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Ruga: Why farmers/herders crisis persists— Alao



Abiodun Alao

A University lecturer and Professor of African Studies at King’s College London, Abiodun Alao, on Tuesday disclosed the circumstances that surrounds the refusal of some communities to release their lands for the proposed RUGA programme of the federal government aimed at curbing the incessant attacks between farmers and herdsmen.

He noted that the Ruga policy lies on land ownership stressing that, “As we all know, land is undoubtedly the most important natural resource in Africa. Its importance transcends economics into a breadth of social, spiritual and political significance.

“Among other things, it is considered as the place of “birth”; the place where the ancestors are laid to “rest”; where the “creator” has designated to be passed down to successive generations, and the final “resting place” for every child born on its surface.

“Consequently, every society in Africa sees land as a natural resource that is held in trust for future generations, and the sacredness of this trust lies behind the refusal of any community to give up their land.”

Alao who is also the Programme Director, African Leadership Centre, School of Global Affairs, and Chair, African Community of Practice in the College stated this while delivering the 35th University of Ilorin convocation lecture with the theme: “Issues and Thoughts on Securing Nigeria”.

He further described herdsmen as most controversial participants of the natural resource sector across Africa adding that, “They have been accused of “desertification, of managing their stock according to irrational economic principles, of being technically stagnant and backward, of wandering about destroying nature, and of adhering to conservative social structures and cultural notions”.

Alao said: “Looking particularly at Nigeria, the controversies associated with herdsmen can be linked to three factors. The first is the interwoven nature of identity issues involved in the controversy.

“The professional dimension of being herdsmen got interwoven with being Fulani, often being Muslims and again more likely being supporters of the APC. Consequently, at any point in time, their actions can be interpreted under four possible layers of identity: religion, (Christians or Muslims); ethnicity, (Fulani or Non-Fulani); Politics (APC or PDP); or vocational (whether they are farmers or herdsmen).

“These multiple layers of inter-woven identities have blurred the definition of victims and complainants. The second is the problem of Climate Change, which has significantly reduced grazing lands for the pastoralists, forcing them to go further South-wards and deep into cities. The third is the massive proliferation of small arms and light weapons in circulation, not only in Nigeria but in the entire West African sub-region.”

the varsity don however maintained that the herdsmen issue will not disappear in a hurry, especially because it has mixed with politics, ethnicity and religion, and it is also underpinned by climate change issues.

According to him, “Every suggestion for resolution would be rejected for the very reason for which it has been suggested, as can be seen in the case of the government’s Ruga initiative. In addressing the problem, the first step is to embark on a comprehensive arms recovery exercise. As we all know, there is a massive proliferation of small arms and light weapons across the country.”

He therefore urged the federal government to protect both herders and farmers, prosecute attackers, before carrying out its National Livestock Transformation Plan.

“Communal leaders should curb inflammatory rhetoric and encourage compromise. International partners should advocate for accountability and support livestock sector reform”, he added.

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