Monday, May 29

The Paradox of the Fulani Cattle

Even in growing up and up till now, I am not sure there is an animal with such an attachment of slavish control as the Fulani cattle. But in a consummate irony of life, this animal that is a victim of such profound abuses; from being dragged on a long tortuous journey from North of Nigeria to the South of Nigeria in all manner of weather vagaries; to the sturdy canes constantly landed on its back to ensure a total compliance by its herders – who in retaliation for their own oppressive conditions under nomadism find a perfect sidekick in the cattle; to the cattle left to die in loneliness and disgorged with such mercilessness by the vultures and other scavengers; to the torture of dying in the hands of butchers who must slice off its throat with such derangement; and then to the heap of being the causatory factors for pulmonary diseases by the red meat movement, even when some of them consume alcohol in gallons.

Despite all these undeserving abuses in Nigeria, the cattle have now been robed with the garb of being responsible for all that is wrong with us Nigerians. The cattle have become the many horn-sutured demons, out to devour the good Christians by the Muslim “fundamentalists” and the harbinger of communal conflicts in Nigeria. Today, many political analysts, especially the believers of politics of phantom hegemonism, this poor animal is the tool necessary to dip the Quran into the Southern river. Interestingly, like the cattle that are herded in any direction that suits its herders, Nigerians are being inundated with strange voices especially by those I call “experts” in putting forward half-truths in their attempt at analyzing and pontificating about all that is wrong with our polity. The new herdship scholarship abandons facts in pursuit of fictions. In order to properly understand where I am coming from, let us in a moment of sympathy for this poor animal try and contextualize the issues properly by relying on history to see if we can actually learn from our past as a way to understand the present. 

A study by SB Morgen Intelligence, as represented in the table and graph below shows that there is increasing conflict between cattle herders and other participants in the agricultural sector in Nigeria.

It was in recognition of the rising conflicts between herders and farmers that the National Conference set up by Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 made some recommendations that included strengthening grazing corridors until there is evolution of the ranching process. Below are some of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference on this subject.

What is interesting here is that many of the Southern elites and Christians whether of the majority South or of the minorities in Northern Nigeria, took part in this conference and did not oppose this resolutions, but enthusiastically approved them. The question then becomes, what has changed since all the elites agreed on resolving the incessant herders-farmers conflict in most parts of Nigeria? Could the current opposition to a resolution of the conflict through grazing sites as recommended by the Jonathan administration’s National Conference be ascribed to shortsightedness? Or could it be that they all agreed to the conference resolution in order not to lose the huge money paid to them for participating in the conference or could it just be politics? 

However, we must remember that the Goodluck Jonathan administration invested a total sum of N100 Billion Naira for the setting up of ranches and grazing facilities across the country and interestingly, no one ever raised an eyebrow about Fulani herders coming to take over their state. The investment of the said amount by the Jonathan administration came to the fore again during a debate on the problem of herders at the House of Representatives on the 16th of January 2018, but the representatives ignored the issue of accountability in the resolution that emerged after the debate. If the government of Goodluck Jonathan invested the sum of N100 Billion Naira to set up grazing sites and ranches, what then happened to the money? We must also remember that in approving the money for this purpose, no herdsmen put a gun to Jonathan’s head but it we must also ask: What happened to the money? The money, managed by a committee chaired by Gabriel Suswam, the former governor of Benue State (the hottest theatre) of the conflict had as members other governors and individuals from different parts of the country. Basically, Suswan and his gang of committee members saddled with this project never accounted for how the money was either disbursed or managed. Is this not a case of embezzlement? Let us for simple imagination imagine that this N100 Billion Naira was judiciously spent for the purpose it was meant for; does it not raise the possibility that the current mayhem may have been averted? But in our current scholarship of disorder where thieves are no longer bound to be honourable and return that which they have stolen, intellectual hirelings populating the media space will find justification for such financial heist of public fund.

Be that as it may, what has become clear is that the current herders-farmers conflict is traceable to the problems associated with climate change. While there is agreement on the culpability of climate change on the conflict, the antagonists of the herdsmen will want us to believe that the herders-farmers conflict is a sub-plot of the Hausa/Fulani imperial agenda to Islamize Nigeria. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and some irredentist southern politicians are the champions of this alleged Hausa-Fulani hegemonic agenda.. Social media, the ubiquitous site that helps propagate fake news have become a veritable avenue to propagate this belief with such maniacal gusto that even Hitler and Goebbels are in marvels at their capacity at propaganda. However, the problem is far deeper than it seems, hence we cannot rely entirely on the notion that only shrinking natural resources occasioned by climate change is solely responsible. 

In the first place, the climate change argument is not highly tenable. This is because as the crisis associated with climate change continues in relation to shrinking forest reserves and drying lakes, it follows that the conflict then will move down South with such rapidity because the herders will seek greener vegetation for their animals. It is this that has driven Southern political elites to a state of hysterical disorder believing they could use the conflict as a political pawn but this is where the logic of this argument ends for its obvious shortsightedness. Man is a product of nature. And all his life has battled nature, conquering it as he moved along to arrive in his current state of scientific and technological advancement. To then fall into this current trap of climate change as being responsible for the conflict, is a grave tragedy and a testimony of our lack of philosophical understanding of fundamental problems confronting societies. 

Secondly, how is it that in the climate change logic, it is only the industry of animal husbandry in Nigeria, and maybe by extension some African countries that is affected? If the climate change argument is to be sustained, it means that Ethiopia that has faced much more severe weather circumstances than Nigeria would rank lower in terms of output of animal husbandry. But this is not the case because the world top ten Goat and Sheep Exporters includes Ethiopia netting an average annual income of $103 million USD. 

Again, a look at the table below of the world top 20 beef exporting countries gives an interesting reading. 

