Averting potential genocide in Nigeria

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Nigerians have been wailing over the planned imposition of the unpopular RUGA programme on them and our lawmakers have maintained their dignified silence until this obvious leadership failure tears the nation, which is now at a crossroad, apart

By Goddy Ikeh

Unfortunately, many Nigerians are quick to refer to the horrors of the Rwandan genocide, especially now that the drums of war are sounding loud and clear in southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt of the country over the plan by the federal government to establish RUGA or cattle colonies in the 36 states of the country and Abuja for the Fulani herdsmen.

Except that many Nigerians are fond of engaging in self-deceit, the experience of the three-year Biafran war and the death toll was far worse than the more recent Rwandan genocide. The hostilities and killings in Benue, Taraba and Kaduna States over the issue of indigenes and settlers are so fresh in the psych of many Nigerians that the issue of RUGA or Cattle Colony is bad and divisive policy and a bad sale for any government.

It is really unthinkable that a government that has its hands full with battling Boko Haram insurgency, rampaging bandits and kidnappers and agitations over marginalization and the provoking issue of poor governance is willing to go ahead with such a policy that can throw the fragile nation apart.

Yemi Osinbajo
Osinbajo

Since the NUGA programme was made public, some prominent Nigerians, as well as some ethnic nationalities and groups have condemned it and warned of the possible consequences of pushing ahead with the policy.

For instance, the Yoruba Council of Elders Europe and America has written the United Nations, informing it of the state of affairs in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the need to intervene urgently to save a situation of potential genocide.

The group said in its petition entitled “Genocide on the horizon, call for urgent United Nations intervention in Nigeria”, disclosed that intelligence available points at genocide about to happen on a scale never known before, executed by armed people with logistics back up and positioned strategically around the country.

It therefore called for urgent and decisive action of the United Nation Secretariat, the United Nations Assembly, and United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect to save lives of millions of Nigerians.

“Indeed urgent, decisive and far reaching actions by the United Nations are required to prevent what even the world bodies are aware would destabilise the entire region on a scale never known before,” the statement made available to the Nigerian press on Saturday, July 13, said.

At the home front, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo had accused the Federal Government of deliberately looking for trouble over its insistence on pushing some policies allegedly meant to favour Fulani herdsmen.

Reacting to the RUGA programme, the President General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Nnia Nwodo, said the move clearly violated the Constitution of the country.

Nwodo, who had before now stated that no part of Igboland would be ceded to the herdsmen for occupation, by way of cattle colony, also accused the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of promoting religious bigotry and nepotism.

“The Federal Government’s violation of provisions of our constitution, on the administrative of land in Nigeria, its total violation of valid laws made by Benue State Government in accordance with her inherent powers under our constitution and its violations of extant court judgment on grazing and ranching is a clear pointer to anarchy.

Nnia Nwodo
Nnia Nwodo

“When respect for the rule of law is jettisoned and sheer power, religious bigotry and nepotism displayed, an inevitable resort to self-help and anarchy is being courted. Our country is sliding into avoidable anarchy and doom,” the Ohanaeze leader warned.

Speaking in the same vein, Nobel Laurette Wole Soyinka warned that the implementation of ranching or any other initiative to solve the herders/farmers crisis should be done with humanity as a priority.

Fielding questions from journalists about the recently proposed Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) initiative, at an event on Tuesday, July 2, the Channels Television quoted Soyinka as saying that the RUGA initiative is an explosive issue that needs to be handled carefully.

“RUGA is going to be an explosive issue and it had better be handled very carefully.

“I think there’s going to be trouble in this country if this cattle rearing issue is not handled imaginatively and with humanity as the priority.

“There cannot be any kind of society where cattle take priority over human beings,” he said.

He, however suggested that the ranching system can be adopted and that it has to be done in an area that will have no negative impact on human lives.

While lamenting that hundreds have been killed in farmer/herder clashes across the country, the Nobel Laureate blamed the situation on poor leadership.

“People are being killed in hundreds till today and it’s only because of the failure of the leadership at the critical time.

