In his book, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, published in 1922, Lugard gave very deep insights on issues encountered and his perception of the native people of Africa, from taxation to methods of ruling native races to land tenure and transfer. What I find most germane is his exposé on the characteristics of the African native; for if we understood our natural inclinations, maybe, just maybe we can make conscious effort to steer ourselves in the opposite, and invariably right direction. Of our management capabilities, Lugard wrote “he lacks the power of organization, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business”. He was, however, most impressed by our “lack of apprehension and inability to visualize the future”. That sounds very much like Nigerians in 2018.
We have had many internal conflicts in Nigeria that initially started out with a few selfish elites arming some hoodlums to foment trouble for their pecuniary gains, then the hoodlums metamorphose into full-blown militias that the center can no longer control. The evolution of boko haram and the Niger Delta crises took this same path, and we are watching the herdsmen crisis and still failing to anticipate the hydra-headed monster this will become in the future. If not nipped in the bud, and quickly too, we run the risk of turning every seemingly endangered community into a conflict hotbed with proliferation of different militia groups. The more poverty there is in the land, the higher the number of youths that will be readily available to be enticed as canon-fodders for these armed groups. Ultimately, everybody will partake in the fallout.
We have watched the herdsmen go from dagger wielding to Dane gun slinging and now assault rifle bearing herders, all in the name of protecting their cattle. In the absence of any decisive action by the government, communities now try to protect themselves by also bearing arms. Some state executives that ought to be firm in dealing with the issue are appeasing the herdsmen and paying them not to attack communities. The president too is begging communities in the name of God to accommodate the herdsmen, while a member of the house of representative is busy castigating impatient Nigerians for failing to realize God created the herdsmen to value the lives of their cattle more than human lives. Still we wonder why we are recording so many casualties at the slightest provocation?
Many people are blaming the Fulani who are the predominant free-range herders, and failing to realize the herdsmen are only hirelings, and that the only reason the government can’t act is because it is the elites that majorly own the cattle. The elites will not legislate any law that will not favor them. The problem is not that of a particular tribe, it is simply the elite instigating trouble in order to get another subsidy and free capital from the government as they are wont to do. People are failing to realize the economics behind free-range grazing where the cattle grazes across every land without paying any compensation for it. Ranching costs money and requires skills that the elites don’t want to pay for as long as the alternative to get it for free or even be paid for it remains on the table. That is why the ranching and managed grazing solution that the world has adopted as best-practice seems like rocket science in Nigeria.
Our leaders continue to fail in the organization of men and business, and continually display their lack of vision. Cattle rearing, like crop farming is a private business. What any serious government will do is legislate on free-range grazing and enforce its laws. Cattle colonies is another subsidy for the rich and is inequitable. Cattle farmers should be free to buy land anywhere they can afford in order to farm their animals, and the advantages of ranching and managed grazing are so clear that they need not be enumerated. This is not an ethnicity problem, it is a class problem; it is simply the rich wasting the blood of the masses to ask for subsidy. Nigerian masses should stop being as benevolent as to give their lives to ensure the rich remain rich, and the inequality gap remains wide.
Olugbenga A. Olufeagba