“The apprentice burglar whose father instigates to burgle a house, does not bother with the niceties of gingerly inserting himself. Out of zeal to make a good impression, he smashes down the front door with his bare feet.” A local proverb
(Writer’s warning: Readers’ discretion is advised as this piece may contain some graphic content.)
It was easily the biggest congregation of cattle ever seen by many in Negera. Even according to some herdsmen themselves, they had never quite seen anything like it in all their years of cattle herding.
From all the corners of Africa they came. From the slopes of the Futa Jallon Mountain they came. From the southernmost tips of Burundi and Rwanda they came. From the western shores of the Congo River they came. From the southernmost fringes of the Sahara desert they came. They all converged at a certain remote location in the Middle Belt of the country. They were gathered for the 1st All Africa Convention of Herdsmen hosted rather triumphantly by the Negeran Chapter.
Some onlookers said they counted thousands of cattle. Other onlookers said they were wrong and that they counted tens of thousands of cattle. Many others were ready to swear on their ancestors’ graves that there were hundreds of thousands of cattle. A few bold ones said there must have been several million heads of cattle. Indeed it was a great spectacle to behold.
Although the herdsmen’s convention, was to last for one week, by the end of the first day all the grass and farmlands in the convention area had been wiped out. Panic seized some of the foreign herdsmen as they wondered if their cattle were going to chew their curds for a whole week. They approached the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) members en masse to express their fears. But the (LOC) herdsmen laughed away their fears.
“Brothers fret not yourselves nor let your hearts be wearied about grass,” they reassured their foreign cousins. “Look we have in our possession some wonder grass seeds which our country Negera recently imported from Brazil. In fact one of the prime reasons why we decided to host this first ever continental convention of herdsmen is to demonstrate and show-off the latest advances in nomadic cattle herding in which we are the worldwide leaders.”
“Our government encouraged us to demonstrate to you our cousins from far and near the potentials of this wonder grass called the ‘All Persons for Cattle - Wonder Grass’ or ‘APC-Wonder Grass’ for short. Look when we scatter the seeds of this grass in our fields this night, by tomorrow morning, they would have germinated and grown taller than your cattle. That is why the pay-off slogan for this Continental Convention is ‘Wonder Grass, Happy Cattle!’ “
“So brothers, eat, drink, dance, relax and be merry. Please enjoy our government’s hospitality. But please tell those of our brethren who are armed not to forget to ensure that the safety catches of their AK-47 rifles are well applied. We do not want to see uncontrolled rifles going off rather indiscriminately and killing our beloved cattle while we make merry.”
“Look we have lined up a rich program of activities to make this Convention a memorable one. We shall have some technical presentations by some accomplished resource persons. Topics to be presented include “How to resist cattle rustlers deep inside the bush” to be presented by one of the brethren who is a renowned defender. Also we have “How to protect your cattle from wild animals like lions and hyenas.” We also have other interesting topics like “How to treat snake bites inside the bush” and “How to graze upon native girls and women so that they would leave their families and husbands behind and elope with you.”
“To round up the Convention we shall have a ‘Miss Cow Pageant Competition’ for the most beautiful cow in this convention and a ‘Mr. Bull Fighting Competition’ for the strongest bull around. Needless to say there are many prizes lined up for the cattle crowned respectively as Miss Cow - 2016 and Mr. Bull - 2016 as well as their owners. In fact one of the prizes for them is that Mr. Bull - 2016 will have the opportunity of climbing atop Miss Cow – 2016 several times during this Convention.”
“I do not think it will be out of place to expect that the first product of the tangle between Mr. Bull - 2016 and Miss Cow - 2016 shall be presented to our Grand Patron, Sir Ali Banza as a token of appreciation for all the support we have received from him till date.”
“Also we propose with the support and approval of all the brethren here present to crown our own Sir Ali Banza as the Grand Patron of all African Herdsmen. I hope you will be in support of this great gesture?”
There was a thunderous roar of approval from the thousands of Herdsmen present. The clapping was even more deafening and prolonged. Immediately afterwards the intensity and tempo of the dancing and merriment increased without restraint. Under the cover of the stampeding cattle as well as the chanting of the dancing herdsmen and the universally hilarious commotion that night, nobody noticed or paid any attention to a shadowy group of 40 herdsmen holding a secret meeting inside a large tent. The leader of the Gang of 40 Herdsmen was addressing his comrades.
“Brothers, remember we are being invited to expand into the South and Middle belt of this country by our own Sir Ali Banza. Unlike the ancient Arab, Ali Baba who battled against 40 thieves in the 1001 Arabian Nights, Sir Ali Banza is fully on our side. Yes Sir Ali Banza is solidly behind us, the Gang of 40 Herdsmen. Just as the head thief in the 1001 Arabian Nights hid his comrades inside large oil jars, Sir Ali Banza has agreed to hide all of us right inside the grazing bill already winging its way speedily through the Parliament.”
“Now so that there will not be much debate about the merits or demerits of the grazing bill, you herdsmen must command your respective foot soldiers to intensify the violent attacks against peasants and natives in the middle and southern parts of this country immediately. Do not worry, the head of the Negeren Informants Service is an open sympathizer of our cause. The Head of the Criminal Investigating Force is fighting for tenure elongation so he will take instructions from us to preserve his position. As for the Head of the Negeren Fighting Force, he has been given his standing instructions and rules of engagement by Sir Ali Banza. Needless to say it is 100% in our favor.”
“The current roadmap now is to create enough violence in the interim while the grazing bill is in the Parliament so that it may be passed quickly in a state of panic and without much scrutiny by the Parliamentarians. Our task has been made easier by the fact that most Parliamentarians from our target areas are criminals with a rich dossier of fraudulent activities. If they prove too stubborn Sir Ali Banza shall threaten them with immediate prosecution for being in possession of stolen goods.”
“Our greatest danger however is the alternate idea of setting up cattle ranches which is currently floating around in the media. We must stop this silly idea which will nullify our expansionist plans by ensuring that the grazing bill is passed ever more quickly before people realize what they are into. Always remember that Sir Ali Banza himself has promised to hide each one of you inside the grazing bill which is to be passed shortly by the Parliament for the 36 regions and the Federal Capital Region. Once the bill is passed and the grazing bill casket has been opened and implemented in your respective States, you are to emerge from your hiding place and assume your rightful position. Yes each one of you shall become the Amir (Ruler) of his own territory.”
“Herdsman Number 1 you,” he said pointing to one herdsman “shall be the Amir Lagosa. Number 2 you shall be the Amir Ibadana, Number 3 you shall be the Amir Benin-Cita, Number 4 you shall be the Amir Asabana, Number 5 you shall be the Amir Porta-Courta, Number 6 you shall be the Amir Enuga, Number 7 you shall be the Amir Owerra, Number 8 you shall be the Amir Sokota, Number 9 you shall be the Amir Makurda, Number 10 you shall be the Amir Lafiana.”
“Number 11 you shall be the Amir Kanowa, Number 12 you shall be the Amir Maidugoro, Number 13 you shall be the Amir Yenagora, Number 14 you shall be the Amir Akura, Number 15 you shall be the Amir Abeokuto, Number 16 you shall be the Amir Osogba, Number 17 you shall be the Amir Lokojo, Number 18 you shall be the Amir Gusawu, Number 19 you shall be the Amir Baucha, Number 20 you shall be the Amir Yole.”
“Number 21 you shall be the Amir Damatura. Number 22 you shall be the Amir Katsino, Number 23 you shall be the Amir Illoran, Number 24 you shall be the Amir Minno, Number 25 you shall be the Amir Dutso, Number 26 you shall be the Amir Kaduno, Number 27 you shall be the Amir Abakaliko, Number 28 you shall be the Amir Jalingwa, Number 29 you shall be the Amir Umuaho, Number 30 you shall be the Amir Awko.”
