My Dear Obaseki, I am pleased to write you this open letter once again due to some disquieting developments in our beloved state of Edo. Due to the subversion of popular sovereignty in our weird democratic dispensation, I am inclined to reach out to you by employing an open letter.
You recall that I wrote my first open letter to you in July of 2018, and was published by several news media such as TheCable and The Guardian. The central argument then was that the lives and property of Edo people were under attack from Fulani terrorists whom some preferred to call “herdsmen” for political correctness. In my letter, I listed some of the lives that were lost to the terrorists and underlined the danger they posed to our autochthonous freedom and the need to take precautionary measures to avert further loss of lives and sheer occupation of our land by the alien marauders.
Since 2018, no man and woman in Edo could sleep with both eyes closed, go about their daily routine of farming, and commute between communities in social production because of fear of being killed or kidnapped for ransom. Today, it is clear to everyone that the bloodletting in the land had the backing of the current minders of the Nigerian state in pursuit of land grab, demographic transformation, and hegemonic control of the multinational Nigerian state.
The central authorities have come under various deceptive forms to fulfill the goal of internal colonisation of the country. They have toyed with the idea of Rural Grazing Area (RUGA), legislative take-over of the inland waterways, and now National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) while simultaneously hatching a plan for the reclaim of non-existing grazing routes. Patriotic Nigerians have stood up to their stratagems hence the sundry mutations.
Today, I doubt if there is anyone in Nigeria who is unaware of the design of the hegemonic forces at the centre to perpetually control the country and emasculate generations yet unborn. It is that awareness that has led to the establishment of Amotekun and other sundry vigilante organisations as the first symbolic resistance to internal subjugation. The attitude of privileging the self over collective wellbeing has encouraged the penchant for domination by a section of the country that contributes nothing to the commonwealth other than consumption.
Many well-meaning Nigerians were enthused by the adoption of pro-active measures by southern governors to meet head-on the clear and present danger of conquest by the tiny hegemonic forces in the land through collective actions. Nevertheless, given the prevalent orientation of craving after self, there was the fear of betrayal by some in the pack. A major decision of the southern governors was that by September 2021 deadline the states in the southern half of the country should consummate the enactment of anti-grazing laws.
While other states have made good the collective resolve to prevent the take-over of their land and to foster an atmosphere of security for daily social activities, Edo state seems to be stalling, and the song from Osadebey House is one of prevarication. You have taken two major steps laden with deceptions. On October 11, 2021, you called a Town Hall meeting at Imaguero College Hall, Sapele Road, Benin City to hear the viewpoint of Edo people on the “Proposed law to prohibit open grazing. How can the proposed law be enforced? What alternatives are available to open grazing issues around Food Security?”
The views, yet to be formerly aggregated, from that exercise and general public opinion of Edo people is that Edo state should go ahead with the anti-grazing law as your sister governors have done. There were reasonable suggestions from public discourse. In the currency of that moment, I threw this idea into the public sphere: “One, identify owners of cattle in Edo State. Two, cattle is a private business and that ranching is the way to go, and the cattle entrepreneurs should buy land for ranching; deadline is required for suggestion no. 2. Three, cattle should be conveyed only to designated abattoirs for slaughter and sale only. Five, the state can invest in ranching through a public-private partnership.”
Secondly, you went to Abuja to meet President Buhari. In your own words, “ So, what I came to discuss with the president was that since the people of Edo would rather invest privately, those who are interested want to make it a private concern, then the National Livestock Transformation Programme, which is now being implemented by the federal government, should acknowledge our model, and should also be able to help people benefit from the funding that is now being made available for people who want to go into the livestock business and make investments in ranches and other similar livestock programmes.”
Your argument that there is no need to enact a law whose enforcement cannot be guaranteed amounts to begging the question. On October 10, 2021, the police in Jigawa arrested a 25-year-old herder, who allegedly trespassed into farmland and destroyed crops worth N200, 000, at Takatsaba village, Suletankarkar Local Government Area of the state. According to a Punch report of September 4, 2021, the Ondo State Security Network Agency is also known as Amotekun arrested three herdsmen and seized 40 cows for allegedly destroying some farmlands in Owode community, Akure North Local Government Area of the State. Right in your domain, and recently, the Atanakpa Vigilante group detained a herd of cows in a primary school in Uromi town. These are examples of enforcement. There are sundry unorthodox methods of enforcement which is the pre-occupation of this letter.
Your Excellency, the mission to Aso Rock to discuss a buy-in into the NLTP is nothing but a mission creep. Given the well-known latent function, in other words, the ulterior motive of the originator of NLPT, the “Edo Model”, of private Edo citizens benefiting from the money earmarked for the participants in the NLPT project will not jell. It is akin to disemboweling the Trojan horse in the Plan. You should know better. But what worries me is the news making the round that you intend to coerce the traditional rulers to cede land for your “Edo Model”. If it is true, please jettison the idea.
Our problems in this part of the world are well-known. The issue has not been the absence of solutions, but the political will to apply the solutions. In every contradiction, there is transformation. I do not know how the ban on open grazing will halt the consumption of cows in the state. By some estimate, over 75000 cows are said to be consumed in Benin City alone, if you halve that number and extend it to the entire 18 local governments in the state, it would amount to about 630,000 cows consumed annually. That is an economic opportunity for our people. Truth be told, the cattle question is not just an economic question but a hardware political matter that serves as an instrument for the subjugation of the people of the South and Middle-Belt through penetration and consequent demographic reconfiguration. Chief Obafemi Awolowo foresaw this years ago and recommended a two-way transaction: bring in your slaughter cows in air-conditioned compartments through railway to the south and take back feed for the cow to the north. We must find other ways of implementing our “Edo Model”.
Your Excellency, first we need a data bank of those who own cows in Edo State. If they are Edo People, the direction of solutions would be clear. Two, take a cue from your sister governors and enact the anti-open grazing law as a matter of honour. Three, revisit the independent “Midwest Model” that saw the establishment of ranching and dairy farms in parts of the old region. The solution we are looking for in Sokoto is in our “Shokoto”.
Lastly, let me remind you that Edo people voted for you when it appeared there was no chance in hell for a second term; we did not do so for your sterling quality but to send a message to some godfathers, both local and external, that “Edo no bi Lagos”. Listen to the voice of a people who honoured you with their votes. God bless Edo State, and may He endow you with wisdom.
Akhaine is a Professor of Political Science and a visiting member of The Guardian Editorial Board