“The cattle rearers have been given a sense of impunity, they kill without any compunction, they drive farmers who are contributing to the food solution of the country (they drive them away), burn and eat their crops and then you come with RUGA?” he said.

Soyinka
Soyinka

Speaking in another forum, Soyinka and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, called on Nigerians across state demarcations to defend the sanctity of their ancestral lands against usage for Ruga cattle settlements.

The report by the Punch newspaper of July 8, said that the call was contained in a communiqué issued to document the highlights of the meeting between the monarch and Soyinka at the latter’s home in Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, Ogun State which focused on the state of the nation.

According to the report, Oba Ogunwusi and Soyinka made the call just as the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum raised the alarm that the Federal Government was plotting to repeal the Land Use Act, which conferred the power to control lands in states on governors.

The report said that the Ooni of Ife and the Nobel laureate, said that their call on Nigerians to defend themselves became necessary as the Coalition of Northern Groups gave a 30-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to implement the Ruga project for Fulani herders despite its suspension after a public outcry against it.

“In this regard, the recent ultimatum delivered by a sectarian order to the President of this nation to set up the so-called Ruga cattle settlements across the entire nation within a stipulated time, despite the national outcry, should be acknowledged as an entitlement under the bounty of freedom of expression.

“In return, we exercise ours, and call upon Nigerian nationals across state demarcations to defend the sanctity of their ancestral lands. This birthright has never been annulled, not even under colonial occupation,” the communique said.

The Ooni and Soyinka, who is the Akogun of Isara and Akinlatun of Egba, noted in the communique that the colonial contraption known as Nigeria could not survive another upheaval in the nature of the civil war of the Biafran secession.

They advised that all efforts must, therefore, be made to anticipate and douse socio-political flare-ups advancing the chances of a recurrence of such a conflict, no matter how reduced in scale, its devastating effects on the Nigerian humanity.

In its reaction, the pan Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, described the Ruga settlement policy initiated by the Presidency as an ethnic agenda, saying ranching is the way to end killings by Fulani herdsmen.

Odumakin
Odumakin

Speaking through its Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere said the government should not commit the nation’s resources to the private business of individuals.

Odumakin said, “There are three things that will solve the problem of herdsmen killings. The first thing is that the Federal Government should stop behaving like the government of herdsmen. Government must begin to enforce law and order and make sure that no group or people act with impunity against the other.

“We have cases of those who have gone at one time or another to report herdsmen’s atrocities but security forces would not take their reports because the President is the grand patron of herdsmen. That constrains security agencies from acting against them because they see it as against the President.

“Nigerians voted for ranching at the 2014 constitutional conference as a way out of this crisis and that those ranches should not be the business of government. Individuals should set them up because the owners of these cattle are billionaires but those who are moving the cattle labourers.

“If there is no ethnic agenda, which former President Olusegun Obasanjo called Fulanisation, there is no need committing government’s resources to individuals’ businesses. This is why so many people believe that Buhari is pursuing an ethnic agenda.”

The Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, has also joined Afenifere in calling on the Federal Government to embrace and preach ranching to Fulani herdsmen instead of funding their private business.

Recently, the Chairman of South East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, announced that no portion of land in any South East state would be designated for cattle colony.

Adamu
Adamu

Umahi said this in reaction to the plans by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, to establish Fulani Youth Vigilance Groups in the South East.

On its part, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in southern Nigeria warned the people of the area to remain vigilant as the Ruga project was not over.

The Secretary of CAN in the 17 southern states, Joseph Ajujungwa, said in a statement that despite its suspension, government was still working on the project.

Southern CAN called on every southerner “to be watchful,” stressing that “even as we pray, we don’t need to keep quiet.”

But the lawmakers, who are the representatives of the concerned and wailing Nigerians have decided to keep quiet. However, the federal government, which is in the eye of the storm, has decided to suspend the RUGA programme, while President Buhari has promised Nigerians that he would leave the country better than he met it.

Nigerians are, however, waiting for the magic wand that will rescue their country, which has never been so divided, from sliding into anarchy and what the Yoruba Elders in Europe and the United States described as “potential genocide”.

– July 13, 2019 @ 16:55 GMT |

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