Local or foreign, whoever is and, for whatever reasons, implementing the current targeting of Nigeria for destruction must have done a comprehensive home work. That is the only way to understand the Ruga controversy and the resistance that has broken out against it. At least in Benue State, the sign boards have been pulled down, a strong signal of preparations to resist it. That cannot be surprising. The mobilization in the area against anything herdsmen settlement is, understandably, strong. The question would be how anybody at all would include such an area in any plan for Ruga settlement barely a year about a 100 souls perished over the same issue of herdsmen? Someone must be implementing a plan.
The point is that, in spite of whatever disaffection exists, there is an ideological convergence between Governor Samuel Ortom and the popular side on resistance to open grazing. To that extent, when he speaks, he captures popular sentiments around the problem at the moment. His narrative in his May 7th, 2019 presentation at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka is, therefore, a good starting point. He argues that “the concern of Benue people is not just with the herdsmen militia, be they Libyans, Boko Haram, ISIS or any other mercenary terrorist force” but with those he says hire the killers to turn “our ancestral lands into killing fields….”. He spoke of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore calling on Fulani herdsmen across West Africa to invade Benue for the purpose of unmaking the ‘Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017’ with a view to reclaiming ‘their land”.
The point about these assertions is not whether they are true or not but that it is the narrative the Benue State Government is working with. Against that background, it is either the President and Commander-in-Chief is personally convinced and committed to what has now passed into the public sphere as ‘Fulanisation’ or the president and his managers of power are simply overwhelmed by the targeting practices of whatever external interests is manipulating Nigeria. Other than that, Ruga should not have come up now at all precisely because it does not speak of a president determined to calm a nation in need of calming.
Instead of such, the president has gone into something that is not a solution to the crisis in any way. The point is that there has been a clash between cattle rearers moving with herds from the North to the South and the whole idea of modernity. It is a big shame that no one, especially in the past few decades, visualized a clash between that movement of herds and the features that signify modernity such as skyscrapers, giant factories, macadamized thoroughfares, huge farms, expansive malls, huge demographic leap and the megacity tradition. Failing that visualization also means that no one has reflected on the fact that no global eatery such as McDonald would grant its outlet in Nigeria today on the ground that Nigeria has no beef. In other words, they do not consider the cows in Nigeria as cows for the simple reason that there is no meat there anymore after being moved on foot up and down a vast country such as Nigeria. How did it happen that The Presidency, the military establishment, the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the numerous MDAs have not by design or accident anticipated and worked out a more modern answer to the contradictions in ranching? What is so impossible in that?
Failing to do that has made the country vulnerable to brilliant manipulator(s) seizing upon the challenge of grazing at a time of climate related turbulence and creeping desertification, among others. Nobody would put the answer to that in carving settlements for herdsmen or any set of persons across the country at a time when the meaning of such has become so contested in the case of Fulani herdsmen as for insistence on it to have become an invitation to unpleasant outcomes. Most worrisome is the famished presence of the president’s distance from the issue, given the coincidence of the president’s ethno-regional identity with that of the Fulani nationality. What people are saying is that the perceived open display of affinity to Fulani concerns on the matter by the president should not be the case from someone whom the nation has graciously elected twice as Commander-in-Chief. As it is now, no one appears to know who the bigger problem is – President Buhari or Miyetti Allah. It might be a perception problem but, in the social world, perception is more problematic than the real.
Whoever is behind what is going is a brilliant mind, a fantastic thinker. That interest has succeeded in making the concept of ‘Fulanisation’ an accepted term by which to understand the challenge of herdsmen. To so securitise the Fulani in Nigeria is to construct a code with Hausa-Fulani on one side versus Igbos and Yoruba on the other. This is so because majority identity is the category invoked any moment Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba are mentioned in Nigerian politics. The second problem with ‘Fulanisation’ is the attraction for what is condemned in the Fulani by that in-group/out-group binary. The fear, hate, suspicion that the contradictions brew and could unleash can keep Nigeria fighting for decades. This is more so that those with the voice and moral authority to calm the nation have themselves gotten so angry they have become agitators and crusaders.
Whatever might have actually angered them, Claude Ake must, indeed, be right that the trouble with Nigeria is the quality of its elite. After its disastrous elite failure in anticipating national security problems and bringing merit to solving same, they are now so fragmented and are dragging the folks into their crisis of mission, threatening Nigeria’s global destiny. The degree of alienation, fear, hate, suspicion and acrimony in Nigeria today arising from that fragmentation is certainly not good for any nation. It is incredible how frequently one hears words as “Nigeria is finished” nowadays. For a whole day last week, for instance, a leading Nigerian campus was without electricity all day. It was no news. Yet such a bit measures Nigeria’s distance from where it ought to be. Upon all these, nobody can perceive a game changer anywhere. Awful!