“Number 31 you shall be the Amir Uya, Number 32 you shall be the Amir Calabo, Number 33 you shall be the Amir Ado-Ekito, Number 34 you shall be the Amir Gombo, Number 35 you shall be the Amir of Birnin Kebbo, Number 36 you shall be you the Amir Jusa. Numbers 37, 38 and 39 you shall be the Amirs of the special commercial cities of Abo, Onitsho and Warro respectively.”
“I as your leader shall be the Amir of Abujo, while I hereby nominate Sir Ali Banza himself to be the Grand Patron of all of us the Gang of Forty Herdsmen. In my capacity as the Amir Abujo, I shall remain in close contact with Sir Ali Banza in order to ensure that everything is going on smoothly.”
“For the first 6 months after your installation, all you herdsmen must lie low and study your respective terrains and localities. Please if you need more manpower, feel free to send for the brethren in such far flung areas as Central African Republic, Camerooun, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, etc to reinforce your positions. In fact that is one of the reasons why we are holding this Convention for all African Herdsmen so that you get to know them personally”
“Do not worry about passport or entry visa into Negera. The Principal of Internal Business who is our sympathizer says our external cousins shall not be molested at the borders and shall be granted free passage into the country with all the assorted tools that they can conceivably bring along with them.”
“After one year of peace following the approval of the grazing reserves, please you are instructed to start encroaching into the neighboring farms beyond your specially allotted grazing areas under the bill. In fact you are advised to resume your openly hostile acts once more with increasing violence. A second bill for the extension of our grazing areas shall then be presented to the Parliament consequent upon your acts of extreme violence.”
“This second bill shall increase the grazing area five-fold. Once this is achieved, please cease all hostilities for another period of 1 year before resuming your violence once more. We shall incrementally increase our grazing areas until we drive all our enemies into the Lagosa Lagoon or into the Atlantic Ocean whichever is the nearer. I hope I am well understood?” “Yes, yes, yes Grand Amir of Abujo,” all the 39 herdsmen echoed in approval.
At this time the Amir Designate Abo, raised his hands. “Grand Amir Abujo, I have a question.” “Yes go ahead,” replied the Herdsman-in-Chief.”
“How do we counter the antics and ideas of Sir Ali Banza’s busybody maid called Social Media who is vehemently opposed to the passage of this grazing bill and is suggesting that in addition to wealthy citizens establishing ranches, each local government should establish at least one livestock market where indigent herdsmen and pastoralists may keep their cattle and then buy grass cut from the surrounding fields by the indigenous youths and natives.”
“Thank you for that question Amir Designate Abo,” replied the herdsman-in-chief.”
“I can tell you that maid Social Media’s ideas are giving us sleepless nights. That is why we want to rush the passage of the grazing bill quickly through the Parliament and that is also partly why I am asking you herdsmen to increase your violence until the bill is passed.”
“We do not want to encourage debate into all these Social Media’s useless ideas as people may begin to see some merit in them and thereby foil our plans. Unlike the people who just say that ranching is the answer to the Herdsmen vs Natives conflict which by the way we can easily counter by the counter-argument that it is elitist since ordinary herdsmen do not have the resources to acquire ranches, this foolish maid Social Media is further suggesting that each local government be encouraged to open livestock markets.”
“Note that Social Media calls it ‘livestock market’ and under the constitution, markets majorly fall under the jurisdiction of local governments. So our members can never claim possession of those markets in the future since they will be paying rent for the use of the markets to the Local Government. Moreover this ‘livestock markets’ idea deflates our argument about the marginalization of the ordinary herdsmen since the livestock markets shall be open to all.”
“In addition our members shall be forced to pay tax to the local government, pay for overnight security men for their livestock and be forced to rent houses from the natives. No we do not want this.”
“Our way forward is to use the Members of Parliament to achieve our goals. When these native peoples sell their votes and consciences and elect people without conscience or scruples as their representatives they fail to realize the magnitude of the harm and damage they are doing to their own interests.”
“You should all note that unscrupulous elected representatives are vulnerable to either their own greed or to blackmail over their past misdeeds. Either way the native peoples’ interests must suffer. Unlike us herdsmen who are always loyal to our own group interests and are invulnerable to blackmail, these infidels are loyal only to their pockets and therefore always vulnerable to blackmail.”
“That is why Sir Ali Banza is unperturbed. He knows we have all these people where we want them and that is by their balls. Their representatives will either vote for the grazing bill or be prepared to go to jail because of their past corrupt and criminal offences.”
“But we must do our own part to hasten the process without interference from extraneous ideas such as ranching and livestock markets. This we can only do through secrecy. Note that not all of our herdsmen brothers are as crooked as us. You know many foolish herdsmen are just simple, naïve and innocent. So do not disclose our plans to anyone outside our group and never to the ordinary law abiding and simple herdsmen you see dancing outside.”
“Regarding secrecy, another major problem we have is this Ali Baba’s maid, sorry I beg your pardon, I actually meant to say Sir Ali Banza’s maid Social Media. Sir Ali Banza says this woman Social Media is uncontrollable. All it takes to expose our plans is one lunatic friend of Social Media armed with a computer or cell phone plus internet connection and a few hundred words of Turenchi (English Language).”
“Like I said we have the members of Parliament under our control. Through the brethren in office, we can control the regular media with padded envelopes. In fact the brethren in position have already padded the 2016 monetary allocations for this very purpose. But how can we control this stubborn maid called Social Media who exposes all our plans?”
One of the herdsmen raised his hands. The Chief Herdsman nodded to him. “Yes Number 32, what is your suggestion regarding this dilemma?”
“My suggestion is that since the friends of Social Media need electricity to operate computers as well as to charge phones, we should ensure that electricity supply across the nation falls to 0 MW and that there is no fuel (gas) at the pump stations. That way friends of Social Media cannot post new articles and even they do, the people will not be able to read their posts. This will solve the problem once and for all.”
“Excellent idea Number 32. I must commend your ingenuity. You see this is one of the reasons why Negerans must never see the light. We shall tell them that we intend to provide 10,000 MW of electricity but we shall deliver 0 MW. We must ‘almajirize’ the nation and turn Negera into a nation of nomadic migrants who have to beg for food to survive. Almajiris do what they are told provided they are given a little food to eat.”
“That is why we have a major problem with the Red Eboes. Unlike most other Negerans, the Red Eboes are hardly organized. Each one of them is a law unto himself. They do not have recognized leaders that we can deal with to ensure their obedience. It is no wonder their ancestors gave the British colonialists so much problem. So much so that their women were married out to Ashanti slaves in Jamaican sugar plantations by the British to dilute their rebellious spirit.”
“And this brings me to the grazing policy when we undertake aggressive actions.”
“For the women you encounter in the bush, you are enjoined to graze them below their belts so that they may yield fruit for us. For the men you are to graze-off their necks. So the standing policy of the action is ‘graze upon the women and graze away the men.’ You may also kidnap the women and export them into your harem at home.”
One herdsman whose romantic preference was for men however complained loudly that he was being marginalized by the new grazing policy since he would have no ‘organically conscious’ male captive to graze upon. Having contemplated the matter intently and realizing that this particular herdsman despite his awkward romantic orientation was a man of valor, proven in battle, the Leader of the gang decided to make an exception.
“Okay, okay Number 13,” he said. “Those of you who have reverse romantic orientation are allowed to graze upon the male captives on their abutments. But you must immediately afterwards graze-off their necks. Remember the policy, no hostages caught in the bush may be seized while organically conscious, except those with visibly protruding breasts who might bear our fruit in future and help to dilute the bloodline and resistance of the infidels.”
