Time to bury RUGA and all it represents out of our minds – Godwin Etakibuebu
By Godwin Etakibuebu
One of the interesting Bible passages I love most is in Genesis Chapter 23, verse 4. That scripture told us what “Patriarch Abraham”; spiritually acknowledged father of faith, for both Christians and Muslims, did when his dearly beloved wife – Sarah – died in Kir’jath-ar’-ba [also called He’-bron] in the land of Canaan.
According to the Amplified Bible Version, Patriarch Abraham approached the owners of the land where his wife died and made a request: “I am a stranger and a sojourner with you; give me property for a burial place among you, that l may bury my dead out of my site”
The instructive cliché in Patriarch Abraham’s demand is the fact that the old man knew and understood what life was all about. He knew the time to live, the time to die, the time to mourn the dead, and the time to take that most difficult decision of closing the chapter of mourning and brooding over the dead, by burying them “out of our sites”.
The decision of “burying the dead out of our sites”, as exposed by the Father of Faith, is very crucial in Man’s journey in life, more for Godly reason than other considerations. What Father Abraham did concerning burying his wife out of his site; as recorded for us in the Scripture [so it is equally recorded in the Koran] tells us that life is one very big voluminous book, with each human being [you and I] regarded as a page in that big book.
Father Abraham, by what he did, merely simplified what could have remained otherwise complication of life at death. He thought us a very great lesson that we must be prepared at all times “to flip one page [of the book] over if we really want to finish reading of this voluminous book of life”.
The death of someone around us, even the very beloved one, is tantamount to a page that has been read, and for us to move to the next level of life, we must have the courage of flipping that page [that had been read] so that we can move to the next unread page. This is what it means to bury our dead out of our sites. We need to understand the fact of not tying ourselves down with “continuous mourning of one dead person to the detriment of moving forward with life.” This is just God’s order of creation.
This lengthy preamble on the topic under discussion is deliberate, in another genuine attempt of convincing President Muhammadu Buhari that the time has come, and indeed now, to gather enough courage and bury RUGA [and whatever other names; Cattle Settlement, Cattle Colony, Grazing Route or National Livestock Park, it is called] out of our sites. Permit me to give cogent reasons why the final burial of RUGA must take place now without further delay.
One, it has been argued within legal circle, and proven very successfully, that Cattle rearing, within the ambit of the Nigerian Constitution; either as originally written or amended, is not Federal Government business but individuals’. Ipso facto, venturing into using Nigerian peoples’ money in establishing RUGA, or any other name by which it is called, is a colossal misdemeanor and misadventure.
Two, introduction of the language or phrase “Herders-Farmers clash” is another translation of technicality brought into the narrative, albeit a misleading interpretation to cover up reality of events. Technically speaking, there was never any disagreement between the farmers and herders until the latter aggressively encroached [invaded] the private property of the former with absolute destruction – both in intent and manifestation. “Clash” therefore couldn’t have been the “cause” of “battle” but instead, “trespassing” should be the original cause of the aftermath.
Three, the claim that the Nomadic Fulani herdsmen are being “denied their rights of citizenship in Southern Nigeria”, as asserted by the Spokesman of the Coalition of Northern Group, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, at a time when this RUGA matter gained momentum, should be seen as a deliberate catastrophic undertaking for the purpose of putting the Nigerian State asunder. We need to put lie to that claim of Suleiman by telling him what Nigerian citizenship; as defined by the Nigerian Constitution, means. I will come back to say something about this later but let us go after the remaining reasons why RUGA must be buried fast out of our site.
Four, the place, categorization and definition of Miyetti Allah Kauta Hore, within the ethnic nationalities of the Nigerian State is yet to anchor logic. We should not forget that until Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President [Muhammadu Buhari], announced the promotion of Miyetti Allah from being a trade union organization to becoming leadership of ethnic nationality, Nigerians were not any wiser on the organization.
