My Dear President,
I believe this letter will meet you thinking about the progress our country has made thus far with you presiding? I have decided to write you a closed letter, and not an open one, so you may read it closely and not openly; and also digest its deeper meanings closely and not with the horde that mill around and worship you in doubtful, and suspicious, loyalty and obedience.
My President, you will recall that one of the reasons Nigerians rooted for you to lead them was because of the concern which you had shown for the growth and unity of our country. Many had, during the 2015 general elections, doubted your credentials as a nationalist and detribalized leader. A lot staked whatever was left of their integrity to vouch for you as the only one who could knit Nigeria together again after several years of destructive mutual suspicion. It was believed that haven been a military leader, and a retired general of the Nigerian Army, that you have the stoic disposition to look neither at face nor tribal marks in dispensing justice for development.
You did, at your inauguration, give we, the people, a glimmer of hope when you told us that you belonged to no one in particular. We believed you when you told us that you are a repentant democrat. We also lauded you when you promised to lead neither Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo, Tiv, Ijaw, Efik, Shuwa Arab, Kanuri, Ibibio, Berom, Igala, Idoma, Igbirra etc, but Nigeria. We saw new rays of hope rising in you and we believed that you would indeed change the tide.
Mr. President, it is however disappointing that after just eleven months in office, you have tended more towards giving life to your 95 percent, and obvious discrimination to the remaining five percent, which clearly shows that you did not wait too long to change your perspective of belonging to no one. Sir, your actions now show that you belong to someone. And that someone has been about town leaving a trail of destruction, blood, pain, broken limbs, skulls and mangled or decapitated bodies. That someone has been fingered for the deaths and destruction at Agatu in Benue state. That someone has been pointed at for destructions of life, farms and property in Nasarawa State. That someone is now being indicted for destructive deaths in Nimbo, in Enugu State. That someone is the herdsman.
Mr. President, in your less than 12 months stay in office, you have travelled to some 33 countries. I have no doubt in my mind that you had the privilege of spending at least one night in the countries you have been to. I am also sure that you had the privilege of enjoying the peaceful atmosphere that exists in your host nations. And I am sure you did not see cattle being grazed on roads in the capitals of countries you visited. Sir, one of the most impactful photographs that we saw from one of your trips abroad was the picture of you and Uhuru Kenyatta at his dairy farm in Kenya. Uhuru is listed as one of the biggest cattle farmers in Kenya. Mr. President sir, you also own a cattle farm with some 150 animals. I am sure there were lessons you gleaned from Kenya on cattle ranching. Like the Fulani, there are the Masai in Kenya, who believe that every cow in the world was created for him. But they rarely are as destructive as the Fulani in the management of their cattle. Why then have we allowed the Fulani to remain as destructive of lives, farms and property, even if only as mere allegation?
Sir, you are Fulani too. I wonder how many times you have set your cattle on a journey from Daura to Kaura Namoda and also armed the young men who take care and guide them onto farmlands for pasture? Your decision to keep your cattle in your farm indicates that you understand the need for ranching. I appreciate that. And I ask also, can that understanding, and knowledge, be shared with other owners of cattle around Nigeria, Fulani or not?
Let me propose a deal here, Mr. President. Cattle farming is an aspect of agriculture. Owners of herds of cattle are also farmers. So, can we bring the issue of cattle rearing down as a development issue and seek ways of re-creating this development for the good, unity and economic development of our country? Here is what I think we should be thinking of, Mr. President. I think that a 21st Century country should have been able to outgrow the punishing, and primitive, experience of marching cattle from one end of the country to the other. I think that a 21st Century country should be able to create cattle farm hubs and settlements by way of developing ranches in states that have comparative advantage in cattle rearing, and develop same to yield dividends through a value chain.
Here is what I mean, sir. If you are able to convert the dreaded, but now desecrated, Sambisa forest into a cattle farming hub, and build ranches which cattle farmers could buy off government using soft loans available for same, you would have been able to solve one major headache as well as create a whole new opening for thousands of jobs.
For instance, a cattle ranch settlement would have the need for access roads, electricity and water. That is a huge development demand that would bring government closer to the people settled therein. It would also create the need for veterinary clinics which would mean that our graduates of veterinary medicine would have openings for engagement. Such a settlement would also require primary health centres for cattle farmers and their families. There would be need for schools in such settlements that would end the philosophy of nomadic education which has clearly failed to achieve its objective.
From such settlements sir, there would rise a tannery industry and modern butcheries that will feed them. You can enhance the growth of this by engaging the National Assembly to make laws prohibiting the slaughter of animals, cows, goats, horses, donkeys, camels etc., at homes. Through this, hides and skin would be harnessed for further development and export. From the same settlement sir, there would spring up a milk and dairy industry which will also employ needed manpower. The biggest of it, sir, would be the growth of research and development in our agric universities for the best variety of grass, which are also highly nutritious, to feed the cattle. This could, in itself, create new job openings in grass growing, harvesting and sales and save Nigeria the much needed forex it would spend importing same from Brazil. Such an organized system could also give rise to the development of technology, and scholarship, in ranch management and growth.
Sir, if you create such hubs, like I said, in states with comparative advantage in cattle farming, you would have solved a major problem. Through that, you would have also enhanced agric yield as farmers in other parts of the country will work more to feed the nation. They would cultivate their farms without the fear of their crops being destroyed by cows.
I had been told that it is cultural for the Fulani to walk cows from Maiduguri to Yenagoa. Mr. President, my learning tells me that education re-works or modifies culture. I am not sure those who walk these cows are condemned to a life in the bush. I believe they also seek to enjoy the good things of life. All we have to do is to let them see the options available. There were no trucks when our forefathers began walking their cattle through long distances, and sleeping in the bushes over several weeks. Now there are trucks. There are trains. I do not have the statistics but I refuse to believe that no Fulani lives had been lost to either snake bites, wild animal attacks or even to rustlers. A ranch settlement solves all these. It is about thinking. If we think what the future holds for cattle farming in the next 30 years, for instance, I will doubt if we would still have the Fulani walking their cattle the way they do now. Most countries where there exists people of the same ancestral origins like the Fulani have moved on to modernize cattle farming. Why not Nigeria, Mr. President?