“Very good. Brethren I also want to notify you that I have arranged special syndicated break-out sessions meant exclusively for our gang during this convention. Topics to be covered include ‘How to organize a successful kidnap’ to be presented by one of our international brethren who is a renowned practitioner of kidnapping with many years of experience with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). Apart from the hard skills of carrying out a kidnap we shall also be learning from him about the soft skills of negotiating successfully for higher ransom payments from the victim’s families.”
We also have a special syndicated break-out session exclusively for our gang titled ‘How to graze-off people’s neck without attracting attention’ to be presented by a well-qualified resource person who worked for many years as an operative with Boko Haram and later graduated into ISIS. Do you have any other questions? I see there is none.”
“Okay great herdsmen – the gang of 40. The battle cry has been sounded. The conquest is on. Go back to your respective territories and practice extreme violence while awaiting the signal to come forward for embedment in the grazing bill at the ripe time.”
With that admonition from their leader, the 40 herdsmen hugged one another exuberantly and melted away into the dark recesses of the night to join in the ongoing festive celebrations of the Herdsmen Convention.
Regarding the Convention itself, it was a huge success and a great spectacle. There was plenty of talking points ranging from the hillocks of cattle dung dotting the landscape, to the impressive performance of the APC-Wonder Grass which ensured that no cattle went hungry throughout the 1 week long convention. There was also an orgy of climbing up and climbing down going on among the hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic and well fed cattle present.
However what puzzled international observers most was how the herdsmen would be able to identify their individual cattle herds at the end of the Convention since hundreds of thousands of cattle had mingled thoroughly among themselves.
To the amazement of the observers at the end of the convention however, once each Herdsman packed his belongings and made a whistling sound, all his cattle separated themselves from the huge mass of cattle and followed him, their rightful owner.
At the end of the 1st All-African Herdsmen Convention, there was not an iota of confusion arising from distraught herdsmen searching for their cattle. In fact not one single head of cattle got missing. Talk of the wonders of nomadic cattle herding.
• THE END -
Disclaimer: - This is a pure work of fiction meant solely for common entertainment. The characters in this piece do not bear and are not intended to have any resemblance to any person or persons living or dead. Any observed similarity is purely coincidental.
Anthony Chuka Konwea, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, MNSE, FNIStructE, MNICE.
President John Dramani Mahama, in a State of the Nation address to mark Ghana’s 59th independence anniversary on March 6, 2016, made two important pronouncements with foreign relations implications. The first was his government’s plan to improve the knowledge and usage of French language in Anglophone Ghana, which is surrounded by French speaking nations. The advantages of this strategic initiative, if effectively implemented, are many.
The second policy statement of international import, but which almost escaped media attention is that, starting next July, citizens of the other 53 member States of the African Union (AU) can “obtain visas on arrival (in Ghana) with the option of staying for up to 30 days.” President Mahama expects this measure to stimulate air travel, trade, investment and tourism in Ghana which, like many other African countries, is going through a difficult economic patch.
Historically, this should not be a big deal in Africa that prides itself as the land of hospitality, where the people are their brother’s and sister’s keepers. In fact, Ghana’s independence President, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, had boasted on March 6, 1957 when the then Gold Coast became independent Ghana that “…our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.”
To his credit, under Nkrumah and until his overthrow in the coup of 24 February 1966, Ghana granted visa exemptions to “persons of African descent” born in the neighbouring West African countries, and members of the Casablanca Group – Guinea, Tunisia, Mali, United Arab Republic, Morocco and Algeria – which along with the Liberia Group, formed the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, with the Pan-Africanist Ghanaian leader playing a leading role. In his 1961 book, I Speak of Freedom, Nkrumah had also expressed the hope that: …the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.”
But so much has happened with the concept of a United States of Africa, which took its origin from the 1924 poem “Hail, United States of Africa” by Marcus Garvey, American civil rights activist and great Pan-Africanist. The late Libyan leader Muoamar Gaddafi had romanced with the same idea in his relentless push for the formation of the AU, which succeeded the OAU in 2002, and many still talk with passion about the African Renaissance.
As expected, the AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has lauded Ghana’s visa-on-arrival plan, expressing the hope that “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”
Modern Africa owes a debt of eternal gratitude to Pan-Africanists and independent leaders such as Nkrumah, for their sacrificial struggles, so any initiative that seeks to rekindle the dreams of those founding fathers must be welcome by all true Africans and friends of Africa. But it is a strong indictment on the continent’s post-independent leadership that almost 60 years after many of the countries gained political freedom, Africans are more divided than ever. Africa is not zero-poor, but with the mismanagement of its rich human and natural resources, bad governance, corruption and the vicious circle of social strife, poverty and unemployment, there are today more skilled Africans in Europe, and the Americas than are in their home countries. And almost on a daily basis thousands of disillusioned, hopeless and desperate African youths risk their lives on perilous journeys to Europe.
It is no longer news that Africa and Africans are fast losing their unique identity if they have not already done so, with Pan-Africanism now at best a slogan to the inattentive ears of present generation of Africans. Not a few African leaders have proclaimed or still proclaim Africa as the centre piece of their national foreign policy. But the reality today is that while they continue to pay lip service to African unity, most of these leaders, under the guise of solving domestic problems, many of which are self-inflicted any way, steal their countries dry to build personal castles at home and abroad.
Ghana’s visa-on-arrival plan for AU citizens may also be viewed against the deafening complaints by African citizens about the difficulties and humiliations they suffer to obtain visas to Europe and the United States of America. But the truth is that the process of obtaining visas to African countries is no less laborious and frustrating. For many Africans, travelling in the continent whether by road or by air is a nightmarish experience. In some cases air fares cost more than elsewhere while immigration and check points punctuate the trans – national roads, some of which are in terrible conditions, with the attendant extortion of travellers by the border security personnel. The travel delays and the lack of deliberate pan-African national policies have ensured that intra-African trade hovers between 10 per cent and 12 per cent compared to 40 per cent in North America and 60 per cent in Western Europe.
The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) founded in 1975 deserves commendation for its 1979 flagship Protocol on Free Movement of persons, goods and services, rights to Establishment and Residence, which guarantees community citizens, a free-visa entry and stay in countries other than their own for 90 days at first instance. In spite of its imperfections, the implementation of this protocol is a major stride towards regional integration and makes ECOWAS the only Regional Economic Community (REC) with a free-visa regime. In fact, in the whole of Africa, it is only the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, with a population of less than 90,000 people, which grants visa free access to all foreign nationals.
Time was when Africans took refuge and were even provided the national passports of their host African countries during the independence struggles. Hundreds even received free education in their host countries during the Anti-Apartheid era. But with globalization and world economic crisis, African migrants who once constituted the bulwark of economic development on the continent, have become targets of violent xenophobic attacks by fellow Africans who accuse them of stealing their jobs.
If Europe is accused of erecting walls/fences to stop immigrants, African countries are no less guilty for the erection of invisible walls against fellow Africans even in their times of need.
With their ill-gotten wealth and multiple foreign visas, many African leaders and members of their families flaunt their ostentatious life styles abroad, while the majority of Africans are stranded and condemned to abject poverty at home. The same leaders bemoan capital flight and brain-drain from Africa but do very little or nothing to incentivise or create the enabling environment to retain local capital or manpower. Instead, they encourage the mass exodus of Africa’s best brains; discourage foreign investment and incite social crisis that cause death, destruction and render citizens, refugees in their own countries. With their dual/multiple nationalities, these unpatriotic leaders easily disappear with their families to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth abroad. And unsatisfied with presiding over comatose or non-existent local health systems, these selfish leaders are now promoting medical tourism at the expense of their own countries.