This table shows Uruguay with a population of less than 6 million people having a share of more than 4% of the total world export of beef. It is not difficult to see what they have done differently from a country such as Nigeria. In Uruguay, the cattle industry does not rely on Mother Nature to function; rather, it is a well-developed industry that combines science with more advanced technological innovation within the ambit of modern development. This is not the case in Nigeria where agriculture still depends on primitive practice. The refusal or lack of will to modernize Nigeria’s agriculture by successive administrations in Nigeria have meant herders and farmers relying on the mechanisms of subsistence farming, such that what may appear to be progress is not driven by any scientific tool to increase its productive capacity. 

This has resulted in a near disorder where a howling middle class and their liberal supporters, rather than focus on the germane issues of the absence of modern agricultural technics, have today become the conduit for spreading ethnic and political hatred. Combined with a state leadership lacking capacity of thinking in a logical way to resolve problems, but have acquiesced to such howling that signifies nothing more than sounds and fury. This is the reason why solutions put forward to address the crisis such as state support for ranching across the country have been met with an uninformed opposition that relies on ethnic and religious cleavages. One of such opposition group is the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), that one of its leaders, Bishop Nicholas Okoh argued the other day on Channels Television that; “cattle rearing is a private business and the state has no business to support ranching, anybody who wants to establish a ranch should approach land owners and buy lands to establish a ranch”. When he was involved in this mental melodrama, many of his fellow Christians surrounded him, clapping for him. But was he making sense, or was he just trying to be mischievous? We may not need to accuse him of any but only to ask the Almighty Father to forgive him as he may have been limited by his understanding of the role of the state in a capitalist society.

We say this because fundamentally, Bishop Nicholas Okoh’s position, which is shared by many southern elites and their social media soldiers, is not supported by the modus operandi of capitalism anywhere in the world. It is a universal truth that capitalists wherever they operate, are the children of the state, and if ranching is to succeed with the technology required, cattle owners must be viewed in a new light as not some feudalist but capitalist entrepreneurs who must also enjoy the benefits their fellow members in the capitalist club have always enjoyed particularly in Nigeria. For example, in 2010, under the leadership of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the CBN gave nothing less than N3 Trillion Naira as bailout funds for the sinking banks to save them from collapse. In 2011, the Federal Government approved N500 Billion Naira as bailout fund for the aviation industry out of which it paid out N120 Billion Naira only to the operators in the industry. Again in 2014, the Federal Government gave out a bailout fund of N213 Billion Naira to the private sector operators in the electricity industry. Further, the Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) were given N50 Billion Naira bailout fund for purposes of acquiring pre-paid meters, which up till today they have not done. As we write, there is another pending proposal for additional N700 Billion Naira bailout fund by the Federal Government for the electricity industry. The question to ask, are these three sectors of the economy not being run by private entrepreneurs? Or is it the case that those opposed to such intervention fund in the agricultural sector, particularly as it relates to ranching have any motive bordering on their faith or they are suffering from plain ignorance?

As can be seen, the logic of CAN and its foot soldiers are ill informed. This is more so because of all the three sectors that these bailout funds went to, they are what we can regard in economic terms as, employment shrinking fronts. With increasing advancement in Information Technology (IT), these sectors of the economy will more and more rely less on human resources, as most services they render will be done using IT platforms. But the reverse side of it is that any intervention fund in agriculture particularly in the area of animal husbandry has a capacity to constantly take more people out of the labour market, thereby increasing the national GDP in all ramifications. For instance, New Zealand and Australia in 2015 earned not less than $4.5 Billion USD from goat and sheep export alone more than Nigeria’s annual budget of 2018. And the multiplier effect of this sector of the economy is enormous. So it smacks off intellectual laziness to then argue as this group of people are erroneously arguing. It is correct to argue that the state should not interfere with any sector of the economy, by supporting private sector practitioners, because to borrow from the capitalist logic, the state has no business in business. But it will amount to mischief to support intervention in some places and oppose it in other places. We agree that embedded in the fear of ranching is the spiraling violence occasioned from the influx of small arms in the hands of the herdsmen. See our next article on Herdsmen, Small Arms and State Complicity.

In this hysteria, Southern leaders are leading many Southern states into abandoning the project of animal husbandry as an agricultural policy in a large scale. The way it is today, many governors in Southern Nigerian only wake up and dream of Fulani cattle with sutured heads like demons. The cattle have become the simple tool for Islamization of Southern Nigeria. As we have seen, a good number of the Latin American countries who are not as big as most of the Southern states are earning hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign exchange from animal husbandry. But in idiotic shortsightedness and driven by their bigotry to see Islamization where there is none, they are blinded to see the potentials that abound in terms of employment opportunities and fiduciary gains for the people. They make it look as if the North has a God-given right to monopolize the animal husbandry industry. This is myopia at its worst affliction. For instance, Ethiopia has taken advantage of the cattle, goat and sheep industry to become one of the highest export earners in the world from hides and skin. Not only that, it has become a major shoe manufacturer in Africa, exporting her shoes as far as the United States of America in partnership with the Chinese.

But this affliction will not go away because we are all being chased by the sutured Fulani cattle that have become incubus for the Islamization of the country and falling into a narrative that complicates the crisis. The root of the problem lies elsewhere and it lies on the facts from what we have seen of those countries with huge earnings from animal husbandry that the road to take is the road of scientific and technological resources to conquer nature and justly tap the fruits of its abundance for the greater nurture of man. The road to go is not to place reliance on the vituperative tantrums of religious merchants, media profiteers and ethnic irredentists who their collective failure either as old or the young to proffer a progressive ideology to conquer nature is at the root cause of the current disorder where a common animal has become the source of nightmare to a nation held hostage by profiting cabals.

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