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By Law Mefor

It’s surprising to note that open grazing is not practiced in any of the top twenty countries in the world that breed cow or export beef. Equally surprising is that Nigeria is also not one of these top twenty nations that export cow meat or breed cows. However, Nigeria is the nation with the greatest number of fatalities from violent disputes between farmers and herders.

These conflicts and deaths between farmers and herders are the result of Nigeria’s refusal to breed cattle in confined spaces like ranches like these twenty top-ranked countries do. The question is: why the refusal?

Speaking on the proposal by the Senate to regulate cow movement between states, Senator Adamu Aliero, the senator from Kebbi Central, claimed that those who sell spare parts throughout Nigeria have never faced restrictions. He maintained that the herders’ freedom would be violated and their means of sustenance would be disrupted by any attempt to limit their ability to move their animals wherever they may. In addition, he claimed that restricting these commercial endeavours would violate the fundamental right to free movement, which is essential for conducting that line of business.

In that interview with Arise TV, he stated, “We’re not just talking about ranching here. We are discussing business in general. Nobody is putting any restrictions on the spare parts that certain people are selling throughout Nigeria. They are constantly on the go.”

In the bizarre argument, the most distinguished senator compares the freedom of movement that humans enjoy by virtue of being humans to the freedom of cows to roam around with their herders. The senator likened the freedom of movement enjoyed by spare parts dealers—who pay taxes and rent or build their homes and businesses—to the rights of cows to move everywhere.

The senator relied on Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution, which states: “(1) Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom.”. Here, neither cows nor animals are mentioned.

The Penal Code, which is based on Islamic law, specifically prohibits trespassing, saying that it is prohibited to “hunt on someone else’s land, cut down trees without permission, or even tamper with vending machines.”

The Quarantine Act particularly forbids the free movement of cows. Even cows entering Nigeria must be kept in quarantine. The Quarantine Act also gives the president or the governor the authority to enact restrictions governing the movement or transportation of cows.

E no dey easy at all.

Nigeria’s main problem is simply a dearth of statesmen. Leadership is the key to everything in the affairs of men, as everything human rises and falls on leadership. Furthermore, leadership is a job that is correctly performed to fulfil a specific leadership role, rather than a position that someone holds. The so-called leaders of the country have betrayed many hopes, and at each of these pivotal historical moments, politicians have failed to speak up in support of the country and its unity.

The political landscape of the country is riddled with blunders and mishandling of matters of significant national importance, as in the issue of ranching. This resulted in mismanagement of the first republic’s politics, whereby leaders schemed to establish their dominance over the rest of the country rather than to unite and progress as an indivisible whole. Two million Nigerians lost their lives in the country’s first military coup and subsequent Nigerian-Biafra civil war as a result of the first republic’s leaders’ mishandling of national politics by operating from an ethnic and religious prism.

Sadly, it doesn’t appear that any lessons have been learned. Strong voices on the national scene have continued to come from religious bigotry and ethnic championships. The Greeks rightly submitted that the direction in which any society travels (towards progress or backwardness) is determined by the number of people in each of the three groups within such a society. If the number of idiots and tribesmen outstrips the number of citizens (patriots and statesmen), for instance, society witnesses stagnation and decline. These individuals are eager to further the limited interests of ethnic and religious groups over the nation’s overall interests.

Great leaders and patriots build nations. It is also patriotic leaders who rise beyond politics to become statesmen, standing in the gap for their countries. The lack of statesmen guiding Nigeria’s leadership process is demonstrated by the fact that 64 years after independence, Nigeria is still having difficulty resolving issues around nationhood.

Nigeria is still merely a geographical expression as a result of the blundering of individuals who pushed themselves into positions of power and abandoned their country to drive an ethnic agenda. That is the tale of Nigeria, a giant with clay feet that is the target of cruel jokes even among other African nations.

Using an operational definition of a statesman as a guide, let’s attempt to identify who meets the criteria in the nation’s polity. A statesman is the antithesis of a politician in most ways. Politicians are perceived as individuals who will say or do anything to advance in their careers or win elections.

A statesman is a person who sacrifices all for the benefit of his nation and its citizens. A person’s integrity is highly regarded when they are referred to as a statesman.

No matter how harsh the criticism, a policy will be changed if it is required for the benefit of the people it serves, such as ranching, and its time has since come. As stated by Hans J. Morgenthau, author of Politics Among Nations, statesmen see things realistically, as they are. They look at how a policy will affect a nation.

So, who are the statesmen of Nigeria? Why have the leaders of this country been unable to negotiate Nigeria’s nationhood 64 years after the country gained its independence? Why do we only hear North, South, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, and so forth when Nigerian leaders speak? Why is Nigeria, not their preoccupation? How come the nation’s leadership has not been able to deal with basic issues like herdsmen-farmer conflicts if, indeed, they are working for the overall interest of Nigeria and Nigerians?

Back to the issue under reference, in addition to open grazing being outdated and causing tensions between farmers and herders in areas where it is still allowed, as in Nigeria, ranching is the contemporary approach to raising cows, yet persons who ought to be statesmen oppose it.

The violence between farmers and herders in Nigeria has only increased in the last ten years. because of the political will to do the right thing.

People who compare vendors of spare parts to cattle herders (many of whom are AK-47 carriers) are not unaware that spare parts traders do not carry weapons, trespass into their hosts’ properties without authorization, destroy their farms, or murder, rape, maim, or abduct their hosts, while law enforcement turns a blind eye in most cases.

Someone must inform those who are against ranching that while trading in cows, spare parts, tomatoes, onions, palm oil, potatoes, rice, beans, yam, and other goods is a business transaction, how these goods are moved must be appropriate. If not politics, nothing prevents those opponents of ranching from pushing their people to become ranchers.

What’s more, a 1969 court ruling established the duty of cow owners and herders to prevent trespassing with their cows. The 1969 Decision of Hon. Justice Adewale Thompson about Open Cattle Grazing—Case No. AB/26/66 states in part: “I do not accept the contention of the defendants that a custom exists that imposes an obligation on the owner of the farm to fence his farm while the owner of cattle allows his cattle to wander like pests and cause damage. Such a custom, if it exists, is unreasonable, and I hold that it is repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience and therefore unenforceable, in that it is highly unreasonable to impose the burden of fencing a farm on the farmer without the corresponding obligation on the cattle owner to fence in his cattle. Sequence to that, I ban open grazing, for it is inimical to peace and tranquility, and the cattle owners must fence or ranch their animals for peace to rein in these communities.”

In summary, those who oppose ranching and maintain that cows should roam freely, even across farms, wish to prolong the insecurity ravaging Nigeria, which is partly caused by the hostilities between farmers and herders. Open grazing is forbidden by the Quarantine Act, Trespassing laws, and the cited court decision. In Nigeria, open grazing is a major cause of insecurity and is not in line with contemporary methods of cow husbandry. Those defending it are contributing to the problem, not to the solution to escalating insecurity in Nigeria.

Dr. Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; drlawmefor@gmail.com; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.

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