As things stand, every African must undertake a serious reality check to determine their Africanness and how they have derailed the lofty dreams of African founding fathers, for the purpose of damage control/limitation. Symbolic as Ghana’s visa-on-arrival initiative may seem, it is a reminder to Africans in general about where they are coming from. The AU and various Pan-Africanist groups/institutions and policy think-tanks must wake up from their slumber. It is bad enough that through slavery, colonial and neo-colonial exploitations and plundering, Africa’s sweat, blood and wealth were used to lay the foundations for the industrialisation and transformation of many countries in Europe and the Americas. For Africans themselves to now become champions of Africa’s disunity/disintegration, and the continued siphoning of the continent’s resources, is an unpardonable crime against humanity.
—Ejime wrote in from Abuja
THE All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari appears hell-bent on imposing the establishment of grazing reserves across Nigeria in spite of the many unpalatable implications it will unleash on unsuspecting Nigerians. On Thursday, 31st March 2016, I wrote an article on this column entitled: “Ranching, yes; grazing reserves, no!”
The article called attention to what was then speculated as intentions of the Federal Government to launch this obnoxious policy aimed at handing over lands belonging to indigenous communities to Fulani cattle owners in the guise of establishing “grazing reserves”. Now, the masquerade has been unmasked: the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, has disclosed that President Buhari has directed him to implement the programme. According to him, he will start it from the North, where he will establish 50,000 hectares of grazing reserves.
Then, he will import his beloved Brazil grass to feed the cattle. When he is done with that, he will, in his own words: “move South”. With the Fulani herdsmen now settled in their newly-acquired grazing lands, perhaps without paying a kobo or even negotiating with landowners and obtaining their express permission to use their land, the herdsmen will stop invading communities, destroying the farms of poor villagers, killing, maiming, kidnapping, raping and dehumanising innocent Nigerians.
Nigeria will become self-sufficient in animal and dairy products, and everybody will live happily ever after. That is the picture Ogbeh and his paymasters are painting for us. However, we have very strong reasons to suspect that the establishment of grazing reserves is an ancient agenda of ethnic imperialism which dates back to the Fulani Jihads that Islamised the North about two hundred years ago. I read an interesting article by one Dr. Gundu of the Department of Archaeology, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He gave a useful insight into the grazing reserves phenomenon, which should jolt our complacently ignorant countrymen, especially those from the Southern parts of the country. Gundu’s article is entitled: History Class On Grazing Reserves: “Why Fulani Herdsmen Want Your Land”. It traces the historical experiments in the North to impose this policy and an outcome of it in some parts which you will not want repeated in your local community.
According to Gundu: “Grazing reserves and stock routes are known to dominate Fulani demands on the country and all leading presidential candidates in previous elections in the country since 1999 have committed themselves in writing to the Fulani on the issue of grazing reserves”. Gundu also observes that the idea dates back to colonial times. The British colonial masters, who handed over power to the Fulani (the overlords of the North) had toyed with the idea of granting them this wish but did not have enough time to do so. So, when the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, became the Premier of the Northern Region, he established the first grazing reserves and “”stock routes” in Sokoto, Katsina, Zaria and Bauchi Provinces in 1965. An angle of it will interest (and warn) you.
Today’s Southern Kaduna was part of Zaria Province, so Ahmadu Bello sited a grazing reserve in Kachia (a Christian part of old Zaria Province which the Usman Dan Fodio Jihadists were unable to Islamise). He settled his ethnic Fulani herdsmen there. They became known as Kachechari (or Fulani’s of Kachia). Though the indigenes still regard them as “visitors”, these Fulani’s who have been settled in this territory for 50 years now demand a chiefdom, which will officially confirm their ownership of the land that belongs to Kachia people. Till date, it is a source of tension between the two sides, and the “herdsmen” have been armed to assert their “ownership rights”. President Buhari is, by posture and disposition, first of all Fulani/Muslim before any other thing. He essentially models himself as the modern-day Ahmadu Bello, a prince of the Sokoto Caliphate (though Buhari is no prince). Gundu notes that when General Sani Abacha was the Head of State and Buhari was his highly privileged cohort and the Executive Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), he put pressure on Abacha to revive Ahmadu Bello’s grazing reserves scheme.
This, however, could not take off before Abacha died. It is also on record that President Buhari, a well-known cattle business owner, was (and maybe still is) the Grand Patron of the association Fulani cattle owners and herdsmen, the Minyeti Allah. In fact, he once led a delegation of his members to former Governor Lam Adesina of Oyo State when clashes between Fulani’s and indigenes in Oyo state to loss of many Fulani lives. He is quoted to have asked Governor Adesina: “why are your people killing my people?” So, it should not come to anyone as a surprise that, as President of Nigeria, Buhari will be pushing this policy in this day and age when nomadic pastoralism has gone out of fashion except in backward climes in Africa and Asia where some elements among the Mongols, Fulanis and Masais are still tightly clinging to their ancient cultural lifestyle. It is also not surprising that some state governors in the North, like Kano and Plateau, have already offered to participate in the grazing reserves project. Kano, in fact, boasts that it was the one that revived the idea.
If Kano and other Northern states where Fulani herdsmen have ancestral homes and legitimate titles to land prefer to establish reserves rather than encourage cattle owners to set up modern ranches, so be it. If Plateau has opted for it after herdsmen slaughtered men, women and children (especially babies) in isolated communities for more than ten years, I hope Governor Simon Lalong has consulted his people and secured their approval to do so. I know, for sure, that Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has vowed his state will not be part of it, but politicians are like chameleons. Whatever he does, he must implement the wishes of his people.
That is the bottom line of this matter. Every state governor, whether they are of the APC or PDP or any other party, must consider the implications of creating and handing over lands for grazing reserves to Fulani cattle businessmen and their armed militias. It simply means you have converted them to automatic indigenes of your state. If that is what the people of your state want then go ahead. Otherwise, you will be setting the perfect scenario for future wars between the children of the indigenes and the Fulani “visitors” in years to come. Fulani herdsmen will not always be allowed to continue to terrorise other Nigerians unchecked.
A time will come when people could take matters into their hands, even if it means confronting the law enforcement agencies which are reluctant to enforce the law and protect those being attacked in their communal lands. Buhari will not always be there to guarantee the safety of those he wishes to foist on indigenous communities through this ethnic expansionist policy. The only sensible alternative, I restate, is to create a national policy to covert herdsmen into ranchers. Ranching is a business – big business. Modernised animal agriculture is an essential part of our drive for employment, economic diversification and self-sufficiency in food. We must plan big for it and make it attractive for as many Nigerians as possible to venture into it. Animal agriculture does not have to be an exclusive ethnic occupation or preoccupation. Ogbeh and his paymasters are blundering into a foolish and explosively risky national policy which consequences they may not be around to shoulder. They must be stopped by well-meaning Nigerians and people of good will before they plunge this country into another Sudan Darfur. A word is enough for the wise!
The buzz “Globalization” has redefined socio economic affairs in many developing and underdeveloped countries. Many countries are relishing robust trade deals in lieu of more liberal international economic laws, promoting less barriers and reduced tariffs in an effort to create real and valuable assets-based-opportunities, tailored towards growing economic and social wealth, particularly in the emerging markets. Many emerging market economies, including Nigeria have struggled to simulate the dynamics of the global concept, resulting in some cases - repressive and damaging socio economic policies. Below expectation economic performances from the BRIC countries, per their last 5years economic metrics, have provided deep insight into two different economic models that may have been employed by many other emerging markets – Nigeria, a case study.
