By Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe
The conversation elicited since the Asaba declaration of the Southern Governors of Nigeria is still ongoing but not with the unexpected clap back from different groups and individuals.
Since the decision by the Governors to ban the much controversial Open Grazing, there has been a round of applause for the once regarded docile leaders, cutting across party lines, ethnicity, and religion.
After a successful meeting hosted by the Delta State Governor in the wake of the rising insecurity in the country, trickling from the North and gradually spreading to the South, there has been a disturbing disquiet from their Northern counterparts, suggesting that they may have thrown their weight behind the Governors’ decisions. It could also be that the Governors of the Northern States may be studying the communique issued by their Southern counterparts to ascertain the pros and cons as they affect a section of their subjects who may be affected by the proposed ban on Open Grazing otherwise known as Herding.
Nigerians were again rattled by the comments of the highly revered Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami who happens to adorn the silk of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria-a feat not easily achieved by many in the legal profession.
Malami, during a Television show tried hard to explain the difficult legal hurdles the Governors would face in implementing the law against Open Grazing. The man who has been fingered as President’s point man since the demise of Abba Kyari, former Chief of Staff, chose to trivialize the issues at stake by comparing Open Grazing to the sale of Spare Parts, a business largely owned by Southerners particularly the South East people. This is the crux of the matter which has not only drawn attacks against the Attorney General of the Federation from different flanks but has pitched him against very many Nigerians including the leadership of the Nigerian Senate.
But does Malami even budge? Your guess is as good as mine!
The man has not only enjoyed unfettered access to the President where his colleagues and other privileged Nigerians have failed. He chose to speak when he ought to be taking notes on rumblings from all sides, if any, process them and come out with a position on how to help the Governors get the backing of the law. Malami deliberately chose to forget these Governors would not have embarked on such a meeting if they were not under intense pressure to stem the ugly tide of insecurity, of which they are not even exempt of being attacked, as it was in the case of the Imo Governor, Hope Uzodinma.
Though the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu who also is a distinguished Senior Advocate of Nigeria with many successes in his kitty before his venture into politics has responded appropriately, and on behalf of every discerning mind in the country, it is expedient that I lend my voice in condemning the unfortunate comment made by Malami, while I align myself completely with the position of Akeredolu.
For those who may not be conversant with the issues or who have chosen to play politics of party, either for or against, this matter goes beyond such inclinations as the nation seeks an end to the problems associated with insecurity.
Herdsmen and Farmers clash are as old as history of human existence. While it may not be completely resolved, it is important that we continue to explore options and new ways to combat and reduce the tension generated by these ancient clashes that have recently escalated into killings of human lives and destruction of properties.
No doubt, the primitive but lucrative business of Herding or Open Grazing belongs to a particular ethnic group, Fulanis, found in the Northern side of Nigeria and stretches into West Africa and the Sahel region in Africa.
Much as they are known to be Herdsmen, there is no doubt that it has afforded a minority group as this the opportunity to access other parts of the country while walking their economic animals in search of green pastures.
They were not relatively known to attack natives apart from farmers who must jealously guide their crops from the invading herds of cattle.
But in the recent past years, these Herdsmen have become preys and willing tools for a desperate, organized clique of terrorists, local or international.
The battle for the soul of Nigeria’s economy by insurgents aided by locals has taken a new turn with reports of armed herders marauding not just the farmlands but the forests in the Southern States.
While I do not have to go into the legal implications of the ban on Open Grazing its merits and demerits, it is important to remind the Attorney General that the reason for the decision by the Governors of the South was borne out of the need to obliterate the threats of insecurity that is fast eroding our country, forcing a daily rise in the cost of food items as farmers can no longer go to their farms for fear of being killed or kidnapped for ransom by unknown herdsmen, popularly profiled as Fulani Herdsmen. The business of Open Grazing has been hijacked by invaders who may likely be working for the international terror group known as ISIS and now, ISWAP.
The Governors were elected not just to construct roads and bridges but to also protect the lives and properties of their people, and this they have suddenly risen in unison to do!
It is amusing and the same time repulsive that the one who ought to give life to the approach of the Governors is busy playing to the gallery by a nonsensical analogy. When has the business of spare parts for automobile become dangerous to human lives and properties?
Of course, if by any chance it happens to be used as an undercover by rampaging insurgents to promote an evil agenda, such as is the case today, the ban on Spare Parts sale will not even come from a regional government but from the central government, as we know.
It is becoming very difficult to defend highly placed Government officials as they daily exhibit a cantanrkerous, flippant and bitter divisive tendencies, simply because they are shadowed by immunity or ties with the powers that be.
Those elected or appointed to serve must see beyond parochial attitudes, devoid of religion or ethnicity, if truly they believe in the unity of the country instead of becoming self serving.
It is despicable for the Attorney General of the Federation to try to confirm the fears of a section of Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, that the Buhari-led Government is neck deep into the so-called “fulanization” agenda. By taking sides against a noble and timely decision by elected Chief Executives, not minding that some do not deserve the office, it calls to question the intent and purpose of some of those appointed to serve in Government.
While I have never been an ethnic or religious bigot, I make do to remind Malami that the “F” in his office represents not what his heart revealed in that interview.
It is Attorney General of the Federation and not Attorney General of the Fulanis. He should be reminded even as we do not expect any punishment from the President for such a myopic, careless and fiendish comment.
…Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe, is a publisher and columnist based in Port Harcourt