The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday called for a stakeholders’ meeting to find an enduring solution to the recurring clashes between herders and farmers across the country.
Tinubu, in a statement on the crisis, said the proposed meeting should have in attendance state governors, senior security officials, traditional rulers, religious leaders and representatives of herders and farmers.
Their task is to “hammer out a set of working principles to resolve the crisis.”
There should also be a follow-up meeting in each state, called by the governor to “refine and add flesh to the universal principles by adjusting them to the particular circumstances of their states.”
The state meeting’s focus will be drawing up specific plans for the state.
Such plans will encompass maintaining reasonable and effective law enforcement presence in affected areas; putting in place appropriate legislative and administrative measures required to make this a reality; and employing new technology and equipment to enhance the information gathering/surveillance and response capabilities of law enforcement.
The plans should also help the herders’ transition to more sedentary but more profitable methods of cattle-rearing, including allocation or leasing of unoccupied public land fenced into grazing areas or ranches to herders on a very low-cost, nominal basis; and assisting farmers increase productivity by supporting or providing subvention for their acquisition of fertilizer, equipment and machinery and, also, by establishing commodity boards to guarantee minimum prices for important crops.
Besides, the proposed peace deal should seek the establishment of a permanent panel in each state as a forum for farmers, herders, security officials and senior state officials to discuss their concerns, mitigate contention and identify trouble and douse it before it erupts.
Tinubu was unhappy at the acute and violent dimensions the herder-farmer dispute has taken, especially in terms of destruction of lives and property.
He was particularly saddened by the action of those he said should know better but ended up inciting matters by “tossing about hate-tainted statements that fall dangerously short of the leadership these people claim to provide.”
“We all must get hold of our better selves to treat this matter with the sobriety it requires,” he said.
The statement: “The herder-farmer dispute has taken on acute and violent dimensions. It has cost too many innocent lives while destroying the property and livelihoods of many others. It has also aggravated ethnic sentiment and political tension.
“Despite the efforts of some of those in positions of high responsibility and public trust, the crisis has not significantly abated.
“Sadly, others who should know better have incited matters by tossing about hate-tainted statements that fall dangerously short of the leadership these people claim to provide. We all must get hold of our better selves to treat this matter with the sobriety it requires.
“Because of the violence that has ensued and the fretful consequences of such violence if left unabated, we must move in unison but decisively to end the spiral of death and destruction. Only when the violence and the illogic of it are halted can logic and reason prevail.
“Until the violence is rolled back, we cannot resolve the deep problems that underlie this conflict. We will neither be able to uplift the farmer from his impoverished toil nor move the herder toward the historic transformation which he must make.
“Yet, as vital as security is to the resolution of this matter, we must realise security measures alone will not suffice. Enhanced security may be the necessary first step, but it cannot be the only step. Nor do we resolve this by hitching ourselves to emotional, one-dimensional answers.
“More to the point, those who cast this as exclusively a matter of ethnic confrontation are mistaken. This is no time for reckless chauvinism of any kind, on either side of this dispute. This matter is not ethnic in factual origin or actual causation although in the minds and hearts of too many it has become ethnic in recrimination and impulsive action.
“There have been sporadic disputes in the past but this one is more severe. The reasons for the greater violence of this current dispute are myriad. Economic hardship and its resultant dislocation, proliferation of weapons, generalised increase in criminality, and weakening of social institutions all play a role.
“Desertification, increased severity and length of the dry season, diminution of water resources, impairment of land fertility and population growth also contribute in no small measure. Thus, any durable solution must get at most, if not all, of these issues.
“Farmers have a right to farm their land unmolested. Herders have a right to raise their livestock without undue interference. However, when conflict between these groups arises to such an extent, we must set forth clear principles and policies to remove the tension in order to allow both to proceed toward their stated goals and to live in harmony and according to their respective rights.
“Just as I cannot go into your house and take your shirt because I do not have one of like colour, no one can destroy the crops of a farmer or seize the cattle of a herder simply because such destruction sates their anger or their selfish, short-term interests.
“If such a condition were to hold, then all would turn into chaos; all would be in jeopardy of being lost. To destroy the crops or seize the property of the innocent farmer or herder is nothing if not an act of criminality.
“Here, I must state two fundamental realities. One has been previously mentioned by me and others as part of the solution. The other reality is hardly discussed.
“First, the situation of the herder is becoming untenable. Their nomadic ways fall increasingly in conflict with the dictates of modern society. This way of life is centuries old and steeped in tradition. We can never condone or accept violence as a valid response to any hardship.
“However, we all must recognise and understand the sense of dislocation caused by the sudden passing of such a longstanding social institution.
“I mention their dislocation not to excuse violence and other excesses; I raise it to underscore that we must realise the true complexity of this crisis. What is happening has been terrible, but it is not due to any intrinsic evil in either the herder or the farmer.
“The calamity now being faced is borne of situational exigencies. It is but the tragic outcome when often desperate, alienated people are left too long unattended and when their understanding of the modern socio-economic and environmental forces affecting the very terms of their existence is incomplete.
“An ethnically fuelled response will be to vociferously defend the nomadic way believing this tack will somehow protect the herder and cast the speaker as an ethnic champion. However, careless words cannot shield the herder from relentless reality.
“While we all hope and strive for the best, many fear that there is not enough of what is needed to go around and that they will be left out. In such a situation, harsh competition and contest are fated to occur. In the unfolding of this social dynamic, one group of actors has been pitted against another over dwindling water and fertile ground.
“The confrontation has resulted in the needless loss of life and destruction of property. If left to itself, this situation may spread and threaten the progress of the nation. It could call into proximate question the utility of the social compact that holds government and governed in positive bond, one to the other.
“We have a decision to make. Do we attempt the hard things that decency requires of us to right the situation? Or do we allow ourselves to be slave to short term motives that appeal to base instinct that run afoul of the democratic principles upon which this republic is founded and for which so many have already sacrificed so much? In the question itself lies the answer.”