On one part is the economy system driven solely on natural resources. And the other is the economy structure that is aligned with human capital.
On a consistent note, Nigeria has been measured by experts as a country with enormous potentials, similar to some of the BRICs. But Nigeria economic growth deterrence lies in her inability to align its powerful human capital with its massive natural resources.
The crash in the oil market becomes a wrench in many oil producing nation’s policies and economic strategies, making a long term fiscal and economic projections a notoriously delicate endeavor. The unprecedented situation complicates economic trajectory for emerging economies that rely heavily on petrodollar, creating a sense of urgency for oil nation managers to exert their leadership skills in resource management.
At the height of commodities boom, the emerging market economies ushered in various power brokers or political juggernauts, and they were, and still very close to the helms of their respective government affairs. They have steadily upended their influence in channeling state resources to meeting unguarded goals and objectives. In Nigeria, mafia-like groups took over key institutions, and run the systems with little or zero ethics. The Oligarchies are the gun powders of day to day business activities in Russia’s most lucrative markets, and the Odebrecht and Petrobras decides what goes into Brazil fiscal policies. Just as the promising emerging markets got clobbered with market uncertainties, the power brokers in Indian and China pulled together their think-tanks and unconventionally began to develop a workforce that is turning Asia market a force to reckon with. The Chinese stake holders spread their risks across all economic sectors – strong manufacturing sector, promotes financial prudency, introduce competitive educational systems, reinvigorate its service industry, and spend years constructing roads, bridges and residential houses for their middle class. Strategically, it also encourages disruptive technology in the area of Intellectual Property, and has maintained an era of trade surplus, helping its economy to continue to build a middle class workforce. Over the years, the smartest of the Indians have come together to reinvent India’s education system, building a competitive high-tech workforce and a branded medical service. India professionals in IT have reshaped global service industries, attracting more than 500 US off shore corporations. The West corporate inversions to China and India have helped both nations’ major stock indexes in positive territory. And both countries have performed far better than Brazil and Russia, whose economic growth model relied heavily on natural resources just like Nigeria.
Assessing the efforts of Nigeria think-tanks or the smartest guys that found themselves at the corridor of affairs, it is appalling what seems to be on Nigerians score sheet. My research found that, unlike the Oligarchies, the Odebrecht and Petrobras who to some extent invested in other sectors of their respective local economies, Nigerian smartest politicians are predominantly found in off shore business activities, siphoning the little earned petrodollar premium back to the Western economy.
Many of Nigeria mafias have invested their stolen monies in personal homes abroad (USA, Britain, Dubai, South Africa and a host of other countries). Why should a Nigerian based politician maintain a residential home in the USA? I honestly cannot find a reasonable answer to this question. For my readers who do not understand USA real estate market, here is a hypothetical case – A Nigerian based politician who owns a $1,000,000 house in America is expected to pay at least 2% of $1,000,000 in property taxes and between 1.5% and 2% of $1,000,000 for maintenance on a yearly bases. So, what sense does it make for a Nigeria politician to pull an average of $35,000 from the local economy every year and send it to America to help develop America cities and counties?
Unlike the Chinese and Indian stake holders, Nigeria mafias are notorious of importing high end luxury cars and even private jets for recreational purposes. A personal friend calls his luxurious car “my toy”. Again, the question is, does this toy fit an environment where roads are very bad and unsafe? Remember, they will need hard earned community dollars to fix the slightest hiccup in the engineering of the car or private jet.
I personally expected Nigerian high rollers to be loyal to their economy where returns on equity could be higher. But Nigeria mafias favors stocking their monies in the Western economies where equity returns has been very low. Investment in Bonds and Treasury instruments performed even worse in the West.
Understandably, celebration of life and occasions are part of Nigerian culture, but the culture may be at stretch when our smart leaders are seen throwing scarce $$ bills in the air at parties. Interestingly, the new trend is even more worrisome - the urge for privately brewed imported drinks at ceremonies. This indicates another way of redefining the class structure in Nigeria society. It is imperative to note that this is happening in a country where unemployment has ballooned through the roof and middle class is pretty much on its knees.
In consideration of Nigeria numerous challenges and the enormous opportunities within reach, I was hoping the smart politicians will show some sense of creativity by recycling the stolen money in Nigeria emerging economy such that, it at least add values to the system they have looted. May be a good way to begin to seek forgiveness for their deeds!
It cost China 4years and a sum of $1.5b to build a 26 mile bridge that is warranted for 100 years by Chinese workers. How about Nigeria politicians emulating such a fit by using the stolen monies to construct a toll-based highway from Lagos to Port Harcourt or from Port Harcourt to Kano? Not only will the concept provide them and their families a stream of perpetual income, it will also give an average motorist on these roads some sense of traffic relief.
Recently, a group of international investors submitted a proposal for a massive solar energy power base in the desert of North Africa - an area that covers the borders of Algeria and Egypt. The financial outlay has not been officially finalized but I don’t think the project is beyond what our smart looters can join hands and execute in the interest of Nigeria economy. Nigerians will skip meals to pay for electricity – it will result in a win win endeavor.
Nigerian mafias will rather travel to India or the West for medical issues than to find solutions to our hospital problems in Nigeria. They prefer to rush their children to universities abroad than to upgrade our educational systems. They will rather look for ways to weaken naira than to give the Nigeria economy a boost. In spite of these anomalies, we still treat them like semi-god.
Recent shortages in petroleum products and nation-wide electricity blackout have proven to the investment world that Nigeria is not ready to be a formidable player in the emerging economies. This is particularly sad because the economy situation in the country now is dire, and there is urgent need for a turn around. The government seems to show some calmness at time of desperation, where life of an average Nigerian is getting eroded by the day. Business is stagnant; manufacturers are either relocating outside the country or closing shops. The naira is losing value, inflation is off chat and the government is yet to demonstrate a path to resurrection. Nigerians home and abroad have banked a little hope on the news of recovered looted money, but what is been done with the money can only be imagined. According to JP Morgan, more than $1billion has been moved from Nigeria equity market in 12 months to other emerging economies including Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey.
The world has become so small and every country is looking for a piece of the pie. The challenges are real and its time for our big guys to measure up. A focused based emerging economy should be directing its resources to creating opportunities for its people, especially where the demographic is favorable and the people are determined.
The last time I sighted a cross-over carrier politician in his egoistic opulence, and his wife well decorated with a leash-like necklace, I questioned his smartness and why the political class have no respect for Nigerian lives, his answers were resentful – Nigerians don’t complain. He may be right; otherwise we will not have some of the governors out there running shows for their states.
It is important to note that, the West cares and love Nigeria. They will never desert us, knowing a failed Nigeria is their headache. They will however continue to allow our corrupt politicians to launder petrol money into their systems. They will target, and attract our young and the brightest if we choose to ignore them. They will equip them and embrace their knowledge. They will listen to their plights and suave them into changing allegiance. They will stay afar and watch as we continue to write and rewrite our depressing history. They will remain peace keepers through their numerous charity organizations and ensure no dissidents are allowed to disrupt the fragile tact between all the different ethnic groups. They pray one day, we learn from our mistakes and begin to explore our potentials. As the hope and aspiration lingers in the land of milk and honey, so is suffering and smiling.
Femi Fabiyi is based in Connecticut, USA
We’re in the season of change. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, the voice of the people resonated loudly at the polls when the then opposition party APC was voted into power. It was a defining moment for our nation when the ever-resilient Nigerian people stamped their feet and declared that enough is enough of the plundering of the treasury, and maladministration of the Nigerian nation by the PDP government.
