THIS COW MADNESS
Frank Regis I. Eke
Director of Strategy & Development
Talking about drought, let us not easily forget that almost all the dams constructed in this country over the years at huge cost to the federal government with irrigation capabilities are located up north. Almost all the internationally supported FADAMA projects that have gone to advanced stages are in various states in the north. The evidence of the impact of the above is the ability of communities up north to engage in dry season farming. So one wonders why it is in the area of extending the gains of irrigation to cattle rearing that excuses are being thrown up. There is a thinking in some quarters that these cattles are being driven down to safeguard the farmers up north since the cattle owners are not ready to embrace ranching. The other school of thought which this writer finds complex is that the idea of driving them down to destroy crops and kill farmers is to frustrate and discourage farming down south and ensure complete food and meat dependency. The other school of thought lay claim to the existence of a sinister motive for the movement in view of the fact that even foreign mercenaries are engaged in this nefarious decimation of the local population in the guise of cattle rearing. Whatever the excuse, one wonders why it was not given top priority by the past ministers of agriculture (who by the way have been mainly from the north) to develop and sincerely support robust ranching business up north with all the funds mapped out over these years for agricultural development and the fight against desertification. Nobody seem to have cared that the past ministers of agriculture and water resources in Nigeria from 1979 to date with the exception of Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina have all been from the north. What is worrisome is that if these men have been conscious of the strategic importance of cow in the affairs of the country, why didn’t they deploy considerable amount from the resources allocated to their ministry over these years to encourage the development of ranches? What is the guarantee that the cattle colonies so proposed will no sooner than they are started go the same way of government projects and be messed up with the colonist spilling into to the surrounding communities thereby creating strife and fatal land disputes? Think of Israel that is not as half endowed with natural and diverse resources as Nigeria, they have turned their mainly arid lands to agricultural/livestock haven.
The other nagging question is why all this cow madness? Is cow the only source of protein? Certainly there are people who don’t even eat cow meat or the byproducts either based on religious obligations, health grounds or sheer dislike. Cattle rearing, is it the only livestock engagement in the country? What happens to poultry, rearing of goats, sheep, rabbit, pigs, grass cutters, snails, fish, and other sea food farming? The above listed are even more profitable, less cumbersome and more nutritious. So one asks, why can’t these cattle herders handle their business with decorum as the other farmers are doing? Why should everything in the country come to a halt because of cows?
It is a tree that will remain tranquil while the wood cutter grinds and advances with his axe to cut it down. Since preservation of life is the first law of nature, it is therefore expected that every community, every person ought to fashion out a way of ensuring survival and consequently a means of repudiating attacks from the antagonists. It is bewildering to see people that are mainly the target of these attacks and the potential victims of this brazen mauling in various conditions of apathy while there are carnages all around them and horrendous crime are being committed against their kind. The people and their leaders have been fickle minded with their response to these attacks. Their leaders particularly have not acted with courage and foresight to deflate the plans of the herdsmen. They must map out effective strategy to curb these menaces. They must start by asking these questions: This cattle business that is the crux of the matter, for whose consumption are they being reared? One of the narrative is that the people whose lives and properties the herdsmen are laying waste are on the grazing route, but we ask grazing route to where? If it is taken into consideration that these cows are mainly consumed in the south west, south east and south- south, it then means that without patronage from these consumers or if the consumers should resort to alternatives, a disincentive to this cow madness will be assured. Simple economic law states that supply will always move to the equilibrium point with demand. It is then safe to assume that one of the reasons the herdsmen are clustering down south is not merely a case of running from drought and looking for pasture for their cattle but to be nearer and have direct access to the demand point of their product. These realities lead to more questions; are there no other sources of cow supply other than these herdsmen? If the answer is yes, then the concern should be why? The other question is, are there alternative sources of meat and protein outside cow? Why are they not being exploited? Another pertinent question raised is, why is it that the southern and middle belt part of the country are heavily dependent on these killer herdsmen for their cow when the vegetation around them command the best elements for rearing cows? It is most disconcerting when one considers the level of youth and graduate unemployment in the country and these regions with teeming youth available for engagement while their leaders allow foreign mercenaries to have unhindered access to a very lucrative business.
Meanwhile these herdsmen take the liberty to foment trouble and maul the citizens. So we ask, what is stopping responsible central or state government from getting youths trained on modern ranching methods, form them into cooperatives in their local areas, sponsor them to do the business instead of allowing foreign killer herdsmen into our heartland to decimate our people after which they are assuaged with colonies. If the state governors are not comfortable with the above options, will it be out of place for them to partner with or encourage credible business men in their state to form technical and strategic partnership with reputable farmers from developed countries to set up and manage ranches in their states? The products from such local ranches will make the states self- sufficient in cow meat needs as well as dairy products while the excess will go for export and provide additional foreign exchange. Since we have come to understand that one of the motivation for the herdsmen onslaught is their need to have access to grazing route which by extension is to be nearer to the markets (barring any other ulterior motive), the above step will put to rest the drive and upsurge in herdsmen migration from all over Africa to the south and central part of Nigeria. Our government officials at various engagements have stated that the killer herdsmen are not from Nigeria. Security of lives and property of her citizens is the first and most basic responsibility of any credible government and close to this is the protection of her citizens from foreign aggression. In all of this, rationalizing, acquiescing or pandering to the desires and demands of killer herdsmen does not from any angle weigh up the scale. A smart example is what America did when they could no longer bear the discomfort of oil politics and the arm twisting from the Arab oligarchy and so confronted with incessant treats and constant economic challenges occasioned by frequent disruptions of oil prices through supply manipulations, the Americans simply dug deep came out with shale oil which as at present have given them higher output capacity than Saudi Arabia. It then reduced their net import of oil and effectively shook OPEC’s ability to engineer oil prices. Furthermore, they committed more resources and time into research for alternative and green energy sources. The story is today different and here the learning curve make it glaring to us that it does pay not to leave your destiny in the hand of an enemy.
Having considered the above, our position remain firm unless someone brings proof of any contrary evidence. All that can be gleaned from actions taken thus far is combination of parochial, sentimental, half-wit and downright irrational approach at handling this COW MADNESS. Concrete steps must be taken to stem this vicious tide. If we choose not to do anything immediate, decisive and concrete, the whole mess will get messier. Unless someone or some people somewhere have something to gain or the present ugly situation serves their hidden agenda, then the way to go is the American way. Our people must not play the ostrich method or shop for excuses.
Some decorate their lives with excuses; why things don’t work for them and get comfortable passing the bulk, but some pack their lives with reasons why things must work, they take the situation headlong and strive to find the way-out, somehow they always find the way. Excuses and bulk passing are easy way out of fixes and delirious exist from tedious work; the excuse hall is very spacious and welcoming. A lot of people stroll in, embrace the fleeting succor offered, lost their bearing and float in day dreaming while the time passes only for them to wake up to the ugly and unavoidable reality.