Nigeria continues to hover daily on the edges of precipice as one group of insurgents after another continue to challenge its legitimacy and above all its monopoly over the legitimate use of violence within its jurisdiction. If we accept Max Weber’s definition of the state, as political scientists have done, the successful claim to absolute monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory is the key feature and distinguishing characteristic of a state. In that case, Nigeria’s claim to statehood is tenuous, except in the juridical sense where the international community continue to afford it legitimacy regardless of its ability to project its powers within its territorial boundary.
Over two years now, precisely since the coming to power of President Mohammadu Buhari, clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in different parts of the country have become endemic and is dividing Nigerians along ethnic and religious lines and threatening the peace and unity of the country. Although clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers been a recurring problem in Nigeria, the renewed frequency, barbarity and murderous dimension of the crisis is becoming worrisome. The inability of the government to stop it is now emboldening groups to go on wholesale massacres and elimination of whole communities – including helpless women, children, the elderly and infirm – as a way of settling supposed scores.
Shockingly, the reaction of government to these killings and counter killings have followed one trend: deafening silence at first and only half-hearted response that fails to stop the killings and refusal or inability to apprehend the killers and bring them to justice.
In a way, this speaks volume about the state of law and order in the country and citizens’ respect for the rule of law. A situation whereby people resort to self-help shows clearly they have lost faith with the ability of the state to ensure justice in the country. This can only lead to anarchy and chaos.
We urge the government to do a thorough self-introspection and begin to take measures to strengthen its capacity for maintenance of law and order and ensuring that justice is done to all wronged parties promptly to strengthen their belief and faith in the rule of law and the legal process. We also feel the seeming non-challant way the administration has been responding to the crisis is condemnable. It gives the impression that the government does not value the thousands of lives of its citizens being lost to the frequent crises.
Beyond law and order however, the government must also consider the economy (cost and benefit) of Fulani herdsmen moving their cattle around the country. It has been posited by many experts that the system is very inefficient, prevents to effective growth and development of cattle, leads to needless loss of cattle and significant loss of value in terms of quality of milk and meat production capacity, and above all, leads to constant conflicts with farmers who accuse the herdsmen of destroying their crops. In many ways, Nigeria remains, perhaps, one of the few countries in the world where cattle rearers move cattle over thousands of kilometres on foot in search of food and water and to the market. That is why, for instance, despite the National Bureau of Statistics indicating that Nigeria had a cattle population of 18.87 million in 2011 – enough to provide for the meat and milk needs of Nigeria – the country is helplessly dependent on milk imports. The milk import, according to Audu Ogbe, Minister of Agriculture, is worth over $1.3 billion a year.
It is clear that Nigeria potential’s for milk and meat production is being hampered by its ancient and antiquated system of cattle rearing. Cattle rearing must be treated as a lucrative business that it is and not as a cultural hobby which it appears to be now. Nigeria must invest in ranches, grazing lands, rail transportation, processing facilities and power to maximise its potentials of producing enough milk and meat and above all, put an end to the constant clash between farmers and herdsmen for good.
The time for the government to act is now. We cannot be mouthing the platitude of ‘diversification’ of the economy and continue to do nothing but hope on oil prices to rebound and expect anything to change in the country.