The sordid revelations of the activities of the bigwigs in the last administration that we daily read in the news are quite depressing. Imagine the difference the billions of dollars that have been allegedly traced to these people would have made in the Nigerian economy as the revenue from oil continues to dwindle?
I am certain that Nigerians made a great choice in electing President Buhari as President. In the few months since becoming president, General Buhari has been able to restore Nigeria’s respect in the international community.
Though there might be challenges here and there, an unbiased assessment of the Buhari’s regime will reveal that the change agenda is on the right track and to fully maximise the change agenda and deliver the dividends of democracy to the Nigerian people, I believe that the local government administration should be given utmost priority as a means of reaching the people at the grassroots
Majority of Nigerians can only feel the effects of the change agenda if the local government administration across the country is effective. Being the third layer of government after the federal and state governments, the local government is the closest to the people and as such must be empowered to function effectively.
The present state of local government administration across the federation needs urgent attention and improvement. If we must ensure that growth is witnessed at the grassroots, then there must be creativity and out of the box thinking by the administrators. Local Government cannot continue to depend on the dwindling federal government monthly allocations.
Development in health services, education and agriculture in the 21st century requires innovative thinking by local government administrators. They are the chief executives of the local government they must think as such.
The present state of insecurity in our nation can be stemmed with the stimulation of employment opportunities at the local government level through job creation and youth empowerment schemes. There is a direct correlation between the poor and security, with a double digit rate of unemployment and 60% of whom are the youth, the local government already has it’s job well cut out. When people are actively engaged at the local level, the forced huge influx into the city will reduce and crime around the country will reduce, too. Remember the saying that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop?
The safety net provisions for the poor and the vulnerable in the 2016 budget can successfully be implemented by the local government. Who can know the vulnerable and the poorest of the poor better than the government at the grassroots? It is my humble submission that the local government should actively drive this awesome idea by the Buhari government to lift Nigerians out of poverty.
Also, in a bid to find lasting solution to the security challenge of our nation, state and local governments’ police is the answer. When police forces are localized, they become more effective.
For example, the ratio of the Lagos Police Force to Lagosians is not encouraging. Imagine the huge employment opportunities that will be created, if police is localised in Lagos to police the state?
Undeniably, if change must really happen in our nation, local government administration must be given utmost priority. It can be done.
Obafemi George is a political scientist and a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Eti-Osa Local Government. Lagos State.
The change mantra that the All Progressive Party used so profusely to blackmail Nigerians into its deceitful contraption seems to be manacled in chains. Ten months on, there is no evidence of governance except reports of arrest coarsely alluding them to corruption that are neither substantiated nor culprits convicted. Real governance is in flight and hardship is upon the land. The question on the lips of many is, where is the change that was used to lure the people? The change has remained a ruse.
Ten months of the government of APC, the Boko Haram insurgency that was to be considered an anathema upon its ascension into power is still festering and perhaps more emboldened; the jejune pledge by PMB to stabilize oil price in favour of the country which was a strong pointer to his lack of grasp of the current dynamics in the oil industry remains unfulfilled; equally a woeful failure is the non realization of his campaign promise to force dollar and naira into convenient parity but which today finds the two currencies at yawning gaps; its failure to arrest the prices of goods and services which are currently at astronomical levels; its tardy treatment of students abroad and Nigerians on medical tourism who are today said to be in a lurch. These and a myriad of other acts of ineptitude have combined to make life brutish in this once great Nation that was wealthy in hope. I make bold to say that until the end of former President Jonathan’s administration, the Nation did not slide to such precipice of despair.
Yes, admitted, impunity reigned supreme. Corruption sadly was rife with leadership unfortunately looking the other way. But the wheel of governance continued to grind even when some aspects were mired in corruption. Leadership, despite its moral deficiency continued to give hope, it continued to demonstrate capacity and vision. It was the combination of these attributes that made the people to reckon that if the monster of corruption could be termed, the Nation can rise again to its old glory. And in the last days before its exit, PDP showed itself as a visionary party that could pull itself from the brink. It identified grey areas where corruptions were starkly perpetrated and set about introducing mechanisms of checks. Perhaps the approach was muffled and not very radical. With little or no publicity of its renewed efforts in tackling the monster, some Nigerians considered the party and its leadership at the centre as complicit in the denudation of the Nation. The APC latched on this misconception using its brazen tool of propaganda and blackmail. The rest is history.
But APC took over the reins of government with neither blueprint nor plans. Many argue that it was a pursuit of power for power sake and designed to serve a narrow interest even though the party was an amalgam of variegated interests. The signs of this position began to show early in the life of the administration. It started with the fight for the control of the two arms of the National Assembly to other inconsequential preoccupations that could keep its members busy. While all these are continuing, plans for the country have remained in abeyance or best in the back burner. Even a modest thing as the Nation’s budget has been in a dingdong fiasco in a National Assembly that the party is touted to be in majority. All such things are summative of the party’s ill preparedness for governance.
What the party has resorted to is blame game and disingenuous propaganda. But these propagandas have not addressed the rising cost of food items, the scarcity of petroleum products or its spiraling cost, the high cost of transportation, the perennial insecurity that has dogged the Nation, the citizens’ lack of confidence in the leadership and the frustrations that tend to define their lives under the current administration. What Nigerians expect from APC government is governance that would alleviate the burdens of the people and not the blame games.
Just today, I read on the social media an unverified report that Senator Akpabio, Minority Leader and former performing governor of Akwa Ibom State has accepted that PDP, Jonathan and himself be blamed for the Nation’s prostrate economy. The circumstance and venue of this comment were not mentioned which is indicative that the story may just be the creation of the writer who added palpable glee to the piece to suggest it as a ploy. Of course this betrays the intention of the writer and confirms him as an apologist of APC or a member of the Hate Akpabio Colony.
Ten months is sufficient time for any visionary government to show signs of hope. It is enough time to point at achievements. The Buhari administration cannot point at any achievement today except the arrest and persecution of political foes or the settlement of old scores. But in Akwa Ibom State where Senator Akpabio is still being blamed for supporting the emergence of Governor Udom Emmanuel, the case is different. In ten months, the State and its people have not only witnessed visible signs of governance, they have also been impacted upon by the administration. There are road projects to point to, there are capacity building programmes to also point to, there is a long line of investors coming to the State to give vent to the policy of wealth creation, there is the continuum of the free and compulsory education and free health care to segments of the people, there are the resuscitations of public utilities like water and electricity. There are other numerous life changing programmes of government that serve as evidence that governance is actually on course in the State. The APC may wish to take a cue from the State and leverage its change mantra from its current chains.
Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst
From the first day he was named the Inspector General of Police by the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2015, Mr. Solomon Arase left no one in doubt about his commitment to re-engineer the Nigeria Police Force to be in tune with their counterparts in developed parts of the world.
With degrees in law and political science and having risen to the rank of DIG in charge of the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department, Arase understood the problems of the Force and has taken the bull by the horns.
It is no longer news that the general impression about the police before now was that it is the most corrupt institution in the country.
Wherever a policeman was seen or whatever he does was linked to corruption, but within a short time that Arase had been in the saddle, he has demonstrated uncommon commitment towards reducing corruption in the Force.
In fact, the IGP has a zero tolerance for corruption and this is being pursued concurrently with instilling discipline in the Force.
Today, every policeman, not matter how highly placed is conscious of the fact that if he is caught in the web of corruption, he will be sanctioned appropriately.
Another notable innovation the IGP has introduced to the police is his proposal to have all policemen bearing firearms in the performance of their official duties be subjected to psychological test and evaluation.
This is to ensure that they are mentally and emotionally fit to perform their duties.
