RUGA: SIEVING FACT FROM JUNK

By Dan Ugwu

It is not in doubt that propaganda, bias, prejudice, mindset, malice and the likes have often obstructed the free flow of right information. One big example of this is the trading mantra of RUGA settlement for Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria which seeks to settle migrant pastoral families to stop the roaming of cattle herders with the attendant clashes with farmers.

In an official Government Gazette issued through Garba Shehu, SSA to the President on Media and Publicity, government emphasized that the settlement will be for animal farmers, not just cattle herders. These pastoral dwellers will be settled in an organized place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products just like it is in Tanzania. Beneficiaries will include all persons in animal husbandry, not only Fulani herders.

This put together, the overall benefit to the nation includes a drastic reduction in conflicts between herders and farmers, a boost in animal protection complete with a value chain that will increase the quality and hygiene of livestock in terms of beef and milk production, increased quality of feeding and access to animal care and private sector participation in commercial pasture production by way of investments.

    Other gains are job creation, access to credit facilities, security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling. The idea is to set up ranches where the whole beef and meat value chain will be provided for. Meanwhile, a number of International Organisations, such as the FAO and IFAD are already on board, interested in providing technical and other assistance.

    Fielding questions from Journalists at the Presidential villa on July 1, 2019, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State who is a member of the committee for the RUGA settlement had added clarity to the initiative by adding that it is for economic and security benefits.

    With regard to funding, he emphasized that “it is not a federal government project, the World Bank is involved, and the African Development Bank is involved. So if you have a scheme like this that can take poverty away, bring revenue and also address insecurity, you will need to go into it but with due consultation from your state”. If Lalong’s revelation is anything to go by, then the N10 billion budgeted by former President Jonathan for a RUGA settlement would have gone a long way to implement it if it was utilized.

    Ever since the RUGA idea gained publicity, the media, especially the social network have been awash with variety of negative comments and unhealthy interpretations. Without any tincture of bias, I have tried to consider the contents of the RUGA project to discover that it doesn’t worth the huge crusade against it.

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      First and foremost, the Federal Government is planning this in order to curb open grazing of animals that continue to pose security threats to farmers and herders. Stripped of the politics and howling that has attended the recent programme, there is no government plan to seize state land, colonize territory or impose Ruga on any part of the federation.

      Government has made it clear time and again that the programme is voluntary. Under the Nigerian Constitution, all land belongs to the States and not the Federal Government, as has been legally established in the case of LASG v. FGN, on the issue of Banana Island. So if any of the States refuse to grant the land, there’s nothing the FGN can do.

      But, from the faulty assumptions, the government has already created 216 new Fulani LGAs and, with further abracadabra, increasing the Fulani population from the current 13 million to 59 million, all “in one swoop”, and before you know it, these Fulani people will overshadow us in our territory and attack us.

      As we write, 12 states have applied to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, making lands available for the take-off of the scheme in their states. This number is sufficient for the pilot scheme. Unfortunately, some state governments that have not signified interest in the scheme and, therefore, are not on the invitation list have been misleading people that the Federal Government is embarking on a scheme to take away their lands. Already protest exhibitions are on top rehearsal for take-off. The Imo State government has already showed disinterest in the scheme, and for sure RUGA will not be in Imo.

        As educated people, it is our duty not to; based on ignorance, fuel the embers of social upheaval, arising from ethnicism and hatred. All that is required to ignite conflict is only but a careless remark or action by somebody. As we write, we have the report of a group, allegedly of people in Enugu state driving the Fulani and their cattle out of the town.

        If, accidentally, one or a few people are killed as a result, it may very well elicit some retaliation or reprisal attack from the North, which, God forbid, could ignite further trouble in other parts of the country and then carnage will set in accompanied by macabre series of morbid attacks. This is the power of propaganda.

        Nigeria is the only commodity we have to preserve, even if we are splitting, that must not be attended with bloodbath. The common apprehension of every Christian in Nigeria is to reject any threat to the faith, but we cannot afford to politicize everything as to endanger the faith itself. Nigeria is a multicultural entity which belongs not to one religion, as such, no man, not even President Buhari has the capacity to islamize Nigeria by any standard.

        RUGA has come to be, but only interested states will gain from its benefits. Let the state governments help to enlighten and educate the people in the right way because every part of our lives must not be politicized. We need to be careful, if you are opposed to Buhari, that’s perfectly legitimate, but using that to cast a brush on all Hausa Fulani is less than ingenious. If we really need a united and peaceful Nigeria, then we must get rid of junks from the hawks.

         

              • Dan Ugwu writes from Imo State.

         

         

         

         

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