.
So when Miyetti Allah demanded N100 billion from the FG in May, it instigated overwhelming anxiety for two reasons.
- The Federal Government (FG) may likely yield to their demand.
- The money will only result in more arms, and thus, more killings.
Although they claimed that the former president Goodluck Jonathan promised them N100 billion for the implementation of ranches nationwide, NLTP has that, as well as many other problems emanating from open grazing covered.
The aforementioned threat issued by Miyetti Allah and reechoed by the CNG is yet to receive a response from the FG. In a time when hate speech is seen as a threat to national security, Nigerians have expected the governments to deal decisively with such unguarded utterances like in other cases. AIT and Raypower, private news TV and Radio station owned by Daar Communications were shut down by Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) because of its program called “Kakaaki Social’ where divergent views of Nigerians from the social media are shared daily. Well, the NBC claimed it has become a platform to air bigoted and divisive views. And the amount of divisive rhetoric and hate speech being aired on the daily through the platform is enough to incite civil unrest. And on this basis, the stations were shut down, and Daar communication broadcasting license was withdrawn.
Although the NBC acted unlawfully, the justification was that National Security is paramount to freedom of expression. And all broadcasting stations have been warned to censor what they put out there. The anchor of the Kakaaki social program had to flee the country, citing threats to his life. So it’s surprising that in the instances that Miyetti Allah has shown far worse than what is seen on Kakaaki Social, no one has been arrested, queried or even reprimanded for an attempt to destabilize the national unity that seems supreme. And that calls for concern.
Unlike two years ago, when it was only the Igbos living in the North who received the “quit notice” order, the whole southerners are involved this time. The CNG’s statement added: “Accordingly, we remind the nation that so long as the Fulani would not be allowed to enjoy their citizens’ right of living and flourishing in any part of this country including the South, no one should also expect us to allow any southerner to enjoy the same in Northern Nigeria.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, we advise the federal authorities and southern leaders to heed the 30-day notice, failing which we would definitely be left with no option than to consider resorting to our decisive line of action.”
Although most governments have not responded to the threats, the responses from Nigerians to the statements issued have been of ‘anticipation of the worst,’ especially for those in the North.
The Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere didn’t hide their disappointment in the level of impunity that CNG spewed the callous threats. The national publicity secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin described it as ‘craving for war.’ He said: “we have read the very insulting, provocative and annoying statement issued by the CNG. We ordinarily would have rebuffed them but for the fact that we know for sure that they are dancing to the tune of the Drummer, there is a drummer under the river. They are insulting the sensibility of Nigerians even when Nigerians have suffered in the hands of herdsmen for the last four years.”
“If they have come to a conclusion that it is no longer possible to live together, let everyone go on their way in peace.”
This statement echoes the sentiment of average Southerner. Instances of impunity and security lapses have made the threats valid that many Southerners in the North are already doing a countdown to the 30 days ultimatum. In the wake of time where Boko Haram and Bandits have ravaged the North, to the homelessness and abject penury of many, Nigeria cannot afford another bloody crisis from a legitimate group.