As explained by the Force Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, the exercise is “aimed at eliminating cases of irregularities in handling of weapons by policemen, as well as protecting the public whom the police have the constitutional duty to serve, and not to continue killing innocent and law-abiding citizens.
According to the force spokesman,“the IGP disclosed that the central purpose of this exercise is to offer mental health recommendations that can help restore an officer to job fitness and deploy such policeman to appropriate section he/she is fit to work.”
He said Arase has, therefore, “directed all police medical doctors across the nation to conduct psychological test on all policemen bearing firearms in their respective Commands, every three months, noting that if any police officer has a psychological condition or impairment unattended, it will impact negatively on the overall performance of the Nigeria Police Force.”
This is a very commendable decision ever taken by an IGP. This is because, the menace of trigger-happy policemen killing innocent citizens across the country have dented the image of the Force in the eye of an average citizen.
These incidences happen every now and then and it has foisted a dent on the police.
Not long ago, the IGP barred policemen from detaining suspects more than 24 hours, stressing that appropriate due diligence should be conducted before arrest warrant was issued.
The civil society groups have had a running battle in the past with the police over the issue of detaining people for longer periods of time than required by law.
Besides, the police has been accused severally of maltreating suspects and subjecting them to inhuman conditions.
The IGP is not oblivious of the fact that the image of the Force has been soiled by erring policemen. Hence, while issuing the orders noted that "I sent out teams to all the zones and the report they have submitted to me is not encouraging.
The idea of arresting people and dumping them should no longer arise, this is too bad.
"We have stepped in to stop all observed anomalies, you should no longer detain anybody more than 24 hours.
"Before you invite anybody, ensure that you have investigated the issue and have with you concrete evidence before you invite or arrest anybody”.
Being a police officer who knows his onions, Arase took an unusual audacious decision banning policemen posted to provide security for top government officials from carrying their bags or converting themselves to domestic staff.
It is only in Nigeria that police officers are seen carrying handbags instead of protecting their people in their care.
Arase has finally put a seal on this unsavoury sight. "Henceforth, only government officials are entitled to police protection. You should no longer carry people's bags, open their doors, man their gates or engage in any domestic chores for anybody.
"I have directed the commissioners’ in-charge of airports to arrest you if they see you dragging your pistol with boxes or bags of anybody.
"On no account should we see anybody on our highways wearing slippers or shabbily dressed. If we see you, we are going to arrest you.
"You have been given authority to arrest anybody who is blowing siren. It has been banned, but you must not carry horse whip, you must be civil."
The welfare of the police has never before given the attention it is currently receiving under the leadership of Arase.
For many years, promotion in the force was concentrated on officers alone, but on coming into office, the IGP took it upon himself to ensure that men and artisans in the Force too have their due.
As the officers are being promoted, so are the rank and file also remembered.
Notably, the Traffic Warden who were relegated to the background and almost forgotten have been remembered by the Arase led Force.
Arase, had promised that in no less than a month, their promotion will be released.
The IGP is also looking into the issue of uniform for the police and given a standing order to those culpable of shabby dressing to desist or be shown the way out of the Force.
No longer will a policemen by seen wearing sleepers on uniform. This is now prologue.
Another initiative of the IGP is the floating of a Scholarship Foundation, which is also novel in the history of the Force in the country.
The scholarship scheme is not just for children of police officers, but it also caters for victims of police actions.
For example, recently, the IGP awarded scholarship to four children of Mrs. Comfort Udoh who was shot dead by Corporal Musefiu Aremu.
For those who are keen observers of the activities of the police, it is now evident that a new sheriff is in town and in deed a new era has beckoned.
Chinwe Ugwu, is an Enugu based socio Commentator.
Mainstreaming gender in development has several benefits such as building resilience and sustainability in projects and programs. Several studies have proven that development projects with strong gender component tend to have greater impact on the livelihoods of people. For instance, analysis from the World Bank, have shown that, in many contexts, more equitable access to education by women and girls can give very positive returns in improved family health, greater productivity and reduced family size. Furthermore, greater health for women impacts positively on the health of other family members, especially children. Experience in the area of agriculture has indicated that the failure of many agricultural programs in developing countries could be directly related to the neglect of women’s productive roles, particularly in relation to food crop production. Even in developed societies such as the United States, a recent report, ”Women, Work and the Economy,” published by the International Monetary Fund, argues that the economic benefits of gender equality are particularly high in rapidly aging societies, where boosting women’s labor force participation could help offset the impact of a shrinking workforce.
Despite the benefits of gender mainstreaming, the significance of gender to development is still not well understood among several actors including development practitioners. Within CGIAR, there are renewed efforts towards raising awareness on the importance of gender. IITA, for instance has had a series of gender awareness programs in recent times. But negative perceptions and often times cultural bias coupled with poor communication have been a major hindrance to the advancement/acceptance of gender mainstreaming by stakeholders.
It is in this context that the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project organized a two-day workshop for its staff and implementing partners at the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike, 21-22 October 2015.
Listening to Janice Olawoye, a professor at the department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, University of Ibadan, opponents and strong critics of the gender movement shifted positions and embraced gender as a concept to be mainstreamed in every sphere of life. Prof Olawoye took time explaining the theoretical concepts and the misconceptions that have undermined the advancement of gender. Prof Olawoye corrected some of these wrong notions about gender and offered the following food for thought or better still thought for food.
• Gender is about females. In reality, gender is not only about females, but considers the roles, responsibilities, constraints, opportunities, restrictions and privileges of both males and females. Prof Olawoye repeatedly stressed this point throughout the training as well as in the reading materials she offered to participants.
• Gender is about disempowering men. The fact is: Gender empowerment is not about disempowering men, but ensuring that everyone is more productive, healthier, able to earn more and be more fulfilled so that the household attains a better standard of living. Prof Olawoye argued that gender should be viewed from a rational perspective, not on the basis of sentiment.
• The erudite professor noted that women have always contributed significantly to household livelihoods and community economies, stressing that, “our understanding of the role played by women has improved over the past 4 to 5 decades but cautioned that we must not continue to perpetuate the old stereotypes of women just being housewives.”
• On gender mainstreaming, Prof Olawoye said it was important to determine how gender equality/equity could be effectively integrated into the Cassava Weed Management Project as well as other development activities. According to her, much of what we have considered to be gender analysis hitherto is simply describing the sample or target population in terms of their distribution by sex. “Gender analysis requires that roles and relationships of males and females be understood and data disaggregated. Lack of gender-sensitivity in data collection and analysis will result in inappropriate interventions,” she added.
She explained that, “there are variations within and between gender groups as not all females are poor or exploited and not all men are gender insensitive. Over generalization to all males or all females will lead to some men and women becoming even more vulnerable.”
She advised that the Project should not only address immediate needs (practical gender needs), but also address the gender-related conditions or constraints (strategic gender needs) that may limit a person’s ability to improve his or her productivity or welfare. “Unless the strategic gender needs are addressed, no sustainable improvements will be attained,” she concluded.
Godwin Atser is a Communication & Knowledge Exchange Expert with IITA
I have been musing over the conundrum above for a very long time, even before this new dispensation of the sincere and stern President Buhari, and I can’t get it off my mind, the possibility, that is.
Corruption is defined nowadays simply as “The abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not a subscriber to puritanism or absolute inviolability. Corruption is part of humankind and can never be completely eradicated from the face of the earth as longs as human beings inhabit this planet. In individuals, there is always a whiff of one kind of corruption or the other around us. Nobody is truly and totally immune. What I always hope and strive for is reduction of corruption in our society to a manageable level and then a zero-tolerance attitude to it so that it does not rear its hydra-headed ugly aspect again to reduce us to the immobilised state we are right now, and so enable us to develop and progress as a people and as a united nation. We need a holistic and altruistic approach to fighting corruption and reducing it to a manageable level, which will not hinder our development as a people, a nation or a country as it has evidentlybeen doing for the past 5 decades.