While on Channel Television on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, Garba broke the historic news that “It is a mistake to say the Nigerian government is talking to bandits. “The Miyetti Allah group is like Ohanaeze and Afenifere. It is a socio-cultural group. There are criminals within the Yoruba race and you cannot say because of that Afenifere is a group of criminals. The Nigerian government is speaking with the leadership of the Fulani herders association, Miyetti Allah.”
Like as earlier pointed out, until that day, Nigerians, ditto the whole world, knew Miyette Allah as Association of herders – protecting the interests of their tradesmen-members’ interest, albeit violently doing that, sometimes with the usage of illegally acquired AK 47 and other deadly weapons. It must have been for the metaphor the latter that the Association was classified by the World Terror Index as the fourth most deadly terrorist organization in the world.
The point being made here is that Garba Shehu’s attempt in intruding the status quo ante position of the Miyetti Allah, equating it to that of Ohanaeze and Afenifere coincided with two other events. One was the meeting of high federal government delegation, led by the retired Lt-Gen Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau; then Minister of Interior [which of course included the incumbent Inspector General of Police, Muhammed A. Adamu and others] with the leadership of the Miyette Allah.
The other was the rumoured N100 Billion given to the Miyette Allah by the federal government. When Garba Shehu was asked about the money, listen to what he said. “That is 100 per cent untrue. I have confirmed that in all the meetings held, money was never discussed at all. It turned out that Garba Shehu told us “100 per cent” lies as the leadership of Miyette Allah was later to admit the receipt of that money.
Five, the whole civilized world of mankind in the business of Cattle rearing is gone Ranching. The place of Nomadic movement, which is anachronism, for herders, is already a forgotten issue and let it not be heard that Nigeria is thinking of anything like “Open Grazing or Grazing Routes.”
Having enumerated some reasons why the final burial of RUGA must be implemented without any further delay, let me say a word about lack of understanding of the Nigerian Citizenship as exhibited by Abdul-Azeez Suleiman; the garrulous Spokesman of the Coalition of Northern Groups.
First of all is what the Nigerian Citizenship is. There are about five categories of citizenship, if Suleiman may want to know, and they are in the following order:
- Citizenship by birth (jus sanguinis).
- Born within a country (jus soli).
- Citizenship by marriage (jus matrimonii).
- Citizenship by Naturalization. …
- Citizenship by investment or Economic Citizenship.
I want to admit first and foremost that the Fulani whose right of citizenship is being abridged by the “Southern Nigerian” of Suleiman’s imagination is not known to both human logic and legal interpretation. This conclusion is reached because before Suleiman was born the Nomadic Fulani herdsmen were there in Southern Nigeria. I grew up with the understanding of the Fulani herdsmen because without the ability to speak Hausa or Fulfulde languages, my father was very friendly with two particular Fulani herdsmen. Some gift items my father got from his Fulani herdsmen friends are still living souvenirs in our family house till date.
Those Fulani were never questioned by any “Southern Nigerian” on the legality of their Citizenship. Ditto all other Fulani herdsmen prowling their trade across Nigerian over the years.
But we have to understand that the turning point of this narration manifested when Governor Ortom signed a law in May 2017, banning Open Grazing of cattle in Benue State. That was when the battle line was drawn and it was then that the Miyetti Allah made it known publicly that the Benue State law against open grazing would never stand. Suleiman may want to remember that it was at the heat of the disaster that the Miyetti Allah made an open call to all Fulani descent across West Africa to move to Nigeria because the Jihad, according to them, had started.
The point being made is this: Can those Fulani tribe in Gambia, Mali, Niger and other countries in West Africa or even Libya in North Africa [with high population of Fulani natives], that probably heeded the call and moved to Nigeria be adjudged to be Nigerian Citizens?
It is for these reasons, in addition to many others being advocated all over the country, that the Federal Government should learn from Patriarch Abraham in doing the needful – bury this moribund and morbid ‘child’ of no hope out of our sites.
Give RUGA a final burial today.
Godwin Etakibuebu; a veteran Journalist, wrote from Lagos.
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