Corruption is something you cannot just wake up and eradicate so long as the world still exists. In many countries including the zero-tolerant China, the mighty United States, and most developed Western countries that we see today with bubbling, well-conceived, well-planned, well-implemented and vibrant economies with high standards of living, corruption has not been crushed; it is only being checked and well-managed. We must be reminded that if these countries had not recognised, sorted out and applied effective and efficient corruption management policies and laws, their standards of living and economic powers and vibrancy would have been much devalued.
Nigeria’s new President, Muhammadu Buhari, vowed to fight corruption, but it’s too soon to tell if his efforts will be enough. Some Nigerians, mostly from the opposition camp, even doubt the man’s sincerity. Some also cast aspersion on his government’s sincerity because of the ilk of (allegedly corrupt) party bigwigs and political appointees he has found himself surrounded with and appointed into office, ranging from ministers to backroom staff.
According to Alexis Okeowo, in her article of 14 October 2015, “Can Nigeria’s New Government Overcome Its Old Corruption?”, “Buhari chose party loyalists—like the spokesman of his All Progressives Congress, Lai Muhammed—as well as politicians such as former Lagos Governor Babatunde Fashola, who has been accused of misusing state funds. (He denies all of the accusations.)……. And Buhari himself was partly elected on the strength of an alliance with veteran kingmaker and southwestern politician Bola Tinubu, who was charged with the illegal operation of sixteen foreign bank accounts while he was the governor of Lagos but never convicted”.
“This is a reminder that, although Nigerians elected Buhari on a platform of change, Buhari’s victory was planned by many people who used to be part of the previous government,” said Max Siollun, a Nigerian military historian and political analyst, and concluded that. “To some extent, the ‘change’ was a rebranding exercise.”
If (theoretically) the majority of the people in government are corrupt, officials will surely be able to keep themselves safe legally. How can a nation or a disciplined and sincere, honest person (e.g. our new elected President) fight it and succeed? Or is it a Sisyphean task – an unceasingly recurring and fruitless labour? Can a country actually save itself without a coup d'état or a bloody revolution? Has this happened before?
I believe corruption is not a problem that can be fought by "a country" or by a government (alone), but rather by "a people". All that the “country” can do is to provide people with reasonably good and basic standard of living (water, food, electricity and good roads) and good, efficient healthcare, fairness, equality and justice (or a just and fair society where nobody is above the law), decent housing, employment and job creation, even, standardised, universal and free education. That will give everyone a common ground to build upon, and common goals, common worldviews, all that makes people feel that they are all part of the same community. That's what erases the social borders, pulls down caste systems and brings up "civism" (the feeling that everyone is a citizen from a same "city", in the Greek sense).
All these might seem insurmountable to achieve, especially now that there is a considerable downturn in the economy of the country; however, based on the profligacy and corruption that had pervaded Nigeria for decades, and the resulting illegal flight of our commonwealth to private, selfish, materialistic pockets and foreign banks, one will see that we have unforgivably erred in this country, as from the day oil was discovered in Nigeria, again, several decades ago, all the above could have been achieved in the first two decades after Independence, and continuing on from Great Britain in 1960, if not for poor, visionless, corrupt, unsympathetic leadership and selfish, ignorant, hypocritical and complacent followers, who believed everything about their own welfare and progress should and could be left in the hands of these politician and military riffraff.
The least corrupt countries are those in which riches is better, evenly distributed and everyone can get a good education and good healthcare if wanted. When education and healthcare become a privilege and the rich are very few while the poor are too many, corruption grows like weed, breaking up social structures as it goes up and spreads around. The same applies to availability and access to good health care, employment, housing and many other social benefits that are expected of a decent society or a responsible and decent government to provide its people.
Corruption can only be fought when everyone is actually equal before the law. When the son of a rich man kills a poor worker while driving at 110 km/h in an inner city road like in Lagos and Abuja and the justice system lets him go, without even the police arresting him, society sees the message: the rich are above the law. When a poor man is held in prison for years without formal accusation, just for being on the wrong place at the wrong time there is another one: you must get rich before you are given any rights. These two messages short-circuit into one: you must get rich as quick as you can, and no matter what. Since most people can't get rich, they'll try the next best thing: cut corners at every opportunity, as in precisely what is going on in Nigeria, where the justice system has a notorious abjection for jailing the rich, while it easily puts the ordinary poor citizens behind bars.
It is impossible to fight fire with fire; that's only a saying. You can't fight flooding with water and you can't fight corruption with corruption. Perhaps you can tolerate a little corruption while you fight bigger corruption (I am not convinced though) but you can't actively use corruption as that.
"Corruption" is not something material that can be isolated and controlled that easily. In that respect, it is harder to control than either fire or water. In theory, large ice blocks could be used to divert a flood or to dam it; it is impractical, but it is at least physically possible (the ice would melt eventually, but you would be able to buy time). In theory, controlled fire could be used to clear a boundary around a larger area that is under firestorm, and then cool the ashes with water and hope that no sparks fly over and spread the fire further. It is however impractical, unsafe and for the most part ineffective, but at least it is a conceivable strategy. But how could you corrupt people and institutions with the intention of fighting corruption? Sounds like spreading diseases with the goal of increasing public health.
I suppose that all countries face this problem eventually. Assuming that the government wants people’s cooperation with the change:
If taking bribes has traditionally, as it has now become in Nigeria, been a large part of income, expect to increase pay, or introduce generous allowances, to compensate for the loss of bribes and kickbacks. The government should also be prepared to clearly explain the ways in which corruption damages society. People react with less hostility to changes they can plan for and they struggle less against regime change that doesn't destroy them.
Oh ... and the government should put its foot down to crush any resistance immediately. It is far easier to ease up on compliant people than it will ever be to put your foot down a little at a time.
But there are some views that you can fight corruption with corruption, but only as a means to an end. But it won't work long run. Other people will see the hypocrisy. A responsible and sincere government requires all citizens to be ethical and willing to eliminate, or at least combat and reduce, corruption. It is a sort of consensus morality. It cannot tolerate exceptions.
If you think the income inequality comparisons are toxic, wait until people get a whiff of corruption. The comparisons and envy will be off the scale.
But generally, fighting corruption with corruption doesn't work. One may temporarily get some good results but it winds up undermining whatever ideals one believes one is fighting for. Then the negative consequences begin to multiply.
In theory, it doesn't make sense, but there could be a way. If you think that corruption is where you use money to make things happen that shouldn't, it could be argued that you could carry on accepting corruption payments, but not actually fulfilling your part of the deal. That way you are using corruption against corruption to get the right outcome.
Nigeria is a country where things are only done when people pay an extra cost for things to be done faster. Maybe they want their goods cleared for export or import in less than a few weeks, or maybe they want a planning permission arranged against the local interest. In this corrupt society, people are forced to pay these extra costs, and the cycle carries on. Using corruption to kill corruption, the charges would continue, but the officials would not speed up the process or make decisions against the local interest.
The people who made the payments would get upset, but in time they would learn that there is no advantage to paying a bribe, and the level of service would remain the same. The problem is that you can't stop corruption from the official side, only from the supply side. If people stop believing that corruption works, they will stop using it as a tool. Education and Re-orientation of our people is needed here, but will take decades. Or maybe not!
Guess it depends on if you believe the end justify the means.
But please, dear reader, what do you think - can we use corruption to fight corruption?
Akintokunbo A Adejumo